Is there any specific reason (besides software compatibility) to use Windows Server over Linux? Does it have any innate advantages over Linux as an operating system? I don't see the point of paying extra for Windows Server when I can set up a Linux box for about 75% of the price, if not less. Am I wrong to think this? Is it worth the money?

10 Answers 10


I try not to comment in 'holy war' discussions, but I'll try to be completely neutral here.

As a sysadmin, I'm a pragmatist. I use whatever works best for what I do. In my infrastructure, I have somewhere between 75-100 Linux machines and two Windows servers. They're the domain controllers for my active directory domain, which I use to authenticate the rest of my Linux machines.

There are directory servers available for Linux that would do what the Windows machines do for me, but it costs the company less to buy licenses and use Active Directory than it would for me to learn to install, configure, and administer those services. There is probably Windows software to perform the other 98% of what I do in Linux, too.

It's cheaper for the company to use what works and what we know, rather than what might work and what we don't know.

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    +1 for pragmatism. Active Directory is a major plus for windows, but if Samba 4 is ever finished and lives up to its billing, I'd certainly look at it if I was creating a new domain. – nedm May 30 '09 at 22:40
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    I know! I'm really looking forward to v4. It should be a much bigger change from 3-4 than 2-3 was – Matt Simmons May 31 '09 at 0:20

Simple answer - for Group Policy. I don't have sufficient Linux exposure to know if there's an equivalent, but I do know that the sheer wealth of useful information available about Group Policy is hard to beat.

Of course, if you don't need Group Policy you are free to make your own choice.

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    +1 for GP ... AD and Group Policy allow for relatively good client security and management. – tomjedrz May 30 '09 at 22:46
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    Much of the functionality in group policy is not necessary or can be implemented differently on Unix or Linux. Many of the underlying problems that Group Policy solves are peculiar to Windows because user identity is very heavyweight and permissions are complex on that platform. Presenting a single system image with uniformly applied security is much easier to do with Unix or Linux. – ConcernedOfTunbridgeWells May 31 '09 at 1:01
  • I hear this a lot, but nobody ever gives any concrete examples of how you can do similar things in Linux/Unix. It's always hand waving and "if you don't know, i'm not going to tell you". – Erik Funkenbusch May 31 '09 at 1:37
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    that's because GP is a lot of things - from access perms, to allowed apps, to dhcp settings. You need to say which you want if you require an answer. For a general replacement, look at centrify.com/directcontrol/grouppolicy.asp – gbjbaanb May 31 '09 at 14:17

Choosing between Windows or Linux doesn't depend on the software itself. They both have their strong and weak points. The trick is to determine the most important needs for your site and determine the right solution based upon your needs, not just because some OS has better advantages than some other one. Linux is free but it's a bit harder to use for inexperienced administrators. It's not that the Linux software is difficult to understand but that there are so many things to choose from. Some of it is great, most of it is good and some is bad. Windows costs a bit more and leaves you with less choices. Which is a good thing for software. It might sound weird, but less choice makes people more specialized in the few choices they have. You often hear complains about the bad security of Windows. Unfortunately, security isn't a software issue, it's a people issue. Windows becomes especially weak when people forget to apply updates or forget to install and update a good virus-scanner and firewall. You need those too but there are many Windows administrators who are too lazy or too inexperienced to keep their system secure. It's a problem with Linux administrators too, although Linux administrators tend to be more motivated to do a good job. If the system administrator knows what he's doing, both Windows and Linux will be secure enough for your needs.


I don't see the point of paying extra for Windows Server when I can set up a Linux box for about 75% of the price, if not less.

You just answered you're own question. And with Ubuntu server installation wizard/process, you can get it set up practically in a few minutes which should make it 1% of the cost of a windows server.

  • But if none of the hardware administrators have any Linux experience, it will take them a lot of time learning to use Linux. In these situations it's simply less expensive to purchase a single Windows licence than to have your administrators go out for some Linux class for a few days. The costs of a server are small compared to the required man-hours. But once you have an experienced Linux administrator, the costs should go down again... – Wim ten Brink Jun 8 '09 at 14:50

When your choice of OS is not dictated by the functionality or the hardware you are going to use it for than there are a couple of extra criteria to consider: - Is it well supported in your environment - Is it cost effective - Does it perform well

If none of these matter, than go with whatever you fancy.

Windows/Linux/Solaris/BSD/AIX/VMS/etc everybody has their pet OS and the best OS for you is the OS you think is the best OS for you. Of course I have my preferences (and that is usually anything but Windows) but I am realistic enough to see that there are enough criteria where I would chose windows above anything else.


This discussion will be closed by an admin shortly.

Jihadi concerns aside, the only answer is to use what is best for your business. Be pragmatic, use the best solution to solve a problem. You never know, it may not include using Windows or Linux.

Personally I try to avoid windows, but if it was the best fit, I would use it.


My production servers are all on Linux. All needed services can be set up on it and I don't really see any other reason to use Windows Server then Support. But with Linux you have a community of people that help each other and lots of HOWTOs on the web.

Maybe the compatibility is an advantage in the beginning. The set up of Windows Server should be faster then the Linux one, but on a long run I wouldn't trust trust Windows about safety and reliability.


I would use windows server only if explicitly required by the customer, or if I think that I as a vendor will have less support hassle since customer staff knows only windows.


It all depends on what your server is going to be servering your users. In general I would say you get what you pay for, what you don't pay for you will have to work for instead.

You have to be more precise on what your criterias are or this will turn on a religious war sooner than you think.


I think there are three main reasons to use Windows in preference to Linux

  • If you have Windows specific software then Windows is the best platform to run it. Most vendors of server-side Windows software will probably not support it on Wine, although they would tend to support it on a VM.

  • If your network staff are familiar with Windows you will save on retraining costs if you stick with Windows.

  • Quite often a Windows based solution will be the best tool for the job. Where you have the option of running equivalent software on Linux or Windws the Windows based solution may simply be the best for your requirements. In this case it makes sense to use it unless you are in the position of having Unix skills available but no equivalent Skill base in Windows.

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