Chrome OS, Linux, macOS or Windows: The benefits of each OS for your laptop


Unsure of which operating system you want to run on your laptop? Jack Wallen offers some key benefits of the available choices.

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Image: GettyImages/Maryna Andriichenko

Laptops are an indispensable piece of hardware that are far more flexible than desktops, simply because of their portability. With a laptop, you’re not constrained to a desk. Want to work in a different room of your office or home? Unplug and go. Traveling? Laptop.

SEE: Feature comparison: Time tracking software and systems (TechRepublic Premium)

I use desktops and laptops extensively. Most of my days are spent working between the two, depending on the task or my need to migrate away from my desk. But recently I was asked what operating system was best suited for a laptop. Naturally, being a bit proponent of open source, I wanted to say, “Linux!” But the more I pondered the question, the more I realized every operating system has it’s pros for laptop use. The key factor is which OS best fits your needs.

To that end, I’ll list out the benefits of each operating system for laptop use. That way you can take a look at the list and see which OS best suits your laptop needs. And with that said, let’s get to those pros.

Chrome OS

Let’s start with Google’s operating system that powers the millions upon millions of chromebooks that have been deployed across the globe. One of the biggest benefits this operating system has to offer is its simplicity. Chrome OS is about as easy to use as an operating system can be. That’s by design, and the design is pretty slick. Anyone (and I do mean anyone) can adopt Chrome OS with very little effort. The simplicity doesn’t end with using the browser and apps, as it also applies to the configuration of the OS. There are basically two configuration tools—one for the Chrome browser and one for the OS—both of which are similar in design and usage.

SEE: Why Chromebooks might still be your best laptop option (TechRepublic)

But simplicity isn’t the only benefit of Chrome OS. This OS is also incredibly fast to boot. From start to login, you won’t find a faster operating system for laptops. And the speed doesn’t end with the boot process. Chrome OS renders web pages quickly, opens web apps in a blink and even runs Android and Linux apps at near-native speeds. 

Key benefits:

Linux

One of the biggest benefits of Linux is its flexibility. With Linux you get to work exactly how you want. If you don’t like an interface … change it out for something else. Don’t like GNOME, use KDE. Don’t like Ubuntu, use any of the hundreds of available distributions. Linux is very much like your laptop—it’s not tied down to any one thing.

Flexibility isn’t the only benefit of using Linux on a laptop. Unlike some other operating systems, Linux performs quite well on hardware that isn’t exactly bleeding edge. Although Linux does run very well on modern hardware, it’s just as at home on older laptops. In other words, that laptop that won’t run Windows 11, will run probably every Linux distribution on the market like a champ.

SEE: Sick of Windows? How to find and install software on Linux with Ubuntu (TechRepublic)

Along with that flexibility, comes an unmatched reliability. Linux works. Period. And it’ll continue working with very little issue for a long, long time. You won’t have crashes or lose precious productivity to lengthy upgrades (that can sometimes easily go south). It’s a very rare occasion that I see a single problem occur with the Linux operating system.

Another benefit of Linux on laptops is that it’s free. You don’t have to pay for a license to use the operating system, and you’ll also find thousands upon thousands of free apps to install from whatever app store is included on your distribution of choice. 

Finally (and this cannot be stressed enough), Linux is far more secure than the competition. And when you’re traveling with your laptop, connecting to wireless networks of questionable security means, having a secure operating system could mean the difference between you keeping your data or it falling into the hands of the wrong people.

Key benefits:

  • Flexibility
  • Reliability
  • Cost-effective
  • Security

MacOS

The biggest benefit of macOS on a laptop is that is just works. The interoperability of macOS is, hands down, the best of the best. You know when you’re using macOS on a laptop that not only everything will work, but nearly anything you throw at the laptop will function exactly as you expect it … with very little effort. The hardware/software integration is, bar none, the best on the market.

MacOS on laptops is also one of the more elegant operating systems you’ll ever use. Every element of the interface is well designed and flows together as if it were made for one another (because it was). This seamlessness of the OS also lends it an incredible reliability.

Like Linux, macOS is quite secure. Although I wouldn’t put it on the same level as Linux, it’s certainly above Windows and Chrome OS (the only knock on Chrome OS being the Chrome browser). 

Finally, macOS rivals Linux for reliability. MacOS is as rock solid as they come.

Key benefits:

  • Seamless interoperability/integration
  • Elegance
  • Reliability
  • Security

Windows

The biggest benefit of Windows is that it’s everywhere. Go to Walmart, and you’ll find Windows-based laptops. The ubiquity of Windows has the side effect of it working well with most hardware. This also means there’s a lot of software available. In fact, if you have a need, Windows has an app to fill it. Along those same lines, if you’ve purchased a peripheral (such as a pair of Bluetooth headphones, a printer, a scanner, a microphone, etc.), it’s very likely it will work with Windows. Most often, the worst-case scenario is you’ll need to install a driver for the hardware, and you’re good to go.

SEE: Windows 11: Tips on installation, security and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)  

Windows is also familiar. Most everyone has used the Windows interface at some point, which means they don’t have to think about it. The windows desktop metaphor is ingrained in society. Click the Start button and launch an application. Easy-peasy.

Key benefits:

  • Ease of use
  • Well supported
  • Found anywhere

Conclusion

And thus, the choice is yours. But one thing to keep in mind (that I didn’t bother to mention) is that Linux, macOS and Windows all make it very easy for you to install software, thanks to well-designed app stores. And even Chrome OS allows you to install web apps from the Chrome Web Store.

In the end, each of these operating systems will serve you well on a laptop. Which OS is best suited for you will depend on which combination of benefits you find best suits your needs.

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