Linux Hardware Support Better Than Windows

August 17th, 2007

Something I often hear from people that talk about Linux on the desktop is this: people want to be able to go to the store, buy hardware, and be confident that it will Just Work.

I would like to point out that things are rarely this simple on Windows. And, in fact, things are often simpler on Linux these days.

Here’s the example that prompted this post.

I have a computer that’s about 4 years old. It’s my main desktop machine at home. It was still fast enough for me, but has been developing all sorts of weird behaviors. Certain USB ports stopped working altogether a few months ago. Then it started hanging during POST whenever I’d try to reboot — but would still boot OK about 80% of the time after a power cycle. Then it started randomly losing contact with my USB mouse until a reboot. And the last straw was when the display started randomly going out. I’ve told everyone that my machine has cancer and is slowly dying.

The case is a pretty nice full tower — solid and sturdy. I have an 160GB IDE drive in it. So I figured I will upgrade the motherboard, CPU, RAM, and add a 500GB SATA drive since they’re so cheap these days and I’m running out of space. I’d also have to buy a new video card since my old one was AGP and the new motherboard only has PCI Express for video. So about $700 later from Newegg (I got a Core 2 Duo E6750), the parts arrived.

I spent some time installing it all. The motherboard had only one IDE channel, and I didn’t have any IDE cable long enough to connect both the IDE hard disk and the optical drive, so I popped in an old Maxtor/Promise PCI Ultra133 controller I had sitting around to use with the DVD burner.

Now, to recap, the hardware that the OS would see as new/different is: CPU, RAM, IDE controller, SATA controller, Promise IDE controller, integrated NIC, sound, video.

Then the magic smoke test.

I turned on the machine. Grub appeared. Linux started booting.

Even though I had switched from the default Debian “supports everything” kernel to a K7 kernel, it still booted.

And every single piece of hardware was supported immediately. There was no “add new hardware” wizard that popped up, no “I’ve found new hardware” boxes. It just worked, silently, with no need to tell me anything or have me click on anything.

Only one piece required configuration: the NIC, thanks to some udev design flaws (it got renamed from eth0 to eth1 by udev). That took 20 seconds. Debian saw the IDE HDD, the SATA drive, the Promise controller, the DVD burner, the video card, the sound, and it all worked automatically. And Debian is not even a distro that occurs to a lot of people when they think of great hardware support.

Now let’s turn to Windows.

The Windows Nightmare

I have a legal copy of Windows XP Home that was preinstalled on the machine when I got it. I resized its partition down to about 20GB so that I could use 140GB for Linux. I use it rarely, primarily for gaming, and I’ve bought about 3 games in the last 4 years. I usually disconnect the network when I boot to Windows, though I do keep it current with updates.

I did some research on what Windows was going to do when I replace the hardware. The general consensus from people on the ‘net is that you can’t just replace a motherboard and expect everything to be happy. There were generally three different approaches suggested: 1) don’t even try, just reinstall; 2) do a rescue install after you move over; and 3) use sysprep. The rescue install has to be done by booting from an XP install CD, then picking a rescue install option somewhere. It will overwrite your installed Windows with the version from the CD. That means that I’d have to re-apply SP2, though bits of it that didn’t get overwritten would still be on the hard disk, and who knows what would happen to the registry.

Option #3 was to download sysprep (must have the Genuine Disadvantage ActiveX to get the free download from MS). Sysprep is designed to be used just prior to taking an image with ghost for replication. It removes the hardware-specific config (but not the drivers), as well as the product key, from the machine, but otherwise leaves it untouched. On the next boot, you get the “Welcome to XP” wizard.

One other strike against #2 is that Compaq “helpfully” didn’t ship any install CDs with the machine. Under Windows, they did have a “create rescue CD” tool, which burned 7 CDs for me. But they are full Compaq-specific CDs, not one of them an XP CD, *AND* they check on boot to see if you’re using the same Compaq motherboard, and exit if not. Highly useless.

So I went with sysprep. Before my new hardware even arrived, I downloaded the Windows drivers for all of it. I burned them to a CD, and installed as many as I could on the system in advance. About half of them refused to install since the new hardware wasn’t there yet. I then took a raw image of the partition with dd, just in case. Finally, right before I swapped the hardware, I ran sysprep and let it shut down the machine.

So after the new hardware was installed came the adventure.

Windows booted to the “welcome to XP” thingy. The video, keyboard, mouse, and IDE HDD worked. That’s about it.

I went through the “welcome to XP wizard”. But the network didn’t work yet, so I couldn’t activate it. So I popped my handy driver CD in the drive. But what’s this? Windows doesn’t recognize the DVD drive because it doesn’t have drivers for this Promise controller that came out in, what, 2001? Sigh. Downloaded the drivers with the imac, copy them to a CF card, plug the USB CF reader into Windows.

While I was doing that, about 6 “found new hardware” dialogs got queued up. Not one of them could actually find a driver for my hardware, but that didn’t prevent Windows from making me click through them all.

So, install Promise driver from CF card, reboot. Click through new hardware dialogs again. Install network driver, reboot, click through dialogs. Install sound driver. Install Intel “chipset” driver, click through dialogs. Reboot. Install SATA driver. Reboot.

So the hardware appears to all be working by this point, though I have a Creative volume control (from the old hardware) and a Realtek one in the tray. Minor annoyance to deal with later.

Now I have to re-activate XP. I dutifully key in the magic string from the sticker on my case. Surprise surprise, the Internet-based activation fails because my hardware is different. So I have to call the 800 number. I have to read in 7 blocks of 6 digits, one block at a time. Then I answer some questions: have I activated Windows before, have I changed hardware, was the old hardware defective (yes, yes, and yes). Then I get 7 blocks of 6 digits read to me. Finally Windows is activated. PHEW! Why they couldn’t ask those questions with the online tool is beyond me.

Anyhow. Linux took me 20 seconds to get working. Windows, about 2 hours, plus another 2 hours for prep and research.

I did zero prep for Linux. I made one config change (GUI users could have just configured their machine to use eth1).

Other cool Linux HW features

Say you buy a new printer and want to get it set up. On Windows, you insert the CD, let it install 200MB of print drivers plus ads plus crap plus add something to your taskbar plus who knows what else. Probably reboot. Then the printer might actually print.

On Debian, you plug in the printer to the USB port. You type printconf. 5 seconds later, your printer works.

I have been unpleasantly surprised lately by just how difficult hardware support in Windows really is, especially since everyone keeps saying how good it is. It’s not good. Debian’s is better, in my opinion.

Categories: Debian, Desktop Linux

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Comments Feed57 Comments

  1. Felipe Sateler

    [quote]Something I often hear from people that talk about Linux on the desktop is this: people want to be able to go to the store, buy hardware, and be confident that it will Just Work.[/quote]
    False (in my experience at least). I have approximately one friend who can install hardware on his own. The rest all call me (or some other computer-savvy person) when they get new gadgets.
    What people usually expect is to be able to surf the web, find useless programs, download and install. That can’t be done in Linux unless you have WINE (and that doesn’t really work either).

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    I know lots of people that go out and buy a printer or something and want to plug it in and have it work on their own. These are non-technical types, and generally they do get it done, even if they may need some help. But the process isn’t all that easy.

    As far as software being available for Linux, I’ve found more useful software for Linux than for Windows — and the stuff for Windows that’s most useful is usually ports of *nix software anyway. That’s how I got started with Linux and BSD: I was running an OS/2 port of gcc (called egcs, if memory serves) and wanted to get more from where that came from.

    Agreed that Wine isn’t a great solution, but who really needs it for anything but games anyway?

    Reply

    cyborg007 Reply:

    Hey i Think you’re wrong. Linux doesn’t have more softwares than windows. In fact I accept that it supports hardwares easily but an another operating system i.e. Mac OS X is the best among linux and windows.

    Reply

    Richard Gill Reply:

    Why use wine ? There are much better options for running Windows under Linux (if you must) Virtual Box from InnoTek for eg

    Reply

    John Reply:

    “That can’t be done in Linux unless you have WINE (and that doesn’t really work either).”

    Apparently your knowledge of Linux is far below basic comprehension. You don’t deserve the right to post here.
    -5 Intellect Points for you

    Reply

  2. mas

    I could not have detailed it better. I had a similar experience
    recently. My computer which had an ASUS motherboard with Athlon XP
    processor started behaving weirdly. It also had a 80 GB IDE hard disk
    and the onboard graphics was Nvidia. I was running debian (lenny) with
    2.6.22 kernel.

    I replaced the motherboard with another ASUS piece, but the AMD X2 cpu
    along with 250 GB SATA disk. When the new pieces of hardware came, I
    simply connected my old hdd to the ide channel. The machine booted off
    this hdd (by default) and everything worked straight out of the box!

    I then partitioned the new sata disk. Excluding /proc, I just did a cp
    -a / from the old disk to a partition on the new disk. Then, removed the
    old ide, booted the machine using knoppix, mounted the new partition on
    the sata disk, edited the /boot/menu/grub.lst to reflect the new setup
    (replace hda by sda), edited /etc/fstab, /etc/mount and ran grub-install
    after chrooting to the mounted partition. The machine rebooted to the
    new disk without a murmur of dissent and everything was working as
    expected: audio, video, et al. The only thing to setup was the nic; the
    old setup had a realtek pci card while the new motherboard had an
    attansic gigabit card. Recompiling the kernel to include the support for
    that piece of hardware was a trivial affair.

    All in all, my experience is that most of the time, when hardware
    changes, it is very easy to manage things in linux.

    Reply

  3. Frans Pop

    Completely agree.

    I did a hardware upgrade for a server running Debian last week (from one old desktop to a somewhat newer old desktop :-)

    Remove 2 harddisks (with LVM on RAID) from the old box; insert same harddisks into new box; reboot; done.

    Oh, yes, I also had to fix the udev recognition of my NIC.

    Reply

  4. Benjamin A'Lee

    I’ve had a number of machines that have worked without a problem with Debian, but have required hours of driver-hunting for Win2k/WinXP. I don’t understand why people insist that hardware support is better for Windows; it’s certainly much harder to get hold of drivers when Windows doesn’t support the hardware out of the box (which is seemingly most of the time, for anything but fairly basic stuff).

    Reply

  5. Karellen

    As you and some commenters have pointed out, Windows does not have good hardware support. Windows has crap hardware support.

    But, a lot of hardware has good Windows support.

    The difference is subtle but important.

    Windows does not support the hardware. The hardware supports Windows. While people complain that Linux does not have complete drivers for top 3d graphics cards, *neither does Windows*. Windows does not have full 3d drivers for these cards, Instead, these 3d graphics cards come with drivers for Windows.

    One other note is that a piece of hardware will typically have good Windows support for the version(s) of Windows that are current when it happens to be released. It’s because of this that if you want to use these cards under new or old versions of Windows you’re SOL.

    Reply

  6. eltaco

    I absolutely agree with the article. Hardware installations under windows are getting more and more tedious. I remember the 98/2k period when windows actually had its own drivers and stuff was easily installed without the need for a CD per hardware component. But times have changed, as this article accurately depicts. Back then, all the extra stuff on the CDs actually used to be useful. Nowadays it’s one CD per, with loads of crap to boot. Furthermore I keep on getting the impression the driver packages are there to stop you from tinkering with the hardware and not vice versa as it once was.
    Linux is totally superior. Just installed a kubuntu system and was surprised how easily everything worked out of the box.

    OTOH, there still is a problem with vendor hardware support for linux. If there’s a (reverse engineered) driver out there, then the hardware will work under linux. If not though (p.ex. ATI drivers), then good luck!

    Reply

  7. Kevin Mark

    Hi John,
    I was just reading ‘the long tail’ and I seem to see everything these days with ‘long tail’ sunglasses ;-) Linux has no limitaions to support only the current ‘hits’ of hardware (aka the latest and greatest) instead it can support hardware far down the curve (really old or obsure). Thus if you look at all hardware produced, the current windows os only supports a tiny percentage of it while linux support a considerably larger percentage. Can Windows vista run on p233/500mb? No, but Sarge or Etch can. Can vista run on a ppc, alpha, arm, sparc? No, but Linux can.
    -K

    Reply

  8. cpunk - the cypherblog

    Gerade noch berichtete ich, dass es durchaus gelegentlich Probleme geben kann mit der Hardware-Untzerstützung unter Linux… Prompt finde ich auch schon einen Erfahrungsbericht von John Goerzen zu diesem Thema. Sein Ergebnis: »Linux Hardware Support …

    Reply

  9. Michael

    Hi John,

    I think you are right about better hardware support in GNU/Linux, that is as long as you do have driver support in the kernel. The problems do start if you don’t have driver support in the kernel.
    GNU/Linux does not get as much support as Windows from the manufacturers. If I knew nothing about computers, it is still fairly likely, that for any new device that I buy I just have to put in the driver CD plug in the USB cable and it will work (maybe not great but it will usually work). Compare that to trying to get certain softmodems to work in Linux.

    I mean it is a little bit like the claim that Linux is too hard to install compared to Windows. It is not, though quite a lot of people never have to install Windows because it comes preinstalled.
    Most people don’t exchange their motherboard, nor want to install Windows XP on a SATA drive and sure as hell no ‘normal desktop user’ wants to use an alpha or sparc processor in his machine.
    Of course for the server and the embedded market supporting other architecture is a big plus, but to get a higher percentage in the home desktop user market Linux has to overcome the driver for “Granny’s new camera” problem as Mark Shuttleworth expressed pretty eloquently on his blog.

    http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/76

    Reply

  10. praxis22

    Actually I did the same thing. I replace my motherboard and CPU, AMD64 (via chipset) -> Core2Duo (intel chipset) and it “just worked” Booted into Ubuntu it told me I was now running and SMP kernel, brough up X, and then asked me if I wanted to download the updates it had found. Not related to the install I might add.

    It was only when I re-installed Windows, since it wouldn’t even boot, that it borked my ubuntu partiton, and I had to re-install. That’ll tech me not to detach other drives when installing windows. But if you want to play Sims2 you’ve gotta have windows. :(

    Reply

  11. flasher1000

    I couldn’t DISAGREE more.

    Every time I have tried Linux: Ubuntu (Edgy Eft), KNOPPIX and Debian I have had nightmares getting it to work with my hardware. I don’t have anything facny, Gigabite Motherboard, IDE HD , Seagate SATA harddrive, Attansic L1 Gigabit Ethernet, 2 GB Corsar Ram etc. (all very standard components) but I had trouble with each flavour of Linux. None of them worked with my network card (which is pretty much the most important thing to get working as it in-turn allows you to fix all the other problems) and some even had trouble picking up my Seagate sata hard drive.

    Until the fixes for this are within the reach of ‘normal’ users (I’m somewhat of a power user, although new to Linux) without having to boot back into windows or use another machiene to scour forums for an answer then Linux adoption will struggle to take off.

    I eventually found a solution on an obsucre forum after hours upon hours of searching which required numerious trips to the console copying and pasting pages of text, but with Windows everything just worked.

    Granted it could just be this hardware configuration and I might be unlucky, but if that is the case then it’s not at a stage where its good enough.

    flash

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    That all sounds fairly standard, though I’ve never heard of Attansic. As one person comment above said, Linux hardware support is better than Windows, but a lot of vendors have better Windows support.

    Have you installed Windows XP from scratch on that machine? I’d be almost 100% certain that a vanilla Windows XP install CD wouldn’t support it all either, and you’d have to resort to a different machine to create floppy driver disks, etc. — if you can even find the appropriate files for a floppy driver disk for that SATA controller.

    Reply

  12. TomHodgins

    I think it should be pointed out that most of us here have used x86 linux and x86 windows and are copmletely ignoring the vast other platforms linux supports that windows can’t even touch.

    I have been using linux for 7 years now and I’ve had my share of crises installing or configuring hardware on linux, but it should be noted that in linux is’ far easier to tinker with even the way your computer interacts with the hardware that windows doesn’t even offer.

    I enjoy buying a new device, digital camera, palm pilot. I usually do this with a friend’s media device or something, I challenge them to plug it into my USB and they refuse saying I need drivers, and since I’m running linux I can’t. I try to tell them I already have the driver for their device installed and they refuse again, saying I’m lying. Finally when they plug their device in and it is recognized, mounted and a properly configured device icon pops up on my screen – that’s when they realize windows is still in the stone age.

    Think about hardware support this way. Take your Vista installation disk and put it in your computer. it will boot and install. Now go ahead and put it in your PS3. I think you see my point.

    Reply

    Cartossin Reply:

    Oh yeah like any linux install CD will just work on a ps3. It won’t. Also, I doubt you’ll find a camera that won’t “Just work” in vista w/o drivers.

    Reply

  13. Viktor Todeskyj

    So, to compare hardware support, you used a Windows OS that is six years old against the latest and greatest Ubuntu installation? It would have been a little more even if you had used Vista, but I do prefer XP over Vista as well. Unless you had used a linux distribution that is six years old as well. Otherwise, I think this article is pointless and proves little.

    Reply

    T Reply:

    And as a quick aside to Viktor, Windows XP SP2 is from August 2004. That’s not 6 years old.
    And if you run windows updates all the time, your Windows OS is just as up to date as a newly downloaded linux distro is.

    The point is that Linux evolves, fast. Whereas Windows is pretty much stagnant between every major release. They just don’t have the same easily updated distribution system, which is sort of backwards because Windows is the OS that you have to reinstall… all… the… time…

    When was the last time you slipstreamed new drivers into an XP CD to make sure you can even install the OS on your new hardware? Why would you even have to do this?

    Reply

    bbaston Reply:

    Back in October 2000, I gave a community college course on PC maintenance & repair. The final exam included – in pertinent part – construction of PC’s from kits.

    And then the group project. Two PCs in good identical and pristine condition were chosen to be fully configured, one with the latest Windows (college-licensed CD set), the other with current Red Hat Linux (from the web, on CDs).

    It wasn’t a contest. The Linux machine was up with all components working – fully and as expected – by the end of the (I think) 2-hour lab. Of corse, this included applications, so the result was ready for the end user in a computer lab – with all updates downloaded and installed.

    The Windows machine ran in safe mode without the expected video resolution or sound support – and even that result took another hour past class end to achieve. And, if we had been successful, there were zero end-user applications included – not to mention security updates to download.

    So, Linux has beat Windows on fresh installs for over seven years, IMHO.

    John, enjoyed your article.

    Reply

    nrw2001 Reply:

    ok, I am a frequent tester of new linux distros… I hate being “told” what to use om “my” pc. I have a fairly new laptop, hp dv9005. not obscure in the least. uses great components. nvidia chipset. amd turion 64×2. realtec nic. broadcom wnic. crucial ram. nvidia graphics. the works. The pc shipped with a copy of mce2005 loaded with the usual crap. has the nice vista ready sticker on it and came with a free upgrade to vista. so, while waiting for my vista cd I installed the latest ubuntu 7.04, (my current fav. distro.) everything was recognized and installed with no input from me aside from my user info and password stuff. 30 min install and I have darn near everything I need installed. firefox, evolution, etc. The only issue was to install bcmfwcutter tool for my wnic. 10 sec. fix there. destop effects even! perfect system and any software that JUST WORKS a click away with package management.

    so, I get my vista “DVD” in the mail a month later. figure this should be easy! WRONG! 32/64 bit versions both had horrible driver support! I had to pull all the drivers down off HP on my ubuntu install, usb thumb drive it, (thank god usb worked) and go through the install re-boot loop for what seemed like days… and to this day my cam still does not work in vista… and it is sooooooo slow! xgl in linux screams compared to vista! so I booted it back to XP pro for the sake of my one crutch game (guild wars). (another headache but at least it all works now!)

    conclusion – linux – 1
    m$ – 0

    Reply

  14. T

    Ha! I can beat that story!

    One of my friends nuked his computer by shutting it off while it was installing an update to Norton antivirus. The entire OS was just dead after that, couldn’t even start in safe mode.

    So I did what I usually do in these situations, I put in a linux rescue disc, backup everything through the network and then reinstall windows XP. The factory default had done some pointless partitioning, so I took the opportunity to remove all the partitions as well so the new XP would install on just one big one.

    Which went well, until I put the XP disc in and the installer claimed there wasn’t a hard drive in the machine.

    That’s about the time I realized that the preinstalled image the store had put on the computer where my friend bought it, had the drivers for the SATA controller already on it, whereas the standard XP disc that came with it did not.

    I never thought I would’ve been happier with a set of 9 rescue CDs including all the default crapware rather than a real OEM copy of XP SP2, but there you go.

    As you might know, hitting the F6 button to load external drivers during an XP installation will ONLY work with a floppy drive. Fortunately there was a floppy connector on the motherboard and a power plug for it in the PSU, but even the case didn’t have room for a floppy drive. Who uses this anymore?
    I had to pick up an old dusty IBM from the basement, rip the floppy drive out and then connect it out the side of the computer case in order to install the sata controller driver I had downloaded from the internet on another machine.

    It took an entire day to fix this computer.

    I also told my friend that the next time his computer dies, I’m either putting linux on it, or he’s on his own. That’s the last sata driver I will ever install manually.

    Reply

  15. the debian user

    Debian developer John Goerzen had to replace one of his machines with newer hardware. He found out that with his Debian install, almost everything worked out of the box after the switch – while Windows gave him serious headaches.
    I have had absolutely …

    Reply

  16. AskTheAdmin

    Awesome Story! Thank you from your friends over @ http://www.askTheAdmin.com

    Reply

  17. Ean

    This article echoes my experiences in the past.

    Once I have a system set up using Mandriva, hotplug and coldplug daemons seem to find everything I need.

    Once I replaced my fileserver which was a 1Ghz PIII with a P4 board and processor with RDRAM and a completely different architecture. Most of the parts in the system were brand new and all I did was cycle power and it worked.

    Not a single driver out of place.

    Sometimes Linux really does make life easier.

    My laptop is an exception, however. Figuring out the nuances of wireless access was a pain. This is only due to stupid companies not wanting to offer Linux support, however. If there were linux native drivers, then WiFi support would be instant and flawless.

    Reply

  18. Anonymous

    [quote]
    I have a legal copy of Windows XP Home that was preinstalled on the machine when I got it.
    [/quote]

    OEM versions of windows aren’t legally transferable between motherboards. In other words — your version isn’t legal anymore, see http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/oemeula.htm

    Legit or not — it’s noted in documentation that replacing motherboards while keeping old OS is not supported.

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    I actually read that very page before attempting this.

    Did you miss the part that says “As stated above, I would considered the replacement of a defective OEM motherboard in compliance with the OEM EULA”?

    Reply

    Anonymous Reply:

    Please quote fully, you’ve missed important part:

    Quote from http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/oemeula.htm:

    “2. If the motherboard is a factory replacement for a defective Motherboard, you can speed up the phone call activation process and avoid confusion by stating [if asked] you made upgrades in compliance with the OEM EULA. [i] As stated above, I would considered the replacement of a defective OEM motherboard in compliance with the OEM EULA.[/i] [b]Replacing a Motherboard with anything other than a direct replacement or upgraded Motherboard would fall into the category of a new system and a license for new operating system software is required.[/b]“

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    But this is a “direct replacement or upgrade” for the defective motherboard.

    I have no idea where I can find the exact text of the OEM EULA, but from what I saw on this page, I still believe I’m in compliance.

    Too bad Microsoft doesn’t use the old Borland no-nonsense license, which said essentially “treat this software like a book — it can be used by any number of people any number of places, but only by one person at any given time.”

    Or better, like the GPL…

    But in any case, it says something that there is debate about whether or not it is legal to keep my copy of Windows when my motherboard dies.

    Sigh.

    Mr.Goose Reply:

    I am a British national & an EU citizen. Why should I have to inform a foreign corporation every time I upgrade my personal computer? Indeed why should I tell Microsoft anything?

    From a human rights and privacy perspective, Microsoft’s draconian licensing is invasive and plain wrong.

    Best wishes, G.

  19. Courtney

    I’m confused, you are saying a new linux distro has more builtin support for hardware than a 7 year old windows release that was released before the hw was even widely available? Is that suprising? Oh no, how dare a 7 year old os not have out of the box support for newer hardware!

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    I doubt the picture would be any different were Vista involved. In fact, it probably would have taken longer, since I’d have to click through a ton of annoying UAC boxes, plus Vista itself runs slower.

    This was a fully-updated XP with SP2.

    I installed Linux on my machine the day I got it, and it has not been reinstalled since. It too has simply been updated over the Internet.

    Are you saying it’s unfair to Microsoft because their updates don’t include new hardware support?

    Reply

    T Reply:

    Nice try, but Viktor in comment #12 attempted that fallacy too.

    Windows XP is not 7 years old, or 6 years old. We’re talking about driver support here and Win XP SP2 is from August 2004.

    Also, your argument here seems to be that Microsoft is somehow exempt from having good driver support because they only update make new service packs every 3 years?

    But even that doesn’t make any sense because the upgrade to Vista has broken the vast majority of drivers. Driver support in Vista is much, much worse than it is in XP.

    Reply

  20. Marco

    Windows xp updates used to correct errors not add driver support, the age of xp in embedded drivers is a fact, it seems to me unfair to compare it with a new release of linux . But if you would make a point..for my experience win xp is normally intallable on any machine on the market but again maybe i have a limited ecxperience (a hundred intallation on self-assembled systems).

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    Sure, it’s installable, but how easily? Even when it first came out, you had to have driver floppies for things like SCSI cards that Linux had built-in support for.

    From what I can tell, Vista wouldn’t have been any better. XP SP2 didn’t support an IDE card that came out well before it did. Why would Vista suddenly support it?

    It seems odd to expect that to work in Vista. The manufacturer doesn’t even provide a Vista driver.

    Reply

  21. Marco

    if all this is true why 95% of pc in the world use ms OS?…if they are so hard to configure, to use or bad done….yes OEM installations are a good explaination but a great number of systems are assembled and OS is added by the final user, companyes choose the os to use based on usefulness but almost everyone use win xp….if i go in a forum of linux user i find a lot of linux user but it seem that the mayority stock with MS OSes

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    For one, I don’t think that the 95% figure is accurate.

    But that aside, hardware support is only one of the things that people consider. The vast majority of people don’t ever install Windows on their own machine — see the earlier comment on this story about someone that claimed Linux was more difficult than Windows because he had to install Linux!

    Reply

  22. nomen nescio

    If you don’t know your way around in Windows it may take you hours to config hardware.
    If you don’t know your way around in Linux it may take you hours to config hardware.

    Reply

  23. jjb

    Could you fix the eth0/eth1 problem by deleting /etc/iftab?

    Reply

  24. Benjamin A'Lee

    Several people have pointed out that that it’s not fair to compare WinXP from 2001 to, say, Debian Etch from 2007. Surely, though, that’s the problem: Windows doesn’t support recent hardware because it doesn’t update often enough for the drivers to be included with it (on an install disc, that is).

    Yes, most hardware now ships with Windows drivers. But frankly, I much prefer the drivers coming with my OS, especially when I’ve lost (or never had) the discs that came with the hardware.

    Reply

    SysGhost Reply:

    Well … “prefer the drivers coming with my OS” does have a small problem:

    Then this particular OS HAVE to have drivers available for future hardware that doesn’t exist yet.

    …yes I know what you’re talking about and I would agree with you. Just trying to point out why a piece of hardware should include drivers.

    One thing makes me wonder why it dows exist at all, and that is when I am able to choose to “search the internet for drivers” option in the “add new hardware” popup window.
    I’ve been fiddling with alot of hardware of various kinds along my path with computers. but not a single time this option ever worked for me.
    So I wonder, is there any drivers available with that option at all?

    … I mean …

    Not even Microsoft’s hardware have any drivers available with that option.
    why does it exist?

    Linux in the other hand, for example Gentoo, have drivers available for hardware via internet for all kinds of hardware, with a simple command to install it, or even with a simple kernel update.

    Reply

  25. nurbles

    I must live in a (not quite) parallel universe, because that’s the exact OPPOSITE of what I’ve experienced. Over the past few years, I’ve had several machines that ran Win2K (or WinXP) immediately, but it took several days to find a linux distro that supported basic things like the specific video card (VESA mode is OK, but I wanted what it was capable of), the network card, and the ability to boot from SATA drives. Those things are there [i]now[/i] but they were in [b]Windows[/b] back when we bought the hardware.

    Also, we have a strong tendency to move hard drives around, often ending up in a different machine than were it was installed. Windows gets upset and disables some things (such as running in VGA mode) until the new drivers are installed. Linux, however, rarely will boot, given reasons for kernel panics that seem to indicate that we changed the motherboard chipset without updating a driver or that the wrong type of power management is present or some such. And of course, after the kernel panic, there’s not even a nice maintenance mode where one can actually fix things…instead, one must boot a LiveCD (something linux does much better than Windows — but Windows [b]can[/b] do, too), mount the hard drive and fix the configuration by hand (system tools, especially graphical ones don’t typically work on the mounted file system’s config files).

    And don’t get me started about X… simply put, X’s configuration tools are at least a decade behind Windows, although I hear the next Ubuntu (Gutsy Gibbon, I think) will, for the first time, have an automatic fallback to VESA (or something) when the X config fails — something Windows has done pretty much forever. Apparently, the X folks never realized that video hardware sometimes fails without warning and must be replaced with DIFFERENT hardware, so they made that activity almost impossible for anyone except an X-guru.

    On the other hand, if you’re looking for support for hardware that you found in an old warehouse, on a forgotten and dusty shelf, linux will almost certainly support it, while newer versions of Windows will not. But linux drivers lag behind the bleeding edge for most things (although more hardware companies include linux drivers these days, they are often “tainted” and therefore not included with most distros).

    Reply

  26. Duz

    Have had one issue, when using a Promise Controller card. It is for hard drives, and had issues running the CD/DVD drives.

    So, I hook CD/DVDs to an IDE channel, and the hard drives to the other IDE or a PCI controller.

    love that SimplyMepis6.5 for my 64bit AMD system! http://www.mepis.org

    Reply

  27. Yilmaz

    I am a big fan of Linux. However, not all hardware works with Linux. I have a 4 year old laptop which works fine in XP but wifi never works in Linux. It’s been pain to configure and waste of time.

    Reply

  28. Casey Stamper

    I’ve run into the exact same thing on my Dell Inspiron 5160. If I reload XP, I always have to go out and download NIC drivers, audio drivers, and several others that don’t come to mind right now. ANY version of Linux that I’ve loaded has detected EVERYTHING from the onset of the load (Ubuntu, openSUSE, Fedora, Mandriva). The only thing that I had to tweak was the wireless stuff (typical for Linux). This doesn’t mean that the device wasn’t detected, I just had to download some driver stuff in order for Linux to use the wireless device. I totally agree w/the post.

    Reply

  29. frank

    I am considering the installation of linux, precisely Debian etch 4.The window os is always getting wiser than me, and have no respct for me at all.So I have no option than to reject and eject it .My question is, I have wifi, does it mean it cannot be supported by debian etch. I absolutely do not want to go begging window to accept me back.otherwise I will choose another distro.My motherboard is asrock k8nf6g vista, amd simpron 64 bit is my processor.

    Reply

  30. Pete

    I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. Having installed Linux for years on servers, I have still held off installing on my laptop as I have read mixed reports on whether all the built in hardware will be supported.

    I think Window’s have the edge at the momment because manufactures tend to supply laptops running Window’s and write and test the drivers accordingly.

    That said Window’s don’t make things easy do they, you get one shot to make a media backup copy and thats it! I had to google around to find the reset tool before I could upgrade my hard drive, why do you only get one shot for sw that is yours anyway?

    Reply

  31. Patrick

    I agree, most hardware is detected out of box in Ubuntu which is Debian based.

    Reply

  32. chris

    After getting fed up with XP firewall and antivirus issues I downloaded ubuntu and dual booted it for my laptop – the broadcom wireless card needed a simple google search so I could paste the support code into the terminal and it worked – I had more hassle setting up WPA for XP. Everything just seems to work and a simple web search seems to quickly work out any other problems – Microsoft should be very afraid – keep up the excellent support for us newbies!

    Reply

  33. zaggynl

    Linux is only better with old hardware, try anything 1 year old or newer and it’ll probably fail horribly.
    Especially with soundcards, videocards, wifi and webcams.
    Keep on growing Linux, you’re getting there!

    Reply

  34. Ray

    RE zaggynl
    Brand New ThinkPad T61 Installed Ubuntu 8.10
    Video (3D with Compiz config installed)
    Sound
    Wireless
    Hot Key’s
    Suspend
    Hibernate
    Hot Swap
    power management screen dimming/CPU Reduction

    Other than 3D Desktop requiring installation, every thing Just Worked.
    Ubuntu did NOT “fail horribly”

    Reply

  35. Bart Kleijngeld

    Windows, just like Linux, also installs as much as it can without prompting the user to do anything. And sure, for some devices you get these wizard popups, but that’s just a few clicks and you’re done.

    Personally I’ve never experienced serious trouble with Windows and hardware support. That is not so weird: Windows owns the market, all vendors create drivers for it. Linux on the on other hand lacks a lot of support or compensates with 3rd party support. I’ve seen awfully many pc’s failing to run Linux in a stable way because of hardware support problems.

    Hardware support for Linux is far behind Windows’s, although you may be right about the neat way Linux handles all compatible hardware. I wish vendors would by default create drivers for Linux :(. I can’t use Linux now due to these problems.

    Reply

  36. john

    Try installing Linux (any flavor) on a system with older hardware and tell me that it is easier than Windows. Quite frankly, I’m fed up with the crap I’ve had to go through, and the fact that no distro of linux supports my ati graphics card nor my printer. Good luck with that. Ha.

    Reply

    J.B. Reply:

    I tried. Have a pc made in 2000 or even older, it’s my aunts, she gave me it, when windows started to show the blue screen. And guess what? I tried reinstalling windows(98 then XP), it worked ok (after a few days of searching for audio and network drivers) only for about a month, then again the blue screen and finish. It wouldn’t accept even a new install. Friend gave me a copy of openSuSe last summer. I put the DVD into the pc and WOW! After the install i didn’t need to search for any drivers, didn’t have to do anything! The whole installation process took about an hour or a little more on that slow machine, while windows needed an hour just to install itself and then again a few hours to install the drivers. It just worked and a lot better then a fresh install of windows.

    Reply

  37. Jason

    Yes linux hardware support is far better than window’s, the only problem I see is not linux it’s self but the hardware manufacture’s current unwillingniss to support linux driver support. Window’s is a lost cause soo it’s time we leave that outdated operateing system and joined this new better operateing system – linux.

    Reply

  38. Randy

    I started in Computers in the 70′s. Then we shared everything we programed to make the hardware work. This was and is the basis of an OS. Since Bill Gates thought of us “hackers” as thieves, he was laughed at. Everyone in those days knew that Hardware was nothing with out Software. The two worked together to make the machine operate. The Philosophy was to share the software so all the machines would work to the best that they could. Linux continues that legacy. Windows does too. but there was problems with some hardware. They were designed Specifically to operate with a particular OS. This meant that the devices we were designing had embedded code that would only operate with proprietary software. This was an attempt to corner the PC hardware Market, such as Apple had done years past. The problem was that the devices were slower than their hardware only devices and the resources from the main CPU took a hit as well as the OS becoming slower. Linux was never allowed the information about the Drivers, but through the community drivers were developed and give freely to anyone who wanted it.

    My Point is that while a majority of people use Windows for computing and they are content with it, fine. just don’t complain to the other people that have chosen to Operate their machines in the fashion developed during the days of IBM SHARE or The Hackers Community days. Linux has a goal. and that is to offer all the software necessary to make your hardware machine work. With Millions of people around the globe working to this end, the OS is very stable.
    It might not be a game machine like Windows, but that is only one use of power of the hardware, not it sole role.
    Drivers for Linux go to the Kernel Group for testing and review. daily there is activity. Windows does not need to worry about making drivers, that is left to the hardware manufactures that want to make a profit and support the OS that will require the user to pay.
    Since Freedom has always triumphed over Totalitarianism (or socialism) A Free OS will eventually over take an Proprietary OS. The Drivers in Linux are there because we knew they need to be to make the machine work. Microsoft doesn’t need the driver in there kernel because they have Market and hardware vendors want to feed off of that market.
    Fine. Windows Users Stay where you are and do the best you can with what you can afford and what you are hoping will be a comfortable experience using your Computer.
    Free OS Users Lets continue to develop software that uses hardware effectively and share it with the world….and let’s continue to give the Windows Users some of our work too Like Open Office, Gimp, Netscape (Mozilla, Firefox, etc), Blender (used in the Movie industry for New 3D animation Films)….The ease of use is our Victory so lets share it. eventually the Freedom will be enjoyed by all. Even if they didn’t know what happened.
    I use MS, Linux, Unix OS. One by Job Requirement, the other two to exercise my freedom and to enjoy computing.

    Reply

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