Which OS Is Best For You: Windows, Linux, Or macOS?

by Jack Taylor | Last Updated: November 5, 2019

Is there one operating system that is superior to another, and if so, is there any reason why I should consider using a different operating system than the one that I am currently using?

There are several factors involved in determining which operating system will best meet your needs. Asking the right questions will help you determine which operating system will best meet your needs. Once you answer those questions, you will know exactly which operating system you should use and why.

Today, there are 3 major desktop operating systems available on the market for you to choose from. They include Windows, Linux and macOS. While there are far more applications made available for Windows, it does not have the ease of use or security features like that of Linux or macOS. Both Linux and macOS are extremely secure, but macOS is arguably easier to use than Linux.

The Need to Choose an Operating System

An operating system is the software platform that communicates with the computer hardware, creating an environment by which you can install and run software applications.

The “environment” (OS), that you choose, will determine what types of software applications you can run. Though some companies may provide software for more than one operating system, that software usually runs better on one operating system than the other. It all depends on what the company in question.

Most large companies will only develop software for Windows and macOS, but will not develop software for Linux. Adobe is a great example. At present, they only develop software for Window and macOS, but have not created any software for the Linux platform. Given their decision not to develop software for Linux, other companies (or teams of people), have collaborated to create software that provides the same functionality, (some would argue better functionality), that Adobe offers in their products for the Linux platform.

For example, below are 10 free Linux applications that serve as alternatives to Adobe products.

Some of the Linux software applications listed above are not as good as the Adobe alternative, however, there are some that preferred over the Adobe alternative, like Darktable. The point is not to show that one piece of software is better than another. The point here, is to show that there are software alternatives available on other OS platforms, in spite of the popularity of a given piece of software.

Let’s take a look at each operating system and see how popular they currently are, who they are catered to, and why you might choose each operating system for your daily use.

Microsoft Windows

On November 10, 1983, Bill Gates announced the launch of Microsoft Windows. It wasn’t too long thereafter that it became the most popular desktop operating system in the world, and that popularity continues to this day.

Today, Windows 10 is running on more than 700 million devices. In addition to PC’s, (this includes tablets, phones, and Xbox One consoles). As of September 2019, the Windows operating system runs on 87.42% of the desktop computers (of course, this includes laptops as well).

Why is Windows so Popular?

Frankly, Bill Gates focused on winning, and Microsoft did whatever it took to get Windows, Microsoft Office, and later, SQL Server everywhere in the business world. They even reportedly gave their software away for free in order to win business contracts. So, there was a relentless drive that definitely plays a factor as to why Windows became so popular. I would argue that they succeeded in their quest.

Microsoft Office is clearly their flagship product. It was first released in 1990, and has only matured over the last 29 years. Today it is available for both Windows and macOS, and is even available on mobile devices.

There is one more reason why Windows is so popular 37 years old after its birth. If you grew up using Windows, you probably are still using Windows. Given that people are creatures of habit, they tend not to change, even if that change is for the better. Familiarity tethers people. This, is probably the biggest reason why people continue to use Windows all these years later.

Advantages of Using Windows

There are a several advantages in using Windows, but I’ll limit them to what I see as the three biggest reasons for the sake of brevity, however these three reasons are probably shared by the majority of Windows users.

  • Familiarity
    Familiarity may be a reason as to why Windows is still being used all these years later, however, it is also serves as an advantage, given that people are accustomed to it. Given its popularity over the last 36 years, most people instinctively know how to use it already. If you grew up using Windows 7, Using Windows 10 is not that different. The “Start” button still resides at the bottom left side of the screen.
  • Hardware
    Because Windows has been around for so long, hardware vendors have designed their hardware to work with Windows, and more often than not, they offer their own proprietary drivers to ensure compatibility. In fact, most of these drivers have found their way into the the Windows operating system so that the hardware is “plug-n-play”.
  • Available Software
    Windows has (by far), thousands (if not tens of thousands), of software titles over any other desktop operating system on the market today. If you can think of a software need, there are probably several implementations of that type of software from numerous sources. For example, when googling, “Windows Image Editing Software”, you will find countless pages of links to Windows image editing software. There is more than one software solution to accomplish any given task.

Disadvantages of Using Windows

There are three main disadvantages in using Windows, which I touch on briefly below. Though I could write at length on each of these reasons, I am limiting how much I’ll address here and get straight to the point.

Microsoft Windows account for over 95% of all viruses and malicious software.

  • Windows is Less Secure
    Microsoft Windows is just not as secure as Linux or macOS. For example, Windows users are granted Administrator rights by default, meaning that they have access to everything in the system.
  • Viruses and Malware
    Due to its popularity, Microsoft Windows account for over 95% of all viruses and malicious software in the world. This malicious software is written specifically to attack computers running the Windows operating system. When a virus attacks a Windows computer, it quickly corrupts the whole system, because it has access to the entire system, while Linux and macOS limit where a virus or malicious software can roam.
  • Windows is Bloated
    Windows can be compared to the fat kid who eats a lot of junk-food. The applications are allowed to utilize a lot of RAM, and therefore, slow the system down.

    These applications also don’t clean up after themselves. When deleting an application, the application will leave remnants of itself in the Registry and other places. Linux can leave some “footprints” installed when uninstalling an application, but you can easily find out what they are and remove them using the “autoremove” command via the command line.

    MacOS does not allow for “slobs in the house”. When deleting a given application, you simply drag the application to the trash can and it deletes the entire application. Again, this is because Linux and macOS applications are only allowed to operate within their own sandbox, while Windows does not have the same restrictions.

Who is Windows Geared to?

Frankly, people choose Windows because it’s familiar and it simply comes with the computer they buy. Given that Windows accounts for 87.42% of the desktop computers (including laptops), one could easily argue that they have succeeded in their mission to dominate the market.

People choose to buy a computer and Windows happens to be the operating system that the computer comes with.

  • Business Environment
    Microsoft created Microsoft Office to ensure that they would be able to gain dominance in the business world, and stay there. Clearly they have succeeded. There are other Office Suites available, such as Libre Office, WPS Office, or even G-Suite, (Google’s online office suite), but Microsoft Office still is the standard for Office suites. Weather it be spreadsheets or documents, Microsoft Office is the standard that all other suites try to emulate.
  • The Home User
    Although Microsoft would love for Windows to be the operating system of choice in every home, people generally choose Windows out of familiarity. For example, I can’t imagine ANYONE saying, “Oh, I can’t wait to get my new computer that runs Windows!“, whereas, I can easily see someone saying, “I’m so excited to get my brand new iMac (or MacBook)! Better yet, I can easily see someone wearing a T-shirt that reads, “I Love My Mac“, or, “I Love Linux“, but I can’t imagine ANYONE wearing a T-shirt that reads, “I Love Windows“. That would just be weird. Don’t you agree?

Linux

In 1991, a Finish student, by the name of Linus Torvalds, developed a new free operating system kernel, which laid the foundation for every Linux distribution we see today. Linus Torvalds realized that in order to see his new operating system become wide-spread, he would need to invite others to participate in its development, and that is exactly what he did. His only condition was that those who added to the kernel keep their contributions free. Free was key.

Linux on the Desktop is only found on 2.11% of the computers worldwide. If it’s any good, why isn’t it widespread and found on more Desktop computers? Why isn’t it flying off the shelves? One reason is that nearly all PC hardware manufacturers are obligated under contract to put Microsoft Windows on their computers. You see, without an operating system, a computer is just a box with no way for you to interact with it. A computer without an operating system is like a skeleton without a body. It’s lifeless.

Why Isn’t Linux More Popular?

  • Marketing
    Because Linux is not owned by any one person. It is not marketed like other operating systems. For example, when was the last time you saw Linux advertised on TV or on the Radio? You haven’t, but I bet you can remember seeing these “Mac vs PC” ads on TV just a few years ago.
38 minutes of all 66 Mac vs PC ads, . . . but no mention of Linux.
  • Consistency
    In a nutshell, Linux offers too many options for the average user. The average computer user uses a computer as a tool, not as a toy to play with. Their objective is to use the computer to accomplish a given task, and they don’t want to be bothered with having to learn a new environment to accomplish that task. They want the computer that they use at home to work like the one at the office and at the library.

    There are more than 630 Linux distributions, but only a dozen or more have gained enough community support to be considered good enough to be used as a daily driver.

    Because Linux has so many distributions to choose from, (and that number grows each year), Linux is not consistent. That’s one of the biggest attractions to Linux, however. You can customize it to your liking.
  • Lack of Support
    With Linux, if you run into a problem, there is no-one to call. The help is available, if you know where to go to get that support, but it is not from one company. Instead, support and resources come from the community as a whole. You have to find the answer on your own by visiting forums on the internet.

    Mind you, the Linux community is VERY friendly, (with the exception of the Linux Arch community, (they come across as aletists, who don’t’ have time to answer any of your questions if you are new to Linux). Every other Linux community, however, is very helpful.

Advantages of Using Linux

There are several advantages in using Linux as your desktop operating system, but the big three come down to security, customization and the fact it will not only run on older machines, while making them feel new again.

  • Linux is Incredibly Secure
    Unlike Windows, Linux users are not granted Administrator rights by default. With Linux, everything is compartmentalized by design. This means that if a virus or malware were to infect the computer, it would be limited in scope, meaning that it would be limited in how much damage it could do. By design, Linux is permission based. In order to get access to protected areas of the operating system, you require root access by entering in the root login credentials.
  • You Can Customize Everything
    Linux is not a cookie-cutter operating system. Unlike Windows and macOS, you can completely customize the look and feel of the operation system. Place the navigation on the top, bottom, left or right hand side of the screen if you want. If you don’t want to see how to navigate the operating system at all, you can navigate the operating system by simply using your keyboard.

    Don’t like the “theme” used? Change it to whatever you want it to look like. In fact, you can even make Linux look like Windows. You can even make it look like macOS if you want.
  • Linux is FAST. Very Fast
    Linux was designed for speed. It was designed to run fast on old equipment. Installing Linux on that 5 year old computer will make it feel like you just bought a new computer. Linux can also handle an unusually large numbers of users simultaneously.

Disadvantages of Using Linux

Although there are many reasons to use Linux, there are a few disadvantages, but note that these reasons are primarily due to a lack of knowledge on behalf of the user and adaptability.

Linux does not have to be complicated. The majority of Linux distributions are very user-friendly.

  • Linux CAN be Very Complicated
    Because Linux has so much power, as a new user, you may find yourself getting frustrated because it does things differently than you may be used to. Different is not necessarily bad, it’s just different, and is usually tied to security. Again, security is the number one priority of Linux. It ensures that one can only get access to what that individual needs access to, and att the same time, it keeps those who should not have access, out of your computer.

    On the other side, Linux does not have to be complicated. The majority of Linux distributions are very user-friendly, especially within the last 10 years.
  • No Default Version
    Windows and macOS offer a standard version, (Windows 10 or macOS 10 for example), while Linux does not have a default version. This is why they offer “distributions”. Though some see this as an advantage in that they don’t feel forced into a specific design, it does make it difficult for new users to adopt because every Linux distribution is different.

    Windows 10 and macOS have a Desktop layout that functions the same. With Linux, that Desktop layout could look any way you want, which is one reason why it has not garnered greater adoption from large companies in the business world.
  • Support is Decentralized
    The average user will not know where to get help if they can’t figure out how to get their printer to work, or how to change the display resolution. Where do Linux users get help from?

    When I was in my early twenties, I worked in an IT department of a big company. I specifically remember one day when I naively asked the Department Head why we were paying hundreds of dollars to Microsoft for each Microsoft Office license, when we could use Libre Office for free. The answer I received was that there was no centralized support. In other words, who would we (the company), go to for support?

    In the late 1990’s, the internet was not what it is today, and the risk of not getting the support needed was too great, which is why we paid hundreds of dollars for each and every employee to have a Microsoft Windows license, not to mention the Microsoft Office license. Being left to resolve issues “On your own” or even “in house”, is a lonely place, especially when you lead an IT Department for a large company.

Who is Linux Geared to?

There are generally 6 types of Linux Users. Who, exactly, is Linux geared to?

  • Linux is Geared to System Administrators
    System Administrators worldwide know the value of Linux. If possible, they will use Linux whenever possible because they know how superior Linux is when it comes to security.
  • Linux is Geared to Those Who Like to Tinker
    Admittedly, this is me. I love tinkering with operating systems. Linux is just fun. You get to choose which distribution you use to run Linux. Think of a “distribution” as a flavor of ice cream. With Linux, you get to choose any flavor you want. Each “flavor” has its own look and layout, and even then, you get to completely customize that distribution.
    mUsing our ice-cream example, it would be like adding chocolate syrup or sprinkles on top of your ice-cream. Linux is completely customizable, the polar opposite of an operating system like Windows or macOS, in that with those operating systems, you get what they give you. With Linux, you determine what your operating system will look like and how it functions.
  • Linux is Geared to People Who Want Inexpensive Reliability
    Linux is completely free. When I say “free”, I mean free. It is there for the taking and you never pay anyone for the use of the operating system. On top of that, nearly ALL of the software available for Linux is free as well. There are no licenses to contend with, and you can install Linux on as many computers as you want.

    Not only is Linux completely free, but it is ridiculously reliable. This is not to say that there are no bugs in the programs that you install, but the operating system is rock solid, given the extensive testing that the kernel undergoes prior to an update.

    Some distributions, (like Linux Mint), are more reliable than other distributions, like Arch Linux. This is because Linux Mint takes an extremely conservative approach, whereas Arch Linux offers the latest bleeding edge software available.
  • Linux is Geared to People who want to extend the life of old computer equipment
    Linux is the perfect operating system for old computers. Very old computers. For example, you could easily run Linux on a PC that is 5 to 10 years old or more. Which distribution you choose, however, will determine hardware comparability. In such a case, you may want to consider using Linux Mint or Ubuntu. If the current version of each of those distributions will not work, certainly an older version of either one of those distributions will, and older versions of Linux distributions are easy to find and download
  • Linux is Geared to People who Need or Want Greater Control
    Unlike macOS, Linux users can literally access any file of the operating system. Of course, you will need to sign in as “root”, (as the System Administrator), but it can be done. On the other hand, if you don’t know what you are doing, you can easily hose your system. That can be remedied by reinstalling the OS all over again. I tend to do that . . . . a lot. But I learn something new every time, which makes it fun.
  • Linux is Geared to People Who Have a Personal Vendetta with Microsoft
    These are people who want to “Give it to the Man“, or frankly, those who are sick and tired of the hassles and headaches that they have had to deal with over the years when it comes to crashes, or data loss.

    When using Windows, inconvenience can easily turn into bitterness. Before purchasing a Mac, my Dad was one such person. He was tired of the constant updates that took nearly an hour to install, at the most inopportune times. Unfortunately, 15 years later, this problem STILL exists. Windows continues to install unscheduled updates when it wants, regardless of your workflow.

macOS

Steve Jobs was just 16 years old when he first met Steve Wozniak in June of 1971. Later that year, they began their business partnership by selling “blue boxes” that allowed one to make long-distance phone calls at no cost. On March 1, 1976, Wozniak completed his first machine, which later became the Apple I computer. One month later, together, they formed Apple Computer and incorporated the company on January 3, 1977.

Steve Jobs was relentless. Alan Deutschman, the author of “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs“, wrote of Steve Jobs, saying: “He had this company-within-a-company that became pitted against other parts of the company that actually made money.” Given the lack of cooperation with the rest of the company and the time and money that was being spent on research and development on projects that Steve Jobs had invested, the Board fired him from Apple in 1985.

In one of the biggest turn of events in history, 11 years later, Apple paid Steve Jobs $400 million dollars to acquire Next, Inc., which was the computer company Steve Jobs had created after having been fired by Apple. Apple realized that they needed the zeal and innovative Steve Jobs to turn their company around, as it was about 90 days from declaring bankruptcy.

Over the years Apple grew to become the first publicly traded 1 trillion dollar company, with over $245 Billion dollars of cash on hand.

Why Isn’t macOS More Popular?

Given the incredible success of Apple over the last 20 years, one would expect it to have a greater impact on the Desktop than it currently does. As of September of 2019, macOS only has a Desktop market share of 9.84%.

  • Playing the Long Game
    You need to understand that Apple is playing the long game. Apple has an ace of it’s sleeve. Apple has set itself up for success for the next 20 or 30 years in the same way that Microsoft did in the Business market. Microsoft introduced Microsoft Office, making it the standard Office Suite in nearly every business in the world, which of course, is primarily run on Microsoft Windows.

How Will Apple Win?

  • Leverage
    Apple understands that to be successful in the long run, it needs to leverage its own products, and if those products don’t exist, they need to invent them. It started with the release of iTunes where users could purchase music. At the time, however, that music could only be played when using an Apple product that supported iTunes, . . . like the iPod.

    With the introduction of the iPod on October 23, 2001, (which is still sold in Apple stores to this day, 18 years later), Apple leveraged one product with another product. They have been following this model ever since, and have created what is commonly known as the Apple Ecosystem.
  • Education
    Apple computers are found in nearly every elementary school, middle school and high school in America. That is no mistake. Apple knows that grade-school students grow up and become College students who purchase iMacs and MacBooks. Adults purchase products they are already familiar with, especially if they have other Apple products, like the iPhone. Once one enters the Apple Ecosystem, it only makes sense to stay within that ecosystem.

Advantages of Using macOS

There are several advantages of using macOS.

The Apple Ecosystem makes life a lot easier and less complicated.

  • The Apple Ecosystem
    Today, Apple sells dozens of products, all of which communicate seamlessly with one another through iCloud.

    If you just purchase one main product from Apple, such as a MacBook, you will benefit greatly by purchasing a second product of theirs. For example, If you own a MacBook, you *could* buy an Android phone, but it won’t communicate seamlessly with the MacBook you already have like an iPhone would, so why not get the iPhone?

    Now if you are considering purchasing a watch, why wouldn’t you get an Apple Watch? It will communicate seamlessly with your iPhone and MacBook too. Are you seeing the advantage of the Apple ecosystem now?

    The Apple Ecosystem is something that people can easily buy into because you are more connected and it makes life a lot easier and less complicated.
  • Simplicity by Design
    Everything Apple delivers is intentionally simplistic. They make it ridiculously simple to transfer data from an older Mac to a newer Mac. It’s all done through iCloud, and automatically will mirror your old Mac.

    Simplicity infects every design choice, physically and visually. Apple takes great care to ensure that their products, like the MacBook, feel comfortable to hold and aren’t too heavy to carry across campus or to a meeting.

    They use rounded corners in their hardware, and even in macOS itself when displaying applications on the Desktop. Every pixel is accounted for. Apple is all about the details.
  • Security is the Foundation of macOS
    Like Linux, macOS is also based on the Unix operating system. Linux and macOS both follow the POSIX standard. POSIX is an acronym that stands for Portable Operating System Interface for Unix-like Operating Systems. In fact, because macOS follows the POSIX standard, developers can compile applications developed on Linux for use on macOS.

    While the Linux kernel is a monolithic kernel designed for performance, the micro kernel is designed for more flexibility. macOS uses a kernel design that fits somewhere in between these two architectures. The point here is that macOS is based on the incredibly mature architecture of UNIX, which was birthed in the mid 1960’s. Because the software and hardware are developed by Apple themselves, they are able to create an incredibly secure platform in which you can entrust your data to. For example, Apple introduced the Apple T2 chip. The Secure Enclave coprocessor in the Apple T2 chip serves as the foundation for Touch ID, secure boot, and encrypted storage capabilities.

    You can use Touch ID and use your fingerprint to unlock your Mac, fill passwords in Safari, and make purchases with Apple Pay. Again, simplicity is even found in the security measures of the operating system.

    Secure boot ensures that that you are running genuine Apple software when booting up your computer, and the Apple T2 chip automatically encrypts all of the data on your Mac. Are you beginning to see the value in having the same company that designs the hardware, develop the software that runs on that hardware?

Their is incredible value in having one company create the hardware that the operating system runs on.

Disadvantages of Using macOS

  • Apple Computers are Expensive
    Yes, Apple computers are expensive when compared to their counterpart, the PC. Typically, you might find a PC at half the cost, however, the likelihood of you needing to replace the PC before the Mac is incredibly high. It’s not uncommon for a Mac to be used in excess of 5 years and still run as strong as the day you first bought it. Can you say the same for a PC that is 5 years old?
  • There is a . . . Learning Curve?
    If, and only if, you are coming from Windows to a Mac, will you find that it takes you a few days to get accustomed to using a Mac. For example, if you want to uninstall an application in Windows, you need to follow these steps: Click START > CONTROL PANEL > PROGRAMS AND FEATURES, now highlight the application you want to uninstall, and click UNINSTALL at the top of the screen. When the popup asks you to confirm if you really want to uninstall the application, click YES.

    When using a Mac, you simply open up FINDER and navigate to APPLICATIONS, and drag and drop the the application in question to the trash can. That’s it. The application is now completely “uninstalled”, (deleted), from your computer.

    Obviously removing an application on a Mac is far easier than it is to do in Windows, not to mention that when removing an application in Windows, it leaves traces of the application in the Windows Registry, which in time, will slow your system down.

    If there is a learning curve in using a Mac, it’s that it takes time to realize just how much you don’t have to do in order to accomplish the same task.

Who is macOS Geared to?

  • Students
    Apple intentionally makes their operating system easy to use for people of all ages, including the very young as well as the elderly. However, it is no secret that Apple specifically markets their product to educational institutions and students alike. With iCloud, one can work on a term paper on an iMac stationed at the campus library, and then return to their dorm room to work on that same paper on their own iMac, or iPhone for that matter. That’s the joy of using iCloud!
  • Home Users
    Due to its simplicity, children can easily use the Mac, and so can Grandma, who has never touched a computer before. For new users, the “learning curve” is very short, maybe 45 minutes with somebody showing them how.
  • Creative People
    This includes artists that might use Photoshop, or sound engineers who would use software applications like Apple Logic Pro or Avid Pro Tools. Film-makers would find themselves right at home in using Final Cut Pro to create and edit videos.

Closing Thoughts

Is there one operating system that is better than another? The operating system that meets your needs and does the things you want the way you want is the best operating system for you. The operating system that serves your needs, the one that helps you accomplish your goals and tasks in an efficient manner is the operating system that you should choose.

Mind you, what works best for you very well may not work for someone else. Respect the needs and wants of others and let them choose for themselves. The fact that you have choice is a win.


Jack has been helping people with computers needs for several years, and he loves to help people succeed. He brings a wealth of wisdom and insight from an entrepreneur's perspective and enjoys freelance writing. In fact, when he's not writing an article or working on his YouTube channel, you might find him binge-watching Suits or formatting his computer . . . again, just for fun. To learn more about Jack, click here.

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