ChromeOS vs. macOS: Major Differences Explained

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ChromeOS vs. macOS: Major Differences Explained

Key Points:

  • Operating systems are the function of a computer that allows the human user to interface with and command the logic and graphics processors that perform all of the computer’s functions.
  • The first significant difference between macOS and ChromeOS is the developer. Google develops ChromeOS, while Apple develops macOS.
  • ChromeOS is fully open source–the entire library of source code that runs the operating system is freely available online. MacOS is a fully closed-source operating system–none of the code libraries are available freely online.

ChromeOS vs macOS: Full Comparison

While ChromeOS and macOS might have similar name schemes, they couldn’t possibly be more different in use, use case, and build. Even the mere mentality behind the production of the two operating systems is so different that they’re barely comparable.

However, as two operating giants in the operating system industry, it’s essential to know all the differences between ChromeOS and macOS, especially if you’re servicing computers as a hobby or job. Therefore, you should know the main differences between ChromeOS and macOS.

Let’s dive into everything you need to know!

ChromeOS vs. MacOS: A Side-By-Side Comparison

Source Code AvailabilityOpenClosed
Necessary Disk Space15 GBUp to 44 GB to upgrade, depending on the original installation version
Current VersionChromeOS 8713.0 (Ventura)
Release DateJune 15, 2011August 31, 1997
Most Recent UpdateOctober 19, 2022October 24, 2022

ChromeOS vs. macOS: What’s the Difference?

ChromeOS and macOS are wholly different animals, even if they both serve the same ultimate function on your computer. Still, understanding their differences begins with also understanding their similarities. Thankfully, there aren’t too many similarities between ChromeOS and macOS.

The only thing between the two that’s really able to be carried over is the overall functionality. Both ChromeOS and macOS are operating systems. But what does an operating system do? We all use them, but not as many people understand the inner workings of a computer to understand why they’re so important.

What is an Operating System?

Operating systems are the function of a computer that allows the human user to interface with and command the logic and graphics processors that perform all of the computer’s functions.

Without the operating system, the computer can only process information written in binary code. The operating system translates all the backend code into a human-relatable user interface and command process.

What is Binary Code?

Binary code is a series of ones and zeroes that form instructions readable by your computer and tell it what to execute, how to execute it, and when to execute it.

All computers break code down into binary instructions when presented with instructions and data. For example, computer code written by engineers is translated into binary instructions in the CPU and GPU, allowing the units to know what the user wants them to do.

The differences between the two operating systems are primarily in how the systems interface with their human users. Both macOS and ChromeOS are designed to bridge the language gap between humans and machines, and how they do it is where they differ.


The first significant difference between macOS and ChromeOS is the developer. Google develops ChromeOS, while Apple develops macOS. This may seem like a tiny difference, but when it comes to the companies’ manifestos and operations, they could not be more different.

Apple’s manifesto is “Think Different.” They focus intensely on innovating existing products to provide a more comprehensive and creative approach to our standard technology. This outlook can be excellent for creatives and those looking for a catch-all system to do creative and office tasks. But it can be limiting for those looking to do technologically intensive tasks.

On the other hand, Google focuses on an “open manifesto,” as evidenced by the Google blog post “The meaning of open,” which seeks to join the hands of developers around the world by releasing code and information to the public that can be innovated for free.

In Google’s “The meaning of open,” Jonathan Rosenberg states, “At Google, we believe that open systems win. They lead to more innovation, value, and freedom of choice for consumers, and a vibrant, profitable, and competitive ecosystem for businesses.” They regularly contribute to this global ecosystem. Most of Google’s products are open-source or have an open-source code base from which the wheel can be innovated and reinvented at will.


The kernel of an operating system is the core code that interfaces the applications used with the internal components of the PC. The kernel is permanently resident in the computer’s memory. It facilitates all interfacing between hardware and software components on a PC. Simply put, without the kernel, the CPU, GPU, and other components have no way to access device drivers to utilize applications.

ChromeOS uses a Linux kernel, making it compatible with many Linux applications. However, macOS uses a unique, proprietary kernel named XNU, which stands for “not Unix.”

Source Code Availability

One of the most significant differences between macOS and ChromeOS is the source code availability. ChromeOS is fully open source, meaning the entire library of source code that runs the operating system is freely available online. Conversely, macOS is a fully closed-source operating system, meaning none of the code libraries are available freely online.

Developing applications for the macOS operating system requires a developer to purchase a developer kit directly from Apple. This gives them information on the XNU kernel and all the source code they need to begin developing the operating system.

Developing applications for ChromeOS is considerably more manageable. You just need to access the code library available from Google, and you can get started immediately for free. The open-source nature of the code also contributes heavily to the operating system’s beefy security. With so many eyes looking at the source code daily, it’s easy for minor bugs, security vulnerabilities, and other issues to be caught.

Additionally, having so many people developing for the operating system and tinkering with the source code allows ChromeOS to quickly suss out compatibility issues between ChromeOS and other hardware and software.


While macOS and ChromeOS are designed to interface with the hardware and enable you to use your computer through a graphical user interface, they function differently in design.

For example, macOS is a lot heavier than ChromeOS. This lightweight operating system stores very little on the internal hard drive and needs just 15GB of space to operate. Conversely, macOS requires upwards of 50GB of free space just to upgrade the operating system.

Additionally, ChromeOS is designed to run using the browser and cloud services as the primary storage. So, the units have far lighter storage capabilities than their macOS counterparts. If the internal storage is important to you, you’ll probably want to shelve ChromeOS units as an option. They’re designed to use the minimum possible internal storage.

windows vs chromeos
ChromeOS does not require as much storage space, as the files are mostly stored in the Cloud.

©By 非幸裕翔 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=118151485 – License


Another primary difference between ChromeOS and macOS is the price of the units. Since macOS is a premium product, it can only be natively found on Apple hardware. While loading a macOS installation on non-native hardware is possible, doing so requires intimate knowledge of the operating system and the workarounds that allow you to install the operating system on a different device.

Apple products range in price but start at about $499 for the macMini computer. Full-sized units typically start at around $1,299, more than double the cost of most premium Chromebook units.

For people looking for affordability, you’ll definitely want to consider a ChromeOS machine. ChromeOS machines typically start at around $200, but several models also fall below that average price point.

Mobile Integration

A category where macOS is a landslide victor is mobile integration. Since Apple develops both iOS and macOS, the two operating systems come with near seamless integration of core functionality. ChromeOS has recently caught up to macOS when it comes to Android integration. However, it lags behind iOS’s smooth workflow and productivity integration.

Initial iterations of ChromeOS did not include any integrated functionality between ChromeOS and Android. As a result, the release of Android integration with ChromeOS was rocky to start but has blossomed into a seamless workflow evocative of iOS and macOS integration.


Another significant difference between ChromeOS and iOS is their approaches to productivity. Again, harkening back to their design manifestos, we can see that iOS focuses on innovating and providing a creative approach to productivity. On the other hand, ChromeOS is a bit more similar to typical productivity, with its innovation essentially being in storage and cloud integration to specific productivity features.

Both ChromeOS and macOS feature must-have productivity features like split-screen apps. However, macOS features some unique tools that can be used during production, like Stage Manager, which helps you quickly focus and switch between windows and applications.


Since ChromeOS is a highly lightweight operating system, it can run on relatively inexpensive hardware. As a result, while there are some notable high-end ChromeOS systems, there’s an even greater breadth of low-end systems that are affordable and easy to get started with.

Conversely, macOS is designed to run on proprietary Apple hardware only. While Apple utilizes parts from outside manufacturers like Intel, most of the hardware in macOS computers is made in-house. Of course, it is also possible to run macOS on non-proprietary hardware. Still, Apple does not like when people do this and makes it as intentionally difficult to do as possible within the confines of the law. (They would probably prosecute if it were possible).

ChromeOS vs. macOS: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • ChromeOS machines have overtaken Apple’s MacBook in popularity.
  • Google announced a collaboration with VMWare to bring Windows applications to ChromeOS without needing a dual boot installation of Windows.
  • Chromebooks are most popular with schools that can provide students with low-cost technology apps that they need to succeed.
  • macOS computers are the only machines legally able to dual-boot Windows and macOS.
  • MacBooks are sensitive to second-hand smoke, and if tar residue is found in your MacBook, it voids the warranty.

ChromeOS vs. macOS: Which One is Better? Which One Should I Use?

Deciding between ChromeOS and macOS is a much more difficult task than it might first seem. Unlike Windows, an excellent catch-all operating system is rarely unideal for a situation, productive or play. ChromeOS and macOS have far more considerations.

Here are the essential use cases you’ll want to consider when choosing between ChromeOS and macOS.

Internal Storage

Internal storage is the primary difference between ChromeOS and macOS machines. ChromeOS is designed to be lightweight and fully integrated with cloud storage. So, the machines don’t precisely come decked out with internal storage.

If internal storage for memories, files, and anything else is essential, then Chromebooks aren’t for you. Chromebooks are designed to be integrated with and used with cloud storage. So, internal storage is not a priority when designing these machines.

As macOS is one of, if not the largest operating systems on the market, internal storage isn’t something that macOS machines skimp on. Most Apple machines come with ample storage that users can use to store anything they work on.

M1 Pro and M1 Max
A MacBook Pro comes installed with the MacOS.


Application Compatibility

Application compatibility is the other primary use case that you’ll want to give some heavy consideration. ChromeOS has near full integration between ChromeOS and Android. So, if you or your work use many Android apps, ChromeOS is an excellent way to bring the use of Android apps to your desktop.

Additionally, macOS has native compatibility with applications unavailable to units that run a different operating system. For example, suppose you or your work is a primarily Mac-focused space. In that case, you may want to consider getting a macOS system so that you can use the same applications and files as your coworkers.

Anyone working in a company where macOS dominates should invest in a macOS unit. Investing in a macOS unit will prevent you from having major compatibility issues between Mac-only programs.


If you’re looking for a computer that can dual-boot legally, a Mac is the only choice. But, unfortunately, only Apple machines can legally run macOS. So, suppose you’re looking to lawfully dual-boot macOS. In that case, you’ll need to purchase a macOS machine and load the other operating systems you plan to dual-boot onto it.

Final Thoughts

For those looking to leave Windows life behind, or at least relegate Windows life to a dual-boot or virtual machine, ChromeOS and macOS are frontrunners for our attention.

Of course, choosing between these two powerhouses isn’t easy. Still, luckily there are plenty of differences that define these two operating systems and their ideal use cases. Be sure to check in with your own use case and the sort of applications you run for work or play and make your decision off of that.

Up Next…

ChromeOS vs. macOS: Major Differences Explained FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Which is better, ChromeOS or macOS?

ChromeOS and macOS have different use cases and aren’t comparable because of their differences in design.

What is ChromeOS?

ChromeOS is an open-source, proprietary operating system developed by Google.

Which is cheaper, ChromeOS or macOS?

ChromeOS units are almost always cheaper than comparable macOS units.

Who makes macOS?

macOS is designed and developed by Apple.

Is macOS more secure than ChromeOS?

ChromeOS is generally more secure than macOS, as evidenced by security flaw bounties for the two operating systems.

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