Windows and Linux OS: 31 Differences

The two most popular and extensively used operating systems on different types of computers are Windows and Linux. Each of them comes with their own significant features, attributes and functionalities.

If you want to know the difference between the two operating systems then you should first know about the architecture of each of them.


  • Windows operating system is developed by Microsoft Corporation using C++ and Assembly language but Linux operating system is developed by Linus Torvalds and the UNIX community using C and Assembly language.
  • A hybrid microkernel and monolithic kernel is used in Windows which offers different drives to store files but Linux uses only a monolithic kernel with no drives segregated but a complicated tree-like file system structure.
  • Right from the files names to device and file consideration, user account to home directory, everything is different in these two operating systems.

31 Differences Between Windows and Linux OS

Windows vs Linux OS

1. Developer

The developer of the Windows operating system is Microsoft Corporation.

The developer of the Linux operating system is Linus Torvalds and the UNIX community of developers.

2. Language

The Windows operating system is written in C++ and Assembly language.

The Linux operating system, on the other hand, is written in Assembly language as well as C.

3. Family

The family to which the Windows OS belongs is referred to as the Graphical Operating System family.

The Linux OS meanwhile belongs to the Unix-like operating system family.

4. License

The Windows operating system has the Proprietary commercial software     license.

The Linux OS has a GNU, GPL or General Public License, v2 and others.

5. Kernel Type

The Windows NT family typically comes with a hybrid kernel which is a mix of microkernel and monolithic kernel.

The Linux operating system, which is built on UNIX, essentially comes with a monolithic kernel which means that the entire operating system functions within the kernel space.

6. Drives

In the Windows operating system you will get different kinds of drives marked as C: D: and E: for storing different files.

While the Linux OS will have no such segregation and instead use a complex tree-like file system structure that is hard to understand and use.

7. Device and File Consideration

In Windows, the CD-ROM, hard drives and printers are considered as devices.

However, in Linux all these are considered as files. It is therefore easy to mix these things up with actual files.

8. File Naming

You cannot name two files the same in Windows. The operating system will prompt that a file name with the same name already exists and will replace it with the new one if you continue.

Since the Linux operating system is case sensitive, it allows naming two files the same, with the difference in cases.

9. User Accounts and Minus

There are typically four types of user accounts and minus in Windows operating systems.

In Linux, there are only three different types of user accounts and minus.

10. Super User

The super user in Windows operating system is the administrator user. It typically handles all different administrative works of the computing system.

On the other hand, it is the root user of the Linux operating system that acts as the super user to deal with all the necessary administrative jobs.

11. Home Directory

In the Windows operating system it is My Documents which is the typical home directory.

In Linux OS it is the User or the home directory of every user that becomes the home directory of the operating system.

12. Source Model

The Windows OS is a closed source software. This means that the source of this operating system is only available via shared source initiatives. Therefore, any issues with the system is hard to fix by the users themselves without proper assistance.

Linux operating system is, on the contrary, an open source software. Users can download it for free and use it. The larger developer community can help in fixing the issues, for free and with less hassles.

13. Age

The Windows OS is older than the Linux operating system. The initial release of the first version of Windows operating system was made by Microsoft Corporation on November 20, 1985.

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The Linux operating system was released about six years later, on September 17, 1991.

14. Target Marketing

The Windows operating system is designed to target the personal computing segment primarily.

Alternatively, the Linux operating system primarily targets servers, cloud computing, mainframes, supercomputers, mobile phones, embedded systems, and, of course personal computers.

15. Availability

The Windows operating system is available in about 138 languages and can be used all over the world.

The Linux OS can also be used worldwide but it is essentially a multi-lingual operating system.

16. Platforms

As for the platforms, the Windows operating system uses different platforms such as ARM, Itanium, IA-32, x86-64, MIPS, DEC Alpha, and PowerPC.

While Linux OS uses Alpha, Itanium, m68k, H8/300, Hexagon, Microblaze, MIPS, RISC-V, s390, PA-RISC, PowerPC, SuperH, NDS32, SPARC, ARC Unicore32, Nios II, OpenRISC, x86, ARM, Xtensa, and C6x.

17. Package Manager

The package in which the Windows operating system comes is Windows Installer or Windows Store, referred to as .msi and .appx, respectively.

The Linux operating system is packed in a Linux distribution, commonly referred to as ‘distro.’

18. Sensitivity

In the Windows operating system, all the file names are typically not case sensitive.

But, file names in Linux OS are essentially case-sensitive.

19. Booting

When it comes to booting the systems, you can do it only by using the prime disk in Windows operating system.

On the other hand, the good thing about the Linux operating system is that you can boot the system by using any disk.

20. Command

The default command in Windows operating system is provided in line BASH.

The Linux operating system receives its default commands through the PowerShell.

21. Usability

It is very easy to use the Windows operating system on personal computers by any technical or non-technical user if only they know basic English. It has a simple, rich and user-friendly GUI.

Linux OS, on the other hand, is used extensively by the technical people for larger computers. It is hard to use for a person who does not have adequate knowledge about the different Linux commands.

The troubleshooting process on Linux is also very complex compared to the Windows operating system.

22. Installation

The Windows operating system needs fewer inputs to install making it easy for the users to set up. However, it takes a long time to get installed as compared to the installation time taken by Linux OS.

On the other hand, though the installation process of the Linux operating system is more complicated than Windows needing a lot of user inputs, it takes little time to complete.

23. Reliability

Compared to the Linux operating system, Windows OS is less reliable. This is because the over simplified design that results in security weaknesses and system instabilities in some cases.

However, Microsoft has improved the reliability of Windows over the years but it still lags behind the reliability quotient of Linux operating systems.

The Linux OS is not only highly reliable but it is also very secure to use. It comes with exceptional system security features, better control on process management, and uptime.

24. Customization       

Options for customization are very limited in Windows operating systems. Therefore, you will have to deal with whatever it has on offer for you. The ASCII text file of this operating system is literally inaccessible.

Linux, on the other hand, is highly customizable because it comes with many flavors and a diverse range of distributions. You can use it according to your needs and system requirements.

25. Software

Since the Windows operating system is used by a large number of desktop users, it comes with the largest assortment of commercial software from several third-party developers.

In Linux, there are also lots of software offered but most of these software packages are offered completely free. These are easily available and easy to install and use.

26. Compatibility

Most of the software used in Windows operating systems support video games extensively. However, these software packages are not Linux compatible.

The Linux operating system is however compatible with a wider range of free software as compared to Windows operating systems.

Moreover, you can execute several Windows programs on Linux operating systems by using its different compatibility layers such as WINE.

27. Support

Though both Windows and Linux offer extensive support to the users but support for Windows is not accessible as easily as compared to that of Linux OS.

Most of the time, when users need extensive help, Microsoft provides support contracts to the customers. The best help is mostly found in websites, forums, and from the peers.

Linux has a comparative and competitive edge on this matter because of its collaborative community culture.

Apart from the open source community, help and support contracts may also be offered to the users by a few Linux companies such as RedHat.

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28. Updates

Windows offer regular updates that are free to download but that can cause some significant inconvenience for the users and need rebooting the system.

On the other hand, the users have total control over the Linux operating system once it is installed. It does not require any rebooting as well.

29. Privacy and Security

You will need to furnish a lot of data and information to use Windows operating systems. This makes it a little bit insecure.

It does not have properly segmented environments which makes the entire system more vulnerable than Linux for hacking and virus attack.

Linux distros however do not need to collect user data. It is also very secure though it is an open source operating system.

The high-tech security and IP tables are hard to break through which is a significant reason for its enormous popularity and extensive use.

30. Market Share

The Linux operating system has a very low number of users and market share, which is about 3%. This, once again, is a significant reason for it being more secure than Windows operating systems.

The Windows operating system is extensively used and it captures nearly 80% of the total market share. Therefore, Windows is the most preferred source for the hackers to inject a malicious software or virus to get into the systems of others.

31. Speed and Performance

The speed of the Linux operating system is higher than that of Windows OS. The features of this OS help in its smoother operation of even the fastest supercomputers which can also be attributed to the speed of the operating system.

On the flip side, the Windows operating system is slower and has a low level of performing ability. This is why it is used in personal computers mostly.

Moreover, the speed tends to become slower and slower over time affecting the quality and level of its performance.

Which is Better – Windows or Linux OS?

Differences Between Windows and Linux OS

It is nearly impossible to make a generalization and comment that Linux OS is better than Windows operating system or vice versa.

Well, it all depends on your usage and needs. If you want to use your system for personal use, then there is nothing better than the Windows operating system. It is easy to install and use.

The Linux operating system is complex and is designed specifically for using in the servers and supercomputers, even the fastest ones.

To make your choice, you will also need to consider several other factors including what you will get from each of the operating systems.

You should then compare it with your needs to find out whether you need all that each of these operating systems has on offer.

Ideally, there is no operating system that can be said better than the other. All are unique with distinctive features to serve the specific requirements of the users.

One may offer great speed and performance while the other may be high on maintaining security of the systems.

To put things in simple words, Windows operating systems are great to use in personal computers both by technical and non-tech savvy users.

It is good for business users as well as gamers. Linux, on the other hand, is good for use by the large organizations, servers, and supercomputers where security of data is the primary concern.

It all depends on which group you belong to.

Therefore, it is your needs that will determine which is the best operating system for you to use.

The best way to go ahead is by knowing a few additional facts.

The Windows operating systems come in different versions and every version of this family has something new and different from the predecessor to offer to the users.

The first variety of this family was unveiled in 1985.

This was a major consumer release in that year by Microsoft considering the fact that this operating system combined DOS and Windows in this humble Graphic User interface or GUI.

The Windows operating system is the most popular and easy to use among all. This is an extension of the Disk Operating System.

The features and navigation of this operating system is simple enough for any person, who can read basic English, to understand and use it.

You will not need any special training to use this operating system.

Initially, all a user needed was to install DOS in their systems to use it because the Windows operating system needed DOS to run the different applications and programs.

The Windows architecture fundamentally consists of two specific layers and each of these layers consist of several other modules with their own significant attributes.

The first one is the User Mode. This is the mode that has the environment and integral subsystems.

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The integral subsystems include:

  • Fixed support processes for the system such as the login process and session manager
  • Different service processes such as the task scheduler and the print spooler service
  • A security subsystem to ensure safe and secure access management and security tokens and
  • Several user applications.

The environment subsystem, on the other hand, is actually the link between the functions of the kernel of the operating system and the mode applications.

Ideally, there are four main environment subsystems such as:

  • Win32
  • OS/2 and
  • Windows subsystem for LINUX.

The next mode is the Kernel Mode. This is the mode that has full access to the resources and hardware components of the computer system.

This mode works on the code in the memory area. The kernel mode comprises of four different layers as well, namely:

  • The executive services layer
  • Microkernel layer
  • The kernel mode drivers and
  • The HAL or Hardware Abstraction Layer.

Each of these layers has a different function to perform.

The Windows executive services layer is further divided into different subsystems.

These subsystems are primarily responsible for managing the functions of different components and aspects of the computer system such as, the:

  • Memory
  • I/O
  • Thread
  • Networking
  • Security and
  • Process.

The microkernel layer, on the other hand, lies between the Windows executive services layer and the HAL. This layer is specifically accountable for:

  • Thread scheduling
  • Multi-processor synchronization
  • Trap handling
  • Interrupt and exception dispatching
  • Device driver initialization and
  • Interfacing with the procedure manager.

The kernel mode device driver layer allows Windows to interrelate with the hardware devices. And finally, the HAL layer links the operating system with the hardware of the computer system.

It actually controls the interrupt controllers, the I/O interfaces, and different processors.

Most of the computers now run on Windows operating systems.

The latest version included in the family is Windows 10, which still comes with updates on a regular basis.

The users can download these updates for free to upgrade their operating system and enhance the performance of their computing devices.

According to statistics, Windows operating systems rule the market with over a billion devices, as of now, running on Windows 10 operating systems alone.

Linux operating system, on the other hand, is an open-source operating system. This means the source code is available for free.

This operating system, which comes with UNIX compatibility, is free and easy to use as well.

The design of this operating system is based on UNIX and was developed in 1991.

The functionality and features of this operating system is very much similar to that of UNIX.

The features of the Linux operating system include a graphical user interface and a few innovative, necessary and daily use software.

This operating system is compatible with:

  • Desktop computers
  • Mobile devices
  • Digital storing devices
  • Different gaming consoles
  • Digital cameras
  • eBook readers
  • Video recorders and more.

Therefore, with such a diverse applicability, it can be said that the Linux operating system is one of the most extensively used versions of UNIX operating System.

As for the architecture of the Linux operating system, it also comes with two layers, but with different names. These are User Space and Kernel Space.

Within these two layers of Linux operating system, there are four primary components, namely:

  • Hardware
  • Shell of system call interface
  • Kernel and
  • Utility programs or user applications.

The hardware refers to all of those peripheral devices that are installed in the computer. This includes:

Now, however, the Linux operating system comes with a monolithic kernel. This forms the core of the operating system.

The shell of the Linux operating system, on the other hand, acts as the interface between the kernel and the user.

Ideally, it offers all the services of the kernel to the users. This shell is further grouped into two categories such as the graphical shells and the command line shells.

The shell has about 380 system calls which includes, and is not limited to:

  • Start
  • Open
  • Read
  • Close
  • Exit and others.

The shell actually receives the commands from the users and then executes the functions of the kernel.

As for the Linux kernel, there are several different subsystems and components in it. The primary job of the kernel is process control and other critical jobs such as:

  • Networking
  • Security and memory management
  • Accessing file systems and peripherals and more.

Finally, the outermost layer of the Linux operating system architecture consists of user applications or utility programs.

These apps primarily execute on the system call interface. There can be different kinds of utility programs such as video players, web browsers and others.

The Final Thoughts

Both Linux and Windows operating systems have their respective significance in different situations.

It is these situations and requirements that you should consider while choosing one operating system between these two.

About Taylor Swift

Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift, a UOPEOPLE graduate is a freelance technology writer with in-depth knowledge about computers. She has an understanding of hardware and technology gained through over 10 years of experience. Follow Her at Linkedin