Privilege management Pretty much from the start, UNIX has been a multi user system, whereas multi user functionality has been a retrofitted feature in the Windows family. OS X has a root user while modern Windows versions have an Administrator user for doing administrative tasks.

However, although both operating systems support these constructs, neither executes them particularly well. The default OS X desktop user has administrative privileges, for example. Admittedly, the root password is required whenever the user installs or removes a program in /Applications, but the default desktop user can still do way too much.

Recent Alignment Articles
Tracking The Malware Battle

Web 2.0 Security: Application Scanners

Spam Bust: The Lessons of Yesmail

Pirated Vista, Office 2007 Already on The 'Net

FREE IT Management Newsletters

In Windows (at least up to XP SP2), things are no better. Indeed, many third party applications simply don’t work properly if the user is not an administrator. Older, so called “legacy” apps are even worse, since they were written to conform to older, now outdated, Windows security conventions.

Shame on both Apple and Microsoft for this! To have the ability to do it right and then squander it away is inexcusable.

Qualitative score: OS X gets a D+ while Windows gets a D-.

Program management Here’s where OS X really shines. Apple has improved on UNIX in this area. Although the standard UNIX utilities are still in /bin, /usr/bin, and such, Apple apps and most third party apps install in /Applications. When installing or removing programs from /Applications, pretty much all app-specific files go in the application’s /Applications folder. Simply dragging the application’s /Applications folder to the trash (or to a network drive or a backup drive) is quite sufficient for uninstalling the application entirely. There are exceptions to this, but not many.

Windows, on the other hand, uses various program installers and uninstallers for the job. Programs install themselves mostly under /Program Files these days, but also touch innumerable registry keys and such. Removing applications thoroughly, such that no “residue” from the app exists on the system, is entirely up to the program’s uninstaller. It’s been my experience that there’s always residue left behind somewhere.

Qualitative score: OS X gets an A while Windows gets a C.