7 answers

What operating system is preferred on college laptop for Computer Science?

Asked El Sobrante, California

7 answers

Ted’s Answer

Updated Portland, Oregon

As noted in the other answers, you will probably be fine with Mac OS, Windows or a flavor of Linux, but in the past two companies I've worked for, most of the developers were on MacOS or Linux - especially of the company's tech stack was open source or Java-based. If you have interest in .Net programming, Windows would be a good choice. Windows went through a phase where it was considered less secure, less stable and less "cool" than the other operating systems. That has largely passed now. Being competent in multiple operating systems (with maybe one of them where you are particularly deep) would be even better.

Ted recommends the following next steps:

  • Reach out to the CS departments at the colleges you are interested in and ask about what OS's they support
  • Sometimes cost is an issue - Macs can be more expensive
  • Talk to students in CS programs you know.
  • Think about what OS you really want to get proficient with as you look forward to your career.
Thanks for the awesome response, I will definitely consider your advice.

Mario’s Answer

Updated Granollers, Catalonia, Spain

Fortunately, nowadays Linux, Mac and Windows are valid OSes in most colleges.

I recommend you to use the OS that you are more confortable with. I personally love Mac (because it has all the cool things of Linux with the consistent UI of Mac OS).

If you use Windows, installing the Windows Linux Subsystem is a MUST. That way you will get many cool features from Linux/Unix with the confortable User Interface of Windows.

Wyatt’s Answer

Hey Jalaal! This is a fantastic question and I'm glad to hear you're thinking ahead like this. From my experience majoring in Computer Science at college, I never saw that there was a preferred operating system in order to complete programming projects. I used a Mac laptop, but saw many students with Windows computers.

However, many software developers in the industry develop on Linux, so we utilized this free tool called Oracle VM Virtualbox to boot up a virtual machine running Linux. Here's a link to the application which runs on all major operating systems: https://www.virtualbox.org/. So in short, no there is no preferred operating system since you can use cool tools like this to use any OS you want or need.

Hope this helps,


Thanks for the reply!

Mohit’s Answer

You can get either Windows or Mac. I prefer Mac because you can install any (well, almost all that you may need) software painlessly.

Also, you can use Linux-like commands on the Mac, which is great to learn.

Mohit recommends the following next steps:

  • Learn linux based commands. They are super helpful in computer science industry.
Thanks for the reply!

Siva’s Answer

Mac is preferrable if you can afford it since it is more safe and highly protected from viruses/attack. But windows with right antivirus software is as good as mac.

Sanjay’s Answer

Hi Jalaal!

You can use any operating system for computer science. A popular choice are MacBooks due to their reliability and MacOS running on a UNIX-based environment.

If you already have a PC but would like to use an operating system closer to that of MacOS, an option would also be to install Ubuntu on your windows and use that!

The bottom line is -- any OS works, and it's best to use what you are comfortable with!

Thanks for the reply!
I agree with Sanjay that Ubuntu is a good choice for computer science. It will provide you with access to a large set of tools and libraries useful for computer science.

Bhavit’s Answer

As technology moves the cloud, the operating system becomes less important. Having said that, Microsoft Windows and Linux are two popular systems that many of the foundations of most operating systems are based on - Mac OS is Linux based for example.

The university you are looking at will potentially have a standard as well that they can guide you through.

Also don't forget that as more people move to mobile, development in iOS, Android continue to grow as well.

Thanks for the reply!