What is the best operating system for bioinformatics analysis?

  • Hi,

    I am new to bioinformatics and I wanted to havea proper setup for my learning process and also for my future analysis. What operating system would you recommend for bioinformatics analysis?

    • Best Answer
    • Official Post


    Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that combines computer science, statistics, mathematics, and biology. As bioinformaticians grapple with massive biological datasets, the choice of operating system can greatly affect their productivity and the efficiency of their computational analyses.

    When it comes to choosing an operating system for bioinformatics, the choice depends largely on personal preference, the specific requirements of your work, and your level of comfort with different systems. We have mainly 3 options: Linux, MacOS, and Windows, and I am going to explain in details which one can more more suitable and why.

    1. Linux

    Known for its powerful capabilities and open source nature, Linux is a favorite among bioinformaticians. Various distributions such as Ubuntu-based distros, Fedora, and CentOS provide a rich environment for running heavy bioinformatics software. And in addition Linux's interface has grown a lot in recent years and it can also be your main daily machine.



    Most bioinformatics tools have been developed primarily for Linux. This broad support means that new tools, updates, and patches are likely to be available for Linux before other operating systems.


    Linux is highly customizable, allowing users to tailor their environment to their specific needs.

    Command Line Interface:

    The efficient, text-based CLI is well suited to managing large data sets and complex computational tasks common in bioinformatics.

    It is FREE!

    Majority of linux distros are free and can be easily installed on almost any hardware (and most probably on the hardware that you already have).


    Learning curve: Not sure if this is a con or not but for those used to graphical interfaces, Linux can be intimidating at first. However, the investment in learning the system often pays off in productivity and flexibility. And please note that in many cases the bioinformatics tools do not come with a graphical interface and actually they are "Terminal-based". I personally would not consider it as a negative point, as it is a must in the bioinformatics world.

    2. macOS

    MacOS, with its Unix-like structure, offers a blend of Linux power. It's often a preferred choice for bioinformaticians who want a balance of command-line functionality and a graphical interface.


    User-friendly interface:

    MacOS offers an intuitive, stable, and elegant user interface.


    Because it's Unix-based, macOS is compatible with many bioinformatics tools (not all) designed for Linux.


    Limited software:

    While many tools designed for Linux can run on macOS, not all can, sometimes requiring workarounds such as virtual machines or Docker containers.

    Hardware cost and limited flexibility:

    Apple hardware tends to be more expensive, which can be a limiting factor for some users. In addition your options will be really limited to a few hardware configurations.

    3. Windows

    Although not traditionally the first choice for bioinformatics, recent advances, including the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), have made Windows a viable option.


    That familiar Windows look:

    Windows is generally easier for beginners and provides a familiar graphical user interface.


    With WSL, users can run a Linux environment directly on Windows without dual-booting. This allows access to a wide range of bioinformatics tools originally designed for Linux.


    Despite the benefits of WSL, Windows natively supports fewer bioinformatics applications than Linux or MacOS. This is a major negative point as it might limit your abilities in the future a lot.

    Final Verdict:

    All pros and cons said, I would personally recommend you a reliable Linux distro such as POP_OS, Ubuntu or ZorinOS. They have a really advanced looking graphical interface and majority of bioinformatics tools can be installed on these operating systems easily.

    I would personally avoid Windows at all costs as it can be a huge limitation for your future. Imagine a scenario which you need to use a tool that is not compatible with the Windows Linux subsystem and you will be easily helpless. I also would avoid macOS although it is Unix-based. Apple is known for making aggressive marketing decisions that would negatively influence their users, and in addition, their hardware upgradeability and pricing are two major drawbacks.

    Finally, I strongly recommend that you install Linux as your main machine. This would help you learn the Linux environment while you can use the same machine for your bioinformatics analysis.

    There are tons of Linux distros to choose from, but I would recommend you to go for Ubuntu based distros. These distros have really good compatibility with different hardware and they are also extremely user friendly. My recommendations are POP_OS, ZorinOS and LinuxMint.

Participate now!

Don’t have an account yet? Register yourself now and be a part of our community!