Introduction to Operating Systems
Operating systems are a mystery to most people who don't work in the world of computer technology. An operating system is one of the most important parts of a computer, providing translation between the applications that users install and the hardware and programming of the computer itself. Without it, the computer wouldn't know how to interpret signals from users and applications. There are many different operating systems, but the three most widespread are Windows, OS X, and Linux.
Chances are, you're reading this blog post on a PC (personal computer) that operates using a version of Windows. There are many different operating systems, but Windows is by far the most common. In fact, over 90% of all computers for personal use have a version of Windows installed. The reason for this is that most computers that are sold to the general public have Windows pre-installed. The majority of people will buy a computer to use for internet surfing, saving pictures, writing documents, and maybe watching movies. Windows covers all of their needs, so they stick with it. A downside to Windows is that because it is the most common system, hackers and viruses often target Windows so they can affect the largest amount of victims. Users of Windows need to have strong firewalls and anti-virus software in place to prevent attacks on their computer.
Macs are another type of computer commonly found in stores. Mac computers use the operating system OS X, although many people refer to the operating system itself as "Mac," and in fact it used to be called "Mac OS" or "Mac OS X." Many professionals choose to use OS X because it is a very stable system. OS X does not require updates as frequently as Windows, and it's much more unlikely that OS X will pick up a virus. OS X "just works" without having to do a lot of tinkering in the system. One drawback to OS X is that it only comes packaged with Macs, and many people consider Macs to be out of their price range. While it's true that Macs are pricier than most Windows PCs, they are fairly priced when you look at the hardware included.
Linux actually refers to a group of operating systems, and they are not commonly found on computers that can be purchased in a store. This is because Linux operating systems are usually free. Different versions of Linux are called "distributions" or "distros" for short. Each distro of Linux has different options, from the pre-installed applications to the look of the user interface. There are distributions of Linux that look like and work like Windows and Mac, and there are some that are entirely different and new. The most popular Linux distro right now is Ubuntu, because it has a simple desktop that makes it easy for new users to adapt to. Many users are discouraged from trying Linux because they think it is "too complicated" or that it requires programming knowledge to use. While this is true of some distributions of Linux, there are many options that are just as easy to use as Windows or Mac.
There are many pros and cons to each operating system, and there are fans and opponents of each as well. Now that you know a little more about operating systems and what they do, maybe you could experiment with a different operating system to see which is the best fit for you. Linux downloads are free, and many have a live mode so you can test it out before you install it. Perhaps someone you know has a Mac, so you could try OS X. I'm sure finding a Windows PC won't be that difficult if you need to try it. Comment below and let us know which operating system is your favorite.