There’s been an ongoing rivalry between Apple and Windows computers. This page describes some unique benefits of each system as well as a few of the drawbacks. A series of commercials from Apple poked fun at Windows computers as being corporate and limited, but much has changed since the “I’m a Mac” ads that presented the Mac vs PC talking points.
Which is Better? … Both
As tech support people, we are sometimes asked, “Which is better… Mac or PC?” Both actually have some advantages.
Given that a very nice used Windows computer can be purchased for about $150 to $200, there’s no reason not to own one, even as an accessory if your primary computer is an Apple Mac.
This page explains the benefits of each system and you may decide having both is the best option for you. It certainly saves time and energy to not worry about picking only one.
Benefits and Drawbacks
The remainder of this document provides a review of benefits and drawbacks with Apple and Windows computers listed by topic. This list is not intended to provide answers, but instead questions that will inspire further consideration to help you arrive at the devices that work best for you. Next to each topic is a suggestion about which platform is best suited for a task, or if they both have advantages to consider.
Backups (Apple is Better)
Apple is far ahead when it comes to backups. The included Time Machine software backs up the entire computer: software, data, operating system, and settings. The backup can be restored to any Apple computer. You can view files as they existed days, weeks, or years ago. The Apple backup system has remained the same for many years. It is simple to use and runs automatically. Restoring from a backup is an option when you setup a new Apple computer, so replacing a damaged or old computer is easy. A similar system is used for mobile devices, but the backup can be stored in the cloud. If you’re on vacation, and your phone falls into a lake, you can just go to a store to buy a new one, then login with your Apple ID to bring back all your photos, messages, contacts, appointments, programs, settings, WiFi network logins, etc.
With Windows 10, the File History backup system was easy to access, understand, and setup. It only created a backup of your files, not your software or settings. But it worked. With Windows 11, that feature no longer exists. Instead, a Windows 11 user will need to use the Windows 7 backup software with the Control Panel interface from Windows 95 which still exists 25 years later in Windows 11 for some of the settings that aren’t in the new Windows 11 settings interface. Experienced Windows users won’t find this to be a hinderance, and navigating features from three operating systems spanning two decades will come naturally. However, new users may be a little perplexed by the lack of continuity. Third-party cloud services or backup software may provide a better solution.
Continuity of Hardware Over Time (Windows is Better)
Apple tries to improve their products every year. This motivates consumers to upgrade, but can also mean that last year’s parts and accessories may not work.
Windows computers are available to consumers with the latest features. New designs and features might come along every year. Dell offers their Inspiron laptop computers for this purpose. However, there are also Windows computers available with fewer changes from year to year. These are ideal for businesses and industries where they need to have an increasing fleet of laptops where the batteries, dock interface, and some parts might be interchangeable from one model to the next. Dell has a Latitude series of laptop computers that have fewer design and parts changes over time.
Batteries (Windows is Better)
Over time, Windows laptop computers have typically had easily replaceable batteries. There are slim tightly enclosed Windows laptops that may be difficult to work on, but models with removable batteries are plentiful. This makes it possible to carry an extra battery with you for extended work. When you purchase a battery, there may be third-party suppliers that can offer batteries with longer life and better runtimes. For example, a Dell laptop that originally came with a 6-cell battery could be replaced with a higher quality 9-cell battery. The competition among battery manufacturers results in economical pricing and efforts to create better quality products.
As of 2022, with the new Apple computers having super efficient M1 processors, the batteries can provide long runtimes. The latest Apple laptop computers can achieve about 20 hours of use on a single charge. However, the current Apple laptop computers do not have user replaceable batteries.
Cost (Windows is Better)
Apple computers and devices are known for being high quality, high tech, and high priced. This becomes a topic of discussion among tech pundits.
Here are some examples:
- Wheels for an Apple computer: $400 instead of perhaps $20.
- An Apple computer display: $5,000 is the price of the base model. It has glare and has no stand. You’ll pay $6,000 for a display without glare. If you want a stand, that’s another $1,000. So, $7,000 for a usable Apple display. Note: Their all-in-one iMac computer comes with a nice display for $1,500. So, apparently it is possible to provide a nice display for less cost. When Apple overshoots consumer willingness and budgets, this unfortunately results in products that get discontinued and eventually no longer are supported for repairs. So… Your $7,000 might break and require a part that is no longer available. Not a good look.
- An Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch ID and numeric keypad is $180. A basic Windows keyboard might be $20.
- An Apple microfiber cloth will cost you $20 instead of $2.
There are many other examples like the ones listed above. It’s clear that Apple charges a premium for some of their products and accessories.
With regard to computers, when comparing basic tasks like checking email, browsing the web, watching videos, working with spreadsheets, and writing documents, Apple computers are not remarkably faster or better than similar Windows computers. In some cases, the programs are identical, such as with Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Office, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, Zoom, and others. The operation and experience is the same or very similar.
Comparing two similarly equipped computers, Apple and Windows are similar in operation, but the cost of an Apple computer can be considerably higher.
As mentioned in the Custom Build topic, it might cost you a few thousand dollars to build a Windows computer with 28-core processor, 32GB memory, and 1TB of fast solid-state storage. An equivalent Apple computer could be $13,000 or more — with fewer options to choose from.
When discussing cost, it’s important to point out that the quality, reliability, security, and ease of setup with Apple devices is said to reduce the cost of long-term overall ownership (lower support costs and fewer repair costs).
If you buy into the entire Apple experience (watch, phone, laptop, tablet, desktop, smart TV box, smart speakers, and various services) the long-term cost of replenishing equipment when needed will add up over time.
Here’s the bottom line on cost… The computing needs of most people can be served very well by a used Windows laptop computer that is 3 to 5 years old as long as it has been refurbished with a new battery, more memory, and a solid-state hard drive. The total cost might be $300 to $400 for a really nice used system. If you have some discretionary income and want to spend it on the additional features that Apple offers, you’ll get something for your money.
CPU (Apple is Better)
For many years, Apple and Windows computers used the same Intel processors. Some Windows computers came with lower priced high performance AMD processors. As of 2022, Apple computers now have an Apple designed processor called the M1 which is a proprietary central processing unit (CPU) that utilizes very little power, but offers great performance.
Windows computers still mostly use Intel or AMD processors which can run hot, use more power, and require additional cooling efforts that result in fan noise. As mentioned under the Battery topic entry, the latest Apple laptop computers can achieve about 20 hours of use on a single charge. This is due to the efficient processor design.
Custom Build (Windows is Better)
There is an almost unlimited array of case and parts options when it comes to Windows computers. A computer can be built fairly easily from the ground up, starting with cases of various materials, colors, and sizes.
Different power supplies can be suited for your needs. There are numerous economical options for processors, motherboards, memory, storage, video cards, and more.
It will be very difficult for a single company like Apple to compete with the variety of options offered by hundreds of companies specializing in certain PC components. It might cost you a few thousand dollars to build a Windows computer with 28-core processor, 32GB memory, and 1TB of fast solid-state storage. An equivalent Apple computer could be $13,000 or more — with fewer options to choose from.
Design (Both Have Benefits)
Apple and Windows computers both have a lot to offer with regard to design. While Apple has a certain consistent aesthetic to their product line, there are more models to choose from with the many brands that support Windows. When the iPad was announced, consumers asked when Apple laptop and desktop computers would also have a touch screen. The answer from Apple was that computer users do not want to touch their screen, and that only the iPad has the size and operating system suitable to a touch interface.
In recent years, the iPad has morphed into becoming very laptop-like with keyboard, mouse, and ports for making the iPad like a desktop computer. This evolution has happened because people really do like the touch screen experience.
With a Windows computer, it’s possible to have a tablet, laptop, and desktop with a full operating system and touch screen. A tablet or 2-in-one laptop/tablet serves this purpose. Apple could include the touch experience on their laptop and desktop computers, but this would diminish the sales of their iPads. The design decision is not user-based, but most likely profit-based.
Display (Both Have Benefits)
Apple computers are known for having excellent displays. On laptops and desktop Mac computers, the Apple keyboard has brightness controls for easy adjusting. Most free-standing Windows desktop displays require manually adjusting brightness using buttons on the display. So, Apple has an advantage in this regard. Also, Apple displays tend to have very good color representation. They are available in non-glare on some models for an extra cost.
There are a wide range of displays and TV systems that can be used for Windows and Apple computers, including 42-inch and larger displays with 4K resolution. Apple offers a very limited range of display sizes and specifications. What they have is good, but if you want a wall mounted 52″ display, you’ll be using a non-Apple product.
There is not really such a thing a “Windows display” other than perhaps the displays that come on Windows laptop computers. As mentioned above, external displays work on Windows and Apple computers.
A low-end Windows laptop computer may have poor color representation, and when the display is tilted the colors may change slightly due to being viewed ‘off axis’ rather than looking directly at the middle of a display that is flat (not tilted) in front of you.
Device Replacement (Apple is Better)
When you replace an Apple device, an automatic recovery system pulls all of your files, settings, and software from a cloud backup (or hard drive backup) and places them on your new device. In the Windows world, you may need to setup your new computer from scratch. If you don’t have original software and licenses, you may need to spend money on purchasing again.
There are some processes you can use to migrate a Windows computer to another system. It involves using third-party drive cloning software to make an identical copy of your current computer. Then the cloned drive is put in another newer computer. However, this solution is not built-in on Windows.
Ecosystem and Cloud Services (Apple is Better)
The Apple Ecosystem is perhaps one of the strongest selling points of Apple products. The data and user experience is accessible and synchronized across desktop, laptop, tablet, and smartphone. Contacts, appointments, photos, files, music, website bookmarks, and your entire digital life is available from all your devices.
Let’s say you work on computers, and regularly need to make note of model numbers, part numbers, and long serial numbers. You can use an Apple iPhone to take a picture of a long serial number. The image is immediately processed for OCR, so you can now tap on the serial number in the image and copy that long number to copy it. Because your Apple computer shares the same clipboard as the iPhone, you can paste that long number into a web page or spreadsheet. It’s a huge time saver. Surprisingly, the system is fairly smart with text or numbers and typically is 100% accurate, even where some letters and numbers are similar in appearance. That’s one example of many where the Apple interconnectedness is a benefit.
Microsoft offers Office and OneDrive for a multi device synchronized experience that even works with Apple devices. Google has Google Docs and Google Drive for a similar experience. To create an Apple-like system, a person could use a Google Chromebook (Windows alternative) and a Google Android phone. Then their devices and services would be fully Google.
Ergonomics (Both Have Benefits)
Apple keyboards specialize in minimal key travel with low force requirements. This allows a person to type quickly with little effort expended — reducing the chances of fatigue and repetitive stress injuries. Apple trackpads are very large and responsive. Switching from left to right hand operation throughout the day is relatively easy. This reduces muscle use by 50% for typical use.
Keyboards and other accessories from Logitech, Kensington, and other companies provide a wide variety of options for computer control and input. Some bluetooth keyboards can easily switch between Apple and Windows devices. Backlit keys (not available on Apple wireless keyboards) improve low-light operation.
Responsiveness to Issues (Mixed Results)
A Windows computer purchased from Costco comes with phone support for many questions that arise, as well as an additional year on the hardware warranty. It’s can actually be an additional 3 years — 1 from Costco and 2 from the Costco Citi VISA card. Also, the phone support is U.S. based and “lifetime” (life of the computer or other device).
This and similar buying options for Windows computers can give you a good customer experience. Apple tends to be highly rated for customer support. Their stores and phone support provide many options to get questions answered.
Fans of Apple devices who are fully immersed in the ecosystem, and technicians who support those users, will know that security vulnerabilities and bugs may take a while to resolve. Simply go to the Apple Support Community to discover some of the lingering frustrations from users experiencing issues. A person will post a concern or describe a problem, and hundreds or thousands of people will comment, “I’m having that problem also.” Weeks and months can go by without any response or resolution from Apple. Sometimes the problems are security or privacy related.
The updates to Apple software and operating systems are not as frequent as with Windows computers. Apple is sometimes slow to respond to feedback and requests from the user community. For example, when Apple removed ports from their laptop computers and redesigned the keyboards, the user community was upset. A recall was issued to repair the fragile, easily damaged, keyboards. The Touch Bar that replaced a top row of function keys would sometimes stop working. In 2022, after many years of consumer frustration, Apple brought back the MagSafe power cord, better keyboard, and ports not seen on their laptops in 10 years. So, if you’re going to be part of the Apple community, be prepared for a sometimes decades-long wait for certain issues to be addressed.
For many years, on Apple computers, it was only possible to resize a program window by using a mouse to adjust from the lower right corner. Eventually it became possible to resize program windows from the sides and corners. Windows computers always had this ability, but Apple was stubborn about adding it. It can be irritating to wait for years to see basic functionality added to Apple products when the same features exist for years on other devices.
Security (Both Have Limitations)
Apple computers are considered to be less susceptible to security vulnerabilities. It’s true that there are fewer viruses for Apple computers, but today’s phishing emails and scams impact everyone equally. Apple and Windows operating systems require regular updates to correct security issues that are continually being discovered.
Increased security defenses on a Windows computer usually require security software that can be expensive and have many functions that slow a computer down and may at times cause some software or functions to not work.
Better security is usually achieved by creative uses of devices, such as having a low-security computer for daily use and a higher-security computer for specialized tasks like banking. On the daily use low-security computer, you might use that for clicking around in social media where you might end up accidentally visiting an infected website. It could also be used for testing out software that may cause problems on the computer. If you’re taking a computer on vacation, take an older used computer with nothing on it except the essentials you need.
There have been world-wide security alerts notifying consumers of vulnerabilities impacting billions of computers. When this happens, it’s helpful to have a computer that isn’t vulnerable to the threat. For this reason, having Apple and Windows computers can help.
Setup (Apple is Better)
As mentioned in the Device Replacement topic, Apple makes it easy to purchase a new device and import all your software, data, and settings from your old device.
On a new system, Apple lets you skip the login screen for your Apple ID and iCloud synchronization.
With Windows 10 Home computers, on the initial setup, it is no longer possible to skip the Microsoft login screen. This means you MUST have a Microsoft account and a good Internet connection to verify the account. Setting up a computer without Internet isn’t possible.
With Windows 10 Pro, it is possible to setup a computer without providing a Microsoft account. Instead, if you wish, a local user account can be created at setup.
Software Cost (Both Have Benefits)
Apple computers include plenty of free software for video production, photography, word processing, spreadsheets, and more. The App Store for apple computers and devices has many programs that are free or low cost. When you purchase a software program from the Apple App Store, you own it for life and get free updates that can be installed with a click or touch. Microsoft also has a software store, but it’s not been as fully developed as the Apple App Store. It’s important to point out that full-featured free software is available for Apple or Windows. An example would be LibreOffice as an alternative to Microsoft Office.
Software Removal (Windows is Better)
Most Apple fans know how easy it is to remove a program. Simply drag the program icon from the Applications folder to the Recycle Bin and the program is gone. Right? Well… not really. So, here’s what most Apple users don’t know: Dragging a program icon to the Recycle Bin typically removes only some of the program files and not other folders, settings, and program-related files placed elsewhere on the computer. This is a problem because it leaves clutter elsewhere in the computer. Some software includes a removal option or removal tool. But others don’t. Third-party utility programs are available (like Clean My Mac) to help find and remove all the scattered files related to a program being removed, but these cost extra money.
With Windows computers, the installed software can be found in the Control Panel where an option to remove is available. Similarly, the software shows up in the new Settings interface. Or, a right click of any program in the Start menu in Windows provides an option to uninstall. So there are several ways to completely remove a program.
It’s worth noting that Apple has always had simple installation and removal of software on their iPhone and iPad devices. For some reason they don’t offer this on their laptop land desktop computers.
Sustainability (Mixed Outcomes)
Some Windows laptop computers have batteries, hard drives, and memory that is very easy to access, replace, and upgrade. However, that trend is changing. Apple is driving a culture of disposable tech, and other companies are seeing the potential profit of selling products that can’t be opened, repaired, or upgraded.
Easy affordable repairs and upgrades help extend the life of devices, but with Apple products, repairs are typically not easy or inexpensive.
Sustainability is central to the Apple message and brand. Yet, they have been criticized in recent years for making their equipment very difficult to upgrade or repair. Apple devices are mostly sealed and very difficult to work on — even if you have the correct tools and training from Apple. That’s a problem.
In other areas, Apple does seem to be doing well with regard to using recyclable materials, avoiding harmful materials, and striving to use renewable energy.
Manufacturers of Windows computers do well with regard to repairs and upgrades, but the materials used may not be recyclable.
Thermal Management (Apple is Better)
A benefit of the current Apple computers, mentioned above in the CPU topic, is the low operating temperature. This is a recent development. Older Apple computers, particularly laptops, were known for getting very hot and having trouble cooling down.
Windows desktop computers are capable of having liquid cooling systems, but the overheating of processors is an ongoing issue.
Transparency (Windows is Better)
The extent to which companies are transparent about their products and future plans will always be in flux. Apple is well known for maintaining secrecy about new products and features. The goal of this practice is to prevent others from copying their innovations. It also creates a lot of media attention when announcements are made.
In recent years, there have been leaks related to rumored upcoming Apple products and features. This diminishes the element of surprise at Apple events. Rumor fatigue results in consumers ignoring the unending flood of news about product predictions.
Apple is partly responsible for consumer fatigue when the company itself announces products that never end up being sold (like their wireless charging pad). Delays in product redesigns and upgrades also create consumer fatigue.
Another factor in all this is that, despite the secrecy, Samsung and other manufacturers are releasing features years before Apple announces them. So, it begins to look like Apple is copying others and lagging behind in the tech industry for some aspects of their products. There is always a race to be first when bringing a new innovation or feature to market. The company that does this will be perceived as more innovative and advanced.
Apple is in an interesting situation. They have devices people are willing to buy, even if competitors have ‘better’ features such as touch screens on laptops and desktops, or under-glass fingerprint readers. Apple keeps their planned or considered updates and feature rollouts secret because these are intended to be released slowly into their product line. In this way, there is always some new capability in the queue for next year’s model device that will motivate a person to buy again.
With manufacturers of Windows computers, there is less secrecy because design and feature changes are less surprising and generally anticipated to reflect linear improvements over time.
Travel (Both Have Benefits)
When away from home or the office, a smartphone with a bluetooth keyboard can work well for note taking and many other functions. If your mobile tasks require a bigger screen, an iPad or Samsung tablet work well. If your mobile tasks require a full operating system, a cheap used Windows computer can be a low-stress option that is inexpensive to purchase and inexpensive to replace if it’s dropped, lost, or stolen.
Apple makes some really nice ultra-slim laptops that can be used for travel as well as desktop use. If you use a single slim Apple laptop computer as your travel device and daily use computer, then a single purchase can serve multiple functions — replacing laptop, desktop, and tablet. The only drawback is that your fancy computer might get dropped or otherwise damaged. Then you would be without your primary device for a while.
Some people choose to travel with an inexpensive iPad and keyboard because of the smaller lighter slim design, and the ability to have the device location tracked. If the device is lost, it can be remotely erased.
As was stated in the Cost entry above, the computing needs of most people can be served very well by a used Windows laptop computer that is 3 to 5 years old as long as it has been refurbished with a new battery, more memory, and a solid-state hard drive. The total cost might be $300 to $400 for a really nice used system. If you have some discretionary income and want to spend it on the additional features that Apple offers, you’ll get something for your money.