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Windows Operating System (OS) versus Linux Operating System (OS)

Instructor’s name

November 19, 2010



Comparison between Linux and Microsoft Windows computer operating systems has

been a subject of heated debate within the personal computer industry for many years. Over this

period, Microsoft Windows operating system has retained the number one spot in retail sales,

whereas Linux has maintained its position as the most prominent free software operating system

in the market. After many years of completion, both operating systems have shifted their

competition from the user base of the personal computer market to a rivalry of other devices. It is

important to understand that Microsoft Windows and Linux differ in costs, philosophy, stability

and versatility, with each trying to improve on their weaker areas.

Linux is a Unix-like OS that serves as a free alternative Windows. One significant feature

that is not available for other OSs is the ability to run Linux with other OSs on the same

computer. Unlike Windows OS, Linux is capable of running on a selection of computer systems

like—Intel Based PCs. Windows can only be installed on Intel Based PCs. Linux OS has the

capability of running on—Digital Alpha systems and therefore, able to reach advanced users in

larger companies. Linux can still run with Macintosh Power PC computer system which is used

by graphical designers.

Windows supports ASP and .NET. Windows server lets users use the web development

tools by Microsoft such as FrontPage and Visual Interdev. It as well offers support for Microsoft

SQL, Microsoft Access, and Visual Basic. On the other hand, Linux supports MySQL, Perl, and

PHP. It supports MySQL, mSQL and PostgreSQL databases (Horowitz, 2007). New versions of

Windows OS roll out on the shelves each year. Whilst the latest version improves on the old, it

requires software and hardware application upgrades. On the flip side, since Windows is

Propriety OS, each version is standardized. It has the same software on each version and it is

very simple to install and configure since the installation and the documentation process is

always the same.


Today Linux is the second sold and fastest growing operating system. Several company

have switched to Linux such as: Amazon.com; Boeing’s Research and Development division,

Speedera; and the New York Stock Exchange. Moreover, many government agencies in several

countries are making the change for Microsoft to the less expensive Linux. Due to the fact, that

open-source is usually free; unfortunately Linux is much less expensive. Linux can be purchases

with a support agreement. For example the supplier Red Hat, charges a high price for support,

but one most keep in mind like with all system the setup is cost is the most expense part when

purchasing this product.

When reviewing various suppliers of Windows operating system, the lowest price found

was for $118.00 per copy. Furthermore, each time the windows system is installed on a system

the user pays a license fee. However, after reviewing 22 suppliers of Red Hat Linux the lowest

supported copy to purchase for $89.00 dollars. The Red Hat Linux copy can be installed on as

many workstations as needed with no license fee such as Windows. This low cost installation

provides for a substantial cost saving.

Linux in the future will most likely provide the biggest cost saving to companies, this is

due to the fact, that Linux is more reliable, maintenance costs are lower, and when upgrades are

needed on a Linux operating system a new purchase is not necessary. Numerous companies

have reported considerable saving, as much as 40% in comparison to running Microsoft.



Linux is a non-proprietary OS. The kernel of each Linux Os is the same, but each

distributor’s version differs in the installation process, GUI, add-on software and documentation.

The differences in configuration, technical genre, and documentation make the installation of

Linux difficulty especially in the presence of an existing OS. Although Linux OS lacks ease of

installation, it compensates in compatibility with many of the existing hardware platforms.

According to Economides and Katsamakas (2005), the optional GUI gives Linux this advantage.

It enables Linux OS to run on many systems, such as Z series (high-end mainframes), or old PCs

(e.g. 486-based machines). On the server side, efficiency, and speed are increased by running a

server case of Linux without a GUI—server version of Windows OS cannot do.

Although both Windows and Linux group users into groups and assign privileges to groups and

not individual user, Windows Operating System supports the administrator class—allows user

complete access to the system. This access increases computer software and hardware issues. To

increase security, Windows has introduced restricted user access through account controls.

Windows OS does not inherently permit multi-users; this restriction at times affects the software

applications running under the OS. Most Windows software was designed with hidden

administrative privileges. The lack of inherent multi-user design is the reason why Windows OS

‘hangs’ or ‘crashes’ when user limitations are activated (Foley, 2006).

Linux OS is inherently multi-user. This is in contrast to Windows OS—has no real log-on

obligations, a user must log-on to Linux OS with a user Id and password. Here, the user with

total access is referred to as the root; every one is non-root user, or a normal. Non-root users

have restricted system privileges. In Linux, this relates to directories and files, although Linux

makes it much easy to permit “restricted” users perform some administrative tasks.

Linux privileges are fundamentally whether one can read, or execute a file. Whereas in Linux

files are owned by a specific group or user, Windows has analogous file-related privileges—only

when using NTFS file system. The earlier version of FAT file system did not have file level



Horowitz (2007) asserts that both Windows and Linux provide a Graphical User Interface

(GUI) and a command line interface. Over the years, the Windows GUI has experienced

immense changes from Windows 3.1to windows XP and is slated to improve with the next

version of Windows. These advancements have made it much easier to use and operate than

Linux. Both Linux and Windows come in many flavors and variants, but unlike Microsoft whose

flavors come from Microsoft, the various flavors and variants of Linux come from different

companies such as Linspire, SuSE, Ubuntu, Slackware, and Xandros (Horowitz, 2007). Despite

the fact that the majority Linux variants have been improved remarkably, many novice computer

users might experience some difficulties with its GUI. Computer experts are of the opinion that

Linux versions and variants are very reliable and can often run for months or even years without

needing to be rebooted. Even though Windows has done remarkably well in improving its

reliability, it still fails to match the reliability of Linux.

As compared to Linux, Windows prides itself of a large number of users, and as a result,

there is a larger selection and variety of software programs, games, and utilities (Casadesus-

Masanell &Ghemawat, 2003). In contrast to Linux that provides many of its available software

packages for free, a majority of Windows’ software packages can cost anywhere between $20

and $200 per copy. Updating software in Windows can be a real hustle, especially when the

system has much software installed. Due to the wider driver support and a larger amount of

Windows’ users, it has a much larger support for hardware devices, and as a result, a majority of

hardware manufactures will have their products being supported by Windows (Horowitz, 2007).

In spite of the numerous strides that Linux has made in regards to hardware compatibility and

support, a majority of hardware manufactures still do not offer support or drivers for their

hardware in Linux.


The network capabilities of both operating systems are also different. While Linux

requires one to set up a network on each machine manually, Windows provides the user with two

was of setting up a network (Hamm, 2005). First off, Windows allows one set up a network

manually just like a Linux network. This is usually done by more experienced individuals who

go through all the network protocols and ensure that they are identical on each computer. The

second way of setting up a network in Windows is by using the Network setup wizard. Unlike in

Windows, setting up a network in Linux is somewhat complicated as the user is expected to

setup a network using command lines.


As it stands today, both Microsoft Windows and Linux have their pros and cons.

Windows is widely accepted as it boasts of millions of software packages and an enormous

plethora of GUI. However, it is less secure, buggier and sometimes cavernous. On the other

hand, Linux feels more streamlined, solid and smooth running.



Casadesus-Masanell, R. and Ghemawat, P., (2003). Dynamic mixed duopoly: A model

motivated by Linux vs. windows. Harvard Business School Working 04-012.

Economides, N., & Katsamakas, E. (2005). Linux vs. Windows: A comparison of application

and platform innovation incentives for open source and proprietary software platforms,

Working Papers 05-03, Net Institute.

Foley, J (2006, January 30). Inside windows -- Microsoft presents its offer to reveal source code

as a bold stroke to appease Europe. It may amount to far less. Information Week, 26.

Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com

Hamm, S, (2005). The truth about Linux and windows. Business Weekly, Retrieved 20

December, 2010 from,



Horowitz, M. (2007, April). Introduction and comparison about operating systems. Retrieved

from http://www.michaelhorowitz.com/Linux.vs.Windows.html.