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Common Myths About Microsoft Windows

 |  Geek

As a web developer and general computer geek, I frequently find myself involved in discussions with other devs, designers and power-users over what operating system they’re using. I find myself in a minority, being a Microsft Windows user by choice. This isn’t inherently bad, especially given that the choice of one’s OS can be an incredibly personal one. It becomes frustrating, however, because of the tendency for some non-MS users to focus on common myths surrounding Windows as justification for their choice (simply liking another OS is apparently not enough…)

Despite lengthy searching, it appears that there are very few articles debunking these Windows myths, or in fact any attempt to share positive (albeit anecdotal) experiences relating to Microsoft’s offering of operating systems. So, it is with over 10 years experience managing and running Windows of varied versions that I share my thoughts, with hope that non-Windows users can find a way to justify their choice of operating system without resorting to inaccurate attacks.

Important note: I use the term “Windows computer” several times below. This is merely a convenience term; in fact, a standard PC can generally run any operating system (including Mac OS, commonly referred to as a “hackintosh”).

Myth #1: Windows BSODs/crashes all the time

Windows doesn’t just crash for the fun of it. Unfortunately, a multitude of dodgy 3rd party software, conflicting drivers or problematic hardware is normally the cause. These faults are easy to troubleshoot, but the average user prefers to blame the operating system. Given the huge array of hardware and software available to run (and running) on Windows it is no surprise this crops up quite frequently.

Myth #2: Windows computers always have more viruses

It is an undisputed fact that there are more viruses created for Microsoft operating systems than for any other (due to the popularity of the OS). This, however, does not mean that it is fact that you will automatically be affected by them (or, that non-Windows computers are immune!) Avoiding viruses is 99% common sense and 1% anti-virus. If a user finds it necessary to attach unknown media devices or download suspect files on to a Windows install running with full administrator privileges, it is almost inevitable that at some point they will bring a virus or piece of malware upon themselves.

Avoiding viruses isn’t hard:

  • Don’t download files from unfamiliar sources
  • Don’t open attachments in e-mails from people you don’t know or weren’t expecting an attachment from
  • Even better, open all e-mails as plain text to avoid malicious code attacks
  • Don’t plug in your mate’s USB stick unless you can guarantee it’s virus free
  • Run a decent anti-virus program (and no, the shit that PC World get paid to sell you isn’t decent; try Avast or AVG)
  • Create a user that doesn’t have administrator rights for day to day browsing and word processing

I personally ran Windows ME for several years with no anti-virus software. Safety isn’t rocket science.

Myth #3: Windows computers don’t last as long

The most annoying part about this misconception is that the age of a computer is absolutely irrelevant to the operating system running on it. Even so, there is no reason why a Windows computer can’t run for many, many years. Case in point: Karl’s Dell Inspiron 3800 was released in June 2000 and yet, with a hardware setup that can only be considered sub-standard by today’s standards, it still manages to run two operating systems (inc. Windows XP SP2).

Myth #4: You will be less productive on Windows / Windows is slower

Productivity and speed are tied into using the best tools and the best hardware for the job at hand. You wouldn’t give a racing driver a 20 year old Ford and expect it to perform at the same speed as a tuned up Formula 1 beast car. Likewise, comparing a 5 year old Windows computer to a brand new shiny Apple (or brand new PC running a Linux distribution) is always going to leave the computer running Windows looking like a poor runner-up. Identical spec machinery runs at identical speeds.

Myth #5: You have to format at least 2-3 times a year

Some Windows power-users choose to format their computer on a regular basis to free up hard drive space, and to give Windows a fresh slate to work from. I personally find that by not clogging up my computer with unnecessary applications (specifically “cleaner” apps that claim to make Windows run better/faster) and by occasionally removing software I no longer use, Windows retains the speed it has post-install.

It is, however, worth noting that a computer which has been infected by viruses or malware will very rarely run at its previous speed even after a full clean-up. I always recommend backing up your important files and doing a full format.

Myth #6: Windows will cost more in the long run due to software purchases

The number and variety of open source programs and utilities for Windows is absolutely huge. There is no reason to spend any money on software after purchasing Windows unless you specifically require programs that are only released commercially (and, in these circumstances, versions for an alternative OS cost just as much). For more information, check out my blog post on Free Software I Could Not Do Without.

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

4 comments so far

  1. Theresa said:

    You are so right about all of this. I know this is a late comment, but Microsoft just recently released Windows Essentials, a free anti-virus made by Microsoft just for Windows. It works better then AVG, it did manage to find 1 virus on my computer. How I got it, I am not sure, but it was a sneaky little bugger because Avast and AVG did not pick it up.

    Microsoft actually has a lot of free software for Windows user, especially for home users. And like you said, as long as you keep your software downloading to a minimum, clean up your registry from time to time and maintain your computer regularly, they last just as long as any other PC, because the OS has nothing to do with the performance of a PC, the PC has everything to do with the PC and any lame-o (such as myself) should know that.

  2. Mark (not an Apple Fan boy) Lion said:

    I’ll agree with most of your post, I’ve recently started to use Linux and have used Apple’s Classic OS, OS X and Microsoft’s Windows for years. Your ‘best hardware for the job at hand’ summarizes the scenario perfectly… however:

    Crashing – yup it usually is down to third party apps and drivers, yup this is a mentality that still remains from the days of hashed Windows 98 updates (ahh Floppy disks) – but – Windows does crash more frequently.

    Longevity – computers that run Microsoft Windows and components that are made for them are built by a plethora of companies so the quality control just isn’t there. Ive had less hardware problems with Apple manufactured machines than others. (Please don’t grill me for this – wait till I’m finished)

    Productivity – I’m afraid Apple’s got Windows beat here. Vista was the most un-intuative piece of software I’ve ever used, running virus software in the background is always sucking up resources and just general administration stuff like finding, labeling and moving documents around is slower with windows. I completely agree with Identical spec machinery runs at identical speeds but productivity is not down to that alone.

    Like I said earlier, your line about right tool for the right job sums everything up perfectly. Some people don’t realize that their computer is a tool and like any other tool – be it a jetliner, paintbrush or firetruck – it needs to be looked after well maintained and if you pay cheap you’ll pay twice.

  3. Richard said:

    Thanks, I needed that.
    I agree completely with your observations.
    I have to justify my OS preference every once in a while. You have done just that without the stress that I have to add.

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