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Netbooks: XP vs. Ubuntu vs. Windows 7

written by: Daniel Barros•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/10/2009

Got a new netbook? Wondering which OS will be best on it? Check out our comprehensive guide to the pros and cons of each of these three operating systems.

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    The Modern Netbook OS

    There are three primary OS types for the Netbook: Ubuntu, XP, and Windows 7. Which is better? you might ask. Let's analyze them one by one.

    Ubuntu Linux

    Ubuntu is probably what you could call the "best version" of Linux around for the inexperienced user. The OS is highly user-friendly and manages to maintain the usual aspects of the XP-like desktop environment. The only problem is that Ubuntu may tend to have issues with your netbook's best features, including the function keys - which is a real problem if you're dependent on those keys for sound, Wi-Fi, etc. Support for Ubuntu is widespread, but like most Linux distributions, it's difficult to handle if you're new to the scene. Installation may be a snap, but unlike Windows, in the long run, you may have to delve into some code (or the command line) in order to fix problems.

    The best part about Ubuntu is the fact that it is by and large the most efficient and most reliable OS. Not only does it run like a dream, but the OS boots up fast, runs fast, and overall is just the best experience for those who don't want to have a heavy OS and for those who are tired of Windows in general. Ubuntu is your choice if you're an experienced PC user who will use the netbook for all sorts of important business doings, and less for the multi-media experience.


    XP has been the netbook OS of choice for a couple of years now. It comes pre-loaded on every commercially available netbook, and is the OS of choice for running the netbook straight out of the box. Because it's an older OS, it is much better suited to a netbook that basically runs off of older hardware in a much smaller package. XP comes fully loaded with the same software you're used to and love on your desktop or actual laptop. More importantly, Windows is a familiar OS for a good portion of those who have dabbled in computers.

    XP has the advantage of familiarity and runs well (although not as well as Ubuntu). The main disadvantage of XP is inherent in the fact that Microsoft is talking about discontinuing the OS sometime soon, probably around the date that Windows 7 is going to be shipping. As XP goes into decline, you have to start thinking about the future, and that future is what is coming next.

    Windows 7

    As Windows 7 is the next logical netbook progression, considering that Vista was "un-runnable" on your typical netbook, this would be a good time to analyze its strengths compared to the old standby, XP. Windows 7 runs better and faster than XP does piece for piece (of hardware, that is). Windows 7 also has better compatibility than XP for most modern netbook drivers, with the exception of some Marvell and Yukon networking drivers.

    The other obvious strengths of Windows 7 come in the form of the amazing taskbar (which I've already gone on and on about in several other articles). The "superbar" is also incredibly useful in the netbook world - mainly because it makes the computer work less due to the fact that you have to click less to get to the familiar links that you know and enjoy.