August 27, 2013
The debate over which PC platform is best, Mac or Windows, has waged for years with both sides equally passionate about which OS reigns supreme. While there’s no single answer for every user, you can find a computer with the right characteristics to meet your computing needs. Here’s the low-down on the matchup between Mac and Windows.
WHERE THEY’RE EQUAL:
Usability. You may have heard that Macs are more intuitive than Windows. In reality, neither OS is fundamentally easier to learn. Novice computer users will face challenges learning to navigate either a Mac or a Windows system, and a user experienced with one platform will definitely experience frustrations if they try to switch.
Design capabilities. Although Macs ruled the design world in the ’80s and ’90s, these days, both operating systems are considered equal when you compare their design applications and abilities. Both Macs and Windows systems support a large variety of file types, offering cross-platform compatibility so designers can exchange ideas between Mac and Windows PCs with ease.
WHERE THEY’RE NOT EQUAL:
Viruses and maintenance. Mac is the clear front-runner in this category. While Macs are no longer virus-free, malware remains far less prevalent in Macs. Windows users are plagued with driver updates, security patches and a need for regular anti-virus/ anti-malware scanning, which can lead to clutter within the system and speed issues due to memory consumption. One item of note: because Windows is so experienced with combating malware, they’re better suited to quickly address new security issues, whereas Apple tends to struggle with rapid response to new attacks.
Software and gaming. Windows is the big winner here, because it offers a much larger library of compatible software options and nearly three times as many applications in its app store (versus the Mac app store). While you’ll have no trouble finding Mac versions of big-name games or programs like Quicken or Photoshop, if you run a specific software application that isn’t as widely used, you may find that it’s a Windows-only program. Graphics cards and compatible gaming hardware options are also limited for Macs, meaning gamers should stick to Windows.
Hardware. Almost all hardware is designed to work with Windows, a huge advantage when you need to upgrade or replace a malfunctioning part. If a key piece of hardware breaks or no longer supports your computing needs, Mac users have more limited upgrade capabilities.
Cost. Apple sells high-quality systems for top dollar; they don’t offer budget models. They don’t sell a less reliable motherboard or a slower processor at a discount. Alternatively, there’s a huge variance in the quality and price of Windows-based PCs. A Windows PC with similarly reliable hardware wouldn’t be dramatically less expensive, but Windows systems are typically cheaper due to competition between manufacturers.
Apple doesn’t sell custom machines, so if you want a larger hard drive in your new Mac, you’ll have to get a more expensive model that likely includes additional upgrades you wouldn’t otherwise choose to pay more for.
In conclusion, Windows PCs offer a lower purchase price, but may require more time and money over their lifetime to maintain (in the form of malware removal and the replacement of cheaper hardware) than a Mac.
While Windows systems aren’t inherently easier to use, the popularity of the platform means that you’ll have an easier time finding people to help you if you encounter a problem and will likely have fewer compatibility issues with peripheral hardware or when sharing data with others. On the other hand, Apple products work great together so if you already have other Apple gadgets a Mac may get along nicely in your electronics family.
Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds On Call, which offers onsite computer and laptop repair service for homeowners and small businesses. Based in Redding, Calif., it has locations in five states. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea.