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Windows vs Linux: Support, security, and design

Can the open source upstart really stand up to Microsoft's enterprise juggernaut?

Windows vs Linux: Support

As it's created and maintained by a community of passionate fans, Linux has a huge wealth of information to fall back on, in the form of tips, tricks, forums and tutorials from other users and developers.

However, it's somewhat fragmented and disarrayed, with little in the way of a comprehensive, cohesive support structure for many distros. Instead, anyone with a problem often has to brave the wilderness of Google to find another user with the answer.

Microsoft is much better at collating its resources. Though it doesn't have quite the amount of raw information that's available regarding Linux, it's made sure that the help documents it does have are relatively clear and easy to access.

There's also a similar network of forums and tutorials, if the official assistance doesn't help you solve the Windows problem you're encountering.

Windows vs Linux: Security

Security is a cornerstone of the Linux OS, and one of the principal reasons for its popularity among the IT community. This reputation is well deserved and stems from a number of contributing factors.

One of the most effective ways Linux secures its systems is through privileges. Linux does not grant full administrator or root access to user accounts by default, whereas Windows does. Instead, accounts are usually lower-level and have no privileges within the wider system.

This means that when a virus gets in, the damage it can do is limited, and restricted mainly to files and folders on the individual machine. This can be incredibly beneficial from a damage control standpoint, since it's far easier to simply replace one machine than scour the entire network for malware traces.

There's also the fact that open source code, such as Linux software, is generally thought to be more secure and better maintained, due to the number of people scanning it for flaws. Similar to the infinite monkeys' principal, Linus' Law' (named after Torvalds), states that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow".

Possibly most importantly, however, is the issue of compatibility. As we mentioned earlier, virtually all software is written for Windows, and this also applies to malware. Given that the number of Windows machines in the world vastly outnumbers the number of Linux ones, cyber attacks targeting Microsoft's OS are much more likely to succeed, and therefore much more worthwhile prospects for threat actors. This isn't to say that Linux machines are totally immune from being targeted, of course, but statistically, you're probably safer than with Windows, provided you stick to security best practice.

Windows vs Linux: Layout, Design and User Interface

The sheer volume of distros means that users are spoilt for choice in terms of design. There are distros that visually emulate both OSX and Windows, as well as stripped-down systems for those that favour minimalism. We've pulled together some of our own favourites in our best Linux distros list, but it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the choices available.

Some, of course, are visually dire, but that's the risk of community-created software. Most of the major distros, however, are very well-designed, particularly corporate-backed offerings such as Ubuntu and Fedora.

In the end, a lot of it comes down to personal taste. We should mention, though, that many Linux variants will require an adjustment period for those familiar with Windows or OSX. They're also just that little bit less polished when compared with the big boys.

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