Linux vs. Windows

Updated: 07/13/2023 by Computer Hope
Linux vs. Windows

Users who are considering making a change from Windows to Linux or Linux to Windows commonly want to know the advantages and disadvantages of each operating system. 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 (GNU's Not Unix) 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. Windows 10 was originally being offered as a free upgrade to current owners of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 if they upgraded before July 29, 2016, but that offer is no longer available.
Ease Of Use More recent distributions of Linux are easier to use than previous variants. Some Linux distributions feature a GUI (graphical user interface), much like Windows, allowing for ease of use for the average computer user. Linux GUI distributions are more user-friendly and do not contain all the extra "bloatware" that Windows is known to include. Examples of easier to use distributions include Ubuntu and Linux Mint. 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. Its ease and lack of difficulty is considered a positive by users who want their system to work. However, 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. Users usually experience less issues in Linux. 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 are thousands of programs available for Linux, and many are available as easy-to-install software packages — all for free. Also, many Windows programs can run on Linux using compatibility layers, such as Wine (Wine is not an emulator). Linux supports a wider array of free software than Windows. Windows commands the highest number of desktop users, and therefore the largest selection of software. It also has the largest selection of video games by a wide margin.
Software Cost Many of the available programs, utilities, and games available on Linux are free and open source. Even complex applications, such as GIMP (GNU image manipulation program), OpenOffice, and Star Office, are available for free. Although there are many free Windows programs, utilities, and games, most Windows software is commercial and must be purchased. Most Windows software can cost between $4.99 and $99.
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). Furthermore, device drivers for Linux were created only by enthusiasts who devoted time and resources to making Linux compatible with new hardware. Since then, the Linux user base has grown exponentially. Today, most 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 the operating system is compatible with nearly 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 users to review, which makes it easier to identify and repair vulnerabilities. Microsoft has made great security improvements in Windows 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. There are also many books providing help with many of the Linux distributions. 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's used by technically proficient users who prioritize system security and reliability, and by enthusiasts wanting 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 changes Microsoft introduced with Windows 10, so if you've never used it, now is a great time to try it out.