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Should I Choose a PC, Mac or Linux?

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should-i-choose-a-pc,-mac-or-linux

One of the best parts about today’s laptop and computer environment is the amount of freedom you have to choose the type of computer and operating system that you want to use.  However, with this freedom comes the burden of figuring out which platform will work best for you, and that’s not always easy.

In today’s world there are three major players in the desktop and laptop platforms.  They are:

  • Microsoft Windows (Commonly Known as PC)
  • Apple Macintosh (Often shortened to Mac)
  • Linux (Open source operating system)

Each one of these operating systems offer their own strengths, weaknesses, and design choices that will impact not only how your machine is built, but also how you will use it.  For example, Mac’s have a custom design from Apple and are only made by them, giving all their laptops and computers a uniform look using similar parts.  On the other hand, PC’s running Windows are made by a variety of manufacturers and come in a wide range of shapes and sizes and are often a lot cheaper.  But there is much more to choosing a platform than just how a computer looks, although you may be surprised how important this is to many people.

In an effort to help you break down the different platforms, let’s break each one down and discuss their pros and cons.  Hopefully, this will help you learn some of the differences between the systems so you can make a much more informed decision about what platform you choose.

Windows

Windows 8 PC

Microsoft’s Windows operating system is the most popular operating system in the world and is currently used by somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of computer systems around the world.  Originally introduced way back in 1985, the software is mature, but it is far from perfect.

Pros

  1. Compatibility – With such high proliferation, almost every software manufacture builds their applications for the platform. If you are looking for a platform that will support almost everything, then this is the choice for you.
  2. Technical support – Microsoft provides extensive technical support for its operating systems and there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of websites around the globe that post guides and help files on how to use, tweak and repair the operating system.
  3. Gaming – Anyone who loves a good computer game will want to use a Windows PC. While gaming companies are slowly beginning to adopt the other platforms, not all gaming companies bother releasing their games on them simply because of their market proliferation.  The added effort and expense simply isn’t worth it.  If you enjoy games, you will definitely need a PC laptop or desktop.
  4. Cost – While the operating system has historically been more expensive to just go to the store and buy, laptops and desktops running Windows are far cheaper than their Mac counterparts. Budget shoppers can access all of the best features of a PC without having to break the bank just to get a new computer.

Cons

  1. Viruses – This is a biggie. Because Windows is everywhere, virus makers target the platform for their malicious pieces of code that can interrupt your life, or worse, steal your personal information and data.  While there are free antivirus applications out there, for the best protection you will have to invest in a commercial antivirus software package to protect you.
  2. More Complicated – Windows will do just about anything you want it to do, and that is a good thing. However, because of this, many users and especially inexperienced computer users feel that it is a little too complicated and sometimes even clunky to use.  This is truly highlighted by the massive amounts of complaints about Windows 8 in recent years.
  3. Slow – Windows, like many operating systems, requires quite a bit of processing power in order to run efficiently and quickly. Over time, Windows systems often become bogged down as well requiring that you reformat your computer in order to make sure your computer continues to run quickly.

Mac OS X

 

 

 

Apple_MacBook Apple’s Mac OS X has really come a long way since it was first released.  Based on a BSD, Mac OS X is a Unix-like operating system that is designed to run efficiently while maintaining top notch security for its users.

Pros

  1. Viruses – Unlike Windows, Mac users are not subjected the amount of viruses that often plague Microsoft’s operating system. This is due mainly to the proliferation of Mac compared to Windows and the security of Mac OS X.  However, Apple’s computers have been growing in popularity and more viruses are now being released.  While you don’t really have to pay for virus software for a Mac, it is recommended that you use one of the free options available online.
  2. Reliability – Mac OS X only runs on computers made from Apple. This means that Mac OS X doesn’t have to support as much hardware making it run more efficiently and reliably on their computers.
  3. Looks – Let’s face it, Apple wins this contest hands down. Nothing on the market compares to the sleek styling of Apple’s MacBook line of laptops.  If you want a system that looks good while also runs great, Apple is definitely the way to go.
  4. iPhone Compatibility – iPhones are some of the most popular smartphones on the market, and while they will connect and sync to a Windows PC or even a Linux machine, the compatibility they offer with the Mac is truly top notch. Not only can you sync your files with your MacBook, but you can easily sync all your contacts, make Facetime calls, and even text right from your MacBook.

Cons

  1. Expensive – Apple’s laptops and other computers are far more expensive when you compare it to a comparable laptop made from a PC manufacturer. When you buy a Mac, you are buying the name, style and reliability that Apple has created over the years as well as the hardware.  If price is a concern, Apple may not be the best choice.
  2. Compatibility – While many software makers today of some of the best applications make their software available on both Mac and PC, there are still some that just don’t bother. In some cases, software you need that is available for free on Windows will cost you on Mac, meaning you will have to invest more money and look for alternative programs when you need the functionality of an app that is only available on Windows.
  3. Limited Gaming Options – To be fair, this has improved over the years. Still, you won’t find as many titles available on the Mac compared to the PC.  In some cases, games will come to the Mac months or even years after they have long been released on Windows.  If you are serious about gaming, you will either want to buy a PC running Windows or dual boot your Mac with Windows.

Linux

ubuntu-laptop

For years Linux was the domain of tech geeks and information system techs.  Like Mac OS X, Linux is a Unix-like operating system that offers much of the same security features as the classic Unix.  Linux will install and run on almost any type of computer including any PC and even Mac.  What sets Linux apart is its freedom.  Linux is billed as an operating system that is built for its users so they can use their computer how they want and not how a big corporate entity thinks they should.

Pros

  1. Price – Linux is available for FREE! That means that you can pick up an operating system without having to shell out a single dime.  While there are paid options out there, you don’t have to spend anything to use Linux.
  2. Variety – Linux has what is called distributions, all made by different entities. These distributions all offer something a little different with Linux and come with different features and software.  However, you aren’t limited by these distributions.  You can install any software that is made for 3.  Linux no matter what distribution you choose to run.
  3. Security – There are very few viruses made for Linux because of its secure nature and limited use.  If you need a system that is safe and secure, you simply can’t go wrong with Linux.

Cons

  1. Complicated – Linux has come a long way and in many ways it is much easier to use than it used to be. Still, it is far more complicated when compared to Windows and especially Mac OS X.  On top of that, how you do basic tasks such as installing software is also very different making it hard for computer novices to use effectively.
  2. Software – While there is more software out there for Linux than Windows and Mac, it is not the same software. You won’t find, for example, Microsoft Word running on a Linux machine.  Instead, you must choose other options for your productivity needs.  While some of this software is arguably better, it is different, and many users are turned off by the fact they can’t use the applications they are used to on the platform.
  3. Gaming – Gaming on Linux is worse than Mac OS X. There are very few games made for Linux.  This sentiment is beginning to change, but it has a long way to go before you will ever find the same level of games on Linux compared to the other platforms.
  4. Support – Almost all Linux distributions offer a wide range of support options from their forums, but these are usually run by volunteers and you will be getting help from other members of the community. While this means its all free, sometimes you won’t find the type of help you need and it could be difficult to find someone that can fix it for you without you doing it yourself.

question-mark-213692_640 So How Do I Choose?

Now that you know the pros and cons of all three systems, it is time to make your choice.  But how exactly do you do that?

What Software Do You Need?

First, determine what software you absolutely must have in order to perform both work and play.  Look and see if there are options for all the platforms.  If one platform doesn’t have the application you need, is there a decent alternative that you could begin using instead?  If not, your choice is made.

Budget

Sometimes it all comes down to price.  Examine how much you have to spend on a new laptop and use that as a guide for your new computer purchase.  If price is of no concern, an Apple Mac may be a good option providing it has all the software you need.  If you are shopping on a budget, you may want to consider a Windows laptop or even a Linux laptop in order to save money.

Looks

No matter how much we hate to admit it, looks are sometimes important.  No one wants to buy and stare at an ugly laptop for years.  If you simply must have the best looking laptop on the market, consider an Apple.  If you are looking for something that looks good but does not have to be on the same level as the Apple, consider some of the midrange or upper range Windows laptops instead.

Gaming

Almost everyone loves to play a good computer game from time to time.  If you do, you must take a few minutes to search for the types of games you like to play to see if they are available or could be run on all the platforms you are considering to purchase.  If not, then you may want to eliminate that choice from the running.

Final Thoughts

When selecting which platform you are going to use, you must take great care that you select one that will work for your needs while also providing all the features you expect from a laptop.  If you choose wrong, you could find yourself stuck with a laptop that is of no use to you.

In the end, it all comes down to you.  How YOU work and what YOU want to do.  Each of these platforms offer their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to computing needs.  If after examining everything you are still unsure, you could always try each  OS and see which one you think works best for you.  That way you can make the most informed decision when buying your next laptop that you will enjoy and use for years to come.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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