Linux

10 fundamental differences between Linux and Windows

Before debating the relative merits and shortcomings of Linux and Windows, it helps to understand the real distinctions between them. Jack Wallen has distilled the key differences into one list.

Before debating the relative merits and shortcomings of Linux and Windows, it helps to understand the real distinctions between them. Jack Wallen has distilled the key differences into one list.


I have been around the Linux community for more than 10 years now. From the very beginning, I have known that there are basic differences between Linux and Windows that will always set them apart. This is not, in the least, to say one is better than the other. It's just to say that they are fundamentally different. Many people, looking from the view of one operating system or the other, don't quite get the differences between these two powerhouses. So I decided it might serve the public well to list 10 of the primary differences between Linux and Windows.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Full access vs. no access

Having access to the source code is probably the single most significant difference between Linux and Windows. The fact that Linux belongs to the GNU Public License ensures that users (of all sorts) can access (and alter) the code to the very kernel that serves as the foundation of the Linux operating system. You want to peer at the Windows code? Good luck. Unless you are a member of a very select (and elite, to many) group, you will never lay eyes on code making up the Windows operating system.

You can look at this from both sides of the fence. Some say giving the public access to the code opens the operating system (and the software that runs on top of it) to malicious developers who will take advantage of any weakness they find. Others say that having full access to the code helps bring about faster improvements and bug fixes to keep those malicious developers from being able to bring the system down. I have, on occasion, dipped into the code of one Linux application or another, and when all was said and done, was happy with the results. Could I have done that with a closed-source Windows application? No.

#2: Licensing freedom vs. licensing restrictions

Along with access comes the difference between the licenses. I'm sure that every IT professional could go on and on about licensing of PC software. But let's just look at the key aspect of the licenses (without getting into legalese). With a Linux GPL-licensed operating system, you are free to modify that software and use and even republish or sell it (so long as you make the code available). Also, with the GPL, you can download a single copy of a Linux distribution (or application) and install it on as many machines as you like. With the Microsoft license, you can do none of the above. You are bound to the number of licenses you purchase, so if you purchase 10 licenses, you can legally install that operating system (or application) on only 10 machines.

#3: Online peer support vs. paid help-desk support

This is one issue where most companies turn their backs on Linux. But it's really not necessary. With Linux, you have the support of a huge community via forums, online search, and plenty of dedicated Web sites. And of course, if you feel the need, you can purchase support contracts from some of the bigger Linux companies (Red Hat and Novell for instance).

However, when you use the peer support inherent in Linux, you do fall prey to time. You could have an issue with something, send out e-mail to a mailing list or post on a forum, and within 10 minutes be flooded with suggestions. Or these suggestions could take hours of days to come in. It seems all up to chance sometimes. Still, generally speaking, most problems with Linux have been encountered and documented. So chances are good you'll find your solution fairly quickly.

On the other side of the coin is support for Windows. Yes, you can go the same route with Microsoft and depend upon your peers for solutions. There are just as many help sites/lists/forums for Windows as there are for Linux. And you can purchase support from Microsoft itself. Most corporate higher-ups easily fall victim to the safety net that having a support contract brings. But most higher-ups haven't had to depend up on said support contract. Of the various people I know who have used either a Linux paid support contract or a Microsoft paid support contract, I can't say one was more pleased than the other. This of course begs the question "Why do so many say that Microsoft support is superior to Linux paid support?"

#4: Full vs. partial hardware support

One issue that is slowly becoming nonexistent is hardware support. Years ago, if you wanted to install Linux on a machine you had to make sure you hand-picked each piece of hardware or your installation would not work 100 percent. I can remember, back in 1997-ish, trying to figure out why I couldn't get Caldera Linux or Red Hat Linux to see my modem. After much looking around, I found I was the proud owner of a Winmodem. So I had to go out and purchase a US Robotics external modem because that was the one modem I knew would work. This is not so much the case now. You can grab a PC (or laptop) and most likely get one or more Linux distributions to install and work nearly 100 percent. But there are still some exceptions. For instance, hibernate/suspend remains a problem with many laptops, although it has come a long way.

With Windows, you know that most every piece of hardware will work with the operating system. Of course, there are times (and I have experienced this over and over) when you will wind up spending much of the day searching for the correct drivers for that piece of hardware you no longer have the install disk for. But you can go out and buy that 10-cent Ethernet card and know it'll work on your machine (so long as you have, or can find, the drivers). You also can rest assured that when you purchase that insanely powerful graphics card, you will probably be able to take full advantage of its power.

#5: Command line vs. no command line

No matter how far the Linux operating system has come and how amazing the desktop environment becomes, the command line will always be an invaluable tool for administration purposes. Nothing will ever replace my favorite text-based editor, ssh, and any given command-line tool. I can't imagine administering a Linux machine without the command line. But for the end user -- not so much. You could use a Linux machine for years and never touch the command line. Same with Windows. You can still use the command line with Windows, but not nearly to the extent as with Linux. And Microsoft tends to obfuscate the command prompt from users. Without going to Run and entering cmd (or command, or whichever it is these days), the user won't even know the command-line tool exists. And if a user does get the Windows command line up and running, how useful is it really?

#6: Centralized vs. noncentralized application installation

The heading for this point might have thrown you for a loop. But let's think about this for a second. With Linux you have (with nearly every distribution) a centralized location where you can search for, add, or remove software. I'm talking about package management systems, such as Synaptic. With Synaptic, you can open up one tool, search for an application (or group of applications), and install that application without having to do any Web searching (or purchasing).

Windows has nothing like this. With Windows, you must know where to find the software you want to install, download the software (or put the CD into your machine), and run setup.exe or install.exe with a simple double-click. For many years, it was thought that installing applications on Windows was far easier than on Linux. And for many years, that thought was right on target. Not so much now. Installation under Linux is simple, painless, and centralized.

#7: Flexibility vs. rigidity

I always compare Linux (especially the desktop) and Windows to a room where the floor and ceiling are either movable or not. With Linux, you have a room where the floor and ceiling can be raised or lowered, at will, as high or low as you want to make them. With Windows, that floor and ceiling are immovable. You can't go further than Microsoft has deemed it necessary to go.

Take, for instance, the desktop. Unless you are willing to pay for and install a third-party application that can alter the desktop appearance, with Windows you are stuck with what Microsoft has declared is the ideal desktop for you. With Linux, you can pretty much make your desktop look and feel exactly how you want/need. You can have as much or as little on your desktop as you want. From simple flat Fluxbox to a full-blown 3D Compiz experience, the Linux desktop is as flexible an environment as there is on a computer.

#8: Fanboys vs. corporate types

I wanted to add this because even though Linux has reached well beyond its school-project roots, Linux users tend to be soapbox-dwelling fanatics who are quick to spout off about why you should be choosing Linux over Windows. I am guilty of this on a daily basis (I try hard to recruit new fanboys/girls), and it's a badge I wear proudly. Of course, this is seen as less than professional by some. After all, why would something worthy of a corporate environment have or need cheerleaders? Shouldn't the software sell itself? Because of the open source nature of Linux, it has to make do without the help of the marketing budgets and deep pockets of Microsoft. With that comes the need for fans to help spread the word. And word of mouth is the best friend of Linux.

Some see the fanaticism as the same college-level hoorah that keeps Linux in the basements for LUG meetings and science projects. But I beg to differ. Another company, thanks to the phenomenon of a simple music player and phone, has fallen into the same fanboy fanaticism, and yet that company's image has not been besmirched because of that fanaticism. Windows does not have these same fans. Instead, Windows has a league of paper-certified administrators who believe the hype when they hear the misrepresented market share numbers reassuring them they will be employable until the end of time.

#9: Automated vs. nonautomated removable media

I remember the days of old when you had to mount your floppy to use it and unmount it to remove it. Well, those times are drawing to a close -- but not completely. One issue that plagues new Linux users is how removable media is used. The idea of having to manually "mount" a CD drive to access the contents of a CD is completely foreign to new users. There is a reason this is the way it is. Because Linux has always been a multiuser platform, it was thought that forcing a user to mount a media to use it would keep the user's files from being overwritten by another user. Think about it: On a multiuser system, if everyone had instant access to a disk that had been inserted, what would stop them from deleting or overwriting a file you had just added to the media? Things have now evolved to the point where Linux subsystems are set up so that you can use a removable device in the same way you use them in Windows. But it's not the norm. And besides, who doesn't want to manually edit the /etc/fstab fle?

#10: Multilayered run levels vs. a single-layered run level

I couldn't figure out how best to title this point, so I went with a description. What I'm talking about is Linux' inherent ability to stop at different run levels. With this, you can work from either the command line (run level 3) or the GUI (run level 5). This can really save your socks when X Windows is fubared and you need to figure out the problem. You can do this by booting into run level 3, logging in as root, and finding/fixing the problem.

With Windows, you're lucky to get to a command line via safe mode -- and then you may or may not have the tools you need to fix the problem. In Linux, even in run level 3, you can still get and install a tool to help you out (hello apt-get install APPLICATION via the command line). Having different run levels is helpful in another way. Say the machine in question is a Web or mail server. You want to give it all the memory you have, so you don't want the machine to boot into run level 5. However, there are times when you do want the GUI for administrative purposes (even though you can fully administer a Linux server from the command line). Because you can run the startx command from the command line at run level 3, you can still start up X Windows and have your GUI as well. With Windows, you are stuck at the Graphical run level unless you hit a serious problem.

Your call...

Those are 10 fundamental differences between Linux and Windows. You can decide for yourself whether you think those differences give the advantage to one operating system or the other. Me? Well I think my reputation (and opinion) precedes me, so I probably don't need to say I feel strongly that the advantage leans toward Linux.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

240 comments
serenamaris866
serenamaris866

According to me, Windows hosting is better than Linux hosting. There are many web hosting providers are available in the market that offers diferent types of hosting services.
http://www.dialwebhosting.com/

johnkaggwa203
johnkaggwa203

how has the revolution of computers changed your life and your country

rishav.dev.1990
rishav.dev.1990

incomplete information, little information lacking...

johnny tremain
johnny tremain

can someone redirect me to a kindergarten Q & A forum ? i just searched for 

linux comparison articles and joined this blog. I have tons of data to convert from word and photoshop and need to know if it will be an easy transition . Thanks

johnny tremain
johnny tremain

if i switch to linux how do i convert all my word documents ? can i copy and paste them into a similar program and is the software free ?

johnny tremain
johnny tremain

i am considering going to linux and dumping the whole corporate monopoly BS. I am an artist and musician and need to run adobe photoshop, illustrator , dreamweaver and I need a multi track music recording program and video editor. Is the software free ?

johnny tremain
johnny tremain

i use ADOBE  illustrator and photoshop, dreamweaver AND  i need to record multi track music and create and edit music videos, how will this fare compared to windows, is the linux software superior, is it all free ?

filitino
filitino

@tear_star@yahoo.com Jack Wallen posted this in 2008; Hadeel Tariq Al-Rayes published hers in 2012.  In fact, if you look at her list of references, #2 is THIS article.  How did you determine Hadeel Tariq Al-Rayes is the original author?

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

So are you saying there are no paper certified Linux administratiors? Are you saying that paper certified is therefore bad in some way? Paper Envy - those people who never took the time or had the planning of career to get any paper certification. Most bemoan the fact they find it hard to get a foot in the door as they can't really prove their foundation skill set. Every other 'professional subject' requires a grounding based on a paper certification but for some reason these 'Paper Envy' people think they should be above this rhetoric.

dsmith1984uk
dsmith1984uk

This is rubbish. The person writing it seems to have little knowledge of windows. And it's not a list of the 10 differences between the two OS systems its a list of 10 things he thinks Linux have over windows (by the way you can do a lot from a windows command prompt). Where are the advantages Windows has over Linux??? Because there are plenty. This is just a page of propaganda. The desktops at my company are all windows however a lot of our servers are linux. As a result I have experience with both and I have to say Windows rules.

Wolvenmoon
Wolvenmoon

A number of your points could be interpreted either way. Let's see your linux box go from being a fully functioning web server to a gaming machine to a CGI workstation to an HTPC. My windows box can switch between them in two seconds each, and installing it was instant. Yes, you have to install third party apps to change the windows desktop. Yes, you have to use MANY third party apps with windows. Do you mean to tell me that everything in synaptic package manager is written and vetted by every linux distribution that it runs on's development team? Windows has an even bigger online community than linux. What are you talking about? The linux community, most problems they tell you to google it unless you're a vet with over a thousand posts. In fact, I have not yet had a problem with linux that when I googled it I didn't come into a forum telling the user to google it. Ironic, isn't it? However, when I ask a question about windows I have an answer almost instantly, even if it's something stupid. If you want to test this, try asking a stupid windows question on a windows forum, like, 'how do I log in as administrator?' and then do it on a linux forum 'how do I log in as root?'

DONC314
DONC314

What in the heck does: "And besides, who doesn???t want to manually edit the /etc/fstab fle?" Mean? I will probably be switching over to Linux when my XP becomes unusable however geekese like this is a turn off to most new users.

JV711
JV711

In today's blog, we will try not to break out laughing when we compare a BFG-9000 (Linux) vs a Colt .45 (Windows). When the fiery imp demons come streaming through the doorway, Which would you rather have in the datacenter?

MikeInMexico
MikeInMexico

A little different perspective ... On Point#3, it was good to see that the author acknowledged that both paid and peer support are available for both Windows and Linux. The wide range of peer support for Linux has always been promoted as one of it's big advantages, but it can also be it's "Achilles heel". There are so many distros in so many versions that although one may be almost overwhelmed by the help and number of different solutions to a given problem offered by the peer support system, the time required to sift through and find if any of them actually fix the problem in your system is almost prohibitive for most of us. Plus the fact that almost all solutions are offered in the form of arcane command line sequences (see below). I have actually found that the peer support for Windows has been much more productive for me. On Point#5, it's hard to see how the use of command line can be viewed as an advantage by anyone except the deeply technically involved. It involves learning an arcane, non-intuitive language (which we all used to do years ago, but those days are gone ...). The "average" computer user will never accede to this, and the "average" computer user must be the growth target for the Linux future. At our local LUG, one of our members tried (as an experiment) to switch his wife (a fairly knowledgeable Windows user) over to Ubuntu without any use of the command line. Failed miserably and finally gave up.

fabianmejia
fabianmejia

Well, I agree with many of the differences (although some of them seem to be in favor of Linux). Linux is great but it depends which kind of user you are. If you are average Joe, (Some excel, word, ppt music, etc) then I don't find any difference, they are exactly the same. If want something out of the normal (ie. Different users having access to the same device) then Linux can be better ... but who does it! Also, you forgot to mention the quality and variety of the products in both OS as another difference. I personally think that Applications under windows are better built and there's a huge diversity. Right now I have both installed. I use Windows for gaming, Office, etc and Ubuntu for other applications which are really expensive in Windows like Gimp, LMMS, DVD creation and Blender (although most of them can be installed in windows). So I encourage everybody to install both and play with them! Fabian Mejia fabianmejia.blogspot.com

TX Old Sarge
TX Old Sarge

This is getting somewhat funny. It is like a Ford versus Chevy argument. In my family, if you bought a Ford you were out of the family, yet I have had lemons in both brands and good ones as well. Dudes, if you are MS fans then rock on and if you a Linux Love or Mac Manic then chill and enjoy. I call Macs Crapintoshs and joke with my friends and users that have them but man it is a good thing we aren't on the dueling fields here or there would a lot more outsourcing due to loss of personnel.

Joe Cement Mason
Joe Cement Mason

It's quite apparent that you are biased in favor of Linux and less than truthful about the aspects of Windows. This makes your opinions worthless.

manu
manu

I have used Linux and for many years now used FreeBSD Unix for all my servers and Desktops. The licence is different and the design of the base install VS Linux kernel is more flexible. freebsd.org welcomes new sysadmins and has world wide support even for newbies. Al Plant ... Honolulu, HI USA

eddyrox1
eddyrox1

what kind of article was this??? great article but shouldn't the title be "10 reasons why Linux is better than Windows"?? fine these were differences but when pointing out differences you don't say "vs" in the first place. that means you are comparing trying to figure out which is better. leave english aside. what's up with this #1: Full access vs. no access and the last line of that one "I have, on occasion, dipped into the code of one Linux application or another, and when all was said and done, was happy with the results. Could I have done that with a closed-source Windows application? No" seriously this entire post was more of a showcase on the benefits of linux. there's nothing wrong with showcasing those benefits but please rephrase the title of the post. edit --> Fundamental differences mean that you point out pros and cons of both sides

Scott
Scott

This is the "single most significant difference between Linux and Windows"? Seriously? If you think that statement is true, then it's obvious why Linux remains relegated to the realm of self-proclaimed "fanboys" and propeller-heads. The very LAST thing that John Q. Public wants to do after taking his brand new laptop home from Best Buy is go look at the OS source code. In fact, I'll wager that 99% of your average users will simply dump linux long before they ever even consider trying to look at source code. If you were trying to make the point that Linux is "safer" because it is open-source, then why not point to some studies on the subject? There are plenty to choose from. And, of course, you can choose whichever study you want depending on which OS you want to be "more reliable". Also, how is #3 a difference? There are at least as many peer-support options for Windows (if not more) than for Linux. And, as you said, you can get paid support for Linux too. Were you just struggling to find 10 things because it's a "10 Things" list? #5 Command-line support: Again, this is a non-issue for 99% of computer users. In fact, I'll wager that those 99% of computer users view having to use a "command prompt" to accomplish some task as a *failure* of the OS, not a *benefit*. #6 I didn't know what Synaptic was, so I Googled it. Here's the top link on Google: http://www.nongnu.org/synaptic/ Read that link from a non-tech perspective and you will see, once again, why Linux completely fails to make in-roads into the home computer market. Heck, I'm pretty tech-savvy and I have no idea what Synaptic is after reading that page. #8 So am I to believe that all of those home users who are running some flavor of Windows are "corporate types"? #11 You failed to mention the VAST disparity in number of applications that run on Windows vs Linux. I would almost be willing to take the time to put Linux and/or Mac OS on one of my machines just to see how it works for myself, but almost none of the software that I use every day runs on it. How can I justify installing an OS that doesn't run the software I need? #12 Network Support - Two programmers in our office spent weeks installing various linux distros on a laptop trying to get it to join our Windows domain. Maybe they didn't know what they were doing, I don't know. What I do know is that getting a windows machine onto a Windows domain is cake. The last time I took a hard look at linx was 1997, so I won't make any disparaging remarks about it. I had a lot of hardware troubles, but I'll take your word for it that hardware support is better now. But even the most fanatical "fanboy" has to admit that Linux has yet to achieve a signficant market share in the OS market (either home or corporate). According to this link, you've got less than 1%! Heck, the iPhone is threatening to gain more market share then linux! http://marketshare.hitslink.com/report.aspx?qprid=8 Windows certainly has its short-comings. But if it really "sucks" as bad as many linux evangelists say it does, then that doesn't say much for Linux's ability to overtake it. There is SOMETHING holding linux back. I don't claim to know what it is (though I'm willing to bet it's "ease-of-use" followed closely by "Windows compatability"). Maybe those of you who are most familiar with linux have a better idea. But whatever it is, until you admit it - then fix it - you'll continue to be a novelty.

jdschmutz
jdschmutz

I agree with most of your points. I'd say that #9, however is a bit of excuse-making. On a PC, there is no such thing as a multi-user system in the sense LINUX is designed to support. It is fundamentally a single user environment, one user logs off, and another may log in. That means that the media is a new issue for each new user, and properly belongs to the log-on, log-off event. There is really no excuse for any distribution not automatically mounting removable media in a PC.

O & G IT Guy
O & G IT Guy

Well, all this article made me do is look for some way to blacklist an Author so I don't have to read editorials in the place of factual articles. I was hoping that this would actually be an article about 10 fundamental differences between Linux and Windows, not 10 biased opinions on areas where the author thinks that Linux is better than Windows.

juntunen
juntunen

I don't see this as the 10 differences. It looks like an add for Linux.

zaifmand
zaifmand

Do a comperison between Apple and Windows. You will then really see how Apple locks you down with the way they force you to get a service contract or each call will cost you a certain amount of money or how they lock you down with only "approved applications" where you are limited in what you can do with your apple in terms of applications on the market or how you need to buy the hardware from Apple or an approved Apple vendor as you have no other options. On windows machine if your hardware craps our you can go to your local Staples and buy a hard drive even if your system was made by Dell. You have options with windows. Stop compering Linux to Windows as it's two different OS. One made by the open source community and one made by a group of professionals. Linux should be compared to different Linux OS versions. You want to be fair, compare Apple OS to Windows and lets see who really is an open OS vs. a locked down OS. I am sure you will see that Apple really locks you down where Windows is the open OS.

mikejkemp
mikejkemp

Whilst I am no great fan of MS. applications - I grew up with Lotus 123 etc (after becoming familiar with VisiCalc and VisiFile) and still prefer the flexibility and power of the Lotus successors - I've yet to be convinced that Linux can offer the 'transparency' of the Windows OS. I switch on my Laptop, select the relevant application, then I use it; sticking discs in the appropriate slots as necessary, printing results if I need and then shut down or close the lid as and when I want. I do that day after day, often without even considering whether I'm running Win XP, Win 2K, Win 98, MSDOS, or occasionally Vista. If a problem arises with an application I sort it and, yes, that sometimes means waking up the Command Window. In difference number 9 Jack asks "And besides, who doesn't want to manually edit the /etc/fstab fle?" Well, I don't! I just want a stable OS that will accept a wide variety of applications that turn this lump of mixed materials into an immensely useful tool. I have tried Linux (Suse 9.x I think): running on an old Toshiba 4000CDT. My impressions, visually, were pretty good; the installation wasn't too onerous; but the performance - with just the GUI running - was absolute CRAP compared with the Win 2K that the machine normally runs while it behaves as a 'practice' Domino Server and a whole raft of other Apps: none of which, of course, would run on Linux; even if Linux could be persuaded to get above crawling pace! I know the Application area is getting better but, until a Linux 'user machine' can be built that is as flexible and transparent as my current MS Windows system, I shall not be switching - except to occasionally try to see if it has got anywhere yet. I can be a geek - but I don't want to have to be every day! Mike Kemp Lotus Notes Specialist

ScarF
ScarF

This was really uncalled. And rude, to say the least. I continue to be disappointed by the transformation of Linux into an institutionalized religion - you are like me or against me. I am a proud MCSE since 1997 as well as a proud RHCE since 2003. I work for a non-IT company because I dislike working for the guys considering themselves the belly button of the Galaxy - the IT companies. I support Windows and Linux servers and Windows workstations and I consider that each platform is better suited for a certain role depending on the scope. I have such a bitter taste into my mouth because of the comments from #8 that I don't have enough words to tell my opinion about the Linux's priests like the author. Mr. Wallen, sir, I expect public excuses for your comments. This response was intended to be more caustic but, sincerely, I am bored with all these flames generated by the Linux "fans". They don't even realize how much bad they are doing to the open source world with all the comments. And, btw, as IT support, why the heck should I need in my network 100 workstations with 100 different looks and feels? On the other hand, the point #3 proves the superiority of the Windows admins who, without much support, are still able to keep the systems working against all the odds - viruses, bugs, attacks a.s.o. And, a final word. The companies are where the money comes from and, using arguments like "you are stupid because you use MS products" is not a good start for a discussion regarding the superiority of another solution.

cory4times
cory4times

Hi, I have Knoppix as a friend suggested it to me. I put it in my Dell once to try it out and was lost. I feel that I am representative of the end users. I want to try out Linux, but it seems like it will take a very long time to learn. I have a friend that studied it for a month and seemed to get it, but still, he seemed only to be able to use a word processor and the internet browser. The learning curve for Linux is longer than the curve for Windows, no? Does anyone agree with this?

estcst
estcst

It seems like the article conveniently 'forgets' a lot of things about Windows abilities. Or maybe it's just a matter of the Jack Wallen being far too inexperienced with Windows to know that all of these tools and options do exist with Windows. For example, Jack goes on about all the ways to repair Linux vs. Windows in tip 10 "you're lucky to get a command line in safe mode"?!?!? If I said something this ignorant on a Linux form about Linux I'd get dismissed as a fanboi and a n00b. Rightly so and so should Jack for not knowing that Windows has many tools, some even native to Windows without involving a 3rd party, to work on system issues such as heavy hitters like Winternals or BartPE and the extremely simple repair console. There are a ton of options open to the user. And what's up with the user support jabber? Both have free and paid support. Is he trying to claim that Windows free support is lacking compared to Linux? I'd love to see him back that up. Microsoft Technet alone is better than any dozen Linux community support forums I've ever been to combined. No, folks, this article is purely meant to lead users astray. It's also sad that he has to bash Windows professionals as "paper certified". Does he really think there is no talent and enthusiasm behind Windows? Both OSs have their places and there could have been a legitimate discussion of what fits the end users needs best but instead we have a clearly biased article instead. I can't believe such fanboism has risen to a featured article here. What is this place? Digg? Slashdot? I use to think this was a respectable tech community but I can already see that it's going to fall to flamewars and trolling.

Cybrduck
Cybrduck

This is a strange post because it only points out the difference between to related products; however, it has caused crazy talk. Let's get something straight. These products serve different user groups. As pointed out neither is better than the other (even though Jack is biased in his writing). Why debate or speculate on which is better? It's like car buffs arguing the merits of older cars that can be rebuilt from the lug nuts to the transmission versus newer cars that require an electrical engineering degree to repair. Neither is worth the argument because they are for different people. It seems to me it only points out differences of the people. Are we saying that Linux fanboys are better than Windows suits? I hope not. Stop the madness people.

kjmartin
kjmartin

On a parallel rant, the metric system is infinitely superior to the English measurement system. I shall now hop up and down and foam at the mouth because we all haven't converted to metric.

gormark
gormark

Do you buy the car because its engine is so easy to fiddle with and tweak? Hell no. So why would I care about an operating system that is easy to tweak? I want my OS to work, be reliable and stable so I can use my computer, i.e., drive my car, not park next to the highway and pop the hood and rub my carburetor. Linux is for geeks who have nothing serious to do so they can play with their OS and praise its tweakability. Windows is garbage, agreed, Vista more so than anything on Earth, it reminds me of Hummers - a pathetic under-performer with the price tag 5 times its relative value, for retards with too much money. If you have a life and a job, you get a Mac and you get an OS that allows you to use applications and do what you need to do quickly and efficiently, not just play with yourself and your OS all the time (or godforbid spend your time downloading security updates and rebooting because of the system breakdowns).

MavMin2
MavMin2

I have started looking at Ubuntu for folks with old machines or no machines as well as for some who have bought machines but have no restore disks for whatever reasons. Some folks just don't have the $99 bucks for an XP upgrade and some machines won't take it. With all the various apps available Ubuntu and its friends are very suitable for the average person. My personal machines will probably always have Windows on them as long as I am in the IT field. However, I will continue to turn non-profits and po' folks on to Ubuntu and OpenOffice. I don't forsee the corporate world switching in my lifetime but maybe someday. Small businesses will probably switch sooner. Power to the Po' Boys!

tim
tim

When I saw the title of this article I was anxious to read it to get a good summary of the technical differences between the two OSes. Even the intro was pleasing and lead me to believe this was going to be a true "distilled list" and not propaganda or "debate". However, I was disappointed to find that it was biased; full of debate fodder and polluted with the author's opinions. I've been a Windows and Linux user for over 10 years now; certified in both platforms(MS & RedHat). Prior to that I was an HP-UX and Novell admin for 6 years (while I played with Windows & Linux) So, I've seen my share of both and there are some key differences that would separate why you would choose one over the other. This list looks like an ad campaign on why to choose Linux over Windows. Many of points are opinion and show lack of Windows experience. For example, point 5 - after working with Unix for 6 years and moving to Windows I lived at the command line. DOS had it's limitations(Win3.1,95&98) but NT gave almost all the command set required to manage and script Windows. Each subsequent version has added even more. If you didn't want to learn the Windows command you could always install Microsoft Services for Unix (SFU) and use `ls` & `grep` til your heart's content. The Windows command line just got a lot more powerful with Power Shell(pun intended). *nix OSes have a great and robust command line toolset and I use it all the time, but it lacks consistency. There are up to 8 different command shells to choose from.(sh, csh, ksh, bash, tcsh, zsh, rc, es) and many derivatives not include. Point 8 - I agree with the previous post - "rude". I've lived through much of the hype and the cult-like phenomena of many OSes. Whether your a "fanboy" or "corporate type" doesn't determine which tool you use to get the job done. Those titles don't give technical merit. There are plenty of "fanboys" in the corporate world that have to be dealt with everyday. Like when your asked to provide an enterprise solution for the latest piece of "executive jewelry" that was never built to support the enterprise. The list omitted some of the basic differences and that is configuration and management. So, you have your desktop / server up and running. You can resolve almost any problem handed to you for that desktop/server. But, can you fix it on the other 2000+ machines? and have it done by tomorrow, on second thought how about before lunch? Or what about managing 15K+ servers and 120K+ desktops? Manageability is a key difference for every OS and huge in decided which platform will be used. The environment alone (size, budget, etc) will often determine what platform is deployed. Also another big difference is configuration. In Windows there are files and the registry. If it's the registry then I have to learn where can I edit it directly or is there another tool to use. Which user? How do I change it for all users? etc. In Linux you know it's a file, but which one? for which run level? Where is the file? Is that the file or a symlink to the file? I wish I had more time to comment on each point. Or better yet write a true "distilled" summary of the technical difference between the OSes, and why you would choose one over the other. Why a company's size has to be considered when deciding the best tool for the job. However, I'm not paid to post but to support those OSes...which I have to go do right now.

marvin.novello
marvin.novello

Nothing puts me on edge quicker that "soapbox-dwelling fanatics" who delight in pointing out how much better something is that any given Microsoft product. Look around you. 75-95% saturation of MS stuff. This doesn't necessarily mean its the best - but it is the most prevalent and successful. I stopped using Firefox for the same reason. Its the browser of choice for trekkies and nerds. Like most people involved in technology I need to stay *mainstream* or just become an irrelevant techno bore.

gwzap2008
gwzap2008

Well, here's my two cents worth, but before I do that, I generally agree with what your're stating. #1) I'm not sure I'd want people in my organization changing the OS code, especially if somewhere down the road that employeee became disgruntled. 2) Licencing: With the ever changing operating systemd in the past several years, I see Microsoft having to change their licencing practices. However, I do believe you get what you pay for...For the average user, Linux still isn't there. MS Office is still better suited for the average user that needs to get work done. I've used Open Office, but I go back to office all the time. 3) Online peer support....well you may be for this type of support, but it is horrible when nobody in a distribution forum has the answers you're looking for. 4) Linux has come a long way in terms of driver support, but if you are looking to install linux on your slightly older laptop, do the homework to ensure the distribution you're going to install supports the device. Linux still doesn't support hardware as well as Windows. 5) No argument here. If there's a need to run command line, there will be a way to get there. 6) Centralized vs. noncentralized application installation: Respectfully, what's the point? What about Vista? You know, like c:\users/downloads which is a single point for downloads. Even in older versions of windows there has always been a default place where the user selects to download software. What's the big deal? Personally, I like choosing where I want the software to download, but, that is just me. 7) Spot on---Linux has been ahead of Windows in this regard for years. Perfect example is Vista...All the hype for Aero, yet, you don't get jack for themes. Still Vista does succeed for it's photo screen saver, buy playing your videos too if there in your photo folders. 8) re: Windows has a league of paper-certified administrators...Ok, like Linux doesn't have these paper certifified administrators....Seems like you really have something to say here, but fall short of saying it. 9) Great! It's taken linux all these years to make using media as user-friendly as Windows...Sarcasm aside, most distributions now-days play media better, sound better than the heavy burdented windows media player. 10) To the experienced Linux user like yourself, this is a big deal, no question about it. For the average user say, someone trying out a new distro, it means nothing.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

G'day, I won't try to address every points as some are so well set out there's nothing to add. Also, I haven't tried to read all the answers so far, so sorry if I duplicate anything. A few comments by the points: No: 3 - Support I've supported Windows machines since the days of Win 3.0 and DOS machines for several years before that. I've supported Linux for only a few years. In all the time I supported Windows machine I was never able to get any suitable satisfaction from the MS tech support people except in regards to re-activation codes for rebuilt XP systems (then it often took ages to get it). Every problem was either solved by one of us on the tech crew thinking it out or trying things, or looking in forums and discussion groups for someone who'd already had this problem and found their own solution. One fellow worker spent over three hours on the phone to MS tech support and got nowhere; he hung up after we solved it ourselves and he tried to tell them the answer but they weren't interested as we weren't MS staff. No: 4 - Hardware support My experience has been the only hardware that had difficulty working with Linux was that which had been designed to work 'out of the box' with Windows and not need a Windows driver. However, once you tried to use it on another version of Windows, then the fun started. The driver for the Win 98 device didn't work with Win 2000 or Win XP, nor did the Win NT ones. But when you found a device that needed a driver to work with any version of Windows, then it usually worked 'out of the box' with Linux. To me, this indicates a problem with Windows not Linux. No: 5 - Command Line MS really wants you to use the Command Line - yeah right. They changed the command to get at it so as to make it harder to reach, also many of the basic system commands from the days of DOS and early Windows no longer work as they don't want you getting that deep into working with the system except through the GUI. These means you can get mega stuffed and can't fix it. If i had a dollar for every time I had to rebuild a Windows system because it was crashing and we couldn't get enough control through the 'safe - command line' access to fix it, I'd be very rich today. In four years I've had to rebuild only one Linux box because it crashed and that's because I'd made a mistake loading new software and entered the wrong command line entry in the repair process - I really didn't mean or need to make the file deletion recursive, oops. Never done that again. No: 6 - Centralised applications The big advantage here for me is it's a centralised application REMOVAL system as well, and it doesn't leave little files all over the registry and other places requiring a manual clean up; a common event on Windows third party app removals. No: 9 - Removable Media Most of the modern Linux version now allow you to just plug and remove USB devices without any software intervention, something you can't do on many Windows systems (safe removal process is a bear). The CDs and DVD auto mount and dismount now - well in the version of Ubuntu and Kubuntu I use they do. What frightens me is out of the three biggest activities by MS - marketing, anti-pirate activities, software development; the one that gets the least money each year is software development. And that's a worry, as that's also their priority order.

llauren
llauren

One feature which i find just fantastic on Linux, and i wish would be available on Windows (since i use both) is the extensions to the file system. On Linux, i can mount a "network drive" which really goes over SSH to my web hotel at the other part of the world. I can mount a network drive which ends up in my Flickr stream. I can mount a network drive to my UPnP media server, without having to care for its address -- it just shows up. And so forth and so forth. To edit php files, i just open a file from my web host in my editor. To send a picture to Flickr, i just copy it to the flickr mount. And to listen to music, i just play it from the UPnP "djmount". All these mounts look like disk resources, which is as far as Windows goes [0], but the underlying layer of logic is what really makes things go. This is a reason why i love Linux. [0] OK, using Jungledisk, i can access my Amazon S3 disk space as a network drive, so that's an improvement

starkey
starkey

"Because Linux has always been a multiuser platform, it was thought that forcing a user to mount a media to use it would keep the user???s files from being overwritten by another user." We tend to forget that "media" is plural, meaning two or more media - the singular is "medium."

msbeach
msbeach

Actually, my users tell me that the biggest differences from their point of view is there are no drive letters and the slash is forward as god intended.

whoawhoawhoa00000009
whoawhoawhoa00000009

you can modify the look of windows (atleast xp) without paying for anything. with windows 98 i used litestep, but with xp i just used a patched uxtheme.dll and changed themes right from the "change background" panel (can't remember that that panel is actually called anymore, i've been using a mac for over a year)

abatto
abatto

Seems to me that there are a number of other fundamental differences. From a user point of view, you rarely have to worry about security when using Linux, because of the secure design of the OS. What about some of the design ideas of UNIX which Linux inherits like modularity (break everything into small parts), handle all devices as a file, and networking? What about the warring philosophical and social movements which are involved in Linux, such as FSF, OSI, etc? Seems that participatory communities are more than just a way of getting support, as this article suggests.

NoCalDrummer
NoCalDrummer

"#7: Flexibility vs. rigidity I always compare Linux (especially the desktop) and Windows to a room where the floor and ceiling are either movable or not." I'd have compared the Windows desktop to a singular room where the furniture is nailed to the floor. Oh, sure, you can move the dining room chairs a bit, but basically, things are where they are. You can add a little decoration ("shortcuts") to the wall. You can also change the colors somewhat, but some pieces just don't change. At least not without hiring a professional, who may or may not know what they're doing. Linux, on the other hand, allows one to choose the house (distribution), choose the room (Gnome, KDE, etc.) and re-arrange the furniture. You can even change the furniture (themes/icons), or move to a different room (multiple desktops). And, because the source code is available, if you don't like the room at all, you can build your own any way you like. Or build your own house (distribution) with what's available. And you have the freedom to do it any way you like.

guruboy
guruboy

While there are valid points and good information in every paragraph, the conclusions drawn are based completely on opinion in more than one instance. For example, who doesn't want to edit the /etc/fstab file? Plenty of people, I'm sure. As I went through the article, I had to keep glancing up at the title to make sure I was reading "10 Fundamental Differences..." and not "10 Reasons Why I Love..." For one thing, these differences are not fundamental. The author even goes on to explain how some of these differences have evolved over time. Overall, this article is pretty pointless for me, and the unbiased parts of the article, which are the majority, belong in a different article altogether.

wanderson
wanderson

My few stated differences. From ten years of setting up GNU/Linux on computers to specifically suit Windows and non-computer users of all levels of user experience - with great success and user satisfaction, these are differences that they (and I) found of significance. #1 Once set up and instructed for "automatic" on-line updates, GNU/Linux substantially easier to keep up-to-date and trouble free than Windows - of any iteration - 2000/XP/Vista. #2 Maintenance is "neglegeable" in Lunux compared to Windows, (once again if reasonably configured) since there is no 'bloat' from Anti-virus/span build-up or constant file corruption. #3 Since GNU/Linux is "inherently" more secure, with my added security configurations the Free OS is thus infinitely more reliable and secure than any locked-down Windows, which almost all Windows PCs are not, even in the military or corporations. #4 The vast selection of world-class, Free! applications software that "comes" with GNU/Linux to make the computing experience remarkable and enjoyable. Much of this Free software - a high percentage of which is superior to proprietary popular alternatives - is available to Windows users, but they chose to ignore or disparage its uses because of the Microsoft indoctrination of "only from us or endorsed by us". #5 Completely graphical GNU/Linux has been installed and configured to run 100% successfully on older excellent condition hardware - e.g. such as Dell Pentium 933, 256MB RAM and 10GB HD - for Internet/Web, Office productivity, Multimedia -audio/video and even some Games. This is not possible under any circumstances with Windows XP or Vita. These 'real world' experiences prove - unequivocally - that GNU/Linux is, in most cases, a solid and viable replacement to Windows for average and many professional computer desktop PC users. My group did not know much of the time that they were not using Windows at all. W. Anderson wanderson@nac.net

levi.rogers
levi.rogers

I agree with you that installing applications has become much easier in the linux environment that it was even a few years ago. However, I still have to jump through the fiery hoops of hell to install some programs. A few months ago I read an article similar to this, they said how easy it was to install programs using the centralized application management features in Linux. I went and downloaded a copy of Ubuntu and began the process, now wait why can't I just install Adobe products from the centralized management software? This is the bottom line, I don't mind hassling with unpacking zipped files, etc. My users do mind and if I have to run up to there office or remote into there machine every single time they want to install SuperDuperBusinessCalc v7.111111(you get my point) than there is a problem. Now it is true that 95% of my users don't have the ability to install software on there machine, but, what about the 5%? This in my mind is still why you fanboys/girls piss me off, you make these claims and than leave out the "but's" or "excepts". I am all for Linux getting to the mainstream business market, but, I want them to get there on merit not on the delusional rambling of a fanboy/girl. @You calling yourself a fanboy/girl - you are the reason a lot of people try linux once and turn away never to come back again. You make promises that are mostly true, but not entirely true; than when they fail you blame the user for being accustomed to MS products. The other problem with fanboism is the simple fact that it turns many people completely off. I once thought about running some apple machines but, after years of them breeding and fostering to there annoying ego maniacal fanboys I think I will pass. Again, there is nothing wrong with pointing out the merits of a product as long as you are willing to accept that other products are also good for something. Nothing is worse than the M$ blows argument, yes, they have things that blow I agree but for that matter so does linux(wireless drivers much?). Another thing that makes me laugh so hard I cry is when the Linux Fanboys, and the Apple fanboys get together to pound on M$.(Not done here but I've seen it.) If you are a supposed Open-source fan than Apple should be your mortal enemy. Apple makes M$ look open-source every product they have is controlled to a T and if you try and change one little thing away from "Steve's" vision you just as well trash what you have because they will try and block it - shut it down - lock it out - etc. /rant

tracy anne
tracy anne

quote:In Linux, even in run level 3, you can still get and install a tool to help you out (hello apt-get install APPLICATION via the command line) Actually on my machines is urpmi install APPLICATION, but that's only because I use Mandriva Linux

GrizzledGeezer
GrizzledGeezer

...of specific applications? If Linux doesn't have he one you need, what do you do? I think you should make this "difference #11".

swb.pro
swb.pro

The whole "you decide what's better" game works better if you have an unbias review, rather than 10 examples of "Linux Good, Windows bad," many of which aren't even really true - Such as ONline peer support, which IS readily available for windows in MANY communities, and "flexibility vs. rigid," where you use "desktop environment" customization as an argument. Ever heard of changing the windows shell? It's as custom as you want and it's really not that hard. Linux is not the god of computing, and all these anti-windows articles are making arguments that don't actually make sense to a windows user. Oh, and to add credibility and non-bias? I'm typing this from my Ubuntu partition.

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