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OS question - Mac, Windows or both?

  1. Oct 24, 2014 #1
    Hello community,

    I am doing research on building a computer for my son who is devoted to physics and math and wants to put together a desktop system that will last into grad school. Do we need to make allowances for using more than one operating system to allow for software compatibility?

    Many thanks of your help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2014 #2
    If it should last for a long time, windows is not a good choice. windows 'ages' the older a windows system gets the slower it will become. Windows is also vulnerable for viruses. This makes Windows not a good long-term OS. Personally I prefer linux, it doesn't get fragmented and isn't vulnerable for viruses. But for some linux is not a good choice, for those I recommend mac, because it does not have the flaws that windows has.

    Concerning multiple OS's
    I would not use a dual-boot, no matter what OS you chose to use. A virtual machine is a better choice, I would recommend Oracle's Virtual box, which works on Windows, Mac, linux and solaris. A virtual machine will allow you to run programs made for other OS's without going through the processes of dual-booting (windows can be especially annoying in a dual-boot, because it always wants to be the 'primary OS')

    In the end it is most important that your son can work efficiently on his OS, I would let him try different OS's and let him chose which he finds easiest to use. But whatever OS you end up with, don't dual-boot, a virtual machine is more efficient, and you will find that for most applications there are alternatives available, and that you will not need a second OS

    I hope this was helpfull
  4. Oct 24, 2014 #3


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    You don't say how old your son currently is. We don't know if his computer must last a few years or a couple of decades.

    Software aside, can you remember the specs of the computer you were using 5 years ago? 10 years ago? 15 years ago?
    Electronics can change greatly in a short amount of time, and more importantly, the electronics can wear out or go obsolete.
    Finding parts for a computer 5 or 10 years old can seem like trying to find buried treasure.
  5. Oct 24, 2014 #4


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    As far as application software is concerned, Mac OS and Windows are pretty much equivalent for most practical purposes. I'm a Mac guy, and I've very seldom needed or wanted to do something that required Windows-only software. Mac OS still has an edge over Windows as far as security (viruses and malware) is concerned. That could change at any time, of course.

    So I don't think there's a real need to be able to run both Mac OS and Windows on the same machine, for most people. Choose one or the other depending on your son's preference.

    If he wants to get into programming, though, I would recommend having the ability to install Linux. When I taught programming courses years ago, it was always on a Unix system, using standard compilers like gcc and g++. You can also do this sort of thing on a Mac by installing Xcode from Apple, but they have a way of changing things around regularly so that installing extra programming libraries or compiling open-source software can be tricky.

    I have both Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux available on my Mac, via the Parallels Desktop virtualization software. I use Windows mainly when I'm working with a student who's trying to figure out how to do something under Windows. I use Linux for generic classroom-type C++ and Fortran programming exercises at the command line. One of these days I'll start on Python.
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