Windows vs. macOS is an age-old debate, with tech nerds generally preferring Windows. In contrast, the artsy types generally prefer macOS.
But, despite the seemingly endless discussion and what appears to be a massive gully between the two operating systems, they’re actually much more similar than they appear.
So, let’s look at the similarities and differences between these two competing operating systems so you can figure out which may be best for you.
Windows vs. macOS: A Side-By-Side Comparison
|Source Code Accessibility||Partially open source||Closed source|
|Mobile Integration||Some integration with Android||Full integration with iOS and iPadOS|
|Hardware Options||Varied||Apple only|
|Voice Input||Yes, Cortana||Yes, Siri|
|Price||Varies, typically $250+||$499+ (Mac Mini)|
Windows vs. macOS: What’s the Difference?
Windows and macOS have more in common than meets the eye.
Since both technologies are operating systems, they’re both designed to achieve the same goal: to provide a graphical interface that users can utilize to input commands to their computer without knowing how to execute them on the command line. While we’d recommend that everyone learns the basics of the command line in case they need it for the computer’s maintenance, there’s no inherent need to be able to use this feature with the advent of operating systems.
However, just because both operating systems are designed for the same purpose doesn’t mean they’re similar on the backend. Windows and macOS are designed with vastly different mentalities and protocols. Even if two processes, such as Windows Task Manager and macOS’s Activity Monitor, seem almost identical in practice, it doesn’t mean they’re built or processed the same way.
Here are some primary differences between the technologies used in Windows and macOS.
Source Code Accessibility
For starters, the source code accessibility for these two systems is different. Both systems are closed-source programs, meaning the code is proprietary and not disseminated to the public. As a result, people who want to develop applications for the operating system must go through the processes outlined by the company.
However, the two differ significantly in mentality. Microsoft has published a “Windows Research Kernel,” a barebones version of the Windows operating system that can be used for research purposes.
Additionally, starting in the 2010s, Microsoft shifted from the old mentality of open-source programs threatening their business. CEO Satya Nadella began opening up some of Microsoft’s vaults. Some frameworks, like the .NET Framework, were opened to the public. These days, Microsoft is one of the leading contributors to open-source platforms like GitHub—which it acquired in 2018.
Since their shift to a more open-source mentality, many of Microsoft’s projects have been made open source. The Windows source code has not been released in its entirety—likely a measure to prevent ne’er-do-wells from exploiting security issues by finding them in the source code. However, many Windows frameworks and applications, like the Calculator, .NET, Windows’ UI Library, Package Manager, Forms, and many other projects, have been brought to the open-source table.
Comparatively, Apple is extremely tight-lipped about its projects and has resisted open-source development at every stage. Developing applications for Apple devices require a special license before you’re even able to start the development process. Instead, they’ve launched the “Apple Developer Program,” which you can join—for a fee—and it provides all the information and APIs you need to develop programs for Apple devices.
Apple shows no sign of a desire to introduce open-source software to its repertoire.
Since Apple’s operating system is proprietary-only and does not support third-party manufacturers, you only have options to get macOS with proprietary Apple products like the MacBook and iMac.
Windows may not be an open-source program, but Microsoft supports the development of third-party applications and third-party manufacturers. Thus, you can get a Windows machine from basically any tech company besides Apple. You can even build your own Windows machines by purchasing components from component manufacturers like EVGA, MSI, and Corsair.
Hardware options are one of the primary reasons people choose Windows over macOS.
There is a massive price difference between Windows and macOS devices. Since Windows is available for more devices, the competition between manufacturers naturally lowers the price of Windows devices. As a result, when comparing hardware specifications between Windows and macOS devices, there’s just no comparison between the top Windows and the top macOS devices.
Windows devices have more natural power because they’re made with chipsets that come from dedicated component manufacturers. While macOS devices are typically outfitted with an Intel CPU, most parts are made in-house and are proprietary secrets.
Reparability and Planned Obsolescence
When servicing computers primarily made with proprietary parts, we often find that these devices are made with what’s known as “planned obsolescence.” In short, planned obsolescence is the deliberate use of components that will fail and cannot be replaced. This forces the user to shell out for an expensive in-house repair or a complete replacement of their item.
Planned obsolescence is a huge problem with Apple devices. Unfortunately, most Apple devices cannot be serviced or fixed once they break. The Geek Squad can service many older Apple devices. Still, users are encouraged to take their phones and computers directly to Apple for repair under the threat of voiding their warranty or improper replacement technique.
While Microsoft has made many strides in the mobile integration sector, it’s hard to beat macOS’s seamless integration with iOS and iPadOS. It is one of the few upsides to closed-source, proprietary software. However, Microsoft has managed to include integration for both Android and iOS apps that allow users to pick up where they left off on one device with the touch of a button.
Currently, macOS only has integration for iOS and iPadOS, and they have no intention to change that. Instead, their goal is to run a functional monopoly on consumer tech. They’re only really hampered by the fact that Windows tends to always have the upper hand due to integration with third-party software.
Windows PCs can interface with any Android or iPhone, depending on what interface you plan to use. For instance, if you use the mobile version of MS Word in your phone’s browser (because they killed support for the standalone app…), you can save your project to a cloud, like OneDrive, and bring it up on your computer.
This feature is possible regardless of whether you use an iOS or Android phone. Additionally, Windows can run emulators of both iOS and Android. While iOS emulators tend to be few and far between, there’s not as much emulation support for macOS, mainly because Apple doesn’t support emulation.
Windows uses Windows Explorer as a file management system. It allows the user almost total control over their file systems. Complete control over your files is possible with a bit of work. For example, when transferring files, Windows Explorer doesn’t just show you how long it will take to complete; they also tell you data transfer information like speed. You can even view a graph showing how your system’s speed changed over time while transferring the file.
These metrics are an excellent way to track your system’s health and operating capacity. Unfortunately, there’s no similar way to benchmark your system in macOS’s Finder. Windows also has a flag preventing it from simultaneously opening too many files. Finder would open the files and then crash your whole computer.
However, there are some upsides to Finder. Its file path hierarchy is much more accessible and easier to read than Windows’. It also has a much cleaner interface for zipping and unzipping files which are included with the operating system and don’t require a standalone program like WinRAR or 7Zip.
If there’s one excellent thing about macOS, it’s the clean interface of the Activity Monitor. This program is the macOS equivalent of Windows’ Task Manager. It shows all the same information and actually goes a bit more in-depth on some of the data than Task Manager!
It’s also a much cleaner interface that is easier to understand with limited knowledge of computers, making it excellent for beginner computer users to get the hang of controlling their tasks. However, like in most categories, Activity Monitor doesn’t show all the same information as Task Manager.
Very notably, the Activity Monitor leaves out the system uptime. This means it’s impossible to see how long your system has been running. This will not be an issue for people who power down their systems often. But, people who typically leave their computer in sleep mode may not have access to the information they need when this habit starts slowing their computer down.
Gaming is one sector that macOS could never hope to win. Windows is the most accessible gaming platform when it comes to development. With much of the Windows operating system being open source, developers can develop from the operating system for free.
This means games are more likely to come out on Windows and rarely have macOS support, especially those games developed by independent developers. Independent game studios rarely have money to purchase an Apple Developer Program license, and those that do very specifically account for and create for macOS.
Additionally, Windows has an open-source porting code base that allows macOS apps to be ported to Windows easily. No such code base exists for macOS, meaning developers of macOS programs have built-in portability. Yet, Windows developers would have to develop the same program twice.
This factor means that most programs developed for macOS—bar proprietary Apple programs—will see a Windows release, while programs for Windows may or may not see a macOS release depending on developer constraints.
Most people erroneously believe that macOS is more secure than Windows. However, this is a bit of a fallacious statement. Windows is a largely open-source operating system. While it’s not entirely open source, many of the components used in Windows make it much easier to find and exploit security holes.
Since macOS is proprietary-only, closed-source, and requires a license to access the data needed to program for it, fewer hackers have a vested interest in exploiting macOS. Especially since it’s so much easier to exploit Windows—and the operating system is so widespread—there’s a point in developing malware for macOS. In addition, hackers don’t care enough about macOS users to exploit their data. But, a lack of interest in your data doesn’t equate to a more secure platform. Security can only be determined and improved when holes are found.
Malwarebytes uses the name “OSX.Generic.Suspicious” to flag files that trigger its “generic” malware flag. This accounts for 80% of all malware attacks on Macs, indicating that generic, unknown malware is perfectly able to break through macOS’s supposedly “impenetrable” firewall.
Xloader, ThiefQuest, EvilQuest, and GravityRAT are all dual-platform malware programs. SearchAwesome is a malware program that targets macOS devices, specifically. You are not safe when using a macOS device. You may be less secure because the documentation regarding viruses is primarily out of the reach of anyone who could help you. In addition, there are clearly unfixed security holes that allow generic malware through.
This is one sector where Macs win almost universally. Since Apple controls every aspect of the user environment and experience, macOS has far superior stability to Windows. This is because third-party drivers essentially cause crashes and issues when using your computer. Since Apple doesn’t use any third-party drivers in their basic setups, there’s no risk of conflict.
Windows vs. macOS: 5 Must-Know Facts
- Windows machines are generally more robust and cost less than macOS machines.
- macOS machines have less of a problem with malware and viruses than Windows machines due to developer constraints, not a security feature.
- 80% of virus attacks on macOS machines come from generic, unnamed malware sources.
- Windows machines offer more customizability than macOS machines.
- Many parts of the Windows operating system are now open-source for developers.
Windows vs. macOS might be a battle as old as chipsets, but it’s far from over. These two competing operating systems remain technology giants that will see tons of innovation over the next few years as they continue to vie for the top spot in technology.