The average computer user usually chose Windows as their operating system for the longest time, and Windows still holds a large share of the market. It’s just what came on most desktops and laptops when you bought them. Mac OSX was the choice for some people because they “thought differently.” But Linux? That was the operating system for servers or hackers. You had to do everything in the terminal and know a bunch of esoteric commands. Who wanted to do all that?

Laptop, code

But the truth is that Linux never truly was like that. Yes, it has a huge market share when it comes to servers. Yes, if you want to learn all the commands you can use with Linux, you will become an operating system magician. But, it doesn’t have to be that complicated. Linux comes with just as many features as OSX and Windows — and may even be the right operating system for you. 

1. It’s free

Linux is and always has been available to everyone for free. It was created to be free but to be similar to the proprietary Unix operating system. Unlike Windows, which has always cost money. And while the Mac OS X comes free with Apple hardware, who wants to pay the price for the hardware when you don’t need all the extras? Linux could do everything Unix could and was free, so it quickly became the most popular operating system for web servers. Startups and small teams often opt for Linux to save money. Plus, if you try one distribution of Linux without spending any money, and if it doesn’t work for you, just try another.

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2. Open source software

Linux is open-source software. This means that the source code of the Linux project is available to the general public under the GPL license. Anyone can download the source code of Linux for free, modify the code for their own use, and even create their own version of Linux and release that themselves. If you are not a programmer, this may not mean much, but it really should. Because of Linux’s open-source licensing, thousands of distributions for Linux exist, each with custom features that wouldn’t be possible with closed-source code.

3. Security

The average user wouldn’t think of running Windows without malware and virus protection. Just about every business in the world requires some type of virus protection software for all of their Windows devices. And Mac OS X is not immune to viruses either, as we have seen in recent years. 

Linux is simply more secure. That doesn’t mean it’s invulnerable to hacking attempts. It’s just that the design of Linux’s package management system, repositories, and other features makes it harder to compromise than other operating systems.

4. Stability

The Linux operating system is very stable, reliable, and less prone to crashes than other operating systems. Even Microsoft chose Linux as the operating system to power their Azure Cloud Computing Services instead of their own Windows Server operating system. Linux is also the main operating system used by other major cloud providers.

In using Linux, you will also notice that your computer will run just as fast after years of use as when you first installed the operating system. With Windows. to keep the operating system running smoothly, you have to defragment the hard drive periodically and may even have to re-install Windows to get all of your performance back.

5. Easy to maintain

Linux maintenance is simple and easy. For each Linux distro, there is usually an army of open-source developers who make improvements to the operating system, fix bugs, and increase the security and stability of the operating system constantly. Each Linux installation checks for updates on a regular basis from its central code repository. A single command on the command line or click of a button in the desktop GUI can install these, or the right configuration can update them automatically. Most updates can complete without requiring a reboot of the hardware.

6. Runs on any hardware

With every new release of Windows, some hardware that has been in use for years becomes obsolete. And the Mac OS X will only run on Apple hardware. Linux doesn’t have those same problems.

The core Linux operating system is very lightweight and makes efficient use of any system’s resources. Windows comes with the drivers of all the hardware it supports in one OS package. This is why it must deprecate certain hardware periodically. But Linux is customizable for hardware, allowing users to choose only those drivers and features they need.

7. Easy to use

Earlier, we spoke of Linux being the operating system of servers and hackers. That Linux is basically only for nerds. Yet this couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

The current distributions of Linux are very user-friendly. You can actually install and use Linux without ever using the command line if you want to. Linux also has many great graphical user interfaces (GUI) that will allow new Linux users to do everything they could do in Windows or Mac with the same level of ease. And, yes, I said many GUIs. You can choose from different desktops systems in Linux, including clones of the Windows or Mac desktop.

8. Customizable

You can configure some things on your own using a Windows or Mac computer. You can, for example, change your desktop background, but is configuration the same as customization? In short, no.

You can do the same things in Linux that you can do in Windows and Mac, and so much more. With both of those operating systems, you can change colors and fonts on your desktop, but with Linux, you can change out the whole desktop. You have the choice between GNOME, KDE, Cinnamon, and other desktops systems. You can choose from half a dozen different shell systems if you do a lot of work on the command line. And, if you want, you can change to a completely new Linux distribution.

9. Easy to install

In the early days of Linux, it was not so easy to install. You had to know how to use the command line and often run into hardware drivers issues. Luckily, this is no longer a problem. Ubuntu Linux was one of the first Linux distributions to target the average computer user and make the installation process as quick and easy as installing Windows. Now, most flavors of Linux come with a simple GUI-based installation wizard that you can click through in a few minutes. And you can download Linux from the Internet.

10. Has a strong community

Linux’s reach is huge. A big percentage of servers run Linux. Most system administrators know Linux, as well as most developers. So, that means a lot of people already know Linux and are willing to help people new to the operating systems on help forums and sites like StackOverflow. Any question you have will usually get answered quickly by someone else who has run into the same issue and found a way to solve it. Enterprise versions of Linux also offer 24/7 paid support for Linux issues.

11. Tons of applications

Linux users have a lot of choices when it comes to software, and much of it is free to use. LibreOffice is an enterprise software suite that contains spreadsheet software, email software, writing software, and presentation software that can replace proprietary suites like Microsoft Office for free. You can browse the Linux software center and find free software for all of your business and personal needs as well as find proprietary software already ported to Linux.

12. Lightweight

There are hundreds if not thousands of Linux distributions. They all start with the Linux kernel, which is the core interface between a computer’s hardware and its processes. Each distribution adds features and layers to this kernel, and many of these distributions are very lightweight and contain a minimal amount of features. This means that the system requirements for Linux can be much less than those for Windows or Mac. Some modern Linux distributions can even run on systems that only have 128MB of RAM, 128MB of storage space, or only an old Pentium CPU.

13. Consistent updates

The software teams that work on the Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows operating systems are probably pretty large and have a lot of diverse skills, but they are not as large as some of the teams that work on the Linux operating system. Since Linux is open source, many Linux enthusiasts have signed up as developers of the operating system. In most cases, they do this for free because of their love of the system. This team is constantly working to keep Linux a cutting-edge and secure operating system. Bugs get documented and resolved quickly. And since these developers are also users of the operating system, they have all the motivation they need to do their best work.

14. Heavily documented

Linux has a large community of active developers who are willing to teach others what they have learned and help beginners with their Linux issues. And you will find most of this information online for free. Linux was also designed from the ground up to be helpful to users. Linux comes with built-in command line utilities that can provide documentation on libraries, commands, standards, and other features. Each distribution of Linux also has online support forums where your questions get answered quickly by experienced Linux experts.

15. The cloud runs on Linux

When it comes to a desktop operating system, computer users may argue about whether Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux is the best operating system. But when it comes to running servers, there is no argument. Linux is king here. For one, Linux is free. You can spin up a new server and install an operating system without having to pay for a new license every time. And Linux is lightweight. It’s customizable to run efficiently on any type of server hardware. Even Microsoft uses Linux in Azure instead of their own operating system.

16. Better hardware support

There are more servers in the world than desktop or laptop computers. And Linux is the operating system for servers. Hardware vendors know this and know that their biggest market is the server market, so they make sure there are Linux drivers available when they release new hardware. This means you will find the right drivers for your hardware when you are running Linux.

17. Built for development

While the average computer user may think the command line or terminal is the realm of hackers, software developers use it daily. The Linux terminal simply gives a developer more power over the way their operating system acts than the Windows shell does. Most Linux distributions come with programming languages like Python, Ruby, PHP, and C pre-installed so a programmer can start developing right away with a fresh Linux install.

18. Lots of choices available

Because of Linux’s open-source nature and GPL license, many different distributions of Linux are available depending on the type of features you need in an operating system. The Android mobile operating system is actually a Linux distribution. Kali Linux is a distribution that comes with many network and hacking tools that security professionals use for penetration testing. For beginners, there is Ubuntu Linux, while for enterprises, there is Red Hat Linux.

19. Freedom

You can install Linux as a web server, desktop, firewall, or file server. As a Linux user, you can control every part of the operating system. Linux does not come with bloatware, and as you install Linux, you can pick and choose which features you need, which you don’t even want to install, and which you want disabled. Using USB-drive mode, you can test out distributions of Linux without installing anything and then install a distro simply when you find the one you want. Linux gives users a lot of options and the freedom to set up their operating system however they want.

20. Linux is everywhere

Linux not only works in desktops, laptops, and servers, but Linux works on all types of hardware. Linux can even power supercomputers. One popular Linux use is for Raspberry PI, a credit-card-sized computer that developers used to build all kinds of digitally enabled devices. The Android mobile operating system is a Linux distribution. Cars, smart TVs, routers, medical devices, and other smart devices run on Linux.

Conclusion

Linux spent many years as the operating system for hackers, servers, and programmers. But, the modern distributions of Linux are just as user-friendly and full-featured as Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X. Maybe it is time for you to give Linux a try. To learn more about Linux, check out What is Linux?

Page Last Updated: October 2021

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