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The 11 most important differences between Macs and PCs

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates
Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

Joi Ito/flickr

Macs and PCs have been locked in an epic battle for many years

This holiday season, that battle gets a new front: Microsoft’s first-ever desktop PC, the Surface Studio, is going up against Apple’s refreshed MacBook Pro line, which sport the new Touch Bar controls.

We put together some of the key differences between Macs and PCs to help you out.

This is an update of articles originally written by Lisa Eadicicco and Kevin Smith.

Apple prides itself on design…

Apple spends years working on how its products look. The company is all about the details, even the internals of its computers are beautifully constructed. 

… but Microsoft is catching up.

Microsoft’s Surface Studio PC (above) is winning a lot of acclaim for its innovative design. And Microsoft’s excellent Surface Pro 4 tablet and Surface Book laptop are both pretty easy on the eyes, too. 

Plus, a lot of manufacturers like Dell and Asus have taken their design cues from Microsoft and generally upped their game, releasing Windows laptops and tablets that are at least a little easier on the eyes. 

There are still plenty of ugly Windows PCs out there, depending on the make and model. But finally, some real options are starting to emerge.

Macs are usually more expensive than Windows PCs.

On average, Macs tend to be noticeably more expensive than their Windows PC counterparts, even for comparable specifications. Windows superfans call this the “Apple tax.”

Exceptions like the Surface Book or high-end gaming PCs aside, an average Windows laptop costs around $500. For comparison, the lightweight MacBook Air laptop is currently Apple’s cheapest, starting at $999.

Meanwhile, you can get a Windows 10 laptop for as cheap as $150, which is a fraction of what you would pay for a Mac. 

Windows is better for hardcore PC gamers.

Hardcore gamers prefer Windows, largely because PCs are so customizable. Serious competitive players obsess over everything from the graphics card to the processor to the amount of memory inside their computers, constantly tweaking and buying new hardware to stay current.

Macs, meanwhile, are almost impossible to upgrade easily. And unless you shell out big bucks for the most decked-out Mac models, they’re underpowered compared to comparable Windows gaming machines in the first place. 

Most important of all, while Mac is more of a gaming platform than ever, it still can’t match the depth and breadth of the game selection for the Windows PC — a legacy stretching back to the ’90s.

You get better customer support with a Mac.

When your Mac breaks, you can book an appointment and take it to your local Apple Store. There, a specialist can help you out with your Mac. If the problem can be fixed in one session, there’s usually no charge.

Microsoft has its retail stores, with its Genius Bar-like Answer Desk. The customer service at the Microsoft Stores is great. But unlike Apple, Microsoft doesn’t make all of the computers it sells, which means they sometimes have to send it back to the manufacturer for repairs. And there simply aren’t as many Microsoft Stores as there are Apple Stores.

Macs tend to be safer against malware, viruses, and other tools of the trade for malicious hackers.

Since there are still far fewer Macs than Windows PCs out there, Apple’s platform simply presents a smaller target for attackers. In other words, a hacker can attack more computers with less effort by targeting Windows.

But that won’t last forever, and we’ve seen evidence of this as an increasing number of viruses have surfaced on Macs in recent years. Apple is working to stay ahead of this by baking new protections into the newest versions of macOS, Apple’s operating system for the Mac.

And since Apple’s Mac operating system is built on Unix, it’s a little more secure by default than Windows, Macworld reports. 

The two operating systems look entirely different.

Microsoft Windows 10 and Apple’s macOS look completely different from one another.

With Windows 10, Microsoft tried to merge the user-friendliness of Windows 7 with the touchscreen-friendliness of Windows 8. Generally speaking, it works. And you can switch between a traditional desktop and a “tablet mode” that gives you a grid of apps.

Apple macOS has a cleaner, less busy look. At its most basic level, you have a desktop, a dock for accessing all of your favorite apps, and a taskbar across the top of the screen.


PCs offer more choice.

There are many different PC manufacturers, giving customers lots of different options and brands to choose from.

Microsoft may be in the hardware business now, but companies like HP, Acer, Lenovo, Dell, and many others still make the vast majority of Windows PCs in the world. This offers variety and features that can fit anyone’s budget or preference.

With Windows 10, Microsoft tried to make one operating system that can run on laptops, desktops, tablets, smartphones, and eventually, the futuristic HoloLens holographic goggles.

Apple makes both the Mac hardware and the macOS software. So if you want a Mac, you need to go through Apple.

If you want to get really technical, it is possible to build your own “Hackintosh,” or a traditional PC that runs Apple’s operating system. Here’s a quick guide if you want to learn how to do it.

An increasing number of Windows computers come with touchscreens.

Since Windows 8, Microsoft has been pushing the touchscreen as the future of PCs. Windows 10 takes that focus and runs with it, making it better than ever before. It’s why a lot of Windows 10 PCs ship with touchscreens, and why Microsoft is betting so much on touch with its own Surface computers.

While Apple says its newer, gigantic iPad Pro tablet can replace a laptop for a lot of people, its actual MacBook laptops and iMac desktops still don’t have a touchscreen at all — and if Apple is to believed, they may never get them.

Windows runs on tablets, too — not just laptop and desktop computers.

Windows 10 is available on devices of all sizes, from giant all-in-one computers to laptops to tiny 8-inch tablets. If you want macOS, it’s only available for Apple’s laptops, desktops, and all-in-one computers. 

Get used to different keyboard shortcuts if you’re planning to switch.

If you are getting ready to make the switch anytime soon, getting used to the different keyboard shortcuts may be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. Even taking a screenshot is different on Windows than it is on a Mac.

With Windows 10, you can press the Windows key and the print screen key to take a screenshot, but you’ll need to use another program like Paint to do any cropping, unless you install separate apps. 

On a Mac, you can hold the Command, Shift, and 4 keys to take a screenshot that lets you crop whatever you want from your current screen. 

Macs and iPhone are the best team.

Because Apple makes both the iPhone and the Mac, the two make a great team. 

If you own an iPhone, your text messages sync over to the Mac with the built-in Messages app. You can even respond to your texts from your Mac. And if you have an iPad, the conversation can keep rolling there, too. 

Other nifty iPhone/Mac features include Airdrop, which lets you quickly shunt photos and other documents from phone to desktop, and Handoff, which lets you open a link from your phone in your desktop browser (or vice versa). 

Windows 10 doesn’t get any of that. But if you install the Microsoft Cortana app on an Android phone, you can use your Windows 10 PC or tablet to send text messages from your own phone number. It’s not as good, but it works.


BONUS: Want the best of both worlds? Macs can run Windows!

Macs have the ability to run Windows either through a virtual machine or directly on the system.

Every Mac has a built-in program called Boot Camp that lets you install Windows on your machine. If you want, you can divide space on your hard drive between Windows and macOS, so you’ll have both operating systems on the same computer. 


The post The 11 most important differences between Macs and PCs appeared first on Business Insider.