Windows really isn't good for "average users" (noobs) - a long winded rant

Every now and then my wife asks me for computer advice, she doesn’t do so lightly because she thinks I’m an “Elitist.” Of course, several years of me saying “Well, you’d have a better time using Linux” has not helped me shed that label. Anyway, earlier today my wife was complaining about what a piece of trash her laptop is. It’s a 2 or 3 year old Dell, i7 with GTX 960 dedicated graphics. The thing cost $1200 CAD (at least) at the time. She asked what I thought could be causing it to be so slow and laggy and generally unusable. All I could say was “It’s not your hardware.”

It got me thinking about the whole ecosystem that has developed around Windows. Every time you get a new printer the thing wants to install the drivers, picture viewing software, picture editing software, an Explorer toolbar, etc. etc. The average user just clicks the next button until the installation wizard shuts up and all those “optional” software goodies (which are, by default, opted in. Remember that conversation?) get installed. Or what about the software you actually wanted to install? Well it’s all set to start automatically during boot, an option the regular user doesn’t even know exists. On top of that you’ve got your Anti-virus software the guy at Best Buy said they had to have which is almost Malware in itself. They do a google search for some software they think will speed up their slow computer, not realizing that more software is not the solution, and the website they find has 20 ads cleverly disguised as “download” buttons.

My view of the average user is skewed towards my own family and friends whom I’ve helped with their computers. Your mileage may vary.

In my opinion Windows is not the OS for the technically un-savy. If there was ever a time to use the phrase RTFM - Read the … Manual - it should be directed to anyone who thinks they want Windows. If someone doesn’t want to read the fine print when installing software or generally know what their doing on a computer or, god forbid, only put files on their desktop and nowhere else, they should not be using Windows.

It’s not all bad though. In 2 years time when their system is running slow, they just give them to me claiming it’s irrelevant old hardware. Imagine the e-waste problem we might not have if people knew their “computer problems” were not actually caused by the computer!

I think that a lot of people buy Mac computers just to browse the web simply because the experience is so much more cohesive and for most people the slogan “it just works” really does hold true. If the barrier to entry wasn’t so high, ie. the cost, I think everyone’s grandmother would be using a Mac. And the bonus, when you open the “start” menu advertisements for Candycrush don’t triple the size of the menu!

I’ve been on Linux for 15 years and I’m pretty sure I’ve had less problems than other people with Windows. Have you ever tried to find a solution to a Windows problem on the Microsoft forum or whatever it is? It’s just crickets, it seems like every problem you have you’re the only one who’s ever had it. Totally opposite experience on Linux. When I install software I know that’s only what it installs, other than dependencies but it tells me what those are! Linux updates when I say it can and it doesn’t need to reboot for 10 minutes. The software centers or repos are so much easier and cleaner to use than crawling through google search results for sketchy software. When I mess things up I can reinstall the OS if I have to without having to worry about license keys.

People make this joke “haha, sometimes I wonder which is smarter, the computer or me! haha” and I say “YOU put ‘sudo’ in front of anything and you’re as smart as you damn well please!”

My friends and family put up with this Windows dumpster fire so they can use MS Office, and one person uses Photoshop. Windows is just not for average users. It’s downright irresponsible to sell it to every Joe that walks through the doors of Walmart looking for a new PC. Those machines are practically being condemned to the landfill, right next to the last one that was just replaced.

I’m using a 9 year old laptop running an AMD 4 core APU and it is literally more productive than the machine my wife is using. How is this not the experience that people want?

  • eof

Sorry, there’s no tl;dr here


I think this is an accurate tl;dr

(Okay mine turned into a rant too).

I agree with you 100%

I think we’re moving towards end-user systems where the operating system is more and more hidden from users though. People don’t care, they just want to next->next->next->finish, they can’t be trusted in a lot of cases, they just want to use Office or whatever and not have to think about how the computer works (TBH that’s not so unreasonable, not everyone who owns a car wants to be a mechanic, but you have to know some basics like adding oil and fuel and not leaving it unlocked).

I admit that doesn’t apply to everyone but I think people want to have their cake and eat it. I remember sorting out an ex-girlfriend’s mother’s computer that was riddled with viri and malware because she used Internet Explorer on Windows to access dubiously free online games and didn’t adjust any security settings.

I cleaned it up and said I’ve enabled some security features to stop sites from installing things on your computer and all she could do was complain I’d broken her games. This is not the only experience I’ve had like this, I’m sure it’s familiar to many of you.

Stop complaining about malware when you’re basically installing the malware, I wanted to say.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Except perhaps THE cloud, which is maybe a brown lining (or something).

The Microsoft community answers site, for like decades, has got to be one of the worst I’ve ever seen for “official” answers to end user questions. I’ve literally laughed out loud at how bad some of the solutions are. Finding answers on other sites is 100% hit or miss, mostly miss. People complain about Linux elitists. Go hang out on some Windows forums and see what you think.

Using Windows can be a monumentally frustrating experience which I think is partially responsible for the decline of the personal computer. Mobile operating systems are just easier to use for most people. If using a PC (desktop or laptop) were easier I think more people would use them. It’s not even about cost anymore when a new phone or tablet costs as much as a mid-tier laptop.

I think there is an opportunity for Linux to make using a “real” computer easier for the average person. Mac has shown this to be the case but not on a wide scale. I contend this has a lot to do with cost being a barrier to entry for a LOT of people. Projects like Linux Mint, Zorin OS, and elementary OS get a little closer to this goal with each release.

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I’ve been thinking the same for years now and I don’t generally help ppl with Windows machines anymore unless they pay. If they want to pay that’s usually if they have “important” stuff on it. I don’t charge a lot but the time it takes to troubleshoot a Windows update problem for example is just insane. The whole update process is slow, and as you say, there’s so many “have you tried this” answers to error codes that it gets ridicules. You sit there watching the “please wait a minute” screen for 30 minutes until you can try the next thing.

There’s also the issue of Windows upping the spec req. I know a lot of ppl who have older machines (from the W7 era) that just doesn’t run Windows well anymore but they work perfectly fine with Linux. They get Linux if they want it working better, if not, then buy a new computer. Most ppl like so save money so… :innocent:

It’s also faster to install a “clean” W10 on a new machine these days instead of cleaning up all the preinstalled crap. Since MS seems to have ISOs that are pretty up to date you don’t have to wait for hours to update the thing after install anyway.

At first I was really hesitant about installing Linux on other peoples machines cause I thought I didn’t know enough to fix problems. The reality is that with error codes that actually means something, the (nearly) non existent bloatware/malware/whatever problems and a home folder that is easy to manage (no library crap like Windows) makes my life a lot easier and they hardly ever ask for help after switching.


I’ve been having a think about what I originally posted and I wondered if the reason most Windows machines end up the way I’ve described is because reinstallation is so inaccessible. For one, installing Windows is probably something the normal user wouldn’t think of, or consider a difficult thing to do. For two, the idea of re-activating the OS and all your software is so tedious most people would avoid doing this at all costs. For three, I don’t believe most normal users have a very good backup strategy or a backup at all and reinstalling would either force them to figure that out or destroy all their files.

Compared with a system like my own. I reinstall the OS or distro hop a couple times a year at least. I always have a fresh install, no bloat, no crapware, it’s always up to date no matter how outdated, deprecated, or obsolete my hardware is. If a normal user could do this with a Windows system whenever they messed something up, maybe it wouldn’t get so bad.

I think this has gotten better recently though. If I’m not mistaken your Windows license can be tied to the hardware somehow, so it is reactivated whenever it is installed.

This is kind of a “maybe I was too hard on Windows” reply but my main statement stands.