Front line advice: Switching operating systems is almost never the solution to problems
How many times have you come across a statement like this in response to a computer issue on a forum in the comments section of posts:
“Oh, just go to XYZ [the responder’s favorite operating system] and you’ll never have problems like that again.”
I’m here to tell you that this advice is bad advice, and the person making the claim is an idiot, and you should probably ignore whatever they say from there.
As someone who switched from Windows to OS X on my everyday machines, I’m here to tell you that it’s not easy. Of course, if all you do is fire up a browser and post pictures of cats to Cheezburger, you’ll probably be fine, but I guess since you’re reading this you actually use your computer for work and may know -be a bit short on what’s going on under the hood of your existing operating system, so prepare to feel like a total noob for a very long time.
Now I’m a pretty smart (and modest too) guy, and I know a lot of people who are way smarter than me and are willing to share their knowledge and expertise with me, but when I stopped performing code from Redmond to code from Cupertino – keep in mind I did this to myself, not because some idiot on some forum told me to – I knowingly put aside more than two decades of expertise with Windows. I had spent my 10,000 hours mastering the platform, along with thousands of others, and had gotten to the point where there wasn’t a single file, registry entry, or line trick. command that I did not know.
I knew what made Windows tick.
And I also knew that many miles of bad roads awaited me with OS X.
You see, problems usually don’t arise right out of the box. No, it’s when everything is new and shiny and exciting, and everything works as it should. The problems arise when the limerence has worn off and you have a deadline stressing you out, and you stupidly clicked “Allow” on that stupid update that knocks your system wheels off and keeps things from happening unfold as they should.
Now you are in a world of suffering. And if you made that change because a guy told you to, you can bet he’s nowhere to be found.
Now you’re in trouble, and none of your voodoo (key presses), incantations (command line stuff), or lucky charms (utilities) will help you. Luckily, nowadays you can fire up Google (even if you have to do it on your smartphone) and see what the hive mind has to offer for whatever problem you’re having. But even then, the procedure you’ll need to follow to try to restore your ailing system to health will likely be unfamiliar to you and will likely end up taking you hours to do something an expert on that system could do in a few minutes.
Remember, you are now the noob.
I know very well what it’s like to have problems with a new operating system. Last week I had one of my first big problems with one of my Macs that left me confused. It turned out to be due to the OS X 10.10. trusty jeweler’s hammer. This was a problem I probably could have solved on a Windows machine in minutes.
It took me much longer than that.
Now, I’m not saying people shouldn’t switch platforms. It can be fun (if you’re learning operating systems if your idea of fun), and if you were smart enough to find your way around one operating system, you’ll find your way around the new one. What I’m saying is don’t change because someone hypocritically tells you that the OS of their choice is better than the one you’re using. Modern operating systems are, in my experience, very good, and whether you use Windows, OS X or Linux, if you’re satisfied, your operating system is good enough.
The same goes for upgrading. As long as your operating system is still supported and you get fixes for security issues, be wary of upgrading if you don’t have the time and space in your life to learn from new things or solve problems. Also beware of upgrades as a solution to problems. Hitting a new code on a system that’s already sick can push it into seriously sick territory.
If you still want to make the jump from one platform to another, here are some first-line tips:
- Don’t rush the process. You will make mistakes, cut corners, lose data, waste time and generally have a painful experience.
- Do your research. Find out in advance what new software and hardware you will need.
- Don’t even think about using a new rig until you have a backup mechanism in place.
- Make your new operating system your obsession, at least for a few months. Learn all you can about it.
- Practice troubleshooting exercises like entering safe mode and recovering files from a backup before you need those skills.
- When things go wrong – make no mistake, it’s never an “if” – don’t panic. Remember, your system won’t bleed to death if you walk away from it for advice or a better perspective on the problem.