What Is the Most Popular Operating System?

An operating system is software that runs on a computer and is responsible for managing software applications and computer resources. The most installed operating system in the world is Android. For desktop PCs, Windows is the most popular operating system. This paper looks at the most popular operating systems, number of users, and their history.

What is an Operating System?

A computer is a combination of hardware and software. The hardware components of a computer include a monitor, a keyword, a power supply, hard drives, a motherboard, memory modules, processors, a system fan, and other devices. A computer may also have some external devices such as a printer, fax, and a hard drive. The software component of a computer is a set of software applications including the operating system that makes hardware talk to each other and tell them to do something such as print.
In the desktop world, Microsoft Windows is the most installed operating system and controls 82% of desktops. Apple’s macOS is installed on 13% of computers. The rest of the 5% is shared among various operating systems including Linux.
According to global data collected by statcounter (image below), Android is the most popular operating system in the world with 40% of the world’s devices powered by Android. To be exact, Android, Windows, iOS, OS X, and Linux are the top 5 most popular operating systems in the world with 39.5%, 36.4%, 13.1%, 5.8%, and less than 1% respectively.


Windows is the second most popular operating system, and powers most of the PCs and laptops with 36% of the market share. iOS, OS X, and Linux are the other three most popular operating systems with market shares of 13%, 6%, and 1% respectively.
Windows, developed by Microsoft, is an operating system for PCs and powers over 1 billion devices. Currently, there are two major Windows OS versions, Windows and Windows Server.
The following table summarizes Windows OS versions and their release dates.

Release Year



Initial launch

Bill Gates announced Microsoft Windows


Windows 1.0

Priced at $100.


Windows 2.0



Windows 286

Microsoft Windows 286 was introduced in June 1988. Priced at $100.


Windows 3.0

Full version of Microsoft Windows 3.0 was priced at $149.


Windows NT

Windows NT was introduced.


Windows 3.0a

Windows 3.0a with Multimedia was released.


Windows 3.1

Sold 1 million copies within months.


Windows for Workgroups

Windows for Workgroups 3.1 was released.


Windows NT 3.1




Over 25 million licenses were sold.


Windows NT 3.51



Windows 95

Windows 95 was released that become “the Windows”


Windows NT 4.0



Windows 95 (4.0)



Windows CE 1.0

Windows Compact Edition for devices.


Windows CE 2.0



Windows 98



Windows CE 3.0



Windows 2000, Windows ME



Windows XP

One of the most popular Windows for home and individual users.


Windows Server 2003

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 was released.


Windows Vista

Was a major disaster.


Windows Server 2008



Windows 7



Windows Server 2012, Windows 8



Windows 10

Windows 10 continues to improve.

Oct 2016

Windows Server 2016


Nov 2019

Windows Server 2019

Windows Server 2019 on-premises and Windows Server 2019 on Azure

Among all Windows versions, Windows 10 is the most popular with more than 55% of market share. Windows 7 is the next version that is used by 33% of users.  
Windows 10 OS Breakdown 


Android, originally developed by Android Inc., was later acquired by Google and is a Linux-based mobile and tablet operating system that powers more than 2 billion monthly active devices worldwide. Android not only powers mobile devices but also runs TVs, smart watches, cars, gaming consoles, digital cameras, and other electronics.
According to statcounter, Android took over Windows to become the world’s most popular operating system in April 2017.
The following table summarizes Android versions and their release dates.



Release Date

Android 1.0


Sept 2008

Android 2.0


Oct 2009

Android 3.0


Feb 2011

Android 4.0

Ice Cream Sandwich

Oct 2011

Android 5.0


Nov 2014

Android 6.0


Oct 2015

Android 7.0


Aug 2016

Android 8.0


Aug 2017

Android 9.0


Aug 2018


iOS and macOS

iOS and macOS are two operating systems developed by Apple. The iOS operating system is for Apple’s mobile devices including iPhone and iPad.


Release date

iPhone OS 1

Jan 2007

iPhone OS 2

July 2008

iPhone OS 3

March 2009

iOS 4

March 2010

iOS 5

June 2011

iOS 6

June 2012

iOS 7

June 2013

iOS 8

June 2014

iOS 9

June 2015

iOS 10

June 2016

iOS 11

June 2017

iOS 12

June 2018

macOS is the operating system Apple designed for Mac machines, including Mac computers and MacBooks. macOS is the second most widely used operating system for desktop computers, laptops and home computers.
macOS’s predecessor was OSX. Here is a list of the latest macOS releases and their features.

macOS Sierra

Sept 2016

Siri, Optimized Storage, Updated Photos, Messages, iTunes, and Video Maker.

macOS High Sierra

Sept 2017

Updates to Safari, Photos, and Mail, Apple File System

macOS Mojave

Sept 2018

Better performance, System-wide dark mode, new apps lifted from iOS.



Linux is a clone of Unix, written from scratch by Linus Torvalds and released in 1991. Linux provides modern OS features, including true multitasking, virtual memory, shared libraries, demand loading, shared copy-on-write executables, proper memory management, and multistack networking including IPv4 and IPv6.
Although originally developed for 32-bit x86-based PCs (386 or higher), today Linux also runs on a multitude of other processor architectures, in both 32- and 64-bit variants.
Linux is one of the first and most successful community-driven, free and open-source software that has changed the way we build, distribute, and manage software. Linux is distributed under GNU/Linux license, which means any one can download, use, modify and distribute software.
Linux Kernel is the engine that runs all Linux based operating systems. Today, the Linux Kernel-based operating system powers billions of devices including servers, personal computers, embedded devices such as TV sets, wearables, automobiles, routers, gaming consoles, and smart appliances. Mobile devices, mainframes, and supercomputers run on Linux.
The most popular Linux Kernel-based operating systems are Ubuntu, Linux Mint, Debian, Fedona, RedHat/centOS and openSUSE.
The latest version of Linux kernel, Linux kernel 5.0, was just released. Some of the key features released in this version include AMD FreeSync display support, new console font for HiDPI/retina displays, Raspberry Pi Touchscreen support, Btrfs swap file support, Adiantum data encryption, and Logitech high-resolution scrolling.


In this article, we talked about the most popular operating systems in the world.

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