If you want to play the latest games, then Windows will be a better choice than Linux. More and more games are coming with native Linux versions in the box... but if you want to play all the games out there with a minimal amount of fuss... you're better off with Windows. (That's not to say it's impossible to play Windows games in Linux, just that the process for getting them up and running may be a bit more complicated than you're used to).
If you're not a gamer, then Linux is a very stable / easy to use OS. It's not flawless, but it is still very good. Any work-related tasks are accomplished at least as well if not better than Windows.
One is not "better" than the other. Windows is better at some tasks and Linux is better at others. Your choice has to be based on which tasks you need to accomplish.
I would like to put forth that your experience and expectations dictate which OS is "better".
The short answer: considering you stated yourself that your knowledge about Linux is limited to reading about it and seeing screenshots, but have and use Windows, then I'm going to say No, Windows is better.
The reasoning I'm taking here is based on a simple cost analysis. You've already spent the money on Windows, already spent the time learning it, getting your hardware to work with it, etc. That, and you've probably purchased some software to run on it. Now, on to the Linux side of things. Most Linux distros costs are negligable (bandwidth to download and a blank CD/DVD). There's a fairly steep learning curve, however, and you'll be spending a good amount of time ferretting out and fixing problems, and, well, time is money. Sure, if browsing the web and checking email is all that you do with it, then Linux is almost a drop-in replacement. There are some things some distros won't do right out of the box - like play certain movie files and DRM'ed stuff. Getting your display working correctly and 3d-accelerated sometimes takes tinkering. Unless you have a dedicated sound card, you can forget about getting more than 2 channel sound. There's plenty more examples.
Now, I'm not trying to exclude anyone, nor saying that Linux is a bad thing. I use Linux exclusively, and have for years. I'm saying that it's not a great choice if you're already invested in Windows, and have no desire "wasting" time learning something new.
Yes, true. And I think you're just saying what I was trying to say, but more eloquently.
When you have a broken Windows install the choice can become re-installing Windows, or migrating to Linux, or some other *nix. In this case, my analysis is fairly valid. Personally, I wouldn't think about migrating until faced with a windows install that was unusable. Only when my choice is between a re-install of windows, or a move to Linux would I consider migrating.
On the performance side of things, I haven't noticed that Linux is much quicker than Linux would be on a comparable machine. Maybe it's just that I don't push my machines very hard. Now, on older hardware, Linux will shine, as the design of the OS allows you more freedom to run just the pieces that you need. I remember back in the day I had a X fully functional (as good as it was back then) and running on a 486/66 with 64 meg o' ram under FreeBSD 3.4. It was generally more responsive than my 166mhz pentium laptop with 80 meg. I haven't noticed the same with hardware that will run XP, and, in fact, have found the speed of a modern Linux distro on modern hardware to be very comparable to XP on the same hardware. Maybe I'm doing something wrong?
Anyway, thanks for pointing out my error, and trying to clarify some of my statements. I guess a good answer to the "which is better?" question would be "They're about the same, but they're really very different, too.", at least in my experience.
So system idle is at 99% and system is non-responsive? Weird. Could happen after you close a large application, and garbage collection is purging stuff that's been swapped out. This would hit the disk pretty hard, causing quite a bit of interrupt activity. Windows is known for it's propensity to swap anything and everything out. This, plus drive fragmentation could take a big chunk out of performance
Linux, on the other hand doesn't like to swap very much, if I remember correctly, and keeps it's swapfile in a seperate disk partition by default, so it doesn't get as fragmented.
You could also be waiting on a misbehaving device, or maybe you have a rootkit hiding some process that kicks in for awhile.