It is often said that the CPU is the brain of a computer and the hardware is its body. Taking this analogy further, it can be said that an operating system is the software that lets the computer user communicate with the computer. For instance, we use the mouse and the keyboard to give instructions to the computer. However, unless and until we have the user interface on the screen in front of us, it is not possible for us to interact with the machine. An operating system (OS) acts like a bridge between us and the device. Since all our work will need to be diverted via the OS, it is of immense importance that we choose the perfect OS that suits our needs.
At present, there are three major OS available for users to choose from – Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OS and open-source Linux. Since the Mac OS comes pre-installed on all Apple Mac devices, the users do not have any choice but to use Mac OS if they want to stick to the Apple computer. However, in case of personal computers manufactured by other companies, there is an often an option for the individual to select from among Windows or Linux as their choice of OS. Before making that choice, it is necessary for us to compare the characteristics of the two OS. Here is such a comparison that can help you make an informed decision:
1) Cost – When it comes to price, Linux clearly has an advantage as majority of its variants are available for free whereas all versions of Windows need to be paid for. Linux can be freely distributed whereas Windows is licensed software. There are paid versions of Linux too but they are any day cheaper than Windows. Every new upgraded version of Windows that is announced by Microsoft comes with a hefty price tag which is a turn off as both Linux and Mac OS upgrades (even major ones) come free to existing users. Microsoft has tried to address this concern of users by announcing that the next version of Windows, i.e. Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade to existing users.
2) Security – Even in terms of security of your system, Linux scores higher than Windows. Yeah, Microsoft comes up with regular security upgrades to fix the bugs but Windows still remains vulnerable to viruses, Trojans and various other attacks. Linux is vulnerable too but it is more secure than Windows.
3) Application Software – It is here that Windows scores over Linux, albeit with a caveat. Application software refers to those set of programs that help the user perform certain tasks with the help of the computer. Examples include word processors, database programs, web browsers and spreadsheets. Application software developed by Microsoft like Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access is extremely user-friendly and has become indispensible in most offices. Linux also offers application software such as OpenOffice, Gimp and StarOffice but they are not as user-friendly as the ones mentioned earlier. The only catch is that Microsoft office is not free and needs to be paid for separately.
4) Hardware – Whenever you go out and purchase a new hardware to use along with your computer, you need to ensure that it will be compatible with the operating system that you use. If you are using Windows, then there is very little for you to worry as most hardware is compatible with the recent versions of Windows. However, it is not the same with Linux. This is changing slowly and hardware manufacturers are including driver support in their devices so that they can work with Linux but there is still some distance to go before it is as easily compatible as Windows.
5) Support – While using Linux if you face any issue, then you can try and find a solution by searching about it online – there is a lot of documentation available with regard to most versions of Linux. There are online forums where you can meet people who faced similar issues and who have shared the trick that solved the issue. However, it is not as simple as calling tech support and getting the issue fixed. With Windows, the Microsoft website has a help section containing solutions to the most commonly faced issues along with a forum to discuss issues too. Like Linux, there is a lot of documentation available online too. Moreover, there is also the option for you to purchase support from Microsoft.
6) Source Model – Linux follows an open source model whereas Windows follows a closed/shared source one. This means that anyone can access the source code of Linux but not of Windows. Also, anyone can alter the code of Linux and develop their own version of Linux, which explains the innumerable versions of Linux doing the rounds of the internet. This is not possible in the case of Windows. Now, this can be both an advantage as well as a disadvantage. From the view point of developers, this is clearly an advantage as they can fool around the source code to develop a better version but from the view point of a user, this could mean that there is scope for malicious developers to misuse their access to the source code.