Tech

Linux vs. Windows vs. macOS: Which Is the Operating System for You?

An operating system is simply defined as software that lets you manage a computer’s hardware and resources while offering some common services that allow you to run different programs.

Computers have made enormous technological strides in the past couple of decades, evolving from bulky machines into sleek, performance-focused devices. And at the moment, there are three popular operating systems powering most computers:

In this article, we will compare each and look at their best use cases and features. Let’s get started!

Windows

Microsoft Windows is the most popular desktop operating system in the world, with a market share of around 74 percent, according to Statista. Since its original release in 1985, the operating system has undergone a slew of changes, and despite its ups and downs (let’s just forget Vista and Windows 8!), it’s still the market leader by a long stretch.

Microsoft Windows runs on computers around the globe. Its popularity has increased considerably, especially due to the popularity of Windows 10 and the free upgrade to Windows 11 that the company offers.

Microsoft Windows also ships on most laptops released today. Almost all major manufacturers pre-install Windows and add custom software before shipping them to consumers.

Ease of Installation

Windows is incredibly easy to install. It also works seamlessly with most hardware, which is one of the reasons why it’s so popular. In addition, you can buy discs or purchase a digital copy, allowing you to create an image and install Windows on your computer.

There are different methods to install Windows 11, but most of these are fairly easy to follow. Anyone with some basic computer knowledge can run the installation wizard. And more importantly, Microsoft has improved performance on Windows 11, so you can even install Windows 11 on an old PC.

Price

Windows 11 is a free upgrade for users moving from Windows 10. However, if you’re not upgrading from Windows 10, a shiny new Windows 11 Home license costs $110, while Windows 11 Pro costs $150.


Software Usability and Performance

This is where Microsoft Windows really shines. Almost every software runs seamlessly on Windows, primarily because of its install base. As a result, Windows is incredibly versatile, and most developers create apps or software that run natively on the platform.

Installation is incredibly easy and is carried out through an installation wizard. You don’t need to be familiar with any command-line interface tool, even though one is available with Windows.

If you’re into gaming, Windows is the best choice. That’s because the company has been focusing on improving gaming performance, and most developers and hardware manufacturers take advantage of options like DirectX 12, extracting the max performance out of a GPU and CPU.

You can even optimize Windows 10 for better gaming performance. Windows is ideal for people who want a customizable PC. You can easily swap out different components, install new drivers, and upgrade parts as you like.

If you want maximum control over your PC and wish to customize and personalize it, there’s hardly a better operating system than Microsoft Windows.

Backups

If you’re wondering how to create backups on Windows 11, know that they’re incredibly easy. Microsoft offers a built-in system utility that lets you easily create different backups, and you can restore them with a single click!

macOS

Apple’s operating system has a relatively small install base compared to the might of Windows. And yet, macOS continues to rise in popularity. Despite being Windows’ biggest competitor, macOS takes a very different approach.

For starters, unlike Windows, you can’t just buy a copy and install it on any computer. It also doesn’t ship pre-installed with other computers; you can only get it with an iMac, MacBook, Mac mini, or other official Apple hardware.

It’s a closed system (with lots of open-source influence and code!) but one that has easily proven its worth in the 35 years it’s been around. More importantly, macOS is also incredibly secure, owing mainly to its smaller market size.

Malware threats on macOS are far and few between, though there are some signs that your Mac’s infected with a virus that you should look out for.

Ease of Installation

This one’s incredibly easy. The operating system comes pre-installed with every MacBook and iMac the company sells, and you can run updates seamlessly. More importantly, updates are regular and relatively easy to install.

Updates are also much less frequent than Windows, so you don’t have to worry about your Mac running updates at the most inconvenient times, something that’s all too common with Windows. All iterations of macOS are also free.


While some may argue that there are disadvantages to buying a MacBook when compared with Windows, most others believe that despite the higher buy-in cost, the overall amount they spend across the cost of the system’s lifetime is much less, since you don’t have to worry about upgrades as much.

Software Usability and Performance

Apple’s operating system is incredibly popular because of its ease of use and its deep integrations with the Apple ecosystem. In addition, most people argue that installing and managing applications is just as easy, if not more, than Windows.

Although it’s based on Linux, macOS lets you install software directly from the App Store. Or, most apps let you download a DMG file, which is a Disk Image file. Then, you just drag the icon into the Applications folder to install the app!

And, when you want to remove it, just delete it from the Applications folder. You don’t have to worry about running any installation wizards. Developers and designers generally prefer macOS because of its support features for creative tools.

More importantly, unlike Windows, macOS also comes with an array of free applications. You get the following:

  • A productivity suite, including a word processor, spreadsheet program, and a presentation tool.
  • The Preview app is great for editing photos and lets you edit PDFs too!
  • A video editing application.
  • Music editing tool, GarageBand. GarageBand is easy to use and is used by many creative professionals.

Backups

If you’re wondering how to back up your Mac, you’ll have to use a tool known as Time Machine. You can set up both manual and automatic backups and even create a backup on an external drive, much like Windows.

Linux

Widely preferred by developers, Linux is an operating system known for its versatility. Unlike Windows and macOS, Linux is entirely open-source, so it can be modified and customized.

Since it’s open-source, different variants, known as distributions, exist. There are even lightweight distributions that you can install on older PCs. In fact, Windows 11 shares quite a few similarities with Linux desktops!

These distributions range from software that offers core system functionality all the way to custom user interfaces designed for operating particular hardware. One of the most popular distributions is Ubuntu, widely used because of its flexibility.

Ease of Installation

If you want to know how to install the latest Ubuntu version on your laptop or PC, just start by downloading the latest image from Ubuntu’s website. Then, you can just load it on a USB stick or create a disk image to install it.

Software Usability and Performance

Compared to Windows or macOS, usability is limited. Running new software on Linux is not always easy, as not all programs offer native support (at least, most programs you’ll find on Windows and macOS). This means you’ll have to install a compatibility layer like Wine. The installation process is also different, so make sure you follow the steps carefully to learn how to install Wine on Ubuntu.

Previously, Linux GUIs paled in comparison with Windows or macOS, which offered better graphics and performance. However, that has changed now, with Ubuntu offering a stunning GUI that can easily compete with the likes of Finder and Windows Explorer.

Installing apps on Linux is a bit complicated. Ideally, you should know your way around a command-line interface tool since that’s what you’ll be using most of the time. Unfortunately, that’s what limits Linux’s adoption; people view it as too technical to be useful daily. Furthermore, most applications are free or open source substitutes for popular Windows or macOS apps, which may not be as good as their original, proprietary counterparts.


Backups

Running backups on Linux is also not simple, as you need to know specific commands. However, there are some GUI tools that you can use, such as Déjà Dup. You can easily learn how to backup your data with Déjà Dup on Linux, though even that requires running some commands.

Which Operating System Is Right For You?

So, as you can see, all three operating systems are great in their own right. But, it all depends on what you’re familiar with and what you prefer to use. For example, if you like full control, Linux is probably the best choice. But if you want something easier to use, choosing between macOS and Windows is ideal.

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