What Is An Operating System?
A layman can think of an Operating System as the soul of a computer. It is a Software – so it cannot be seen, just like a soul! All the fancy hardware a computer has will be of no use without the Operating System, just like a human body – which, no matter how powerful, is of no use without a soul inside it.
Operating System works as an intermediary between the application programs and the computer hardware, and also peripheral hardware and the computer hardware. It is not just computers which have OS’s – even cellular phones and gaming consoles have them.
Read on to find out the Best Operating Systems available for Home Users.
Because the operating system is at the root of your PC, upgrading automatically means losing all information on the hard drive. So do back up all your information when you’re thinking of changing your OS.
Best Operating Systems for Home Users
This is not a top 10, because there really are only 3 main OS’s. So which are the Best Operating Systems available for Home Users? The choices are pretty cool and can be divided into thread broad categories :
- Microsoft Windows Operating Systems: Certainly the most popular among PC and Laptop users. The latest offering is Windows 10. It is revolutionary, having been designed for both desktops, laptops, phones and tablets.
Microsoft is aiming at creating an OS that works on both laptop, pc AND mobile devices like phones and tablets. While on laptop and PC they are still the default choice for most people and businesses, on mobile they’re the small kid on the block.
- Macintosh Operating Systems: The operating system by Apple. The advantage is that OS and hardware are more integrated. The disadvantage is that, because it isn’t as universally used as Windows, it doesn’t have as much proprietary software.
Apple has a different OS for their iPhone and iPads called iOS.
- Linux Based Operating Systems: In the past few years – Linux Based Operating Systems have become very popular. I personally use Ubuntu 10.04 LTS – the Lucid Lynx – released in April 2010 and supported until April 2013 – on my computer. Apart from Ubuntu some other popular ones are – OpenSUSE, Fedora, Debian, Red Hat Linux and CentOS Linux Operating Systems.
The Chrome (Chromebook) and Android (smartphones and tablets) operating systems by Google are also Linux forks.
I have provided links to more information on the best choices in these three categories below. Choose the Operating System which best suits your needs.
What it boils down to…
You can get your basic stuff done on any operating system: there is always an office program, you can browse the internet, write your emails, edit pictures etc.
However, because Windows is still the dominant player in this field, more programs and games are developed for this platform. So as soon as you want something more, Windows is going to perform better for your than either Mac or Linux. The one exception is media stuff: music and video editing. In that field Mac is king.
The main issues to look at when opting for another Operating System than Windows
Do you share MS Office files with co-workers?
This is in some ways getting easier, and in others it’s more difficult than it used to be.
The default platform for cooperative documents has become Google Drive. This is OS independent, as it’s mainly online. Offline access is possible however, through the Chrome browser. However, making such documents look great (as opposed to merely fiddling with fonts and colors) is going to require switching platforms. That IS possible.
How is it getting harder? There is no reasonably up to date Windows Office for Mac version at present. On the other hand, Microsoft has finally released office apps for iOS and Android. Then again, you won’t be able to use them to edit those documents unless you pay for Office 365, which has a yearly subscription fee of around $100. This is a game changer in many ways.
Note that with all the niche disadvantages of Mac, it still includes a generous amount of software when you’re buying your Macbook. However, don’t expect a the iWorks version of Word to work well with Microsoft Office documents.
Conclusion: when it comes to paying for an office program, start with free and only go for paying when you need to. For most people I recommend Google Drive. It includes basic docs (like Word), sheets (spreadsheets) and even slides (presentations).
Do you need security? (and yes, you do!)
Windows 10 is a safer and more stable Windows OS than previous generations.
However it has one big drawback compared to other operating systems on the market: it does NOT have encryption enabled by default. What’s worse: it will NOT easily enable encryption on many devices. You have to have a higher end version of Windows 10 to get access to easy encryption.
Why should you care? Because a laptop may get stolen & then your personal information can very easily be hacked from your pc (even if you do use a password/code to secure it). Your pc is likely to contain all the information necessary for someone to steal your identity, clean out your accounts etc.
Encryption makes this a lot harder – especially in combination with the basic protection of using a password/code to lock your pc.
Are you a gamer?
Stick to Windows.
Are you a programmer?
You probably already know which platform to pick. It may well be Linux, but it depends on your specific programming needs.
Are you a website developer?
I still go with Windows as the dominant platform: not only does it included options for installing all the alternative browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera), but it is also the platform of choice for free text-editing programs you’ll need for typing PHP and CSS. Though of course it’s very possible to create websites well on any platform.
Do you type music?
Find out if Mac is still the best platform for developing music. It definitely used to be, but I’m not sure if it’s still true. Same for movies and that sort of thing. Programs for media editing are installed on macs when you buy them, which makes them suddenly affordable if you’re going to do such things.
I have an old Windows PC refitted with Ubuntu Linux. The one thing I’ve used it for over the past few years is watching DVDs. My windows PCs insist that they’re illegal or not bought in the right area of the world, even though I legally bought them right here in this country in a shop.
So Ubuntu Linux has my vote for using your PC as a DVD player….
I’m a bit of a geek girl: I studied math and chemistry in college, and learned to program in Basic and Pascall.
Still, finding out how to get things done in Ubuntu was a steep learning curve.
When my windows PC (XP) gave out, and the ‘recovery disks’ didn’t work, I fled to Linux (Ubuntu). I worked with it for about half a year, without much to complain about. Still, running a Linux PC and getting things done is not quite as straight forward as running Windows or Mac software.
Even with Ubuntu making things easier than it used to be, I’d still not recommend Ubuntu to the technologically challenged, if only because finding someone to help you when you get stuck is so much harder…
A reader says:
After years and years of running Windows, I took the plunge to Linux last year and I am not looking back! Sure you need to be a little adventurous and persevere sometimes, but it has been worth it. What I like best is Linux doesn’t pick up lint over time like Windows does. Linux never slows down no matter how many apps are installed on the machine. Windows has this nasty habit of gradually getting bloated (mainly “registry”) and the only solution was to re-install everything every once-in-a-while to recover lost speed. I don’t even dual-boot with Windows anymore. I find VMWare Player extremely handy to tinker with various OS’s in virtual mode. I am running Kubuntu 11.10.
Generally, when it comes to programs, for every windows program there is an equivalent software in Linux.
As an example:
Photoshop = Gimp
Office = Openoffice
Internet Explorer = Firefox, Google Chrome, and many others.
Note though that each of these programs is available for Windows as well. I personally use Gimp for Windows for instance.
MS Windows Operating System
Still the top OS. Windows is expanding: they’re creating a Tablet PC. Two interesting questions: is it as user friendly on the Tablet as an iPad? Will that tablet version of Windows work for consumers on the PC? I’m guessing YES on the first and NO on the second.
In other words: I recommend sticking with Windows 7 for as long as you can manage, for your PC. For your tablet, if you do go with Windows – not sure I recommend it, but go ahead, we need a few guinea pigs – do go with Windows 8. However, make sure you print out the touchscreen commands before hand. On a PC with printer you already know how to use, that is.
Get the operating system that has moved mountains – finally bringing touch to desktops and laptops. In the absence of both, do use this on a computer that at least has a multitouch pad.
A reader says:
I’m very impressed with Windows 8. It’s getting some criticism from those who don’t like change, but it’s really a great experience. You just have to remember to use the desktop interface for mouse-driven tasks, like traditional Windows programs. However, for touch-based devices, like tablets, the Windows 8 mobile interface is great. I think it’s the best out there — very innovative and also very intuitive once you learn a few basics. Great job, Microsoft!
Apple OS / Macintosh
Very user friendly Operating System, Top Choice for Artists and Musicians
I love my iPad and 20 years ago our family Apple PC gave me my first experience with ‘windows’ and a mouse. Now that cloud computing is taking over, compatibility is less of an issue in choosing an OS. The result is that I might consider a Mac for my next PC.
The reason I haven’t so far is more related to the hardware:
- Less USB and other connection options
- More expensive for hardware that isn’t better than what you get on a Windows PC or laptop.
Like Android, Google built the Chrome OS on the basis of Linux. Still, the concept of this OS is so different from other Linux builds that it deserves it’s own section. Chrome OS is built to support working mostly in the cloud. The advantages are obvious: lose your laptop? No problem, your documents are still available online through Google Drive.
Here’s what my readers thought (on a previous version of this page):
What’s Your Choice – In Operating Systems?
- 40% Microsoft Windows
- 15% Macintosh OS X
- 42% Linux Based OS
- 3% Other
4497 people voted in this poll.