Desktop OS Comparison

CERN IT supports a range of operating systems, but support levels and procedures for desktop computers vary between operating systems (OS).

Which operating system to choose?

In general, there is a good inter-operability between different operating systems, i.e. a data file created on one OS can be read and modified on a different OS. At the same time, there may be important functional differences in application functionality between operating systems, for example Microsoft Excel macros written on Windows will not work in Microsoft Excel on a Mac. Depending on your work environment and your personal preference one OS can be better adapted to your needs than other.

If you are not sure which operating system to choose for your new computer, please consider:

  • CERN support scope for the given OS – does it satisfy your requirements?
  • Your required software tools – are they available for the OS you are considering?
  • Popularity in your work environment – is the given OS commonly used by your colleagues?

For detailed comparison between desktop operating systems at CERN, please see below.



What support will I get?

Windows Mac Linux

General-purpose Windows PC are supported and centrally managed within NICE, the Network Integrated Computer Environment. This means that a central IT team within IT is in charge of the correct configuration of the OS layer, applications and updates. Most configuration tasks are automatically performed for the user and security updates are enforced monthly.

Advanced users who require very specific configuration can opt out from the central management scheme and manage their Windows computers locally.

Mac computers are supported, but not managed centrally by the IT Mac Support team. This means that the user is in charge of the correct configuration and regular maintenance of their computer, which has to be carried out based on the updates provided by software vendors.

IT Linux Support team provides and supports CERN distribution of Linux: SLC, Scientific Linux CERN and CERN CentOS which are based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. SLC installations are preconfigured to automatically receive updates, but no updates are enforced centrally.

Licences for Red Hat Enterprise Linux can be provided for services with a strong dependency for 3-rd party support reasons.

Supported OS versions Supported OS versions Supported OS versions

Windows 10
Windows 7
 

macOS High Sierra – version 10.13, released in 2017
macOS Sierra – version 10.12, released in 2016
Mac OS X 10.11 "El Capitan" (support for upgrade only)

CERN CentOS 7
CERN Scientific Linux 6

Minimum computer skills required Minimum computer skills required Minimum computer skills required

For configuration: elementary
For daily use: elementary

For configuration: advanced
For daily use: elementary

For configuration: advanced
For daily use: advanced

 

What hardware is supported and how can I acquire it?

 

Windows Mac Linux

Supported computer hardware can be ordered from CERN Stores via the EDH.

Check also:
Supported Hardware and Versions of Windows.

Standard Mac hardware can be ordered from CERN Stores via the EDH.

Intel-based Mac hardware models that can run one of the supported OS versions are supported. Old hardware models based on PowerPC are not supported.

Supported computer hardware can be ordered from CERN Stores via EDH.

Check also: HW models supported on SLC6 and HW models supported on SLC5.

Desktop / Laptop Desktop / Laptop Desktop / Laptop

Both desktop and portable (laptop) models

Both desktop and portable (laptop) models

Only desktop models

Can I bring my own device?

Short-term visitors can contact the Service Desk for support to connect their devices to the CERN computing infrastructure (to use the network and video projectors). Members of CERN personnel and long-term visitors are strongly encouraged to use the supported hardware models as per above.

 

How do I install the operating system?

Windows Mac Linux

OS installation and re-installation on the supported hardware can be started directly from the network as explained here.

New Mac computers are delivered with Mac OS pre-installed.

Reinstallation and upgrades can be started directly from the network as explained here.

OS installation and re-installation on the supported hardware can be started directly from the network as explained here.

Network connection

Before the network installation can be launched, the computer needs to be connected to the CERN network and correctly registered in the Network database.

How do I install applications?

Windows Mac Linux

Automated installation of supported applications is provided using the kiosk functionality of CMF, the Computer Management Framework.

Supported applications are available from the Mac Self-Service as explained here.

Applications are available for installation with yum or - under the window manager - from System > Administration > Add/Remove Software.

Available applications Available applications Available applications

Applications available on NICE Windows 7

Software for Mac OS X

Linuxsoft Software Repository

What applications are most commonly used?

Windows Mac Linux
E-Mail
Microsoft Outlook Apple Mail
Microsoft Outlook
Mozilla Thunderbird
Mozilla Thunderbird
Web browsing
Internet Explorer
Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox
Apple Safari
Mozilla Firefox
Word processing
Microsoft Word Microsoft Word
Apple Pages
OpenOffice Writer
Spread sheets
Microsoft Excel Microsoft Excel
Apple Numbers
OpenOffice Calc
Presentations
Microsoft Powerpoint Microsoft Powerpoint
Apple Keynote
OpenOffice Impress
Graphics
CorelDraw Graphics Suite GIMP
Adobe Photoshop
GIMP
Reading PDF documents
Adobe Reader Apple Preview Document Viewer
Creating PDF documents
Adobe Pro

"Print to file..."
Adobe Acrobat Pro

OpenOffice Writer, export to PDF
Web authoring
Microsoft Expression Web
Adobe Dreamweaver
Adobe Dreamweaver -
Antivirus
Microsoft System Center Endpoint Protection Microsoft System Center Endpoint Protection
Symantec Antivirus
-
Desktop connection to remote Windows servers
Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection for Windows Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection for Mac rdesktop
Desktop connection to remote Linux servers
StarNet X-Win32 XQuartz Native support for X11

 

How do I maintain the OS and the applications?

Windows Mac Linux

General-purpose Windows PC are centrally maintained: there is a monthly update cycle for the OS and supported applications. Other applications have to be regularly updated by the user using the mechanisms provided by the respective application vendors.

Locally-managed computers are maintained by their respective local administrators using tools and updates provided by the NICE team.

Mac users are responsible for the maintenance of their computer – they should update the OS and applications regularly using the mechanisms provided by the respective vendors. Normally, this is as easy as accepting the automatic updates, but it has to be done in a prompt way.

By default, Linux computers are configured to automatically receive OS and application updates from yum. Reboots are not enforced, so the users should manually reboot whenever a software update requires a reboot to be effective (ex.: kernel update).

 

 

Where do I store my files and how do I back them up?

 

Windows Mac Linux

By default, user directories such as “Documents” or “Desktop” are redirected to DFS and always available on the computer – even if the computer is offline.

User should not save their files in other directories on the local disk

By default, user files are stored locally on the computer’s disk.

Since AFS is natively supported by Scientific Linux CERN, users are strongly encouraged to set up their home directories on AFS at account creation.

Backup Backup Backup

User files on DFS are automatically backed-up.

There is no automatic backup of files stored on the local disk in directories outside of the user home directory.

User files should not be stored outside of the user home directory.

There is no automatic backup of the user’s files. The user has to manually back up his/her files.

One possible backup policy is to regularly copy user documents to the user’s space on DFS.

The Mac Support Team is currently investigating other backup scenarios.

User files on AFS are automatically backed-up.

There is no automatic backup of the files stored on the local disk.

Recovery from hardware loss Recovery from hardware loss Recovery from hardware loss

In case of a hardware loss – such as theft or hardware failure – user files can be easily recovered from DFS and applications installed from CMF can be automatically reinstalled. Other applications that had been manually installed from other sources by the user will have to be manually reinstalled form these sources.

 

In case of a hardware loss – such as theft or hardware failure – the user relies fully on the manual backup procedure that they followed for their files. If the user had not backed up his/her files before the hardware loss, then the user data recovery will not be possible. CERN-supported applications that had been installed from DFS can be reinstalled from DFS and applications added form other sources will have to be reinstalled from these sources.

In case of a hardware loss – such as theft or hardware failure – user files stored on AFS can be easily recovered from AFS. For files on the local disk, the user relies fully on the manual backup procedure that they followed. Applications have to be manually reinstalled (either from the CERN Linux Software Repository using yum or from the source previously used by the user).