Currently, Windows 10 is the most popular OS, beating Windows 7 with something like 800m users. As of 2017 macOS had about 100m users (as revealed by Apple). Being the most popular does not mean it is the best choice for your needs. This post is meant to give a comparison of Apple’s macOS and Windows 10 so that you can decide which serves you best.
In terms of the look and feel, macOS is designed for high res Retina displays. Today, the majority of Macs feature displays with high resolutions and the interface takes advantage of that with elegant, thin typefaces and transparency effects.
Other features include a Dark Mode that was introduced in Mojave (shown above). Previously macOS only allowed you to darken the menu bar at the top of the screen as well as the drop down menus that appear from that, and the Dock. With the release of Mojave you can overhaul the whole interface to use a darker, more muted colour scheme system-wide. Dark Mode makes the Mac interface a little more comfortable to use at night or in a dark editing studio, for example.
There are also various design touches that make the most of a small display. For example, you can hide the Dock, or move it to the side, or hide the menus at the top of the screen.
In terms of design Windows 10 initially lacked the clean modern look of macOS, but since it was launched in 2015 it’s had a design refresh – known as the Fluent Design System – bringing more animations, translucency and blurring elements (known as Acrylic) that are supposed to make it feel like the design elements of Windows seem like they are behaving like objects in the real-world would.
The changes have brought new 3D elements, as well as more light, depth, motion, and the UI elements scale to remain usable across different devices. Changes are being rolled out gradually, with changes coming with each twice-yearly update to the OS.
With one such change was minimise, maximise and close buttons are now incorporated into the window itself, perhaps in an effort to reduce the space taken up by these interface elements, as in the case of MacOS.
Back when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invented the Macintosh they had a philosophy that the interface should be really intuitive. As a result the Mac interface has always been really simple to use, as well as being elegantly designed – like the Mac that runs it.
You interface with your Mac mostly via the Dock, which can house shortcuts to your favourite apps and frequently accessed folders; the menu bar at the top of the screen; the Finder file browser; and Spotlight search.
Other differences in the way you interact with the Mac compared to the PC include the keyboard – with the Command key on the Mac essentially replicating the Control key on the PC. People will say that Macs have one button mice, but that’s not strictly true – you can right click on a Mac mouse or trackpad. But there are further differences to that method of interaction.
A new feature that arrived in Mojave in 2018 was the ability to use your iPhone to directly input a photo into a document on your Mac.
The Taskbar in Windows is the strip at the bottom of the screen that includes shortcuts to your favourite apps, the Start Menu, and Search. It’s a little bit like the Dock on a Mac, and a little bit like the Mac menu bar. It takes up a lot less space than both, but some options are buried in this set up.
Microsoft’s Clipboard works across the cloud so that when you copy something it will be available on any of your Windows devices. It’s the same on macOS since that feature – Universal Clipboard – was introduced in Sierra back in 2016. Windows also has a neat feature – introduced in October 2018 – where it can store multiple clippings in the clipboard, which you can view if you press Win + Shift + S.
Where the Mac has the Finder, Windows has File Explorer. One File Explorer feature in Windows 10 is a Quick Access area where you can see all the folders you browse most often, the files you have recently accessed, and folders you have ‘pinned’ there for ease of access.
Productivity and Setup
Both OSes offer clear and polished setup processes. You can use both without signing in to an account with Apple or Microsoft, but both offer a richer experience if you do. You’ll miss out on syncing machines, voice assistants, app roaming, messages, and a whole lot of other goodies by not signing in.
Microsoft lets you install the OS with your voice using Cortana. Apple installs updates through the System Preferences instead of in the Mac App Store. Both systems automatically recognize and install drivers for common hardware peripherals such as mice, keyboards, and storage.
Both operating systems offer a wealth of built-in utilities and apps. You get decent mail clients, calendars, calculators, photo and video viewers and editors, screenshot tools, voice recorders, and web browsers, and apps for maps, cameras, news, weather, and contacts. Microsoft adds Sticky Notes, Skype, Translator, and Xbox gaming apps. But macOS includes a superior video editor, a preview utility, and a streaming music service. macOS also features a GarageBand music composition app and a full productivity suite.
Third-Party Software Compatibility
Both platforms have had time to develop rich ecosystems of software and services. Custom business applications are more likely to be supported on Windows, and macOS is prevalent in creative fields. That said, you can find plenty of good general business software for Macs, and Windows actually boasts more options in some creative areas, such as video editing. Both offer app stores that manage installation and updating.
Both operating systems offer decent leeway for customization, but we are beyond the days of drastic interface overhauls. That said, both OSes offer choices in desktop backgrounds, screen item sizes, and screen savers. Dark modes are the new rage, and both Mac and Windows offer them. Mac’s version is a bit more fleshed out, however, with Windows File Explorer’s dark mode only coming in the October 2018 Windows 10 feature update.
Cortana vs. Siri
Cortana arrived on Windows 10 a good year before Siri made it to the Mac, and is still more capable in a few important ways. Both can open apps and web pages, tell you the weather, change system settings, do math, control smart home devices, set reminders, send emails, and search the web. Both can be invoked by voice. But Siri can’t log out of or shut down the computer.
Mobile Device Support
Windows has been making great strides in integrating the OS with mobile devices. Apps for iOS and Android let you pick up on one device where you left off on another, even letting you send a web page from your phone to your PC’s browser. Android devices in particular are well served by Windows with the Launcher and Your Phone apps, which let you share documents and web pages and conduct SMS messaging across devices.
But despite these promising initiatives, Apple’s integration between macOS computers and iOS-running mobile devices surpasses what Windows currently offers. The macOS Notifications panel lets you send text messages by syncing up to a nearby iPhone, all your photos can be shared across devices in Apple Photos, you can transfer almost anything with AirDrop, and you can even engage in video calling with FaceTime between devices.
Apple Watch is yet another piece of the integrated ecosystem that Windows can’t match. For example, you can unlock your Mac when your watch is in proximity, and the same notifications flow to both.
Security and Stability
Windows PCs have fallen prey to far more malware than Macs in the recent past, including ransomware, spyware, botnets, and good old-fashioned viruses. But Microsoft is constantly beefing up its security, pushing Windows Defender updates, and even introducing anti-ransomware measures. Macs are much less likely to fall prey to malware.
Apple has always had a strong focus on security and privacy, and macOS Mojave includes a number of improvements to help keep you safe. Safari, for example, will block more attempts to track you across the web, while macOS as a whole will suggest strong passwords for you and warn you when you’re reusing one password across several different apps and services.
With Windows 10, we have an improved in-built Defender along with more improvements using the new Microsoft Edge Application Guard. Facts are, when it comes to cyber-security, the majority of attackers will focus on Windows machines, as they are so very common by user count.
Apple generally has a good reputation when it comes to user privacy – its public refusal to back down when the FBI wanted its help breaking into a passcode-locked iPhone contributed to this – and it doubles down on privacy with a new feature that is available with macOS Sierra (and iOS 10): differential privacy. Differential privacy allows Apple to crowd-source data from a large number of users without compromising the privacy of any individual.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has faced some questions over its approach to privacy. Much has been made of ‘spyware’ issues in Windows 10, and rightly so.
Windows 10 is the most connected, cloud-focused OS Microsoft has released. For the most part, this is a good thing: your settings, wallpaper, start menu configuration and other things can be synced across all your devices; Cortana needs to access personal data if you want to use its full capabilities, and OneDrive integration means your files are accessible from any computer, tablet or phone.
But negating these advantages is the issue of privacy. Among other ominous warnings, Microsoft’s 12,000-word EULA says “we will access, disclose and preserve personal data… such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders” in order to “respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies”, to “prevent spam or attempts to defraud users”, to “operate and maintain the security of our services” and “if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft”.
Apple macOS or Windows 10?
In many cases the two operating systems are at parity. And you’ll have your own priority weights based on your OS needs. If gaming is everything to you, for example, then Windows is a no-brainer. If you’re a creative type, then you’re likely better off with a Mac.
Comparing Windows 10 to macOS Sierra
As a general rule, macOS is going to have more of a clean aesthetic and appeal to creative types a bit more than Windows, whereas Windows 10 is the king of general computing and “gaming”.
While Windows may seem to offer performance, value for money and configurability, there are potential downsides to consider. Until relatively recently, Microsoft did not make its own hardware, and compared to macOS, a Windows machine can be a very mixed selection of parts and drivers from different manufacturers.
Apple is renowned for some outstanding customer service (I have experienced it personally). If you have any problems with your Mac, you can call Apple to have your problem fixed promptly. Warranty support is superb for new Mac’s, and they cover all cost’s, and often with a new replacement.
Windows is notorious for having various hard-to-fix errors. What’s more, getting your Windows machine fixed often requires sending it back to the manufacturer for some number of weeks. If you buy a Windows based Computer, make sure it has a well known brand name like HP, Dell, Toshiba or Acer as this usually works in your favour for ongoing support, troubleshooting, parts and warranty. Windows machines need service more often than Mac’s, so do find a good IT service support person for your Windows device maintenance needs, and expect to get a service at least yearly!
A Mac has hardware quality, consistency and the reliability from being provided from one source – Apple. Generally, the macOS ‘looks’ better out of the box, and has a lot of helpful bundled applications, including Preview, QuickTime player and the excellent Finder preview, quicklook and column view. These can be replicated on Windows but only with the use of third-party apps or hacks. In terms of backup, The Apple Time Machine is an excellent one-stop solution.
Legacy Windows 7 users
With millions of legacy Windows 7 systems now ripe for replacement, many users, most certainly enterprise users, will be taking a closer look at Apple in 2020.
For gaming, Windows is the obvious choice, whether you want to connect up an Xbox One or run games on the Windows machine itself. Windows is also better as far as support for virtual reality and VR headsets goes, at least at this time.