PC vs. Mac
Remember the humorous and light-hearted commercials that Apple ran in the mid to late aughts? John Hodgman played the all-business suit-and-tie PC and Justin Long played the casual slacker Mac.
These commercials were pretty gentle in nature, but the PC vs Mac holy wars were anything but. And like all holy wars, the endless rhetoric was driven more by ignorance and intransigence by the blind faithful on both sides and less by actual facts or knowledge. Not too unlike today's political climate, eh?
This article will dig a bit into the practical differences between the two and will offer some guidance at the end. My preference will be quite obvious as you read this this article. But rather than simply declare my opinion and expect you to take it on faith, I strive to clearly articulate why I have the opinion that I do -- and without geeking out.
Hi, I'm a PC And I'm a Mac
Two sides of the same coin
Macs have long enjoyed what I consider an exaggerated reputation for being easier to use and immune from viruses. There's some truth that Macs are less prone to viruses but they are not particularly "easier to use".
If a full-grown adult newbie (never used a computer) were sat in front of a PC or Mac and given minimal instruction, s/he would be equally flummoxed. But that doesn't happen much these days. Nearly all adults today have used computers for years. The only real newbies today are little kids and they'll readily learn whatever you put in front of them, including Linux by the way.
Both PC and Mac require equal amounts of savvy, skill, and familiarity to use them fully and effectively. Buying a Mac is no substitute for learning to effectively use a computer, even partially so.
Getting the most from your computer, PC or Mac, requires understanding the following to be fully functional. This is just a partial list.
What files are and how they work
What folders (directories) are, how they work, and how to coherently arrange your files within
How to use your software such as word processing, spreadsheets, photo editing, music, etc.
How application windows and dialog boxes work, sizing and positioning them
Using the clipboard and other productivity tools
How to print and scan. And understanding the complexities of scanning and what it all means.
How to download and install applications and drivers (for a new printer, etc.)
How to manage bookmarks in your web browser (that's Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, etc.)
Backing up your data and other system management
And lots more...
The foregoing is hardly a complete list. But these are examples of the kinds of things you need to know to get the most out of your computer. A Mac won't somehow be magically easier to use if you lack these skills. Nor are these skills and know-how easier to learn on a Mac.
Macs have historically been somewhat less vulnerable to malware infection. But that's mainly because there's far fewer Macs so bad guys that create malware don't focus on them as much. But that is changing -- Mac malware is becoming more common these days.
To the extent that bad actors target Macs with their malware, you could get infected if you fall for certain scams. Most of today's malware don't rely on exploiting vulnerabilities in a computer but rather on human weaknesses. Certain types of malware are cross-platform, meaning they can run on a Mac just as easily as Windows, needing no vulnerabilities to exploit. For this reason and others backing up is important regardless of what kind of computer you have.
Windows used to be far more vulnerable to Malware than it is now. Microsoft has made significant progress in hardening Windows, making it less way vulnerable these days. Back in the Windows XP, Vista, and Win 7 days, I removed a lot of malware and reloaded a lot of computers that were hopelessly infected. Not anymore.
Apple mostly markets to retail consumers, not businesses -- except perhaps to some creative arts occupations. Windows is the preferred choice in nearly all business settings. That's because Windows computers are far less expensive to buy, run more business-oriented software, easier to manage from an I.T. perspective, and are cheaper and easier to repair when/if that becomes necessary.
And about those creative arts occupations: Back in the day, the Mac clearly excelled with photo and video editing, design work, desktop publishing, etc. Mac had a useful GUI (Graphical User Interface) long before PCs did. But that was then, many years ago -- decades, even. Windows today is totally capable of running all manner of creative software so the Mac no longer has that edge.
Mac build quality is top notch. Apple spares little expense in designing beautiful machines that are solidly built. Tolerances are tight, materials are all highest in quality, and attention to detail is excellent. Everything Apple builds follows this philosophy. Apple probably spends as much on the design and enclosures as they do on the electronic guts.
PC makers build some pretty impressive Windows machines as well that rival Macbook. But those makers also build models at lower price points that are still fine computers. More plastic perhaps, but otherwise fully functional computers. In that way, they offer something for everyone. Apple targets the top of market with essentially no down-market options.
Take care though: While it's darned near impossible to buy a poorly speced Mac, it's easy to buy a poorly speced Windows computer.
See my article here on buying a Windows computer for help on that.
Toaster vs. Toolbox
Apple's UX (User eXperience) design philosophy is to "hide" most complexities. Apple wants their computers to be as "easy to use" as a toaster. The problem with that, of course, is that computers aren't toasters -- they are inherently complicated machines. Apple believes their UX and software relieves you from having to learn anything beyond simple basics. But that's just not true. Getting the most from your computer requires that you understand how to use it, starting with that list I included above. But because Apple strives to hide such complexity then most (not all, but most) Mac users tend to never learn all the ways their computer could be more useful. That is, in ways that Apple didn't foresee or intend.
If an Apple engineer didn't give you a button, menu, or feature to do something then it's because Apple doesn't particularly intend for you to easily do that thing. Not that you can't -- indeed, you can do many such things but they aren't as openly presented or encouraged, so you aren't as likely to find and learn them as you might on a Windows PC.
Mac prescribes your experience in ways that Windows doesn't.
Said another way, for most Mac users, the experience would be like visiting Italy using an all-inclusive tour guide package. The guide arranges everything and you are only permitted minor input to the experience. You are discouraged from doing (big) things that's not on the scripted, predetermined itinerary. You'll have an "easier" albeit highly prescribed experience. That's not how I want to see Italy. And that's not how I want to use a computer, either.
A good example is the file system. MacOS tends to shelter the user somewhat from folder structures and the file system in general. With Windows, the file system is more openly exposed to you. Understanding the file system is pretty darn important; it's a core skill and not something that can be hand-waved away in the name of "ease of use".
Another good example is how MacOS manages photos and videos. The included photo app is a "black box", so to speak. It's more difficult to manipulate how the underlying media files are arranged. Indeed, the photo app generally doesn't show file names at all. That separation from the underlying images files requires you to have more faith in how they are managed. It makes it more difficult to do things outside the prescribed experience that Apple intends for you in the Photos app.
Those are just two examples, there are others.
So in all this, in my experience, most of my Mac clients tend to be less familiar with the intricacies of their computers than my Windows clients. That's not a criticism! It's simply an observation borne from many years of experience with clients of all kinds. I want to help fix that.
Windows, on the other hand, is more like a tool box. Windows more openly lays things out which allows you to discover new functionality and alternate ways of doing things. Windows encourages you to get your hands a little dirtier. You learn more and from that you become more capable, proficient, confident, and savvy.
Cost and Upgradability
It's no secret that Apple hardware is expensive and their profit margins are the envy of the industry. They have long targeted the top of the market in all they do. e.g. A Mac laptop can easily cost three times more than a comparable Windows laptop. Even a high-end Windows laptop can be had for half the price of a similarly-speced MacBook. So if money is a consideration, there are far better choices within the Windows ecosystem. If money isn't (much of) a consideration, then you have excellent choices in both Apple products and those that run Windows.
Most new Macs are not upgradeable so you must decide at the time of purchase how much memory (RAM) and storage (SSD) you want. Apple charges a lot of money for additional memory and storage options. e.g. Upgrading memory from 8 GB to 16 GB and storage from 256 GB to 1 TB costs $600 on most Mac models.
Contrast all that with a Windows computer laptop or tower where you can install additional memory and storage later on if the need arises. Furthermore, the upgrades themselves are far less expensive, maybe $120 or so for those same upgrades so you're more likely to buy them up front in the first place. This is quite an important consideration in favor of Windows PCs.
I can't stress this enough: Apple really does a disservice to their customers by charging so much for additional memory and storage options -- and, even worse, not offering any upgrade options later on. That's the real crime right there -- no upgrades after purchase. Those costly upgrade options (at the time of purchase) encourage customers to buy basic models with minimal memory and storage in order to keep already high costs down. But since these basic models are not upgradeable then customers who ultimately need more memory or storage later on must buy a whole new Mac. Ouch!
Most people don't really appreciate the strategic future-proofing importance of additional memory and, especially, additional storage. That's why it would be nice to offer after the fact memory and storage upgrade options. But with Apple that's not possible on most newer models.
Integration with iPhone and iPad
If you have an iPhone or iPad you might think you need a Mac to get the most from your iDevice(s). It's true that iPhone and iPad integrates more completely with a Mac, but they also integrate with Windows plenty well enough. Consider that iPhone and iPad are both market leaders in the US with 57% and 55% share respectively as of this writing (May 2023). Yet Mac US market share is less than a third of that. Most iPhone/iPad users are also Windows users, not Mac.
Probably the most useful integration feature that's missing from Windows is iMessage. Others, like call hand-off or Siri, aren't very compelling. All the other important things, like email, contacts, and calendaring, if done right, are fully interoperable between Windows and Mac.
Laptops by their very nature of portability often live a rough life. But if you don't bang around, abuse, or drop your laptop and otherwise take good care of your expensive stuff, then a well-speced laptop, Windows or Mac, will last probably 8 to 10 years before it becomes so outdated that it's time to replace it.
Each new model year tends to be an evolutionary improvement, not revolutionary, so changes are slow and incremental. But it's true that revolutionary change can happen, such as when Apple designed their own in-house M-series processor, when Intel developed the Core i series processor, or when SSDs started appearing. These are the kinds of revolutionary occasions where a replacement may be indicated sooner. But outside of that, the 8 to 10 year estimated useful life isn't too far off.
Here's some points to help you decide which to buy.
Consider a Windows computer, if...
you are equipping a business office with multiple computers. Outfitting an office with Macs will cost a fortune.
you run business-oriented or other specialized software that may not be available for Macs.
money is a consideration, even slightly so.
have used Windows computers before and are already familiar with the user interface.
you are rough on your laptops and tend to bang them around. Windows laptops are far cheaper to repair and replace if you damage it badly. Although Macs have excellent build quality, you can still break them plenty easily enough and repairs are more costly.
you want the greatest selection of computers from which to choose.
have a Mac but are frustrated by the more closed nature of MacOS.
Consider a Mac computer, if...
you have an iPhone or iPad and want the tightest possible integration with your computer. Mind you, iDevices do integrate with Windows but not quite as tightly and seamlessly as with Macs. e.g. iMessage does not run on Windows.
have used Mac computers before and are already familiar, productive, and comfortable with the user interface.
money is not a consideration. Macs are expensive with most models (and all laptops) costing at least $1,000 and many over $2,000.
you maintain a very organized, neat, well-appointed, high-end workspace in your home and maybe you want others to see that. Macs are beautiful pieces of equipment and look great in such a setting.
Please consider everything I've mentioned above in helping you decide. But the bottom line is that for the most common uses by regular folks, PC/Windows is a lot less expensive and will do what you want.
I don't dislike Macs (and I have one) but as you can tell I do prefer Windows for all the reasons above.