Q: I've started shopping for basic web hosting for a small site, and I'm confused about Windows and Linux web hosting. What's the difference between these two options? How do I know which one I need?
A: This is a great question, since picking between Windows and Linux can be very confusing for a beginning webmaster. By far the most common option for shared web hosting (which is what most small personal or business websites will need) is Linux hosting (or Unix hosting, which is very similar). This means that the powerful computer known as a server that hosts your site runs on a Linux operating system, just like your home computer might run on Windows, MacOS, or Linux.
As you've probably guessed, Windows hosting uses servers running the Windows operating system. Windows servers are fairly unusual in shared web hosting. Of the web hosts we review, only a few offer the option of using Windows servers for their shared web hosting. If you are just starting out on your website and have not yet chosen a sitebuilder or host, it's probably best to pick Linux hosting, since it will be much easier to find than Windows hosting if you want to change hosts later.
Though Linux and Windows hosting used to have a number of significant differences, today the only big differences lie in which languages each operating system supports. If you are already working with a particular designer or sitebuilding program, check to see which programming language they're using, as some languages are only supported by one operating system or the other. In particular, if you are using ASP or .NET scripting, you must use a Windows server. Both Windows and Linux servers offer similar performance for most tasks. However, since Linux is a free operating system and companies must purchase Windows, Windows hosting is often more expensive than Linux hosting.
Overall, we recommend Linux hosting for most users, unless they are already using scripting or a sitebuilder that requires Windows hosting. Have more questions about choosing the right web host? Check out our detailed reviews, the comparison chart, or the FAQ section. You can also leave us a question or comment in the fields below.
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