The best OS for gaming will allow you to enjoy all of your favorite games as the developers intended, but which OS is best for gaming? In this guide, we'll compare Windows, macOS, and Linux to discover the best gaming OS.
Windows as a gaming OS
Best for: Users who want the best performance and widest selection of games
Windows is the most popular operating system in the world, used and trusted by countless people on their personal computers and laptops. This fact gives Windows a huge edge in the gaming market, as game developers want to sell as many copies of their games as possible. So, they usually work hard to ensure that everything runs smoothly on Windows and see the platform as a priority. Windows is also known for being beginner-friendly and very speedy, too, especially Windows 10.
- The best compatibility with games and game stores
- Reliable and powerful performance
- Highly convenient and easy to use, even for total beginners
- Some issues with security
In regard to performance, Windows is one of the best OS for gaming options around, especially Windows 10. Windows 10 has been specially designed with games in mind, offering highly reliable performance on even the latest and most technically advanced games you can play. It also provides users with the power of DirectX 12, which lets you adjust your GPU and CPU settings as needed to maximize frame rates and gaming performance levels.
One of the best things about using Windows as your gaming operating system of choice is the fact that it has the biggest and widest selection of games of any OS. This is because Windows is the most widely-used OS, with a major dominance over the market and countless users all over the world. Game developers are aware of this, and so they usually make sure to prioritize Windows versions of their games in order to reach the biggest audiences and get the most potential sales.
Another big reason why Windows is often considered the best operating system for gaming is the fact that all of the major game stores and platforms are fully compatible with the Windows OS. No matter whether you want to buy your games on Steam, The Epic Games Store, Uplay, Origin, or something else entirely, you shouldn't have any issues when using Windows. Every single one of the big game stores has an application available for Windows, giving you maximum access to all the latest gaming content.
Convenience is another key factor to think about when choosing a gaming OS, and it's another big positive point for the Windows platform. Windows is designed to be the everyman's operating system; it's easy, reliable, and relatively simple to use, even for total beginners. This goes for the gaming side of things, too. Especially on Windows 10, gaming is simple and straightforward. You can download and install new games with ease, adjust your PC or laptop's gaming settings without too much difficulty, and take advantage of features like Game Mode to hide notifications while playing.
If you use Windows to play games, you probably will not notice any issues with compatibility whatsoever. As stated above, this platform is fully compatible with almost every new computer game that comes out, and it also works with all of the biggest platforms and storefronts like Steam and Epic, too. Thanks to the market saturation and market dominance of the Windows OS, developers will always work hard to ensure that everything is compatible with Windows and runs smoothly for Windows users.
In general, security on Windows is good. However, this aspect of the operating system is clearly lacking when compared to others, like macOS. Windows users are often the primary targets of hackers and malware, and the system is always having to be updated and improved to defend against the latest digital threats, and this can be a cause of concern for gamers. When playing and downloading games via Windows, you need to be careful about the risks of malware or having your system hacked. On the newest versions of Windows, like 10 and 11, this isn't as much of an issue, but older iterations of Windows have weaker security.
In terms of price, the Windows operating system itself isn't too expensive and often comes built-in with most new laptops and PCs. However, you'll need to think carefully about your budget in terms of hardware that can make the most of Windows' advantages. Users will need to ensure that they spend enough on RAM, CPU, and GPU performance to get the best results for the games they want to play, and prices can vary depending on what sort of gamer you are.
Best for: Users who are mostly casual gamers and want a secure and easy-to-use system
This OS is the operating system for Apple devices like Macs and MacBooks. In the past, macOS and gaming were not good friends, and it was generally accepted that any serious gamer would never choose an Apple device with macOS over a Windows PC or Linux alternative. However, in recent years, things have changed, and macOS has become much more gamer-friendly. It offers excellent security, increasing levels of compatibility, and a super user experience. However, there are still some drawbacks to playing games on Mac that prevent it from being the best OS for gaming.
- Excellent user interface
- Peerless security to defend against malware and other digital dangers
- Great for other processes outside of gaming, like photo editing
- High prices for software and hardware
- A lack of compatibility with many games
This OS is famous for being a highly versatile, high-performing operating system that can be used for a wide range of tasks and processes, from word processing to video editing. It has gotten better at gaming over the years, too, but in spite of this, it's clear to see that most Apple devices aren't really built with gaming in mind. The latest and greatest games can run on Macs, but frame rate issues can occur, and you may even need to make use of an external GPU to truly get the best results, which can be inconvenient and expensive.
As stated earlier on, macOS used to be notorious for having almost no games available to play, but the situation has improved in recent years. Nowadays, there are lots more games available to play on Mac, including a lot of the most popular releases like Fortnite, Rocket League, Rust, and Minecraft. So, if you're a casual gamer or someone who mainly enjoys the most popular games, this should be enough. However, if you want to play as many games as possible, you may find that some of your favorites won't run on Mac.
In terms of where to buy games for Mac, you can use Steam on this OS. Steam is one of the biggest games distribution platforms in the world, hosting many of the latest releases and countless independent titles, too. Other stores available for the Mac platform include The Epic Games Store, Mac Game Store, and Good Old Games. So there are plenty of options to choose from for buying games online on Mac, but some stores and platforms are still Windows-only.
One of the reasons why so many people love macOS so much and use Apple devices, in general, is because of their convenience. It's usually easy to do almost anything on a Mac, and this extends to gaming to an extent. If you want to play a popular game available on the macOS platform, you shouldn't have any trouble getting it downloaded and installed. However, some games will require extra downloads or special workarounds to run on Mac, and technical issues for Macs are sometimes harder to solve, as so much of the focus is on Windows platforms and Windows users, meaning that Mac users can be left out.
As explained throughout this section, compatibility for games with macOS has definitely come a long way in recent times. However, there's also still some distance that needs to be covered before Mac can truly be considered any kind of competition for Windows in terms of gaming compatibility. While there are now plenty of games available to play on Mac, from strategy games like Civilization VI to action games like Batman: Arkham City, there are also tons of games that are still not able to run on Mac devices.
Next, let's talk about security. This is actually one of the biggest benefits of choosing macOS as your gaming platform of choice, and tech enthusiasts should already know that macOS is well-known for its impeccable safety and security features. The security is on a completely different level when compared to the likes of Windows, and while it's not impossible to have security issues with your Apple device, macOS offers the best level of protection you can get for gaming and other processes, too.
Price is a big thing to consider if you want to play games on a Mac. Not only is the software itself quite expensive, but if you want to run high-fidelity, fancy-looking games, then you'll need to spend big on a truly high-end macOS device with the necessary hardware to get those kinds of games up and running. This can be very expensive, and you may even need to spend even more money on extra accessories like external GPUs.
Best for: Advanced users looking for a free and open-source option
Linux is another option to consider as a gaming OS, although it's technically a whole group of different operating systems all based on the Linux kernel. Linux is known for being free and open-source, which can be appealing, but it's also famed for being quite complicated, appealing only to advanced users. You can choose from various Linux-based OS options, such as Ubuntu, SteamOS, and Debian, each with its own features and advantages.
- Completely free and open-source
- A variety of variants to choose from like Ubuntu and Debian
- Great for advanced users who understand how to make the most of the OS
- Beginners will struggle to understand Linux
- Lack of compatibility with games and platforms
Performance levels for games can be quite disappointing on Linux. It all depends on what kind of set-up you're using and which variant of Linux you're running. However, in general, when running the same game on similar systems, a Windows device will always out-perform a Linux one in regard to gaming metrics like frame rate and visual fidelity. Because of this, gamers on Linux can notice technical issues, especially when playing high-fidelity games.
The game selection on Linux is somewhat lacking when compared to Windows. A lot of games can be run on Linux, but you'll need to make use of various extra apps and programs to get certain games running, and you'll need third-party drivers for your hardware, like your GPU, too. You'll still be able to play plenty of popular games like Terraria, Counter-Strike, and Dota 2, but lots of smaller and indie games won't run on Linux, and even many new big-budget releases are not optimized for Linux systems.
If you want to buy games online on Linux, you'll also find some limitations. Most game stores and platforms focus on Windows first, Mac second, and Linux as a distant third. Many of them won't even offer any kind of Linux search or Linux category for users to look for compatible games, and many do not have downloadable Linux applications. However, Steam will run on Linux and you can even use the SteamOS variant of Linux to get access to the latest releases on Steam.
Convenience is not really something that most users can expect to experience when it comes to gaming on Linux, especially when compared to other platforms like Windows. On a Windows system, you can simply download a game from almost any store, install it in minutes, and start playing. On Linux, the process can be much more drawn out, as you'll need to first find games that are compatible with your system, then find places to download them, ensure that you have all of the necessary drivers, and potentially figure out some workarounds to actually get the game started. This is why Linux is only recommended for advanced users with extensive coding and computing knowledge.
Like with macOS, compatibility is gradually improving on Linux. There are more games and game-related apps available for Linux these days than there ever have been before, and compatibility is definitely getting better, with around 4,000 Steam games able to run on Linux at this time. There are also new tools coming out from Linux developers that can make the experience a little better, but you'll still find that, in general, Linux has the lowest level of gaming compatibility of any of the three major platforms.
In terms of security, Linux is right up there alongside Mac. In fact, by some metrics, it exceeds Mac and can be regarded as the most secure operating system of them all. Statistically speaking, Linux operating systems have fewer exploitable flaws than any other OS. Plus, since Linux has a relatively small userbase compared to Windows and Mac, Linux users aren't often targeted by malware makers and hackers. So you won't need to worry too much about your safety while downloading and playing games.
Finally, we come to the price, and this is another area in which Linux excels. It's a completely free and open-source operating system, which means that you won't need to spend a single penny on the software itself. You will, of course, need to ensure that you have the right hardware to run the games you want to play, as well as extra software, which may cost money, to improve gaming performance. But in terms of value for money, Linux is the best OS around.
So, which is the best gaming OS of them all? Well, from our comparison, there can only be one winner: Windows. Windows offers the biggest range of games to play, as well as access to all of the major game stores like Steam and Epic. Windows is also highly future-proof, as all game studios and developers want to make their games available for Windows in order to attract the highest number of players.
So, we hope that this guide has helped you learn more about choosing the best OS to play games on. If you're still unsure, here are some key factors to keep in mind when making your decision:
- Performance: In order to truly enjoy the very best gaming experiences, it's vital to ensure that the operating system you choose is capable of playing those games correctly. Between different operating systems, performance levels can vary, with some systems being more likely to cause stutters, lags, and frame rate drops.
- Game selection: Playing the same game over and over again can become boring, so you'll also want to ensure that your OS of choice has access to a wide selection of games. Almost all new games are designed to work on Windows, but many games can have compatibility issues on other operating systems.
- Game stores: There are various stores and platforms available where you can buy, download, and play your games, such as Steam, The Epic Games Store, EA Origin, and so on. It's important to note that these platforms do not work with every operating system. So, if you want to access as many as possible, it's important to consider OS compatibility.
- Convenience: It's also important to think about the convenience of setting up systems and playing games on each operating system. On one OS, you might be able to download, install, and play games easily and conveniently in a matter of minutes, but the process could be a lot more complicated on another operating system, taking much more time.
- Compatibility: Compatibility refers to which games and game platforms are compatible with each operating system. As explained above, you will find that some games and game stores won't work with certain platforms, and this lack of compatibility can damage your gaming experiences, so you may want to choose an OS with the best level of compatibility.
- Security: It's also important to think about security, especially if you're going to be downloading a lot of games and add-ons and playing games online. Your security could be at risk if you use an unsecured system, but a secure OS will help to keep you safe and protected against malware and other threats.
- Price: Last but not least, you should think about the price. Games can cost quite a lot of money on their own, and you may not want to spend a lot of money on an expensive OS, as well. It's important to find a system that matches your budget.
Frequently asked questions
💻 Which OS is the best for gaming performance?
When it comes to gaming performance, Windows is the best operating system around, and Windows 10 is the best Windows OS for gaming. It offers the highest levels of reliability, and as long as you have sufficient hardware to play the games you want to play, Windows shouldn't let you down. It offers high frame rates and the power of DirectX 12 to get the most from every game.
🕹 Which OS is the best for gaming on Windows?
If you're looking specifically at the Windows platform, Windows 10 is currently the best version of Windows OS to use for gaming. Windows 10 has built on the solid foundation established by previous iterations of this OS in order to offer the best levels of performance and dependability for gamers. In other words, it's the best Windows OS you can use to play games.
⏱ Which OS is the fastest?
In terms of general speed, the latest version of Ubuntu (version 21) is regarded as one of the fastest around. Linux Mint has also proven to be exceptionally speedy in benchmark tests, and Windows 10 can be very quick, as well. Don't forget that speed and performance are also influenced by what kind of hardware you are using.
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