My gaming rig is 10 years old, and I’m in dire need of a replacement. But what is a good gaming rig operating system? Windows or Linux?

I’ve been looking to get a new gaming rig for a couple of years now. It’s been problematic, however, to argue for purchasing an expensive piece of hardware I don’t use that much. But carpe diem, right? This Christmas I will treat myself to a spanking new (or used) gaming rig!

Every time I buy a new computer, I have to learn everything about hardware and the state of various operating systems all over again. In a series of posts, I’ll got through some of the important things to consider when buying a gaming rig:

  1. Operating system: Windows or Linux?
  2. CPU: Intel or AMD?
  3. Graphics card: Nvidia or AMD?
  4. Form factor: Laptop or desktop?
  5. Tinkering factor: Parts or pre-assembled?
  6. Sustainability: New or second-hand?
  7. Conclusion: So what’s the ultimate gaming rig setup, then!?

I’ve decided on this particular order of things because decisions taken on the top of the list might limit the available choices later.

First up is gaming rig operating system.

Windows or Linux?

I’m a multi-OS kind of guy. At work, I use macOS1. At home, I use Windows. And to run this site, I use Linux. I don’t use this mix of operating system by choice, though. My current client has provided the Apple-computer I use at work, and the Windows computer I use at home is provided by my employer.

Related content: Not Tonight: One Love review.

If the choice of OS was up to me, I’d use Linux for everything. It’s free, open-source, and blatantly fast. Both Windows and macOS have some of the same properties, but not all. Moving between different three operating systems is also somewhat inconvenient. You don’t always get the same software on them, and keyboard shortcuts are different on macOS and Windows. Also, it makes me suffer from the “jack of all trades, master of none”-syndrome.

Gaming on Windows.

Since I will be using the new computer mainly for gaming, Windows seems like an obvious choice. My entire gaming library works on Windows, and it’s the main platform for Steam and other similar services. The creator of Minecraft, Notch, isn’t a huge Windows fan2, but he has completely lost all his marbles and whatever credibility he once had is gone. Don’t listen to Notch, kids!

Since Windows is the operating system for gaming on personal computers, all hardware manufacturers provide Windows drivers. They are tried and tested before release, and just work. I can also use my Xbox 360 game pad on Windows. The quality of Windows versions have varied over the years, but the current iteration, Windows 10, works like a damn charm. I’ve been using it almost every day since it was released, and I haven’t had a single crash yet.

In summary, the operating system decision seems simple. Windows OS I should use for my gaming rig. But it’s not that black and white.

Is Linux a Viable Alternative?

As I write above, I’d prefer to use Linux for everything. Five years ago, that would have been impossible, and Linux used to be the laughing stock of the gaming world.

But that changed when Steam introduced SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system created for gaming. Many of the games on Steam now run on Linux, and both AMD and Nvidia provide Linux drivers for their GPUs. Drivers in general are no longer a problem on Linux. In short, gaming on Linux has certainly come a long way in the last couple of years, but has it come long enough?

A quick Steam Filters search reveals that 52% of my Steam Library will run on Linux. The game I’ve played the most, Stellaris, will run. So will Euro Truck Simulator 2, Tropico 6, Cities: Skylines, and a lot of the other games I play. But Endless Space 2, GalCiv III, Frostpunk, GTA IV, and some of indie titles are out the door if I chose to use Linux. The same is the case for a lot of pre-2015 titles.

I can live with not being able to play the old games, but missing out on titles like Endless Space 2 is a shame.

Why Not Both?

Yes, why not indeed. There is no reason why I can’t run both Windows and Linux. Doing that, I will get the best of both worlds. As it seems, I can use Linux as by daily driver, and boot into Windows when I want to play something that is not compatible with Linux.

So there you have it. I’ll use both Windows an Linux on my gaming rig. Linux will be the primary operating system, and there will be an option to boot into Windows to play games that are not Linux compatible.

Footnotes

  1. macOS is not an option as a gaming rig operating system. For all practical purposes, it will limit me to ridiculously overpriced Apple hardware that isn’t really meant to be used for gaming.
  2. Notch didn’t mind Microsoft when they threw $2.5 billion at him to purchase Minecraft, though.