Linux vs. Windows

Linux vs. WindowsUsers who are considering making a change from Windows to Linux or Linux to Windows commonly want to know the advantages and disadvantages of each of the operating systems. Below is a chart to help illustrate the major advantages and disadvantages of each of these operating systems.

Topic Linux Windows
Price The Linux kernel, and the GNU utilities and libraries which accompany it in most distributions, are entirely free and open source. You can download and install GNU/Linux distributions without purchase. Some companies offer paid support for their Linux distributions, but the underlying software is still free to download and install. Microsoft Windows usually costs between $99.00 and $199.00 USD for each licensed copy. However, Windows 10 is being offered as a free upgrade to current owners of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 if they upgrade before July 29, 2016.
Ease Of Use GNU/Linux operating systems have a steeper learning curve for the average user. They frequently require a deeper understanding of the underlying system to perform day-to-day functions, and troubleshooting technical issues can be a more intimidating and complicated process than on Windows. However, some distributions such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint are designed specifically to ease the transition from Windows to a Linux environment. Windows is one of the easiest desktop operating systems to use. One of its primary design characteristics is user-friendliness and simplicity of basic system tasks. This is considered a positive by users who want their system to "just work", but more proficient users may be frustrated by oversimplification of system tasks at the expense of fine-grained control over the system itself.
Reliability Linux is notoriously reliable and secure. It has a strong focus on process management, system security, and uptime. Although Microsoft Windows has made great improvements in reliability in recent years, it's considered less reliable than Linux. Many of the sacrifices it makes in the name of user-friendliness can lead to security vulnerabilities and system instability.
Software There thousands of programs available for Linux, and many are available as easy-to-install software packages — all for free. Also, many Windows programs can be run on Linux using compatibility layers such as WINE. Linux supports a wider array of free software than Windows. Windows commands the highest number of desktop users, and therefore the largest selection of commercial software. It also has the largest selection of video games, although Linux has made significant gains on this front — especially with the continued development of Linux-compatible gaming platforms such as Steam.
Software Cost Many of the available software programs, utilities, and games available on Linux are free and open source. Even complex applications such as GIMP, Open Office, and Star Office are available for free. Although there are many free Windows programs, utilities, and games, the majority of the programs are commercial.
Hardware Fifteen years ago, Linux struggled to support new hardware. Manufacturers often considered Linux support a secondary concern (if they considered supporting it at all), and device drivers were created only by enthusiasts who devoted their own time and resources to making Linux compatible with new hardware. Since then, the Linux user base has grown exponentially. Today, the majority of hardware manufacturers give Linux support the same priority as Microsoft Windows. Windows has a massive user base, so it would be madness for a consumer hardware manufacturer not to support Windows. As a Windows user, you can rest assured that your operating system is compatible with any hardware you might buy.
Security Linux is a highly secure operating system. Although attack vectors are still discovered, its source code is open and available for any user to review, which makes it easier to identify and repair vulnerabilities. Microsoft has made great security improvements over the years. But as the operating system with the largest user base, especially among novice computer users, it is the primary target for malicious coders. As a result, of all major operating systems, Microsoft Windows is the most likely to be the victim of viruses and malware.
Support There is a massive amount of online support available for Linux, including here on Computer Hope. Microsoft Windows offers integrated and online help systems, and there are thousands of informative books about Windows available for every skill level.
Use Cases Linux is used by corporate, scientific, and academic organizations of every size. It's used to power the development machines and servers at Google, Facebook, Twitter, NASA, and the New York Stock Exchange, just to name a few. On the desktop, it is used by technically proficient users who prioritize system security and reliability, and by enthusiasts who want to learn more about computers and how they work. It's also used to give new life to older hardware, enable low-budget computing projects to succeed, and serve as the operating system on single-board computers such as the Raspberry Pi. Microsoft Windows is usually the operating system of choice for gamers, novice users, and business users who rely on Microsoft software. It doesn't run well on older hardware, however. Many Windows users are thrilled with the changes that Microsoft has introduced with Windows 10, so if you've never used it, now is a great time to try it out.

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