Which operating system is the most reliable

The best system: Windows 7, 8 & 10 versus Linux

Thorsten Eggeling

Choosing the right operating system depends on personal preferences, but also on technical requirements.

EnlargeWindows or Linux? This is where the biggest differences lie.

There is currently a wide range of PC operating systems to choose from. You can choose between Windows 7, 8 and 10 as well as various Linux distributions. Every system has its strengths and weaknesses. Some of these can be found in the technical area, for example in terms of hardware compatibility and ease of use.

For many users, it is important how friendly, familiar and proven an operating system is. Those who are satisfied with Windows 7 may be reluctant to switch to Windows 8 or 10. But at the latest when there are no more security updates for the respective system or a new PC has to be purchased, the question of the right system arises.

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Operating system and programs for all devices

From a technical point of view, an operating system provides interfaces to the hardware and coordinates the start of application programs and the allocation of processor time. The basis is the operating system kernel, which has been called Ntoskrnl.exe since Windows NT and mostly vmlinuz in Linux systems.

By contrast, users understand an operating system to be the external appearance with a desktop interface and system tools. In principle, however, this software can be exchanged as required. Windows 10 - according to Microsoft's plans - will use the same kernel on all devices, i.e. on desktop PCs, notebooks, tablet PCs, smartphones, convertibles, wearables, embedded devices, the Raspberry Pi 2 and the Xbox One.

Depending on the application, the Windows interface can look different or even be omitted, for example with the Raspberry Pi 2 or embedded devices for use in industrial plants or robots. For software developers, it is important that programs can be started on all platforms without major changes. This can then ensure an extensive range of software, which makes the different devices much more interesting for potential buyers.

The lack of software is also one of the reasons why the distribution of Windows RT devices has been discontinued. Windows RT ("Windows Runtime") is a special Windows 8 variant for mobile devices with an ARM processor. In 2012 Microsoft presented the first Surface tablet with this operating system. However, buyers preferred to use Apple's iPad or Android tablets. Because RT devices do not meet the expectations of a Windows computer because the usual Windows applications for the desktop cannot be started here. Only apps from the Microsoft Store run. With Windows 10, Microsoft does not need to repeat this error. In the meantime, there are inexpensive, yet relatively powerful processors for small notebooks and tablets from Intel. Windows can be installed on it like on desktop PCs or notebooks, and all programs run as usual. Windows 8.1 Bing is currently preinstalled on notebooks priced below 300 euros. Hardware manufacturers do not have to pay a lot for this and can thus keep the price low. Windows 8.1 Bing is identical to Windows 8.1, except that Bing is preset as the search engine. However, this can be changed quickly if necessary.

EnlargeWindows 10 looks similar on smartphones and PCs. Operation with mouse and keyboard is easier on the PC than with Windows 8.1 thanks to the new start menu.

Applications and tools for Windows and Linux

For several years now, the technical basis of operating systems has seen a gentle evolution, but not a revolution. The differences between Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10 are rather small. Little has changed in terms of installation, the boot manager and the hardware requirements. Visually, the systems correspond to the respective zeitgeist: sometimes motley like with XP, more sober with Windows 7 or oriented towards mobile devices with Windows 8. According to user requirements, the desktop user is again the focus of Windows 10. In a direct comparison of the systems, however, there are many changes in detail. Windows 8 Explorer, for example, has a menu ribbon that allows some functions to be accessed more quickly than its predecessors. The vertically arranged elements provide a better overview than the previous drop-down menus, especially on narrow screens. Where Windows has nothing to offer, free and shareware programmers fill the gap. Microsoft is apparently taking a close look at which functions users are increasingly asking for. Starting with Windows 8, for example, there is the option of burning ISO files to CD / DVD using the “Manage” tab and also mounting them as data carriers. In Windows 7 you need a tool like Virtual Clone Drive.

Overall, Microsoft Windows 8 and 10 includes more software than Windows 7. Most programs, however, are modern UI apps such as Mail, Calendar, News, Onenote and Weather.

Windows 10 - initial setup after download

However, the software installed with the operating system plays an increasingly less important role. Many users now use the browser for e-mail, music, videos or office programs. Anyone who is not fundamentally skeptical about cloud services is also more independent of the operating system. Google Drive or Gmail, for example, work just as well in the browser on Linux as they do on Windows.

Office applications, image processing and e-mail programs are immediately available to Linux users after installation. Anything missing can be installed quickly using the central package management. The software packages come from the Linux distributor and should therefore be free of malicious software. The update function takes into account all software packages and not just the system. A Linux system can therefore be kept up-to-date very easily. However, the software selection is limited. If you rely on Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office or software for tax returns, you will hardly find anything comparable under Linux.

Conclusion: You can find an overview of the basic functions of Windows 7, 8, 10 and Linux in the table "Functional differences: operating systems in comparison". There are some differences in the equipment, but these are not equally important for every user. Much can also be compensated for with additional software.

EnlargeWindows Explorer looks a little different under Windows 10 (left) and Windows 7, but the functions are largely identical.

Desktop interface and operation of the system

The dominance of Windows on desktop PCs and notebooks is unbroken, but it looks rather bad with smartphones and tablets. With Windows 8 and its tile surface ("Modern UI"), users should be offered a uniform experience ("look and feel") on all devices. Those who have got used to the operation on the PC will then use a Windows Phone rather than a competitor model - according to the plan of the marketing department at Microsoft.

Microsoft has lost sight of the desktop user a little. The two completely different surfaces, once optimized for the touchscreen and additionally the conventional Windows desktop, cause irritation. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft quickly made some improvements, and the start menu known from Windows 7 is included again in Windows 10, albeit in a slightly different form. In Windows 10, apps no longer appear in full screen, but in the window like all other programs.

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If you want to change settings, go to the Windows 7 control panel. Everything from customizing the display to options for Windows Firewall can be found here. In Windows 8.1, the control panel fulfills the same purpose, but some options can also be found in the “PC settings”, which can be called up using the key combination Win-i and “Change PC settings”. With Windows 10 it is similar, only that Win-i leads directly to the "Settings". It is not always clear what can be found where. For orientation purposes, options that are also useful for tablets and smartphones can be found in the “PC settings” or “Settings”. Everything else is housed in the control panel.