Windows vs Linux vs macOS: The Current Desktop OS Landscape

  • A simple question with a not-so-simple answer: what’s the best operating system for desktop use, Windows, Linux, or macOS?
  • This is just a comparison that takes into account a few typical use cases for normal uses.
  • Read this as a subjective view of the matter, not a definitive guide on what to choose. It all depends on your needs anyway.
desktop operating system

With the launch of Windows 11, I thought of doing a short comparison of the main three desktop OSes in use right now: Windows, Linux, and macOS. I’ll try and address how I see them, where they are, and where they’re heading.

From the start, I want to make it clear: I’m a Windows user since Windows 3.11 and I’ve used all versions in between (even Vista and Windows 8!). I have significantly less experience with Linux and even less with mac OS. I think it’s important to mention this early on.

I’m not trying to convince you to switch to Windows. It may seem that way, but I’m not, trust me. This is not an ode to Microsoft. I don’t really approve of some of the things the company is going through sometimes, but that’s also true about Apple.

Want to see if you’re a Mac or Windows person? Try our Mac or PC “decision calculator”.

Linux doesn’t have a big corporation behind it, but I can say I don’t think Linus Torvalds’ vision of his operating system is aligned with what consumers expect from an operating system.

Until Linux does what customers want, not what Linus wants, it will remain a niche OS for desktop use. And you can quote me on that!

Best Use Cases

Choose Windows if you work, or play, or want compatibility and flexibility. You can do pretty much anything with Windows, on any type of device. Stability problems are long gone for most people.

Choose Linux if you’re a developer or you want to learn the ins and outs of computer hardware and operating system. Linux is great for learning these things.

Choose macOS if you own a Mac, you like the Apple ecosystem, and want tight integration with Apple devices. Mac OS is the best choice for an Apple laptop or desktop also because Apple made sure installing and using Windows is a crappy experience.

Which is Best for Desktop Use: The (Long) Verdict

As you might have guessed I’m not going to give you a conclusion. Each of the three operating systems has its Pros and Cons. Each of you has to analyze personal bias, preferences, and workflows, and decide based on them. We shouldn’t neglect privacy either. That’s becoming a big issue, and I’m sure we haven’t heard the last regarding both Microsoft’s and Apple’s OSes.

For me, Windows is the best option, hands down. And I don’t like Apple, I really don’t.

Linux has made significant moves towards being friendlier to people who are not tech-savvy, but it’s a long way from a proper desktop OS. That’s what I honestly believe. I’ve used Linux extensively for a couple of months, but it was more like an exercise in frustration. Ubuntu was not stable enough and Debian was too featureless for my taste. And don’t get me started about gaming.

But that was not the worst thing. It was the fact I couldn’t run the apps I need for work. I can’t run them because they don’t exist for Linux. I’m talking mostly about the Adobe suite, but there are also other apps missing, like the native Google Drive app. And no, running Wine is not the answer.

ubuntu desktop first login

There are alternatives and workarounds, for sure, but they don’t work properly, even if people keep insisting Gimp is a capable replacement for Photoshop. Maybe for the first version of Photoshop. Plus Adobe is more than just Photoshop.

All this inconvenience made me ditch Linux as my main OS. It’s simply not practical to use. Now that Windows includes WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) it’s even less appealing for those who might need Linux for work, and software developers.

Microsoft is moving towards a place where anything you want to do, you can do on Windows. Android Apps support is just another example.

Besides bringing everything under Windows Microsoft has a long-term strategy of pushing its apps and services on all available platforms. I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point we’ll see a Microsoft Office version for Linux. Not tomorrow, but someday.

windows 11 interface

Apple on the other hand is moving even more into the walled garden direction. They’re notorious for desperately keeping people from doing what they want with their devices. Because of Apple, it’s impossible to repair most electronics today. They’re the ones who started the trend of gluing and soldering components, and others soon followed. That’s why people fight for the Right to Repair right now.

Most of Apple’s explanations about why they did something for the benefit of the consumer are plain and simple BS. Mind your own interest, but at least don’t pretend to be my friend.

I can see why people like and use Apple devices, but it’s not for me. I’ve vouched to never buy an Apple device ever again. I had the first 4 or 5 iPad models and that’s enough. I’ve never owned a Mac though, and the M1 MacBook Air is a fantastic laptop for the money if you are OK with Apple’s practices and macOS.

I’m not.

apple devices

That’s why I’m left with Windows and Microsoft. It’s the best choice for what I want, but far from what I would like. It’s still very intrusive because I suspect Microsoft is trying to be the next Google (aka zero privacy), but tries a bit harder to hide it, probably because they don’t want to be perceived as some sort of Facebook.

That’s concerning, for sure, but there are ways to make Windows respect you a bit more. Plus, EU may have just forced Microsoft to build the best Windows possible.

I guess that’s the world we live in, but we don’t have to give up.

Final note: If you think I’m a bit unfair about Apple you’re probably right. That’s why I invite you to a conversation. I want to hear what you have to say, so please do so in the comments.

Avatar for Ionuț-Alexandru Popa
I'm a writer and Editor-in-Chief at BinaryFork. I am passionate about technology, science, space exploration, and movies. I started writing about tech more than 20 years ago, after graduating in Computer Science.
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