In Defence Of Windows

Despite being the world's most popular operating system, Windows gets a lot of flak from Mac users, Linux users and even self-hating Windows users. It may not be perfect (after all, what is?), but Windows has a lot going for it -- enough to win a spot as my main OS after years using both Mac OS X and Linux. Here's why.

I'm far from a Windows fanboy. I've used all three major OSes extensively, and I love things about all of them. I'm not here to argue that Windows is "the best" operating system, and my goal isn't to bait non-Windows users. But Windows isn't deserving of much of the hate levelled at it these days. Rather than put down everyone else, here are some of the things that make Windows really great. Photo remixed from an original by Straight 8 Photography.

It Has a Huge Selection of Programs

Windows' biggest advantage is that it's ubiquitous. As the most popular operating system, you have a much bigger selection of apps to choose from, both free and paid -- and often they're very good, too. While Mac users have an unusually high quality selection of apps, it's pretty small compared to Windows -- for example, when it comes to music players, you're mostly stuck with iTunes, while Windows users can choose between great apps like Winamp, MediaMonkey, foobar2000 and many more. Linux users, unfortunately have some good apps, but are stuck with a lot of sub-par apps in certain categories, not to mention slow development (in some, not all, cases). If you're on Windows, chances are you'll always be able to find at least one program that suits your tastes in any category, and that's a comforting feeling.

There's also something to be said for Windows-only apps you can't find anywhere else, but I won't get into that too deeply, since you can easily say the reverse about other OSes. But, for what it's worth, Windows does have some great apps that don't have cross-platform alternatives, and again—the sheer volume of apps on Windows gives it the edge.

It Has Support for Nearly Any Hardware

Another advantage of Windows' popularity is that almost all computer hardware is designed, first and foremost, to work with Windows. While Mac and Linux users have to pay a bit more attention to compatibility, Windows drivers exist for almost every piece of hardware out there (ironically, it "just works"). Certain drivers are certainly better than others, but again, it's nice to know that the world is pretty much your oyster when it comes to choosing hardware, since you know almost everything is specifically designed for your system.

It Performs Better in Many Scenarios

This argument can't really be made against Linux (which, depending on your setup, can be one of the fastest desktop OSes ever), but Windows is significantly less resource-hungry than OS X, especially in the graphics department. As long as you take care of your system and don't get viruses and litter your computer with junk programs, Windows is delightfully smooth, all the while using less RAM than OS X. Plus, when it comes to games, Windows always gives a slight performance boost, even if your game is natively available on another platform. Graphics performance is especially better compared to Linux, too, though the severity can depend on your particular graphics card and driver.

It's Not Shy About Innovating

Microsoft gets a lot of hate for "not being innovative", but like any sweeping generalisation, it's far from true. Users commonly seem to ignore some of the great additions Windows has made to the desktop. Most recently, Windows 7 introduced great innovations like Aero Snap, Libraries, and the new and improved Taskbar (which is still the best taskbar or dock on any platform, in this editor's opinion). Windows is certainly behind in some places, but let's not ignore some of the really cool things it's brought to the table.

Windows is hardly without fault -- it's costly, its popularity also makes it a bigger target for virus authors, it takes a bit more maintenance to keep up performance, and getting support is a nightmare when compared to Apple. Again, I'm not here to argue that Windows is the best thing to happen to the desktop, but to point out that it isn't the leper that people treat it as today. If you haven't used it recently, I suggest you take another look -- you might be surprised at some of the advantages it has to offer.

Got a favourite Windows feature that keeps you hooked on the OS from Redmond? We welcome discussion in the comments -- but please keep it on topic, civil and troll-free.


Comments

    Pretty poor effort to be aligning today (11 November) and Defence and a PC program. Surely someone in the Australian office (Angus??) could have picked this up and deferred by a day.
    #LestWeForget

      What the hell are you talking about?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day

        But I honestly don't think this article is a problem.

          Are you trying to educate me on the significance of the date? It Doesn't really answer the question, does it?

            He's saying that because today is Remeberance Day, using an image of a military person saluting is in poor taste. Personally Hugh I think you need to have a glass of cement and harden the f**k up.
            #LestWeNotBecomeSoPoliticallyCorrectThatWeJustDon'tDoANythingForFearOfUpsettingSomeone

            PS - This is from a staunch observer of Rememberance Day as well as ANZAC Day.

              Also, that is an american soldier, so not applicable to Australia

                Also, Windows is an American operating system, so not applicable to Australia

      if its not a public holiday, people generally dont care much
      i guarantee that the majority of people wouldnt even know what remembrance day is about, let alone get antsy about a tech article on a tech site.

    In terms of hardware support, I've always found Linux to be the easiest going. Especially with newer hardware (ie. Sandy Bridge) it's an absolute pain to install Windows 7 on people's computers, while a standard Linux distro released lately generally installs with all the driver support pre-built into the kernel.
    Mac OS X, of course, has a fairly accepted reason as to why its hardware support is very limited- Apple want it to be exclusively on "Mac hardware".

    The main issue I have with Windows is not being able to open up a proper command line to actually do some work, as you can do on both Mac OS X and all Linux distros very easily. And no, 'cmd' is _not_ an adequate replacement for Unix people using Mac and/or Linux. There is cygwin which I once messed around with earlier this year, but it took hours to install and it was just not the same and didn't have all the functionality of a bash session.

      learn.to.google

      powershell is what you are looking for my friend

        Naughty! I'd rather spend the time installing cygwin, than resort to powershell...

      Seconded. Windows handles drivers far better in 7 than previously, but I still think linux has a better 'it just works' experience. the last hardware issues I had on linux were in 2006, with a webcam.

      Just the other week I took out that same (toshiba branded) webcam and plugged it into win7. Then I spent an hour trying to find drivers somewhere online, eventually getting one off a dodgy-looking third party site that mostly worked. If you plug it into linux, it starts working instantly.

      Windows makes some great software, and it's strong points are very strong - but the same goes for linux and osx. Different OSes are better at different things, pick the one suitable to your task.

        I still have problems with my Creative X-Fi card. Linux just refuses to detect it not matter what, and I have to install the drivers separately....

        LOL, +1 for that, cygwin is slow, but at least you can use a limited bash, powershell is just 'odd'.

    Little things I discover while messing about, that I never realised were there already. This is especially true of Win7, as I was pretty familiar with XP. Things like the Snipping Tool and Aero Snap keyboard shortcuts. Most recently: WMP as a DLNA server. Enable streaming, right-click, "Play to..." and my TV started playing Caprica. Control playback with TV remote, brilliant!

    I've seen relatively little bad press for Windows recently! Now with W8 on the way, it will only get better too!

      True, its all been surprisingly glowing actually - the giant is turning from the monopolist behemoth of the 90's! With WP7 getting rave reviews, and the big Softy making dramatic changes to Win 8, moving to embrace the Open Source community, they are really showing finesse at innovating.

    Windows is pretty good. There, I said it. I'm predominantly a Mac user but seeing Windows 7 in a work capacity is tempting me to switch back for some things or to use both side by side. In my opinion Windows 7 is a step in the right direction for Microsoft and a nice change from the mess that was Vista. That said, I haven't really used Win7 enough to discover its irritating bits. I really like the taskbar, though.

      Agreed. I left windows some time ago and went to Linux then OSX. I switched back when Win7 came back. I now find myself more productive in the Windows environment for the first time in years. OSX just frustrates me now.

    One obvious omission- gaming. Windows gaming pushes development of new technology (primarily graphics cards) and vice versa (new technology allows programmers to develop more detailed, realistic games).

    Microsoft paying your bills makes it more attractive to use too I guess.

      Oh petal, do you want a tissue?

      annoyed that you lost your contacts when you upgraded to iOS5?

      or that you have been paying for service packs for OSX? 'upgrades'?

      yea, you are

    When did we start calling programmes 'Apps'? It's a programme and 'Apps' is slag for mobile phone applications, not Desktops, Laptops and Servers.

    Maybe I'm old fashion.

      I think you meant program (not program)

        I'm assuming you meant "(not programme)". Programme is the English spelling; It is perfectly fine to use either.
        Also, App is fine because, as stated by others, it is a shortened version of Application designed to pitch at the masses. In the same way, the word phone has been shortened from telephone and become the norm.

      possibly because Apps is short for Applications.

      And if you excuse my quote from wikipedia, the editors there can articulate better than i can but this has always been my understanding.

      In information technology, an application is a computer program designed to help people perform an activity. An application thus differs from an operating system (which runs a computer), a utility (which performs maintenance or general-purpose chores), and a programming language (with which computer programs are created).
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Application_software

    I've was linux only for a number of years but recently have been draw back to windows. Win7 is a great os and a big turn around from earlier versions, I found a huge productivity boost. Most things work well and better quality apps for video and photo editing make things so much easier.

    I miss some things from linux, a decent command shell. (cygwin with mintty is good but not as good as having something native) and I miss the simplicity of apt-get install blah.

    I dual boot but spend most of my time with linux (ubuntu). I find there is a larger selection of programs available for linux, though not all are very high quality (I kinda miss sumatraPDF when i use linux).
    Most other things though: browsers, email, IM, feed readers and torrent clients work 'nicer' on linux for me.

    Yet it doesn't support HFS Plus.....

    i'd like to comment about the not being innovative part.... yea, windows has some great features such as aero hide, snap and peek and libraries... the difference is 99% of windows users never use any of these features... however name me one mac osx user that does not use expose, or dashboard, they are much easier on the mac too... just gestures on the trackpad or the magic mouse... the problem with those pretty features in windows are the fact that they use keyboard shortcuts, and windows heavily relies on keyboard shortcuts, but people dont like to use the keyboard much (take the recent trend in tablets and smartphoones)

    bottom line people use apples fancy features because they are easier

    I remember when apps werent called apps. They were called 'programs' or 'software'. . . and they had pictures of bumblebees on them.
    Those were the days.

    Microsoft's own enterprise support for its software is far better than Apple's (in this commenter's opinion). Issues raised as part of our Dynamics CRM deployment go onto an issues register and we are notified as to which release they're going to appear in. With Apple you can tell them about your problems, but you have to hope that they get fixed in a future release.
    The breadth of software that Microsoft offer is hard to match too: Sharepoint, Office, SQL Server, Visual Studio, Exchange and the aforementioned CRM are all reasons for my employer to stay with Windows.

    IMO every OS has pros and cons. I use Win7, Linux Mint & MAC OS X Lion. Win7 & Linux have huge variety of hardware support, development, fast update turnaround ... If we count on Out-Of-The-Box user experience, MAC OS X Lion wins hands down. The hardware works very seamlessly with the software provided and it has that stable, wow factor that ANY user will find pleasing. Same applies for Win7, with such an array of great applications it is very good OS that provides great usability. Win7 as a OS on its own is one thing but, OEM crapware provided with any hardware purchase is what ruins the true power of this very good OS. This is exactly why Apple wins in my books. What ever is provided out-of-the-box is very good quality applications that work well and integrate with the OS in every aspect.
    Linux ... well, if we go back about 6~7 years ago, the Linux desktop experience changed quite a bit. With the latest releases of Ubuntu, Fedora, Suse we can see more and more polished, stable, well designed distros. I just wish that more time is spent on innovating, rather than borrowing/re-implementing features that are present on other OS's. Linux is great and it will get better. For me, I use whatever makes my life easier, there are things that I can do in Win7 that are quicker, easier than in MAC OS X and yet, there are things that I can do in Linux that make me smile and be proud.

    Regards,
    Ivan K.

    The biggest reason I prefer Windows over Mac OS is a couple of fundamental approaches to their UI.

    Firstly, under Mac OS, an application has windows. Under Windows, an application is the window. In practice, I find the latter far better.

    The Mac OS approach is annoying not only because it seperates key UI from the direct context of what you're working with (that damn persistent menu bar at the top instead of in the window), but because it wastes a significant amount of screen real estate. Note that Adobe have made great strides with their Creative Suite in the last few versions by moving to a docked interface from floaty windows everywhere. Mac OS feels horribly old fashioned. It's cluttered with unnecessary repeated UI all over the place, and messy sub-windows all competing for space.

    While I'm in Windows on my 13" laptop, I have pretty much everything maximised, and my screen real estate is used up perfectly. Whenever I'm in Mac OS, I have wasted space everywhere. Apple have realised this "over-windowy" approach is annoying and tried to fix it with full screen apps in Lion. This is nice for certain tasks, but for the most part it's too far in the other direction. Full screening an app stops you from multitasking very well. Windows has a far better middle ground.

    The second key difference is in how they inform the user about what they're working with. Apple have intentionally blurred the line between running and not running apps. To the end user, the difference is very subtle. A small blue orb under a running app's icon in the dock. This makes it difficult to understand what you're currently working with, and what your computer is up to. How many Mac users have you seen whining about their computer running slowly, and you notice they've got 14 memory-hungry apps running, most of which they're not actually using?

    Under Windows, it's very clear what apps you're using. The Windows 7 taskbar is marvelous. Memory use issues aside, I can see exactly what I'm working with *right now*, instead of being mixed up with apps irrelevant to my current task. Even the (few) pinned apps I have are very obviously running or not running.

    There's a lot of detail matters that I prefer about Windows, but they're probably more habit things. But the two key UI philosophies above are what keep me happily sticking with Windows as my primary OS (ironically on my favourite laptop ever, a MacBook Air).

    So.... Why does anyone care what operating system Whitson uses as his main OS?

    I wasted 15 years of my life messing about with windows. Updating, reinstalling, rebuilding and the list goes on and on and on. The reality is the system is total crap. Having used both mac and windows i actually feel that i should bill windows for the wasted years. Just writing about it makes me want to use four letter words. I still have to use it at work and it pisses every single one of us off. We can not stand it. I wish my company would wake up to why every single employee owns an iphone.

      This is close to my experience. I have to use Windows every day at work, and it is just saddening to think of how much time has been wasted by people coming to grips with Windows.
      My current issues is with my son's laptop. I'm trying to get a bluetooth headset to work with it. On my mac I just go into the bluetooth settings, press the sync button on the device and bingo.
      On Windows it finds the device, gives it a label, but there is no apparent way to tell Windows to send the sound to it. I have spent too much frustrating time on it already, and now just can't be bothered. I just makes me sad that this is the best it gets for most people.

        Control panel -> sound -> right click the headset -> set as default communication device.

    Basically windows is crap. The other factor is the multitude of various hardware types: toshiba acer etc. Each time you change its back to squareone learning all the mismatch of the hardware and software. Apple means one option all compatible. Its a dream. Another offender is NOKIA. Total crap. The only reason these companies have not closed is that they got an early foothold on most it departments.

    "It Has Support for Nearly Any Hardware"

    thats bullshit.

    old hardware is most likely to be supported under linux.

    i had a near new printer when i upgraded to vista, and it was not upgraded/supported to it.

    linux to this day is.

    MeeGo is the best OS out, i'd use it on my desktop if i could. Why is this website so mac and win obsessed, I vote for 100% more meego related content

    Anything but windoze

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