Understanding the Differences: Linux vs. Windows vs. Mac – A Comprehensive Guide

Try this guide with our instant dedicated server for as low as 40 Euros

Linux vs Windows vs Mac

An operating system (OS) is a program that manages all other applications on a computer. It enables users to interact with computers to run various tasks and manage hardware parts. The market’s three most popular operating systems include Linux vs Windows vs Mac.

Each OS has unique features and benefits, making it challenging to pick one. Based on user information, Windows is the most popular since the product is readily available and simple to use. However, Linux is considered more secure and comes with many developer tools.

Mac users, on the other hand, claim Mac OS offers superior quality and performance. Whatever OS you choose will greatly influence your overall computing experience. In this post, we’ll outline the peculiar features, quirks, and capabilities of each Linux vs Mac vs Windows.

Understanding their differences can make choosing an OS that fully suits your needs much easier. Dive in!

Table of Content

  1. Linux: An Overview
  2. Windows: An Overview
  3. Mac: An Overview
  4. Linux vs. Windows vs. Mac: A Comparative Analysis
  5. Linux vs Windows vs Mac: A Side-by-side Comparison
  6. Relevance of the Linux vs. Windows vs. Mac Debate in Today’s Digital Landscape
  7. Which OS To Choose?
  8. FAQs

Linux: An Overview

Linux is an open-source operating system developed in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. It has since grown into one of the most popular and influential operating systems used worldwide. Unlike Windows and macOS, Linux has a freely available source code. This has allowed numerous developers to modify, enhance and distribute their own variations of the OS.

When creating the OS, Torvalds, a computer science student at the time, needed a personal Unix-like operating system. Unsurprisingly, the OS got its name by infusing his first name, “Linus,” and “Unix.” Linux has developed over time to become a highly versatile and robust OS with remarkable community support and contributions.

Key Features of Linux

The top features of Linux OS are:

  • An open-source philosophy that fosters innovation and collaboration among developers all over the world.
  • Incredible customizability as it is available in a wide range of distributions, each tailored to unique preferences and use cases. The most popular versions include Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and Arch Linux.
  • It is a robust OS that is very stable and reliable
  • Rapid response to vulnerabilities and a host of superb security features.
  • Incredible efficiency and resource utilization.

Windows: An Overview

Windows, developed by Microsoft in 1985, is the most widely used laptop and desktop OS, holding over 70% of the market share. It evolved from a text-based processor called MS-DOS, compatible with IBM PCs. Microsoft developed Windows due to the need for an OS accessible to the general public. The company had to add a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to MS-DOS to create a user-friendly OS.

Since its initial release as Windows 1.0, it has undergone multiple upgrades, including versions 95, 98, XP, and Vista. Today, Windows comes pre-installed on most personal computers and is the default OS for many users. With minimal configuration, it effortlessly handles daily tasks such as office work, gaming, and internet browsing.

Key Features of Windows

The main features of Windows OS are:

  • A friendly and intuitive graphical user interface that allows users to navigate through their computers easily.
  • A start menu that offers instant access to settings, files, and applications.
  • Cortana, which is Microsoft’s voice-activated virtual assistant.
  • A built-in antivirus that offers real-time protection against threats and malware.
  • Automatic file backups for enhanced data safety and recovery after accidental deletion or system failure.

Mac: An Overview

MacOS, previously known as OS X, is a line of operating systems developed by Apple. It is the standard OS on Macintosh computers, or Macs, and comes pre-installed. When it was first released in 1984, it was the first PC shell to come with an inbuilt GUI.

MacOS is developed on top of a UNIX-like OS, which is why it shares many common characteristics with GNU-Linux derivatives. Since it is incompatible with other computers, you can only get it on official Apple hardware, such as MacBooks and iMacs.

Key Features of Mac

  • A neat and organized desktop with a Dock that permits quick access to frequently used folders and applications.
  • A practical file management system that enhances navigation and organization of files and folders.
  • Together with Apple hardware, it is a mark of differentiation and exclusivity.
  • iCloud integration helps synch your data and make it accessible across all Apple devices.
  • Siri, which is Apple’s voice-activated virtual assistant.
  • Enhanced security due to its low volume of users.
  • Seamless integration with all Apple devices.

Linux vs. Windows vs. Mac: A Comparative Analysis

When choosing an operating system, you will always be making a trade-off. Your choice will largely be based on the most important aspects of you and your current budget. The most important aspects to consider are outlined below.

File Systems

The way Linux organizes files is different from how Windows and Mac do.

Linux/GNU uses a UNIX-based file system. There are no drives here, and everything within the computer, including external gadgets, is considered a file. The OS organizes all files in certain directories that emanate from one root directory. Essentially, there is a single file tree where all directories are mounted.

As for Windows, the files are stored on several drives. Your computer’s files are primarily stored in a “C” or “D” drive, but you can partition them further to have more drives. The drives have different types of folders, with the common ones being “Music,” “Video,” and “Pictures.” You can store your files in these folders, outside them, or create new ones and name them however you want.

MacOS also uses a UNIX-based file system, with many directories being found on the hard disk. Like Linux, macOS also has a root directory that acts as the bedrock of all other directories.


Windows has its shell with a unique syntax, while Linux and macOS use Bash as their default shell.

Bash is particularly useful for developers and avid terminal users. This is because it is easier to translate the language to all operating systems than the Windows shell. GNU/Linux also runs on a majority of servers in the world. This makes it incredibly practical when using the terminal to use the computer.

Package Managers

You can use a package manager to install, update, and uninstall other software from the terminal by executing a few commands. This software is useful, especially when frequently installing and uninstalling various programs. Using it to install programs is more efficient than doing so manually.

Linux and Mac operating systems come with pre-installed package managers. On Linux, the package manager varies, depending on the variant. For instance, APT is the default package manager on Ubuntu, while Arch has Pacman. For Mac, the default package manager is known as homebrew.

Windows comes without a default package manager. If you need one, you will have to download and install it. Chocolatey is one of the choices you have with this OS.

While all package managers have similar functionality, the syntax used in each varies. You are also not limited to the default package managers in Linux and Mac: You can download and install a different one.

Ease of Installation

While it is possible to DIY the process, installing Linux requires some basic computer skills. You need to download the distro of your choice, load it into a bootable flash disk, and proceed with the installation.

As for Windows, you may not have to do the installation by yourself, as most PCs come loaded with a Windows OS. However, should you have to install the software, it is incredibly straightforward as the OS fuses seamlessly with most machines.

With Mac, Apple pre-installs the OS in all its iMacs and MacBooks. The company also releases regular updates that are relatively simple to install.

Another point to note is that Mac has less frequent updates than Windows. Therefore, you never have to worry about your computer running updates at inconvenient periods. All macOS iterations are also free.

Software & Hardware Compatibility

Most software comes having already been adapted to Windows, thanks to the immense popularity of the OS. MacOS may be less popular, but it is similar to Windows in this regard.

Unlike in the earlier days when only a few programs were compatible with Linux, the situation is currently different. With the various Linux distros being highly popular, numerous programs that are compatible with the OS are available nowadays.

Only Apple is directly responsible for the computers that run their OS regarding hardware compatibility. And Apple manufactures some of the best computing hardware out there.

Apple markets itself as the manufacturer of premium computing products. Unsurprisingly, their newest computers often deliver the best performance in the market. With the company manufacturing both the software and hardware, its machines can have greater compatibility with the OS.

As for Linux/GNU and Windows, the hardware quality depends entirely on what you can afford to purchase. The bigger advantage here is that you can install the OS on any machine you prefer.

Here you should note that Linux offers a choice of distributions (versions of the core Linux OS) that fit specific use cases. In particular, you need to be aware of the major discussion points in the Debian vs Fedora debate to select the best distribution for your projects.

Ease of Use

Mac and Windows are seamless and user-friendly operating systems. As for Linux/GNU, the ease of use largely depends on your chosen variant. A variant like Ubuntu is as seamless to use as Mac or Windows. Some other versions, like Arch, suit individuals with advanced computer knowledge.

Security and Stability

Linux variants are generally regarded as the most secure and stable operating systems available today. Their enhanced security is largely due to Linux’s open-source nature. Most people can easily identify the issues and rectify them swiftly and effectively. Many people can also collaborate and propose solutions to resolve a security breach.

Mac is also fairly secure and stable, rectifying bugs quickly. Since the system runs on proprietary hardware, it is generally stable, and security breaches are rare.

In matters of security and stability, Windows is the most vulnerable OS. Since it is compatible with a wider range of hardware, its margin for error is broader. It is also the most popular OS in the world, and most malware is specifically designed to target it.

Performance and Efficiency

This is one of the areas where Windows outshines its counterparts. Just about any software can run flawlessly on Windows, largely due to its install base. As a result, this OS is extremely versatile, with most developers creating software or apps that run natively on the system.

While Windows has a command line interface tool, it is rarely needed. App installation is fairly easy through the use of an installation wizard. Windows also has options for enhancing gaming performance, such as DirectX, which allows a GPU or CPU to operate optimally.

Mac’s enhanced integrations with the Apple ecosystem and ease of use are some of its biggest advantages. It also has various practical programs for creatives, such as a productivity suite and tools for editing photos, PDFs, videos, and music files.

Linux’s performance is quite limited compared to Windows and Mac. Not all programs offer native support, which can complicate running new software on Linux. You will mostly have to install a productivity layer like Wine.

It is also advisable to familiarize yourself with a command line interface tool, as it is necessary during most app installations on Linux. This technical requirement is one of the things that limit its adoption. Furthermore, most apps here are open-source or free versions of popular macOS or Windows apps. These substitutes are not as great as the original versions.

Regardless of the OS you opt for, we recommend you read more about the cloud server vs dedicated server and shared server vs dedicated server debates to make informed decisions.


Regarding price, most GNU/Linux distros are free, including the most Windows-like variant, Ubuntu. However, not all distros offered on the Linux platform are free. For example, Zorin OS has a free version and a paid model with several additional features.

Microsoft uses a freemium model to market Windows OS. This implies that anyone can download, install, and use the OS for free. Most PCs targeted at the general public come with pre-installed Windows OS. The apps and features available in the free version are mostly enough for an average user. Business and power users, however, may need a more advanced version.

Apple does not have an additional cost for its PC OS, but the company designed macOS to only run on its proprietary-developed machines. These computers are quite pricey.

Communication and Culture

Linux/GNU is the way to go if you are interested in studying more about a particular OS. This is because its code is readily available to anyone and has a huge online community. You can quickly learn how it operates, ways of modifying it, and how to create projects based on the system. It is common for most Linux users to be individuals interested in software and technology.

Mac also has a band of followers, with most being creatives. This is not a surprise, as the OS has a host of editing and creative tools.

As for Windows, most users are not confined to any single space or industry. This OS is popular among the general public and within corporate environments.

Linux vs Windows vs Mac: A Side-by-side Comparison

Here’s a Windows vs Mac vs Linux comparison table to help you visualize their features better.

Linux Windows macOS
Hardware Quality Versatile, can run on low-spec PCs Very versatile Proprietary hardware, very high-end
Cost Mostly free, some distros have paid versions Freemium, accessing all features costs approximately $150 Free but comes on an expensive hardware
Software Compatibility Open-source substitutes for proprietary software Unparalleled Has its own app ecosystem
Ease of Installation Requires some computing knowledge Easy Very easy
Security and Stability The safest and most stable OS Generally great, requires plenty of frequent updates Very good, requires only a few periodic updates
Ease of Use Ease of use determined by the distro Simple to use Very easy to use

Relevance of the Linux vs. Windows vs. Mac Debate in Today’s Digital Landscape

The relevance of the Linux vs Windows vs Mac debate in the modern digital world is still significant.

When discussing the role of these operating systems, you also need to consider the role of the underlying server hosting solution. You need to understand the dedicated server specs required for the optimal performance of each OS. 

Below is how these operating systems interact with the current technology ecosystem.

Remote Work and Collaboration

Windows has been the dominant OS in the business sector for a long time, and many companies use it in their daily operations. Its extensive compatibility with productivity tools and business applications makes it perfect for remote-work scenarios where organizations have pre-established Windows infrastructures.

MacOS also has excellent remote work capabilities and readily supports the creatives and professionals who have shifted to this form of work. Its seamless integration with Apple’s ecosystem greatly enhances collaboration and mobility within organizations where Apple devices are mainstream.

As for Linux, the remote-work capabilities largely depend on the distro. Variations like Fedora and Ubuntu have improved user-friendliness, making them ideal for remote work. Due to its command-line capabilities, developers and other tech-oriented professionals working remotely may also prefer Linux.

Cloud Computing and Servers

Regarding server deployments and cloud computing, Linux is the dominant force. Many cloud service providers, including Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure, base their infrastructure on this OS. This is largely due to its enhanced security, stability, and scalability.

Compared to Linux, Windows is not a major player in cloud computing. It is only prevalent in hybrid cloud environments, where it runs some workloads and services.

As for macOS, it is not commonly used in cloud computing or deploying servers. Apple’s primary focus has been on consumer-facing services and products.


The open-source nature of Linux allows for regular scrutiny and swift security patching. This is why it remains the most secure OS. On the other hand, Windows remains a prime target for cyber threats, largely due to its widespread adoption. Windows companies must implement robust security practices and stay on top of updates and patches.

As for macOS, it is relatively secure compared to Windows. This is largely due to its UNIX architecture and Apple’s tight control over its hardware and software assets.

Application portability is an important aspect of cybersecurity. In this aspect, Linux has a clear lead with its support for containerized applications. Here, making the right decision is all about knowing the major points in the LXC vs Docker debate.

Which OS To Choose?

The operating system you go for largely depends on your priorities, needs, and use cases. Consider the applications you use regularly and ensure they are compatible with Windows vs Linux vs Mac.

You can also try out each of the systems to see the one that is most intuitive and comfortable for you to use. If you already have a device from a specific brand, for instance, Apple, go for an OS that readily integrates with your hardware.

Some operating systems fit certain unique use cases. For instance, Linux is superb for cloud computing and server deployments, while creative professionals prefer macOS. It would help if you also considered the costs associated with Linux vs Windows vs Mac, including licensing fees and hardware requirements.

Ultimately, your pick will depend on your preference and level of comfort with any particular OS. You can also use multiple operating systems through dual-boot setups or virtual machines.

Additionally, you need to be aware of the larger context where essential questions, such as what is a dedicated server, the impact of types of dedicated server, and the advantages of using dedicated server hosting, significantly impact your projects.

When you need a hosting solution that perfectly complements any of the three systems, look no further than RedSwitches, one of the best dedicated server hosting providers in the market .

We offer the best dedicated server pricing and deliver instant dedicated servers, usually on the same day the order gets approved. Whether you need a dedicated servers, a traffic-friendly 10Gbps dedicated server, or a powerful bare-metal server, we are your trusted hosting partner.


Below are some of the questions that are commonly asked about Mac vs Linux vs Windows.

Q. Which Is Better, MacOS or Windows or Linux?

Each operating system has its strengths and weaknesses. The choice largely depends on your needs, preferences, and use cases.

Q. Which Is Better, MacBook or Linux?

If you want a system that readily integrates with Apple devices and services, go for a MacBook. However, if you need a broader range of hardware options, value customization, or open-source software, Linux is the best choice.

Q. Is Linux Similar to Mac or Windows?

Linux and macOS are based on a UNIX system, meaning they share some fundamental commands and concepts.

Q. Which OS Is Faster, Linux or Windows?

Linux is more lightweight and efficiently utilizes resources to be perceived as faster. However, modern versions of Windows perform excellently. Usually, performance is determined by the system configuration, hardware, and task type.

Q. Is It Difficult to Learn Linux?

Plenty of the Linux distributions available today have very friendly graphical user interfaces. These distros make it simple to transition from Windows or macOS to Linux.

Try this guide with our instant dedicated server for as low as 40 Euros