Microsoft is launching a new version of Windows and that means everyone has one question on their minds: should I stick to Windows and upgrade or is it time to look beyond to Linux or Mac? The quick answer: if you’re on Windows, stay on Windows—and don’t worry about upgrading just yet.
I run a dual-boot system with Windows 7 and Linux Ubuntu (occasionally changing to Windows 8 as well as every new Linux distro worth trying). I also have a MacBook Air for on-the-go work. I use all three operating systems every day, partly because knowing technology is my job and partly because I’m a geek. But I keep gravitating back to Windows whenever an important task looms large and I have to get things done.
If you are a long-time Windows user, you are better off sticking with it and not changing. Here’s why…
Is Windows The Best OS? It Doesn’t Matter
Is Windows a better operating system than Mac OS X? Not really. Is it worse? Not really. The whole “I’m a PC/I’m a Mac” argument focuses too much on objective quantifications and head-to-head feature comparisons. That’s a good way to settle the debate, if it can be settled with those yardsticks. But that doesn’t matter to me, and it shouldn’t matter to you.
You’ve probably read thousands of articles that compare things like software. The Windows flagbearer will tout the genius of IrfanView, and the OS X fanboy claims the superiority of QuickSilver, while the Linux loyalist looks down his nose at anything that isn’t Terminator. The thing is, software alone is never reason enough; it’s the familiarity of the software that keeps you hooked.
The question then isn’t “What’s the best OS?” The question is “What’s the best OS for me?” Objective research might suggest OS X is more stable, but what if stability isn’t the most important factor for you? Different things matter to different people. Don’t just rely on external reviews and expert analyses, you need to look at your own way of using a computer and decide what is right for you.
You Have Invested In Windows, Whether You Know It Or Not
Some people think it doesn’t matter what operating system (OS) you use because your primary application is the web browser, where options like Chrome and Firefox are available on all systems. That’s not giving you the whole picture though. Whether you realise it or not, you have invested heavily in Windows over the years.
Investment isn’t always monetary, although that might be the case, too. If you bought Microsoft Office 2007 all those years ago, then you can still use it perfectly well. While Office 365 is great, it’s expensive software and since your old one is working fine, stick with it. The same goes with the operating system itself—if you paid for Windows 7, you can keep using it.
But more than the monetary investment, it’s the mental investment that matters. You have spent years becoming familiar with Windows. You know how to install a program, you know how to change the look of any window. If things go wrong, you know you have to hit Ctrl+Alt+Del. These are now things you can do without googling how to do them. The amount of time you save with your existing knowledge bank of how to operate Windows is invaluable.
It’s The Little Things
Muscle memory is an amazing resource and you have to factor that in. Good software tells you how to do stuff. Great software gets out of the way and lets you do stuff. Over the years, Windows has honed itself for its long-time users. My fingers are used to every keyboard shortcut in Windows. I don’t even look at my screen any more when I want to close a maximized window—my hand is accustomed to sweeping the mouse pointer to the upper-right corner and clicking the close button. I take comfort in knowing it’s there and it will work every time I do it. The same action doesn’t work on Mac or Linux.
Such little things matter. You take them for granted when going about your job regularly, but they become painfully hard and time-consuming in their absence. My long-standing gripe was that even though I use Linux and Mac every day, I still often have to search how to do “simple actions”—until a friend pointed out that the actions weren’t simple, it was that I instinctively knew how to do them on Windows so my brain qualified them as “simple”.
There are things you miss on OS X if you are a Windows user. That’s not faulting OS X in any way; it’s a commentary on how you use computers. Change is difficult for anyone, so if your primary demands of a computer are being met with Windows already, then there is no reason for you to change.
Bottom Line: It’s About You, Not About The OS
You can answer three questions to choose between Linux or Windows, and you can gripe about how Windows is killing the traditional desktop, but all that is fluff. The purpose of an operating system is to put forth an environment where you can get things done—where you can get things done. You are what matters and everything else is bullshit.
In closing, let’s hear about your experiences of the big switch. How did you find changing your primary operating system? Have you stuck to the new one or come back?