What is the difference between Windows and Unix?

Windows and Unix As far as operating systems go, to some it would seem as if UNIX has a clear advantage over Windows. UNIX offers greater flexibility than Windows operating systems; furthermore, it is more stable and it does not crash as much as much as Windows. To some, UNIX is just as easy to use as Windows, offering a GUI interface as well as command line. But there are users out there that believe UNIX is for only for computer gurus only, claiming that the fragmentation of the UNIX GUI is its greatest competitive weakness.

One thing that has been established though, UNIX is quite a bit more reliable than Windows, and less administration and maintenance is needed in maintaining a UNIX system. This is a huge cost saver for any organization. Rather than employing many individuals to maintain a Windows based system, one part-time employee would be needed for the upkeep of a typical size UNIX system. One key difference between UNIX and Windows is the implementation of multiple users on one computer. When a user logs onto a UNIX system, a shell process is started to service their commands. Keeping track of users and their processes, a UNIX operating system is able to keep track of processes and prevent them from interfering with each other. This is extremely beneficial when all the processes run on the server, which demands a greater use of resources - especially with numerous users and sizeable applications.

Another main difference between UNIX and Windows is the process hierarchy which UNIX possesses. When a new process is created by a UNIX application, it becomes a child of the process that created it. This hierarchy is very important, so there are system calls for influencing child processes. Windows processes on the other hand do not share a hierarchical relationship. Receiving the process handle and ID of the process it created, the creating process of a Windows system can maintain or simulate a hierarchical relationship if it is needed. The Windows operating system ordinarily treats all processes as belonging to the same generation.

UNIX uses daemons, Windows has service processes. Daemons are processes that are started when UNIX boots up that provide services to other applications. Daemons typically do not interact with users. A Windows service is the equivalent to a UNIX daemon. When a Windows system is booted, a service may be started. This is a long running application that does not interact with users, so they do not have a user interface. Services continue running during a logon session and they are controlled by the Windows Service Control Manager.

UNIX has a novel approach to designing software. Since UNIX is open-sourced, it attracts some very intelligent programmers who develop many applications free of charge. With this in mind, many designers choose to resolve software problems by creating simpler tools that interconnect rather than creating large application programs. In contrast, Windows applications are all proprietary and costly. With UNIX, each generation extends, rather than replaces the previous like Windows it is rarely necessary to upgrade - old and new Unix are all compatible. The main reason for this is the way UNIX is built, which is on a solid theoretical foundation. There are many advantages to this, for instance, a book written 20 years ago that discusses programming UNIX can still be used today. Imagine trying to figure out how to run Windows XP with a Window 3.1 manual - it can't be done.

One argument to be made about UNIX is its lack of standardization. Some feel there are too many choices to be made regarding which GUI to use, or which combination of UNIX hardware and software to support. UNIX operating systems make great high-performance servers, but for end-users, every application on each arrangement of UNIX platform requires a different set, and each application has a different user interface. Microsoft has "the" Windows operating system; there simply isn't one standardized UNIX operating system, or for that matter, a single standardized UNIX GUI. One could argue and say this is a downfall for UNIX, but on the other hand, these variations add flavor and versatility to a solid, reliable operating system.

In summary, the best way to choose between UNIX and Windows is to determine organizational needs. If an organization uses mostly Microsoft products, such as Access, Front Page, or VBScripts, it's probably better to stick with Windows. But, if reliability, universal compatibility, and stability are a concern, UNIX would probably be the way to go.

Here is more input:
  • Simply stated, the main difference is Windows uses a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and UNIX does not. In Windows one uses the click of a mouse to execute a command where as in UNIX one must type in a command. There are GUIs that can be used in a UNIX environment though very few UNIX users will stoop that low to use one.) Before there was a Windows environment, DOS (Disk Operating System) was used on PCs. DOS was based on and was similar, but only a poor subset, to the UNIX system.
  • Differences between UNIX and WINDOWS: Unix is safe, preventing one program from accessing memory or storage space allocated to another, and enables protection, requiring users to have permission to perform certain functions, i.e. accessing a directory, file, or disk drive. Also, UNIX is more secure than Windows on a network because Windows is more vulnerable than UNIX. For example, if you leave a port open in Windows it can be easily used by a hacker to introduce a virus in your environment.
  • Unix is much better at handling multiple tasks for a single user or for multiple users than windows. For each user, Unix in general, and especially Sun's Solaris provides many more utilities for manipulating files and data than windows does. For a corporate environment, Unix ( especially Solaris ) provides much more control for the administrator than windows does. Solaris, for example, enables the administrator to mirror or stripe data across several disks to minimize risk or optimize performance without 3rd party products. In general, for a programmer or for an administrator, Unix provides more power and flexibility than windows. For the less sophisticated user, Windows can often more easily be installed and configured to run on cheaper hardware to run a desired 3rd party product. In short -- Unix is better, Windows is easier for less sophisticated users.
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