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Windows vs Linux: what's the best operating system?


steven36

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Can the open source upstart really stand up to Microsoft's enterprise juggernaut?

 

linux-vs-windows.jpg

 

For decades, a secret war has been raging, fought in back offices and IT departments across the globe. Teams have been torn asunder, driven apart by an ideological clash that seems as old as time itself: which is better, Windows or Linux?

 

Both sides are often staunchly committed to their preferred platform, taking any opportunity to hold its counterpart's failings over those perceived heretics that have the gall to suggest that their operating system of choice is anything less than flawless.

 

Of course, as with any ideological conflict, the reality is far less black and white. Both Linux and Windows have advantages and drawbacks, and both excel in areas where the other falls down somewhat.

 

or example, although Linux is (by and large) more secure than Windows, anyone who's spent time troubleshooting a Linux issue will agree it's hard to argue that Windows has the edge in terms of user-friendliness.

 

At the end of the day, Linux and Windows are both merely tools; tools that IT professionals use to get their jobs done. With that in mind, it's important to set aside the tribalism and the dyed-in-the-wool dedication to one particular type of software in order to objectively look at which one is best-suited to your specific individual needs.

 

Below we dive deep into the history of both and weight up the pros and cons to help you decide. Ultimately, what's most important is whether the operating system is right for your needs, so, by the end, you should have a better understanding of the capabilities of both.

Windows vs Linux: History

The first version of Windows, known as Windows 1.0, was revealed in 1985 following the formation of Microsoft. It was based upon the MS-DOS core, at the time the most widely used Program Manager for running applications.

 

Following that initial launch, new versions of Windows were quickly rolled out, including the first major update in 1987, quickly followed by Windows 3.0 in the same year.

 

This journey of evolution happened quickly and in 1995, perhaps the most widely used version yet, Windows 95 was born. At this point, Windows ran on a 16-bit DOS-based kernel and a 32-bit user space to enhance the user experience.

 

Windows hasn't changed a whole lot in terms of core architecture since Windows 95 and although vast amounts of features have been added on to address modern computing, many of the elements we recognise today were present. For example, the Start Menu, the task bar and Windows Explorer (now known as File Explorer) all presented themselves in Windows 98.

 

One major shift happened with the launch of Windows ME in 2000. That was the last MS-DOS version of Windows, allowing for an even faster evolution of services since. However, some iterations of the platform still fared better than others and although it is still the most popular computing platform, users have dropped off over the years and migrated to other platforms, such as MacOS and Linux.

 

Linux was launched later than Windows, in 1991. It was created by Finnish student Linus Torvalds, who wanted to create a free operating system kernel that anyone could use. Although it's still regarded as a very bare bones operating system, without a graphical interface like Windows, it has nevertheless grown considerably, with just a few lines of source code in its original release to where it stands today, containing more than 23.3 million lines of source code.

 

Linux was first distributed under GNU General Public License in 1992.

Windows vs Linux: Distros

Before we begin, we need to address one of the more confusing aspects to the Linux platform. While Windows has maintained a fairly standard version structure, with updates and versions split into tiers, Linux is far more complex.

 

Originally designed by Finnish student Linus Torvalds, the Linux Kernel today underpins all Linux operating systems. However, as it remains open source, the system can be tweaked and modified by anyone for their own purposes.

 

What we have as a result are hundreds of bespoke Linux-based operating systems known as distributions, or 'distros'. This makes it incredibly difficult to choose between them, far more complicated than simply picking Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 10.

 

 

Given the nature of open source software, these distros can vary wildly in functionality and sophistication, and many are constantly evolving. The choice can seem overwhelming, particularly as the differences between them aren't always immediately obvious.

 

On the other hand, this also brings its own benefits. The variety of different Linux distros is so great that you're all but guaranteed to be able to find one to suit your particular tastes. Do you prefer a macOS-style user interface? You're in luck - Elementary OS is a Linux distro built to mirror the look and feel of an Apple interface. Similarly, those that yearn for the days of Windows XP can bring it back with Q4OS, which harkens back to Microsoft's fan-favourite.

 

There are also more specialised Linux flavours, such as distros that are designed to give ancient, low-powered computers a new lease of life, or super-secure distros that can be booted from a USB drive to keep you safe when using an unfamiliar PC. Naturally, there are also numerous Linux versions for running servers and other enterprise-grade applications.

 

For those new to Linux, we'd recommend Ubuntu as a good starting point. It's very user-friendly (even compared to Windows) whilst still being versatile and feature-rich enough to satisfy experienced techies. It's the closest thing Linux has to a 'default' distro – although we would urge everyone to explore the various distro options available and find their favourite.

Windows vs Linux: Installation

Still with us? Good; now we move on to looking at installation. Again, this differs a little from Windows methods, as well as varying between distros.

 

A common feature of Linux OS’ is the ability to ‘live’ boot them – that is, booting from a DVD or USB image without having to actually install the OS on your machine. This can be a great way to quickly test out if you like a distro without having to commit to it.

 

The distro can then be installed from within the live-booted OS, or simply run live for as long as you need. However, while more polished distros such as Ubuntu are a doddle to set up, some of the less user-friendly examples require a great deal more technical know-how to get up and running.

 

Windows installations, by contrast, while more lengthy and time consuming, are a lot simpler, requiring a minimum of user input compared to many distros.

Windows vs Linux: Software and compatibility

Most applications are tailored to be written for Windows. You will find some Linux-compatible versions, but only for very popular software. The truth, though, is that most Windows programs aren't available for Linux.

A lot of people who have a Linux system instead install a free, open source alternative. There are applications for almost every program you can think of. If this isn't the case, then programs such as WINE or a VM can run Windows software in Linux instead.

 

Despite this, these alternatives are more likely to be amateur efforts compared to Windows. If your business requires a certain application then it's necessary to check if Linux runs a native version or if an acceptable replacement exists.

 

There are also differences in how Linux software installs programs compared with Windows. In Windows, you download and run an executable file (.exe). In Linux, programs are mostly installed from a software repository tied to a specific distro.

 

Installing on Linux is done by typing an apt-get command from the command line. A package manager handles this by layering a graphical user interface over the messy mechanics of typing in the right combination of words and commands. This is in many ways the precursor of a mobile device's app store.

 

Depending on the software, some won't be held in a repository and will have to be downloaded and installed from source, such as the non-open source variants of proprietary software like Skype or Steam.

 

In this case, the installation becomes more similar to that of Windows software. You simply download the relevant package for your distro from the company's website, and the inbuilt package installer will complete the rest.

 

Windows has a big advantage over Linux which is that in the software stakes, virtually every program is designed from the ground up with Windows support in mind. In general, Windows users aren't affected by compatibility worries. As mentioned previously, the set-up is also often a much simpler affair.

 

Windows vs Linux: Support

As it’s created and maintained by a community of passionate fans, Linux has a huge wealth of information to fall back on, in the form of tips, tricks, forums and tutorials from other users and developers.

 

However, it’s somewhat fragmented and disarrayed, with little in the way of a comprehensive, cohesive support structure for many distros. Instead, anyone with a problem often has to brave the wilderness of Google to find another user with the answer.

 

Microsoft is much better at collating its resources. Though it doesn’t have quite the amount of raw information that’s available regarding Linux, it’s made sure that the help documents it does have are relatively clear and easy to access.

 

There’s also a similar network of Windows forums and tutorials if the official assistance doesn't help you.

Windows vs Linux: Security

Security is a cornerstone of the Linux OS, and one of the principal reasons for its popularity among the IT community. This reputation is well deserved and stems from a number of contributing factors.

One of the most effective ways Linux secures its systems is through privileges. Linux does not grant full administrator – or ‘root’ – access to user accounts by default, whereas Windows does. Instead, accounts are usually lower-level and have no privileges within the wider system.

 

This means that when a virus gets in, the damage it can do is limited, and restricted mainly to files and folders on the individual machine. This can be incredibly beneficial from a damage control standpoint, since it’s far easier to simply replace one machine than scour the entire network for malware traces.

 

There’s also the fact that open source code, such as Linux software, is generally thought to be more secure and better maintained, due to the number of people scanning it for flaws. Similar to the ‘infinite monkeys’ principal, ‘Linus’ Law’ (named after Torvalds), states that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”.

 

Possibly most important, however, is the issue of compatibility. As we mentioned earlier, virtually all software is written for Windows, and this also applies to malware.

 

Given that the number of Windows machines in the world vastly outnumbers the number of Linux ones, cyber attacks targeting Microsoft’s OS are much more likely to succeed, and therefore much more worthwhile prospects for threat actors.

 

This isn’t to say that Linux machines are totally immune from being targeted, of course, but statistically, you’re probably safer than with Windows, provided you stick to best practice.

Windows vs Linux: Layout, Design and User Interface

As we mentioned above, the sheer volume of distros means that users are spoilt for choice in terms of design. There are distros that visually emulate both OSX and Windows, as well as stripped-down systems for those that favour minimalism.

 

Some, of course, are visually dire, but that's the risk of community-created software. Most of the major distros, however, are very well-designed, particularly corporate-backed offerings such as Ubuntu and Fedora.

In the end, a lot of it comes down to personal taste. We should mention, though, that many Linux variants will require an adjustment period for those familiar with Windows or OSX. They’re also just that little bit less polished when compared with the big boys.

Windows vs Linux: Performance

Microsoft’s ubiquitous OS can be called many things, but ‘lightweight and speedy’ is not one of them. Windows has an unfortunate tendency towards bloating and sluggishness, and can very quickly feel outdated if not properly maintained.

 

Linux is much quicker, on the whole. The OS itself is less demanding, and many distros sacrifice any visual bells and whistles to ensure that performance is the absolute best it can be. Opting for one of these builds can be an excellent way to bring an ailing older laptop back up to its former speed.

 

There are, of course, numerous ways to ensure that a Windows PC or laptop remains decently nippy over the course of its lifespan, but Linux computers will on average outperform them over a longer period.

 

Windows vs Linux: User-friendliness

The fact that Microsoft has been producing its system software for nearly 30 years means that many aspects of it have become cultural touchstones. Accordingly, certain elements of the layout and navigation have been absorbed through osmosis, and a lot of users can essentially operate the system instinctively.

 

Linux does not have the luxury of being the most widely-used operating system in the world. As such, new users have to re-learn how to perform simple tasks on an unfamiliar and often complicated system, which can be offputting for the casual user.

 

However, Linux is an operating system that gets simpler to use the more you understand about it, while Windows can sometimes be the opposite. Digging down past the basic tasks into more complicated functions can leave some people baffled.

 

Microsoft, to its credit, has spent the past few years simplifying the more confusing and labyrinthine elements of its software, and generally making it much more accessible for entry-level users that aren’t necessarily computer literate.

 

This is especially evident in Windows 10’s settings menu, which boils down some of the most common and crucial control panel tasks and lays them out under clear and concise headings. It’s a lot more straightforward for the layperson, and the control panel’s still available for power users to tinker with. 

Windows vs Linux: Verdict

Given their different strengths and use cases, it’s difficult to definitively state whether Linux or Windows is the better OS. Whether or not each one will be a good fit for your business depends a lot on how your company operates, and what applications it uses.

 

If you’re a small firm that works primarily in software, Linux is likely to be a good fit, as the free availability will reduce overheads, and set-up won’t be too complicated to manage. It also has a reputation as a tool for coding.

 

However, larger deployments will be much more complicated. Replacing the computers of hundreds of employees is likely to cause chaos, particularly if they’re not familiar with Linux. It’s possible – especially if a simple, Windows-style distro is used – but without a very capable and well-integrated IT department, many companies will struggle.

 

Given the flexibility of multiple distros, the non-existent asking price and the heightened security, Linux is our overall favourite - assuming you’ve got the patience to adapt to a new system.

 

Windows, however, remains the winner in terms of pure convenience. It’s simple, familiar, and guaranteed to be compatible with virtually all software; for busy companies, that could well be more valuable in the long run.

 

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18 hours ago, steven36 said:

Replacing the computers of hundreds of employees is likely to cause chaos, particularly if they’re not familiar with Linux. It’s possible – especially if a simple, Windows-style distro is used – but without a very capable and well-integrated IT department, many companies will struggle.

What about educating people with a free open-source system instead of breast-feeding them with windows? No chaos, no need of any particular IT department and no company will struggle.

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41 minutes ago, mp68terr said:

What about educating people with a free open-source system instead of breast-feeding them with windows? No chaos, no need of any particular IT department and no company will struggle.

They have free and paid courses  if you care to learn  .. That is one the biggest downfalls of linux it's not stupid proof like Windows you actuality have be willing to learn to do something besides turn it on. I know people who been on the internet  as  long  as me who work behind Windows everyday every since XP  and they went to Collage to do what they do and still they don't know how to do simple task like copy and paste with a mouse,  they use the keybord  instead to do it like they was on a PC before they invented a mouse, so you may as well forgot about teaching them to use a terminal on Linux.

 

I been using Linux since 2015  and mostly its just fake it tell you make it. At the start i had to take notes on  everything i wanted to do in a terminal after awhile i memorized most of it. but unlike Windows i still learn something new most everyday.  I got bored  with Windows  years ago its not changed much  since Windows ME  witch was what i started on. Windows ME was full of bugs and so is Windows 10  . :tooth:

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4 hours ago, steven36 said:

They have free and paid courses  if you care to learn  .. That is one the biggest downfalls of linux it's not stupid proof like Windows you actuality have be willing to learn to do something besides turn it on. I know people who been on the internet  as  long  as me who work behind Windows everyday every since XP  and they went to Collage to do what they do and still they don't know how to do simple task like copy and paste with a mouse,  they use the keybord  instead to do it like they was on a PC before they invented a mouse, so you may as well forgot about teaching them to use a terminal on Linux.

 

I been using Linux since 2015  and mostly its just fake it tell you make it. At the start i had to take notes on  everything i wanted to do in a terminal after awhile i memorized most of it. but unlike Windows i still learn something new most everyday.  I got bored  with Windows  years ago its not changed much  since Windows ME  witch was what i started on. Windows ME was full of bugs and so is Windows 10  . :tooth:

Good that I don't have to deal with these IT guys ;)

 

What I meant is that in all the places that I know (schools, offices, shops, banks, companies, etc...) people use windows, when someone is buying a computer it used to come with windows, users are bathed into windows wherever they go, from their young age they are teached to use windows. After that how to expect them to even know that something else exists.

I did move to linux too some years ago, glad I did ;)

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On 12/7/2018 at 2:26 PM, mp68terr said:

What I meant is that in all the places that I know (schools, offices, shops, banks, companies, etc...) people use windows, when someone is buying a computer it used to come with windows, users are bathed into windows wherever they go, from their young age they are teached to use windows. After that how to expect them to even know that something else exists.

I did move to linux too some years ago, glad I did

The most used linux in business are Ubuntu and Redhat  witch are owned  by  Big companies  it has marketing and extra benefits to paid enterprise users behind it  . Ubuntu had and easy to install programs from the Package Manger  even before Mac  OS got one . The reason Windows was so successful  One thing is marketing  , They acted like Windows 10 was going be best thing  since  XP  , I was going to even buy  it if  it would been as good as windows 8.1  but  it turned out  they gave it away free for the 1st year  as a marketing gimmick and tried to force it on there users,  on top of  that  it turned out to be be a dogs breakfast ,  a privacy nightmare  and a shit show ...  1st year  it was a bunch of hype i  tired it  for a few years and it drove me to likening Linux more.

 

Thing about Linux is unless  some multi billion dollar  big company was to do it  for home users  its never going to ship preinstalled  on many PCs  unless you order a special  one with Linux witch cost more than buying one with Windows, .because most Windows users don't know how to install and linux OS ,   Believe or not back when people  used DVD and CDs  and before they had UEFI and Secure Boot it was much more easy to install Linux  ...I still do it the old way I still use DVD  but i had to deal with the  other stuff still more stuff I had to learn  and i had been installing Windows since the early 2000s. but Linux not as easy to install as Windows unless you get lucky.  .

 

Also  because no Multi  Billion company makes it they  not going heavy to develop apps Snap or  FlatPac   and anything not the in package manger is going to baffle a noob on how to install it.. Most really popular apps   can be found on Linux its  the old shareware apps that been around   since the 90s you need  a windows VM  or Wine or something  to run or you  need to replace them with open source if you can. Me myself  I dual boot  I  only use bare metal  and i don't use  Wine  when on Linux , I just use Linux apps  I don't have to have Windows some times i don't  go on windows at all for weeks.

 

Linux don't have the marketing behind it  and big tech like Microsoft can't make  a windows os that works right anymore much less make a new Linux OS  that works right and is stupid proof for noobs  and lazy people' sort of  like Android is but for desktop ,.:lmao:

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CDs and DVDs are too easy... Was using floppies for DOS and win, maybe 12 floppies (?) for win95.

 

Yes, marketing is making a big difference. At leas linux companies can make some profit from enterprises. I do not recall a single ad for linux for home users.

Also dual-booting win7 and linux, just for a couple of apps. There might be similar ones under linux, but... well... habits. Glad I did not update to win10, just reading news about all the troubles around it, and seeing all the threads about these troubles in this very forum. Linux feels rock solid and nowadays easy to install.

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