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People say Linux is safe because system changes can only be made having root access and therefore blocks viruses or other malware from being executed. But doesn't windows administrator user system (asuming that the user also made a standard user account) also do the same thing? So isn't it fair to say that Windows is equally as safe?

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  • There isn't a great deal of difference. The reason there are not more malicious files on Linux is because of the user space is smaller.
    – Ramhound
    Jan 19 '14 at 18:20
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The short answer is yes, both root on Linux and administrator on Windows are the same.

On both Linux and Windows, malware can be injected into processes running with root/admin permissions, and hence get full computer access. This is actually how a lot of malware works.

The difference comes with the user base - Linux is run on less than 2% of computers, while Windows is run on more than 92%. Hackers are more likely to target Windows due to the greater impact their malware will have.

Personally, I don't care much about malware. I install beta OSes on my computer every couple of months, so if something does go wrong, I simply reinstall the OS. (I have never, by the way, gotten malware on my computer, at least not that I know of.)

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On a windows computer, everything is based on the registry, which does not require administrator privilages to modify. Therefore, theoretically any application you install can do anything to your computer. On a unix based system, there is no registry. If you do not have permission for a file, then an administrator account is required to modify that file. Sure there are workarounds, but they are far less reliable and obvious.

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    Windows Registry uses the same permissions systems as files. So you can prevent write (even read) access to certain hives. Normal (non administrator) user does not have access to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive for instance. Jan 19 '14 at 20:42