Jackson I/O
Why I Don't Like Microsoft Windows

Here are the reasons I don't like Microsoft Windows®.  It's probably impossible to make a list like this without it sounding like a rant, but it's really only intended as an explanation of what I wanted to get away from when I switched to GNU/Linux in 2002, and why I'm glad I switched.

But first let me mention that in spite of these, I have respect for the accomplish­ments of Bill Gates.  His widely quoted original vision was a computer on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.  This was back when few people had any idea how a computer could serve their needs, make them more productive, or increase their wealth.  I think his and Microsoft's pursuit of this vision has greatly benefited all of mankind.  They did a lot of good along the way in shaping the computing world.

Never-the-less, here are my reasons in no particular order.

  • There is the possibility and tendency to get viruses, adware and other malware installed against the owner's will.

  • The control of keyboard focus is poor.  I touch-type without looking at the screen, but it's not uncommon to look back at the screen and see my keystrokes are being ignored because some other window has stolen the keyboard focus.  For example, many applications on Windows tend to pop up a message when they encounter a problem.  The popup is rudely shoved in my face and it steals the keyboard focus.

    But it's especially bad after I've start an application.  Sometimes I startup something and want to let it do it's initialization in the background while I continue working on something else in the forground, like I do with Linux.

    A variant of this is the application that pops up an always-on-top window that is defocused.  It's good that it didn't steal the focus, but if it covers up whatever I'm looking at, I have to stop my progress and deal with it.  I want the computer to do what I want, not what Microsoft wants.

  • The order of windows in the ALT-TAB list is poorly maintained.  When I minimize a window, I expect it to go to the end of the list, and normally it does.  (On Linux, it always does.)  But sometimes I press ALT-TAB expecting to switch to the windows under the current one, but the window I just minimized pops back up instead.  Outlook is the chief culprit.  This is extremely annoying because I want to keep my mind focused on what I'm working on.  I don't want to have to think about how to get to a particular window.

  • The command language in the shell (DOS window) is extremely weak.  VBScript and JScript give some capability, but there just isn't anything on Windows that compares to the power and flexibilty of Bash scripts.

  • There are no native equivalents for the everyday workhorse tools of the UNIX and GNU worlds such as the commands find, grep, head, less, make, tail, and sed.  There are a few clumsy tools included like find (different function than GNU find) and more, but these are poor sub­stitutes.  Cygwin solves this, but Cygwin is an add-on to Windows, not an integral part of it.

  • Support is poor for remote access, especially remote command shell access.  Remote Cygwin terminals become hung when there is an error that pops up on the local console. If I am working remotely via SSH, I have no way of even seeing, much less dismissing such a popup.

  • One must edit the registry or use some obscure tweaking tool to do simple things like banish the superfluous favorites menu.

  • Licensing forbids me to legally use an existing copy of windows to get a newly-acquired old PC up and running, or maybe even to use on the same PC after a motherboard replacement.

  • It's not stable.  Up until Windows2000, stability was absolutely terrible.  I continued to use Windows98 at work and at home until early 2002 when I switched to GNU/Linux.  I found it necessary to reboot my Windows98 systems every day.  I did it at the end of the day so they could proceed through the long, long boot-up sequence in my absence and be ready in the morning.  Sometimes one would crash during the day in spite of my precaution.  Starting with Windows2000, stability has improved markedly, but I don't believe any Windows system has ever been as stable as GNU/Linux and BSD are normally.

  • Frequently the computer must be rebooted one or more times when installing, updating or removing software.  Sometimes even trivial configuration changes such as changing the DNS servers require rebooting.  This also has improved greatly in recent years (perhaps in response to the example set by Linux), but it's still not as good as GNU/Linux.

  • Many Windows applications load a portion of themselves into RAM at boot-up, which lengthens the boot time and uses up RAM—two very bad things to do.  The only GNU/Linux applications that I am aware of that do anything like this are some KDE components such as Konqueror.  But they allow each user to decide if anything is preloaded or not.

  • Searching for authoritative answers to specific questions on almost any Windows topic is difficult because Microsoft's search engines stink.

  • PCs (at least Dell PCs) come pre-installed with not only Windows, but handicapped versions of several software packages that all take turns popping up windows to get your attention and try to convince you to try it and buy it.  I hate this.  I am most familiar with Dell, but I expect most PC vendors do the same.

    While this may not be a feature from Microsoft, Microsoft provided the hooks and fostered the environment, and it has become a de facto feature of Windows.

    An old Microsoft-Watch article complained about these handicapped preinstalls, which it aptly called craplets.

  • ActiveX is unsafe.  This is a Microsoft extension to IE, and therefore to the world wide web, which was calculated to give Microsoft a marketing advantage over other browsers at the expense of standard­i­za­tion that benefits all.  But that's not the bad part—the technology itself is inherently dangerous.  It allows the browser to download and execute native executable code in ActiveX controls, potentially giving the authors of the controls control over the user's computer.

    Worse, the protection mechanism to avert abuse is based on trust.  Every other browser technology or protocol limits access to your PC by only allowing specified operations.  But rather than prescribing overall limitations for access, you decide if you trust ActiveX authors if they get their controls "signed" (or by itemizing trusted sites).  For example, you trust Microsoft to not snoop through the personal data on your hard disk when you visit the WindowsUpdate site implicitly executing the corresponding ActiveX control, but only their good will prevents them or any other from snooping, modifying or deleting.

    I know of no case of such abuse by any ActiveX author, but this system is ripe for abuse, and the abuse might be hard to detect.

-Ken Jackson

Similar Viewpoints

This author argues that the biggest problem with Microsoft is the users they create.

There are too many people using computers who have no protection installed and a "Click on everything" mindset.

The only solution is to have less clueless users.


This site discusses four answers to the question "Why not Windows?"

1. Licensing
...by using these products, we have to agree to a number of harsh restrictions...

2. No alternative
Microsoft works hard to lock us [into] their products...

3. No source code
...no-one is legally permitted to understand how Microsoft products work...

4. Culture and control
... A truly free culture requires transparency...


Windows 7 Sins

BadVista The Free Software Foundation has launched the Windows 7 Sins campain which promotes the case against Microsoft and proprietary software.

  1. Education
  2. DRM
  3. Security
  4. Monopoly
  5. Standards
  6. Lock In
  7. Privacy

BadVista The Free Software Foundation has launched the BADVISTA campain with a twofold mission:

  1. Expose the harms inflicted on computer users by the new Microsoft Windows Vista.
  2. Promote free software alternatives that respect the users' security and privacy rights.
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Modified Apr 25, 2011