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Linux, Mac OS X, Vista and XP: head-to-head

Operating systems at war - but who wins?

When it comes to an OS, what should you choose? Each of the four biggest players; Linux, Mac OS X, Windows Vista and Windows XP all have their merits. So we've taken four experts and asked them to defend their chosen operating systems in an opinionated free-for-all.

Windows Vista: The best there is (despite the bad rep)

Preston Gralla

If you want the best operating system available today, there is only one choice: Windows Vista.

You heard me right: Vista, the operating system that people love to hate. The system that has been blamed, it seems, for everything from global warming to the US economic meltdown.

I'm here to tell you that the conventional wisdom is flat-out wrong. Vista is a solid, hard-working operating system that will run whatever software you need with simplicity and grace. And it doesn't suffer from the world of woes that affect its competitors.

Interface, tweakability and extras

Why is Vista the best operating system? The interface is a good place to start. Vista has a straightforward elegance, featuring transparent windows that niftily whoosh into and out of place when you minimise or maximise them.

Don't like the way Vista looks or works? No problem; change it. From the transparency of windows down to almost every level of the operating system, there's a way to customise it. And there's plenty of free and cheap software for further tweaking.

Vista's user interface is more than just a pretty face. Windows Flip 3-D, which shows you all of your open windows in a 3D flip book, is exceptionally useful. So are Live Thumbnails, which show small thumbnails of what's happening in your minimised windows, including real-time video.

The integration of search into every level of the OS, including the Start menu and Windows Explorer, makes finding any information easy and fast. All your documents, files and communications are instantly indexed, and searching is lightning-fast. And it integrates with Microsoft Office applications, so that when you search in Outlook for email, for example, you're using the Vista search tool, and you get near instantaneous results.

Vista also includes some very nice extras, such as gadgets for the Sidebar; the Sync Center, which makes it easy to keep data on multiple PCs in sync; and easy wireless networking.

Best choice of software

An operating system by itself is a lonely thing... in fact, a worthless thing. Its true purpose is to let you run software for work, play or hobbies.

Do you need to run enterprise software at work? Don't try it with Mac OS X or Linux - most likely they won't work. How about games? Again, Windows rules. There simply aren't nearly as many games that run on the Mac or Linux. The same holds true for many other kinds of software.

Now, it's true that for the moment, Windows XP is superior to Vista when it comes to software compatibility. But that won't last long. The best and newest software will be built for Vista, not XP. So if you want to look to the future, not the past, Vista is the way to go.

Security

With its built-in firewall, antispyware and antiphishing features, Windows Vista is far safer than XP. Making it even more secure are its under-the-hood features such as Window Service Hardening, which stops malicious activity from taking place in the file system, the Registry and the network to which the PC is attached. Similarly, Network Access Protection (NAP) stops an infected computer from making a connection to a network, ensuring that it can't infect other PCs.

Much has been made of the fact that Windows has been subject to more attacks than Mac OS X or Linux. That's not necessarily due to inherent Windows security problems, though. It's simply because there are so many more copies of Windows in existence, so malware writers target it.

NEXT PAGE: Why Vista beats other operating systems hands down

  1. We put Linux, Mac OS X, Windows Vista and Windows XP: head-to-head
  2. Why Linux is best
  3. Linux: clean, friendly and powerful interfaces
  4. Apple's attention to detail
  5. The security features of Mac OS X
  6. Vista's tweakability and extras
  7. Why Vista beats other operating systems hands down
  8. XP's security features
  9. The bottom line when it comes to XP


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