The situation where an unskilled user can enjoy a well-working computer does only last so long.1 Either the user becomes good at maintaining the computer, or it will stop working correctly. That’s because computers are not reliable. If not used carefully, at some point, they will behave unexpectedly or stop working. Therefore, one will have to get their hands dirty and most likely learn something along the way.

Some operating systems are more prone to gathering cruft, though. Windows computers are known to decay over time. This is caused by file system fragmentation, the registry getting cluttered, OS / software updates,2 or unwanted software installation. Furthermore, users can install software from any source. As a result, they have to check the software quality by themselves, whether it’s compatible with their system, perform the installation procedure and the maintenance. This may create problems if any of these tasks are not done well. Conversely, despite giving users a lot of power, GNU/Linux is more likely to stay stable. Even though it depends on the distributions policies, software installation and updates are done through package manager repositories that are administered and curated by skilled maintainers. Breaking the system is thus more difficult, but not impossible. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

Becoming knowledgeable about computers and being able to manage them efficiently is easier with Free Software than proprietary software. Free Software creates a healthy relationship between developers and users whereby the former plays nice with the latter because he or she may redesign the software to better fit their needs or completely stop using it. Its openness allows everyone to dig into technical details and discover how it works. Therefore, Free Software puts users in control, allowing them to better understand technology.

Regardless of the reason, leaving a computer badly managed will result in cruft creeping in. The solution to this is simple: don’t be afraid of your tools, master them!

  1. Unless the computer is managed remotely. ↩︎

  2. Citing only the latest of a long list: Windows 10 printing breaks due to Microsoft June 2020 updates↩︎