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Linux. Windows. Which is better? The debate has long been driven into the ground and we’re almost to the point where further discourse can add nothing of value. We aren’t here to tell you which one is better; rather, we’re here to help you decide which one is better for you.
Linux is great and more people should use it. That being said, not ALL people should use Linux. These three questions will help you choose the more appropriate operating system for you.
Q. Are You Using Special Proprietary Software?
If there was ever a reason not to use Linux, this would be it. No matter how well Linux manages to catch up to Windows in terms of usability, newbie-friendliness, and ease of adoption, one fact will never change: Windows has dominated Linux in terms of desktop operating system market share for a long time.
The implication is simple: everyone is using Windows, so companies will typically build software for Windows first. Even now, with Linux at the height of its popularity, Windows still owns 91% of the market. It makes sense that Windows would have the most software options, which it does.
And while cross-platform portability has become more prevalent over the past few years, it’s nowhere near prevalent enough to say that the pool of software for Linux is anywhere close to the pool of software for Windows, especially when we take proprietary software into consideration.
For serious business work that isn’t server-related, there’s a good chance that Windows is your only viable option. Besides the GIMP vs. Photoshop debate, Adobe has a lot of products that have no good Linux alternatives. Similarly, many best-in-class programs run primarily on Windows.
This carries over into gaming, too. There are plenty of high-quality Windows games that don’t have working Linux versions. I’m not saying that you can’t play video games on Linux at all – that’s one of the biggest Linux myths out there – but it’s certainly true that there are games that simply can’t be played on Linux.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are any of your required programs Windows-only?
- If so, are there Linux versions of them?
- If not, can they run on Linux with WINE?
- If not, are there any acceptable Linux alternatives to them?
- If not, can you stop using those programs?
If you reached the end and you think Linux will suffice, then you should absolutely make the switch and give it a try. The simpler your requirements, the more viable Linux becomes. Strict proprietary requirements often necessitate Windows.
Q. Will The Computer Also Be Used By Others?
Maybe you’ve gotten this far and you think Linux will be fine for you. Maybe you love the idea of Linux and you can’t wait to switch. But wait! There’s an important consideration to make before you do: who else is going to be using your computer?
If you’re the only one using your computer, that’s great. You can skip this section. But if your computer is public or shared in any way, you may not want to put Linux on it. Remember, Windows has 91% share of the market. Most people are familiar with Windows. Most people have never seen Linux.
This is why most business offices have Windows computers for the employees. In essence, it’s the lowest common denominator. It has the least overhead: no training required and support is universal.
The same applies for public spaces like libraries and Internet cafes. Anyone can walk up to a Windows computer and make it do what they want it to do. Those same people might go cross-eyed at a Linux computer.
For computers that are shared but aren’t public, the choice becomes more situational. A family computer should use the operating system that’s most familiar to the family.
The bottom line is this: even if you want to use Linux, not everyone else does. When the choice of operating system affects multiple people, the best choice is the one that fits best with all people involved.
Q. Is Your Hardware Supported?
This last question is a no-brainer that some tend to overlook until it’s too late. Suppose you dive right into Linux and get it installed only to realize that none of your hardware actually works on Linux. How disheartening would that be?
One of the long-running criticisms against Linux has been its deficient support for hardware components like graphics cards, network cards, sound cards, motherboards, and more. This is less of an issue today as most Linux distributions will automatically detect the right hardware, but it isn’t yet 100% perfect.
In his ultimate Linux checklist post, Danny explained which components you should test before installing Linux. The biggest incompatibility issues tend to come from WiFi chipsets, advanced keyboards, printers, and other external peripherals.
Smartphones can be problematic as well, especially iOS devices that need iTunes, but you may be able to find workarounds if you search hard enough.
How can you test for hardware compatibility? Ubuntu maintains a database of “certified hardware” that has been tested and approved to work. H-Node is another similar database that focuses on all of Linux, not just Ubuntu.
What Will It Be? Linux Or Windows?
If you don’t want to deal with any of these issues, you should stick with Windows. Manufacturers are almost guaranteed to put out Windows drivers no matter the product (e.g., webcam, keyboard, mouse, graphics, etc.) but there are no such guarantees with Linux yet. What do you think?