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 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 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.



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