How to compare features and functions of different operating systems

In order to compare the features and functions of different operating systems, you need to analyse things like security, reliability, support, easy of use, ability to customise, support for peripheral devices and cost.

Popular operating systems include Windows, Mac OS X & Linux – of which there are several distributions the most popular being Ubuntu and Debian. Windows is still the most popular and go-to operating system in business but Mac OS X is quickly gaining ground. Linux is used more widely on servers than on personal computers and it also powers Google’s Android mobile operating system.

Below are a list of features and functions of all operating systems which will assist you in comparing those operating systems…

Machine and Peripheral Management

An operating system’s role is to manage communication between all the various hardware and software components so the system can run effectively.  Operating systems typically enable users to control things like monitor resolution and power saving settings along with controlling peripheral devices such as mice and keyboards where you can adjust mouse scroll speed, change keyboard language and shortcut settings etc… when you plug in a usb stick, the operating system can also prompt you to take action such as formatting the usb, opening files on it, running executable files etc… all operating systems handle these things differently.


Some operating systems come with built in firewalls and anti-virus protection. Others come with none at all. Most operating systems offer extensive user management controls which enable the user to create accounts with varying levels of access to certain files, folders and applications. Modern operating systems also update themselves regularly in the background to fix any bugs or security loopholes that may have appeared since they were previously updated.

File Management

File management enables users to copy, cut, paste and share files and folders. All files and folders have permissions settings which can restrict various users and applications from carrying out certain actions.

Device Drivers

Device drivers are software which ensures the system and its peripheral devices work at an optimal level. Many devices these days are plug and play – meaning they’re designed to work seamlessly with operating systems without having to install special drivers. However, older devices may still require specific drivers in order to work with a particular system.

Ability to customize

For many users, the ability to set desktop backgrounds, screensavers and change colour schemes may be useful. Control over sleep / wake behavior can also be useful in enterprise. If machines are running 24/7 but employees are only working 9-5 hours, that is wasted energy and ultimately costs money. By scheduling systems to sleep or shut down at certain times it can save energy and save money.

Security, stability and reliability

This is probably the most important feature / function people look for in an operating system. It’s often taken for granted but at a minimum, users expect an operating system to work at all times. They also expect it to be secure. Windows more than any other operating system tends to have a bad reputation for crashes, bugs and security problems but that’s primarily because it’s the most widely used operating system, therefore it’s subject to more attacks and abuse.

Ease of management

If something is easy to use, people are more likely to use it. If an operating system is easy to use, users feel in control of their system and can quickly and easily carry out tasks resulting in increased productivity and less frustration.

Cost and support for the user

Some operating systems (linux based) are free to install and use but as they are open source projects there is no guaranteed level of support. Windows and Mac on the other hand are not free and / or require you to purchase specific hardware in order to install the operating system. Both have customer support systems available however.