Comparing Linux to Windows
The best way of highlighting the benefits of Linux and Unix is to compare
them to what many people are using today - any of the various flavors of Microsoft Windows.
- Linux is reliable
- The Blue Screen of Death doesn't exist in the Linux world. Linux
systems, just like Unix and NetWare, can run for years without failure.
Operating system crashes (called "kernel panics" in Linux) are rare - many
Linux users have never seen a crash. ZDNet's test of
Linux vs NT showed that Linux simply does not fail.
- Linux runs on your existing machines
- The efficiency of Linux and most Linux/Unix applications allows you to use nearly any computer. A typical
web server or file server can be a low-end Pentium class PC. Many graphical applications run with acceptible
performance on 150 MHz Pentium class machines. Linux/Unix Office suites that try to be replacements for Microsoft
Office need faster computers but not as fast as what's needed for Windows.
You don't need to plan on new PC purchases every few years.
Machine requirements change very little with each successive version of Linux.
Rather than spending money on new computers every few years, put the money in the employee profit share plan.
- Linux is free and requires no costly add-ons
- You can download Linux from the Internet and install it on as many machines as you like. The same is true
of most application software. You may find it more convienient to purchase a CD-ROM of a Linux "distribution".
Email and newsgroup servers, remote administration tools, C/C++ compilers, high-end graphics programs, SQL servers
(all costly add-ons for Windows) are included at no charge with Linux distributions
- Linux is the best supported operating system of all time. The reason is the
Internet. You can get help from tens of thousands of enthusiastic Linux users
and programmers. Support is free - the answers you get come from people who are
not paid to help you. You'll hear about solutions to your problems that
include dumping what you have and replacing it with something better - advice
that you don't hear from vendors of commercial software.
- Linux has no Registry
- When Microsoft introduced the Registry in Windows 95, it was applauded as being a mechanism that brought order
to the chaos of the Windows 3.X "ini" files. At the time, we had no idea that the Registry would be such a handicap
and get in the way of effectively managing networks of Windows machines. The Registry makes managing a Windows machine
complex and difficult and is known to be responsible for some reliability problems. In retrospect, the "ini" files
were not so bad now that we've tasted the Registry. Linux is managed by simple, plain text, easy to troubleshoot,
- You don't need to restart Linux
- Some Windows configuration changes require a reboot.
Reconfigure a Windows file server during the day and you impact everyone.
This limits system maintenance to off hours or impacts productivity.
Nearly all Linux configuration changes can be done with the system running, without affecting unrelated services
and without having to reboot. Reconfigure a Linux server and users may not notice.
- Linux has no SIDs
- Cloning Windows systems is made more difficult by the SID (system identifier) that must be unique
between machines. With Windows XP and its hardware-based licensing scheme, cloning systems becomes not only
very difficult but illegal - according to Microsoft's licensing terms.
Linux has no need for system identifiers. Each Linux machine is distinguished by its name and IP address. Both
of these are easily modified and require no rebooting. Cloning Linux systems is dead simple.
- Linux has no licensing mechanism
- Upgrading Windows software is more difficult than it should be because of licensing. The licensing schemes
vary but the result is that you have to jump through hoops to install or upgrade software. Linux and its system
programs have no license-enforcement mechanism. No hoops.
- Privacy issues
- Every few months or so it seems that there's yet another report of a Microsoft
product that behaves in a way that raises concerns about our privacy. We don't have these concerns when we
use Linux and Open Source software because functions that would violate our privacy would be detected when the
code is scrutinized by an army of Linux enthusiasts.
- The GUI is optional
- Windows carries its resource-intensive GUI baggage around at all times. Yet, some systems, such as web servers
and file servers, do not need a GUI and don't benefit by it. The Linux GUI (X Window) is an optional subsystem that
you can choose to use or not. Additionally, you can start and stop the GUI anytime you like without restarting the
system or impacting any programs already running.
- Disk defragmentation
- All versions of Windows suffer from the same problem -
significantly reduces performance. Even Microsoft's latest new versions of Windows use a file system that has
fragmentation problems just like the early-1980s vintage DOS. A Windows file server must be defragged
frequently. The native Linux file system is designed to fragment very little and defragmentation programs are
- Who's in control?
- With the Windows NTFS filesystem, users can easily hide files and whole directories from the system administrator.
The administrator is left wondering about diminishing free disk space and almost powerless to do anything about it.
Users can do this using normal permissions as well as NTFS streams.
In contrast, the Linux system administrator always has an unobstructed view of the file system and is always
- One size fits all?
- Windows is a "one size fits all" operating system. You can use it for workstation or server applications -
one application or many. The problem is that its size is always extra large and getting
substantially larger with each new release. Keeping code size small and efficient is not
a Microsoft concern given the number of Easter Eggs that have been discovered in
Linux is small by comparison and has no Easter Eggs. You can easily reconfigure the Linux
operating system to only include those services needed for your application. This reduces memory requirements, may
improve performance, and generally keeps things simpler.
- Linux is multi-platform
- Windows is limited to Intel and Intel-compatible processors and only certain machine architectures such
as PCs. In striking contrast, Linux and other Unix-compatible operating systems work on a wide
variety of processors and machine architectures - from a Macintosh to a mainframe.
- Linux uses open protocols
- Linux uses open protocols exclusively. There are no proprietary vendor protocols that try to lock you in to
certain vendors and products. Monopolies need not exist in the Linux world.
- Linux integrates with NetWare
- Linux machines can access your NetWare file servers. Novell's eDirectory for Linux makes managing a
large network of Linux machines downright simple.
- Linux integrates with Windows networks
- A Linux computer can act as a client and/or a server in a Microsoft Windows-based network. This includes a
Windows peer-to-peer network as well as a domain-based network. A Linux machine can emulate a Windows server and
many say that it does a better job of this than Windows.
- Linux integrates with Macintosh networks
- A Linux machine can provide print and file services to Macintosh clients via native Apple protocols.
- Linux is a good career move
- If you spend your time becoming a Windows expert, you're acquiring skills that may not be useful when you
change jobs or when your company replaces Windows with the next fashionable platform. Memorizing which icons to click
on and how to plug Windows security holes are skills unique to Windows - these are not generic skills. In sharp
contrast, learning Linux or Unix gives you a strong grounding in the underlying technology that will be useful no
matter what products will be fashionable in the future.
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