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Build-Your-Own Computer Part 10: The Operating System

Posted By Tim On October 19, 2013 @ 8:47 AM In Computer Terms,Hardware & Peripherals | 1 Comment

Buying a new computer can be an expensive ordeal. When you go to a big box retailer or manufacturer, you often pay for components you don’t need or get overcharged for the ones you do. The best solution is to build your own computer. What most people don’t realize is it’s actually surprisingly easy to do. To help you design your next computer, or just to become familiar with what to look for, WorldStart is doing a 10-part series on the components you’ll need to build your own computer.

In each part, I’ll offer recommendations on the components discussed. I’ll recommend parts to accommodate those both looking for value and those looking for high performance. Since manufacturers are always updating styles and features, your final decision should be based on your own judgment, aided by the knowledge you gain from these articles. You know what you want from your PC, I’m here to help you design it.

Part Ten: The Operating System

The choice of operating system in a new computer build can be a difficult one, especially when more than one modern version of Windows is out. Even if you know what version of the operating system to buy, you may be wasting a lot of money buying the wrong copy. Let’s talk about some of the options out there.

Windows XP/Vista: Windows XP support officially ends in April of 2014, so that quickly rules that out. If you’re willing to go with the updated Windows Vista interface, then Windows 7 is a much better choice.

Windows 7: The tested and proven version of Windows, contrary to popular belief, is still available for sale. The benefits of Windows focus around the familiarity of the operating system. If you don’t like change and want a proven reliable operating system, Windows 7 is it.

Windows 8: The newest version of Windows features a new interface design and some significant improvements. Booting up from SSD’s is significantly faster on Windows 8 than Windows 7 and, as the years pass, more devices and programs will be optimized for Windows 8.

MacOS: Nope, you can’t install it. While there is a community of hackers trying to circumvent Apple’s protection system for MacOS, you can not officially install the operating system on non-Apple hardware. It’s probably a good thing too, because what makes Macs so stable is the relatively limited hardware options that are very well tested. Custom-built at home Mac’s would suffer some the same driver and support issues as a Windows PC.

Linux/Ubantu/etc: If you’ve gotten this far and passed over both Windows options and want some variant of Linux, then the world is your oyster. Most versions of Linux are free to download, and while the upfront cost is low, be ready for a lot of late-night Google searches should anything go wrong. While Linux (when properly configured), is significantly more secure and stable than any Windows version, the unfamiliarity of things and limited driver support should keep the non-adventurous away.

My Recommendation:

For operating systems I’m going to preface this by saying that buying the system builders (OEM) license may save you money. These licenses are intended for OEM’s and system builders, and while they don’t include any support (you can’t call Microsoft for tech support), they do offer quite a discount. Since we have a limited pool to choose from, I’m only going to recommend one. As long as you understand the pros and cons there is no truly bad choice though… unless you choose Windows XP which won’t be supported past April 2014.

Microsoft Windows 8 64-bit (Full Version) – OEM – $99.99

Windows 8 gets a bad rap due to the drastic new interface changes, but once you’ve used it for a few weeks you’ll come to appreciate it. In almost all cases it’s faster and smoother then Windows 7, and in desktop mode looks very similar. Third-party downloads such as Classicshell can restore the old Windows 7 start menu, and improvements in Windows 8.1 (coming October 17th) fix a lot of outstanding complaints.

If you’re insistent on using an older version of Windows, the 64 bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium would be my recommendation.

-Tim

P.S. If you’re wondering if you can just reuse your old computer’s copy of Windows, the answer is usually no. Most licenses purchased with a new computer are only good for that computer and cannot be transferred.

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