Which operating system is best for computer science is a controversial topic with a lot of different opinions. In this post we will look at some of the pros and cons of each, so that you can make a better decision for yourself. You can also check out what we think is the best laptop for computer science.
Mainly there are three options for you. There is the windows operating system, the MacOS operating system, and a free linux based system such as Ubuntu. Let’s start by saying that they are all good in their own terms, although some people tend to have a strong preference for one over the other. For computer science students it is important that you get some exposure to all of them. You don’t know what sort of job you will end up doing, and even if you already have a job you might switch to a different company later that is using a different tech stack.
I also want to say that in the end it doesn’t really matter too much what operating system you are using. You need to focus on completing your course work, getting good grades, and spending time on internships and projects.
Most Common Options
First off there is the windows operating system. There are plenty of jobs where you would be using Windows and most programs are available to you. One specific downsie at the moment is that it is not as easy to get used to the terminal windows like it would be on a Mac or if you were using something like Ubuntu. There are more and more package managers for example that run on Windows as well, but it never works out to be as flawless as you might want it to.
There are also a lot of windows servers that are used professionally, so knowing how to work proficiently on windows is something you should know how to do. Luckily most people know how to use windows as most computers are running that operating system.
MacOs are a great operating system and MACs are excellent for programming. It is a Unix based system so using the terminal and all the good things that come with it is easy and it just works. There is not much to complain about MACs other than that they are a bit pricey. If you were to go with MacOS you would have an easy opportunity to learn everything you need to know about using the terminal without having to install extra programs to do so.
Ubuntu has the same advantages that using a Mac does. It is a Linux based machine so using the terminal and things such as package management and git is something that you can more easily learn. One big advantage that Ubuntu has over MacOS is that it is free, and you can easily install it side by side with Windows. You can also use VirtualBox and run a virtual instance of Ubuntu on your windows machine, giving you easy access to a Linux based work area.
It is my personal opinion that Windows is the best operating system for computer science, and the reason is that you can also run a Linux based system along side it. This opinion is shaped by being a windows user for most of my life, and have only been using a Mac for some periods of time. Mac is a great machine, but I believe that Windows offers more flexibility, and you can easily run Ubuntu alongside windows to get many of the same benefits that you get from a Mac. It is hard to run Windows on a Mac.
Which operating system is best for you will also be heavily influenced by what you are going to do. If you are going to be doing C/C++ then you should go with a Linux based system. If you are doing C# based work then definitely go with Windows. For most other things it does not really matter in the end. Unless you specifically need the operating system because of what you are going to do, then you can pick the one you like to use the most. Just make sure that you focus on learning all the basics of computer science along the way.
You should also have a look at what the top CS schools are recommending in terms of computers here.