While Linux® and Windows® are both operating systems designed to be used on a personal computer, there are many differences between the two. The primary difference between Linux® and Windows® is the availability of the code. Linux® operates under the GNU Public License, meaning its source code is accessible to anyone who should care to examine or alter it. A person would have to be somehow connected to Microsoft, the company that produces Windows®, to see the code for that operating system.
Another key difference between Linux® and Windows® is the number of versions available. Microsoft is the only company that produces the Windows® operating system, while several producers make versions of Linux®. A person who decides to install Linux® on her computer can choose from Red Hat, Ubuntu, Debian, and a wide range of other companies.
The availability of updates also varies between Linux® and Windows®. A new version of Windows® tends to come out every few years, as Windows 98® replaced Windows 95®, and Windows Vista® in 2006 replaced XP®, which was released in 2001. New versions of Linux®, known as distributions, tend to come out semi-annually. Instead of purchasing an entirely new operating system, a Linux® user can usually choose to download and install the new distribution from his update manager. Installing Linux® and its new distributions is usually free.
Installing the new distribution from the update manager preserves a person's files and preferences. A person who uses Windows® and needs to upgrade can also usually preserve her files and data by upgrading from one version to the other. A simple upgrade is not always possible, though. In some cases, a user may need to completely uninstall the older version of Windows® and then install the new one, which results in a loss of data.
The handling of security threats differs in Linux® and Windows®. Since Linux® is open source and anyone can access the code to repair it, security issues are resolved and the new code released on much more regular basis than for Windows®. Windows® usually releases bug repairs and security patches monthly and tends to take longer to resolve the issues. The slower rate of repair for security breaches gives hackers and others with malicious intent a larger window in which to attack the computers of the unsuspecting.
Linux® and Windows® also differ in the manner in which they present data to the user. While both operating systems allow a user to choose between a command line interface and what is called a graphical user interface (GUI), the command line interface features only text and may be familiar to Windows® users as MS-DOS. GUI is the desktop, with its icons and images, that many computer users are familiar with. Linux® tends to have more options for its users for both GUI and command line.