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Ask most consumers about the operating system in their personal computer, and the typical reply goes like this – "I think my computer came with Windows installed." Most new computers that sit on the shelves of big-box stores or mail order catalog warehouses are shipped with the latest variant of the Windows operating system installed. Windows has a huge market share, and most members of the public are uneasy about adopting a new operating system for their personal computers.
That said, Linux is the most popular option for those who are looking for an operating system that doesn't originate from the labs of Microsoft. Linux has been around for over 20 years and has slowly gained traction in the shadow of the monolithic Windows OS. In the "old days" (the 1990s), Linux was the OS for the tech-savvy – those who appreciated the benefit of open-source software development and distribution. Recently, Linux has shown real promise in the personal computer field as it has become easier to use, more adaptable, and better suited to modern-day personal computing.
Linux utilizes open source software development, meaning that the basic source code is changeable by the end-user. Windows, on the other hand, is essentially "locked" and must be utilized as intended by Microsoft. For those who don't feel a need to deviate from basic computing, Windows may be just fine. For those with particular needs that a "one size fits all" OS cannot satisfy, Linux is a terrific choice.
The overall look and feel of Linux versus the Windows operating system is really a matter of taste. Both employ fundamental graphical user interfaces, and the main screens even look similar. As this attribute is really one that each individual user must consider, the differences here aren't really all that functional.
One area in which Linux excels when compared to Windows is in overall system security. Most viruses and other malware are designed to infiltrate Windows-based systems. While there are viruses out there that can attack Linux operating systems, it is generally accepted that a Linux system will be much more secure than one running Windows. Windows 7 and 8, the most recent Windows operating systems, have proven quite adept at thwarting virus attacks when the security settings and tools are used properly.
Availability of software is a common concern for those who choose to run Linux. While Windows is significantly more popular, there are plenty of options for those who choose to go open source. The number of available programs is definitely lower for those on the Linux platform versus Windows, though. This may be a concern for those in specific industries who rely on software that is tailored to run on Windows. While the gap is narrowing each year, Windows does currently hold an edge over Linux in this area.
Speed of operation is one attribute that Linux users love to discuss. It is no surprise that the majority of the world's fastest computers run Linux – this OS is really quick! Boot times are generally shorter, and processors of the same speed rating will typically clock quicker on a Linux-based machine versus one running Windows. While this may not be the biggest selling point for the average consumer, quicker computers usually provide a more pleasant experience for the average user.
Cost is always a concern when comparing two consumer options. Windows isn't cheap! It is common to spend several hundred dollars to obtain the latest full-version copy of a Windows OS, while any Linux OS is free. This is a compelling reason for many to try Linux, as the cost savings can allow for the purchase of additional computer equipment or just register as savings. Windows is also devoid of many basic features like word processing, presentation software, and data analysis tools (MS Office Suite). These must be purchased for an additional amount. Linux comes standard with an effective grouping of programs that mirror the offerings of the MS Office toolkit.
MS Windows is a terrific operating system for most users. Linux is equally adept at providing a reliable and useful interface, and has the advantages of being free, offers better overall system security, and can provide quicker computer speeds. Undoubtedly, many of the attributes of Linux boil down to personal preference. Microsoft's Windows OS is proven, durable, and highly capable. Those that opt for the Linux OS can expect an innovative operating system that is just a little different than what most users are used to. In the end, the choice is yours!
Written by Jacob Blynthe / June 3, 2013