Windows vs Linux vs Mac Smackdown : An Objective Comparison

Comparisons between the Microsoft Windows, Apple MAC and Linux computer operating systems have been a long running topic since the beginning of time.Comparisons of these operating systems tend to reflect their origins, historic user bases and distribution models.

We will start with a background comparison of the three operating systems.

Windows

Windows is one of the most well known operating systems developed by Microsoft. About 9 out of 10 homes and businesses currently use at least one Windows computer. Windows was originally based off of MS-DOS. This line of Windows OS became known as the 9x series. Eventually, all subsequent Windows OS’s are based off Windows NT. The most recent WINNT OS would be Windows 7.

Mac OS X

OS X is an operating system developed by Apple and is currently the 2nd most used OS after Windows. It has less than 20% marketshare. OS X unlike Windows, is actually based off of Unix. Therefore, OS X is considered to be part of the Unix OS family like Linux is. In fact, you can almost consider OS X to be a Linux Distribution.

Linux

Linux is not actually a single OS, but rather several distributions all based off of the original Unix system. Linux is very popular for servers but has recently found its way to the desktop. It’s not as popular as OS X or Windows yet, but it’s popularity is rising. Unlike OS X or Windows, Linux is free and open source. There are many distributions of Linux like Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, etc.

The Myths & Facts About These Platforms

  • Viruses

It is generally stated that PCs commonly get viruses but Linux and Macs do not. That is untrue because OS X is just as vulnerable to viruses as Windows is. The reason why Windows appear to be more vulnerable is because it literally has more viruses programmed for it. But that doesn’t mean the system itself is more vulnerable. Mac OS X seem to have no viruses targeted at it because hackers don’t think OS X is worth making viruses for. This is because barely anyone owns a Mac compared to the number of Windows users out there. Therefore, there’s not much incentive to program a virus for a Mac. Mac viruses do exist and can affect a mac system just as much as a Windows virus can affect a windows system. There is no hack – proof or virus proof system.

Even Linux systems have a few viruses too.

Truth be told, hardening techniques like the one discussed here makes the Windows platform less susceptible to viruses than it is perceived.

  • Stability

Many people say that OS X never crashes and is the most stable OS ever. The same can now be said about Windows 7.

Truth is, Windows 7 is the most stable Windows Operating systems ever. OS X can crash just as frequently as a Windows OS. In fact, OS X crashes even more when you are running non-Apple approved software such as Adobe Flash or Audacity. Even Steve Jobs admitted that Macs can crash a lot, despite what his “I’m a Mac” ads have said.

The famous BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) on Windows is a misconception from older Windows 9x systems. Back during Windows 9x series, stability was actually an issue. However, the switch to Windows NT systems made the OS much more stable and Blue Screens are considered quite rare now. Apple and other Apple fanboys are using the Windows 9x history as an argument against Windows even though those systems have long been discontinued and those problems no longer affect modern Windows systems.

As for Linux, it can crash too although it’s much more rare than WIndows or OS X. When a Linux crashes, it’s called a Kernel Panic.

  • Hardware

Normally in a Windows vs Linux comparison, hardware would not be given much mention, but because Mac OS X locks users to Apple hardware, this comparison is necessary.

For Windows and Linux, you can choose what you want to install your OS on. There are tons of options from manufacturers like Dell, HP, Acer, Gateway, Lenovo, Asus, and so on. For Mac OS X, you only have Apple.

Firstly, using the same hardware specifications, a Windows PC usually cost much less than an Apple Mac. Probably the deal breaker for most is that carrying out a hardware upgrade task on a Mac is a near impossible task, except for the real geeks. This is if you do not mind the fact that opening up a Mac will void your warranty and violate Apple’s EULA.

  • Software Library

Windows OS has the largest software library than any other OS. This means that the majority of programs, applications, and games out there are meant for Windows. Productivity Suites like Microsoft Office are always available on Windows first. That same version will be released on OS X later on. Many other programs out there are also Windows exclusive. If you’re into gaming, you’ll need good hardware (see above) and to play more games, you’ll need Windows. Many PC games today are meant for PC’s running Windows. There’s a new line of games called Games For Windows, which is obviously meant for Windows. Many Steam games are also meant for Windows. Only a few games will work on Macs or Linux.

  • Usage

There’s a common myth that Mac OS X is better and more common for video editing. This is untrue. Almost all video editing programs are multi-platform meaning that they work on both Windows and OS X. Linux may be a less favoured exception.

Programs like Sony Vegas, Adobe Premiere, Autodesk Avid, and so on all work on both OSes. The only notable video editing program that is OS X specific is Final Cut Pro. As for application and software development including game development, Windows is definitely the main platform. Many programs today are written in programming languages such as C++, C#, Java, and Visual Basic. While some of those languages work on OS X and Linux, the newer and more common ones are now for Windows only such as Visual Basic and C#. Game development for consoles and PC’s are done primarily on a Windows platform for the same reason as above.

However, it should be mentioned here that a software called Wine lets you run Windows software on other operating systems like Linux. With Wine, you can install and run these applications just like you would in Windows.

As for server use, Linux accounts for over 60% of server systems. However, Windows is also common for server usage. It depends on preference and the amount of resources someone has.

OS X also has a server edition, however it is not very popular and is rarely used mainly because of cost issues. Apple software and hardware tend to be very expensive and overpriced.

So which is the best OS? Well, that really depends on what you want. Windows is generally recommended for most users who do not have specific needs. I use Linux as my main OS but switch with Windows when there is a need for a software not supported on Linux.

Reference

14 thoughts on “Windows vs Linux vs Mac Smackdown : An Objective Comparison

  1. The title indicated this was an objective comparison, which is disappointing given that the article seems to be directed at defending arguments against Windows and attacking claims made by Apple.

    Each point seems to dedicate the majority of time to explaining the benefits of Windows or shoring up what people see as weak points of Microsoft’s product while downplaying the perceived strengths of OS X. Linux is lucky if it gets a quick sentence in edgewise before the attack against Apple continues.

    For example, you claim it’s untrue that PC systems commonly get viruses whereas it’s uncommon for Linux and Mac systems to see a virus. Your argument for this is each system is equally susceptible to viruses, but due to the smaller market share of Mac and Linux system there are not as many viruses in existence for these platforms…which is exactly why it’s more common for a PC to get a virus–because there’s more of them out there. This just reinforces the perception you were attempting to debunk.

    You are correct that Windows hardware is cheaper and more cost-effective in terms of performance, especially if you’re a gamer.

    People consider Mac OS X as better/more common for video editing because of Final Cut Pro, which is exclusively an Apple product and is the top choice for teaching in film schools. Chances are, if you’re in school for film you’re going to need a Mac or you’re not getting into class.

  2. I’m a longtime Windows user, who has also used Macs. The claim about much higher hardware cost was true years ago, but is not so accurate today. For example, I was recently looking for a computer for use as a media server under my TV. I wanted a machine which was small, powerful enough to handle a wide range of formats, and with an i3 or i5 processor. The choice came down to a Mac Mini, or a similar Windows based system. They were the same price. I bought it, and it has worked very well. I found the same thing recently when comparing ultrabooks. If you compare factors like screen quality, keyboard quality, support, etc, the price of a Mac and an similar Windows machine is very close. However, if the goal is to get the cheapest computer, there are low-end Windows offerings which are half the price (or less) of the cheapest Mac. Apple doesn’t offer much at this end of the market.

  3. It is amazing to see how many articles that contain the word “objective” are in fact extremely biased… this is a classic example.

  4. Having used both Macs, Windows, Linux/Unix for extended periods I agree with the guy who says this article tends to dismiss Mac’s superiority claims and defend Microsoft Windows’ noted weaknesses. There is some truth in what the other says. The reality is that Macs and OSx are much better in terms of usability, performance, component and build quality and durability. PC-based Linuxes and Windows are simply no match period. When it comes to cost, yes it was true years back that Macs were much costly – much better quality of build. However slight reductions in build quality and growing market share have allowed Apple to better spread costs over revenue, and indeed the Mac prices have fallen drastically to be at par with PCs of similar build. Overall MACs ARE CHEAPER, now!! Why? Mac software is much cheaper these days. E.g. OS X, and the apple office suites sell for peanuts, even the server versions for a 10th or so of Microsoft prices and the quality is way better. Why use Linux when you can get a more usable, robust and friendlier OS X for less than £20. The prices of the server versions are insanely low. And don’t believe the author about Macs crashing or hanging often – I used the daily; viruses rare, etc. Simply better engineering.

  5. This article was pretty biased towards Windows… even though I myself use Windows.

    @:)

    He did say viruses were more susceptible to Windows because of the fact that there are more people who use windows. What would happen if maybe 30% of the world population decided to use the Mac OS? Then more hackers/viruses would be made to specify for Macs. Same thing with Linux.

    This is how I would tell someone to choose which program for what:

    Windows: Use windows if you plan to play games, and I mean hardcore gaming. Not many games will play for Linux or Mac as of now.

    Mac: Browser, by browser I mean a person who doesn’t use the internet much, maybe they just want to check up on facebook or look up youtube videos. These types of people who do not plan to play PC games should use Macs.

    Linux: Programmers/Designers; let’s face it, Linux has a great array of equipment for businesses and private owners.

    Don’t be so hard headed and use the OS that best fits your needs.

  6. The article is biased toward windows and I currently prefer windows over mac. Currently looking for real objective reviews about linux.

  7. I really am getting tired of the common mention of ‘if Linux was used more, we’d see more viruses’.

    It’s not how it’s used, it’s the way it’s designed. The way it segments the kernel means that most methods of attack of viruses that will affect windows, you know, by just assuming Administration rights, will not work on LInux, unless that person is either logged in directly as root, or if that person intentionally runs the virus as root.

    The other fact is Linux is ran on a large majority of servers, devices, and hubs world-wide. Redhat itself runs on likely billions of systems world wide. But I still do not see a mass of viruses in the wild affecting these systems.

    The most I see is what I see in every OS. Injection attacks that go through applications to attack the system, not an attack on the system itself.

    So, I have to disagree. The fact that windows gets so many viruses is frankly because it’s a ripe environment that lacks the security to protect against the viruses.

    Linux and Mac are not as weak to this vector of attack, regardless of what those who keep claiming its how much ‘it is used’.

  8. Linux, Windows and Mac all have their pros and cons. Linux is very nice for what it does, but at this point in time it still can’t catch up to Windows in some aspects. Just use whatever you like best and stop arguing.

    1. you can get a pussypod or a ipussy for the price of a down payment of a car or you can go with ANY other brand and get it cheaper with more features…apples are for sheep period.

  9. I think the only reason people like mac is because they’re an underdog. If they were 90% of the market imagine how awful the extremely closed source OS would become.
    I think the main reason people hate Microsoft is because they have such a monopoly on the market. If they didn’t I think people would sooner accept how easy and stable it has become.
    I think Linux is loved by people who have an obsession with programming and love the constant challenge/sense of accomplishment of figuring things out.

    Having used these OS’s it is NOT biased to say that windows is just the easiest to use if you run any number of programs. I was getting annoyed with windows as an IT guy and I didn’t know why but decided to try some Linux systems. Almost none of our programs would work on it, the ones that did took lots of steps, and honestly I don’t have time for all the tinkering. On windows everything is just plug and play and all though it’s not perfect it’s undisputably less stressful to setup and run programs on than any other system. I’ve been running windows for years with nothing I couldn’t fix in a few hours and all though I enjoy tinkering with Linux, it’s just that… a tinkery OS. Although I wish it was a more fairly split world where Linux had a better chance and software support, reality is windows is reality. Good review.

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