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Windows vs. Linux: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 19, 2023
Windows is a proprietary OS developed by Microsoft; Linux is an open-source OS based on the Unix architecture.

Key Differences

Windows, developed by Microsoft, is a proprietary operating system known for its user-friendly interface. Many users appreciate the consistency and familiarity Windows offers, especially those who use it both at home and in corporate environments. Linux, on the other hand, is a free and open-source operating system, rooted in the Unix architecture. It's known for its flexibility, security, and configurability, and is a favorite among developers and system administrators.
When discussing market share and popularity, Windows dominates the desktop market, being the preferred choice for personal computers, laptops, and corporate workstations. Its widespread adoption can be attributed to its compatibility with a wide range of software applications and hardware. Linux, although not as popular on the desktop, is the go-to choice for servers, supercomputers, and embedded systems. Many of the world's websites run on Linux servers due to its stability and performance.
In terms of customization and control, Linux outshines Windows. Linux allows users to alter its source code, facilitating the creation of custom distributions tailored to specific needs. Windows, being proprietary, doesn't grant its users this level of freedom, offering instead predefined versions with set features. From a licensing perspective, Windows often requires purchasing a license, which can come with certain usage restrictions. Linux, being open-source, is freely available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute.
Software availability and compatibility are significant aspects where Windows and Linux differ. Windows boasts a vast ecosystem of commercial software, including popular games and productivity tools, which are often not directly available for Linux. Linux, however, compensates with a rich repository of open-source applications, although some proprietary software may require workarounds or alternatives to function.
Finally, on the security front, Linux is often hailed for its robustness and resistance to malware. Its permission-based system and the fact that fewer viruses are designed for it contribute to this reputation. Windows, due to its vast user base, is a more common target for malicious attacks, but with proper security measures and regular updates, it can be secured effectively.

Comparison Chart


Proprietary, owned by Microsoft.
Open-source, community-driven.


Generally requires purchase/license.
Free, with some exceptions for enterprise distributions.


Limited customization options.
Highly customizable with access to source code.

Primary Use

Dominant on desktops and laptops.
Dominant on servers, supercomputers, and embedded systems.

Software Availability

Wide range of commercial software.
Rich repository of open-source applications.


Common target for malware but can be secured.
Known for robustness and fewer viruses.

Windows and Linux Definitions


An OS known for its compatibility with a wide array of software applications.
Many gaming enthusiasts prefer Windows due to its extensive game support.


An OS known for its stability, security, and configurability.
For mission-critical applications, many companies trust Linux.


A graphical user interface offering a set of features for user interactions.
The latest version of Windows introduced several new functionalities.


A popular choice for servers, supercomputers, and embedded systems.
Most of the world's top websites are hosted on Linux servers.


The dominant OS on desktop computers and laptops.
In our office, all the workstations run on Windows.


A platform with multiple distributions, each tailored for specific needs.
Ubuntu and Fedora are popular Linux distributions for general users.


A platform regularly updated to incorporate new technologies and security patches.
It's essential to keep Windows updated for optimal performance and security.


A system that allows users to access and modify its source code.
Linux's open-source nature has fostered a vast community of contributors.


A proprietary operating system developed by Microsoft.
Many personal computers come pre-installed with Windows.


An open-source operating system based on the Unix architecture.
Many developers use Linux for its flexibility and control.


Plural of window


(software) Any unix-like operating system that uses the Linux kernel.


An open-source version of the UNIX operating system


What is Windows?

Windows is a proprietary operating system developed by Microsoft, widely used on desktops and laptops.

Which is more user-friendly: Windows or Linux?

While subjective, many users find Windows to be more user-friendly due to its consistent interface.

Are there free versions of Windows?

Windows itself isn't free, but Microsoft offers some tools and utilities at no cost.

Which is better for gaming: Windows or Linux?

Windows has broader game support, making it a preferred choice for many gamers.

Is Windows more secure than Linux?

Linux is often considered more secure due to its architecture and fewer targeted attacks, but both can be secured with proper measures.

How can I get support for Windows issues?

Microsoft offers official support, and there are numerous online forums and communities dedicated to Windows troubleshooting.

Can Linux run on older hardware?

Yes, certain lightweight Linux distributions are designed specifically for older hardware.

Is Windows 10 the latest version of Windows?

As of my last update in 2022, Windows 10 was followed by Windows 11.

Can I run Linux on my Windows computer?

Yes, you can dual-boot Linux with Windows, run Linux in a virtual machine, or use Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

Do I have to pay to use Linux?

Most Linux distributions are free, though some enterprise versions may have associated costs.

What is Linux?

Linux is a free, open-source operating system based on the Unix architecture, popular on servers and embedded systems.

Can I customize Linux?

Yes, Linux is highly customizable, allowing modifications to its source code.

Can I run Windows applications on Linux?

Some Windows applications can run on Linux using tools like Wine or through virtualization.

How is software installed on Linux?

Software on Linux can be installed using package managers or by compiling from source.

Do I need antivirus software on Linux?

While Linux is less targeted by malware, it's still advisable to take security precautions, including using antivirus if deemed necessary.

How often is Windows updated?

Windows frequently receives updates, including security patches, feature enhancements, and bug fixes.

How do Windows and Linux handle drivers?

Windows often requires manual driver installation, while Linux typically includes a vast array of drivers in its kernel, with automatic detection and installation.

Are there different versions of Linux?

Yes, Linux has various distributions like Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS, each with unique features.

What's the primary programming language for Linux development?

The Linux kernel is predominantly written in C.

Why do many developers prefer Linux?

Developers often prefer Linux for its flexibility, control, and robust development tools.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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