Overview of Popular Operating Systems

There are many different operating systems to choose from, but which one is the best? Is it Windows, Linux, macOS, UNIX, Unix, or even MS-DOS? Or something else?

This page and all subsequent pages offer an overview of some of the most popular computer operating systems. The list is not exhaustive, and the mentioned advantages and disadvantages of each operating system are mostly from my personal experience and may be subjective.

Created
9/19/2019
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Overview of Operating Systems

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Modern Desktop PC

This is any recently bought brand-new computer. It usually has the following specs:

The operating system should support all of these features. It also should be pretty recent and up-to-date. It is expected that there will be many updates to be installed every few weeks.

Production Server

The OS does not have to come with any graphical user interface, text mode is usually fully sufficient. Headless operation is expected. It must be secure and reliable. Usually only security updates are expected.

Mission Critical Desktop PC

This is any desktop or workstation computer where stability is a top priority. The OS doesn't have to support all the latest technologies and it doesn't have to provide the latest version of included software. Only security updates are expected.

Just For Fun

Operating system which I would not recommend for everyday use because of instability or missing important features.

Major Operating Systems

These are some of the most popular computer operating systems. At least in my opinion. The button under each OS group will take you to a page detailing the versions of the OS and their advantages/disadvantages.

Windows

Windows is probably the most used operating system on laptops and desktop computers. It often comes pre-installed on a new PC. Windows also has a substantial server share. It may also be available on some embedded devices in various forms. The mobile OS (Windows Phone) was, sadly, discontinued.

Screenshot of Windows 10 Build 1903 Full-size image

Because of its market dominance, most programs and apps are available on Windows. It is also very user-friendly and for many people it is the first operating system they learn to use.

More information about Windows

macOS

This operating system uses a Unix kernel. It comes pre-installed on Apple laptops and computers and cannot be easily installed on non-Apple devices. Because of this, I don't have much experience with macOS.

Android

Android is one of the most widely used operating systems, especially on mobile devices, such as cell phones and tablets. It uses Linux kernel.

Screenshot of Android 7 on Moto E4 Full-size image

Similarly to Windows on PCs, Android is targeted by mobile software developers, so most relevant mobile apps are available on this platform. The biggest drawback, in my opinion, is the heavy customization done to it by each mobile device manufacturer. It is rare to come across a device that runs a pure vanilla Android without any additional "improvements" done by the manufacturer.

Updates are another issue with this operating system because it is only up to the device manufacturer to release updates for their devices. These manufacturers usually choose not to bother with porting all their heavy modifications to the new Android version, so users are often left with outdated systems.

Chrome OS

This Linux-based operating system is becoming more and more popular. It comes pre-installed on Chromebooks.

I don't have any experience with this OS.

Linux

Linux-based operating systems are very popular, especially on servers and various embedded devices. It is a Unix-like operating system which means it is similar to Unix. Linux is mostly free to use.

Screenshot of Fedora Workstation 31 (Rawhide) Full-size image

There are many flavors of Linux, called Linux distributions. These distributions may offer the same software but in different versions and with different support level. And each distribution can come with different desktop environments and software suites.

More information about Linux

Unix

Unix is a networking multi-user operating system used mostly on servers. It was developed since 1970's and there have been many Unix operating systems since then, mostly commercial having some UNIX certification. There are some free open-source re-implementations of Unix too.

More information about Unix

DOS

DOS was a family of operating systems used on consumer desktop PCs in the 1980's. It uses a command-line user interface and not much else.

More information about DOS

BeOS

BeOS was a desktop-oriented operating system with a graphical user interface in the 1990's. The open-source re-implementation is named HAIKU.

More information about BeOS