- If you are struggling to decide between a Mac and Windows PC, use our decision calculator form to figure out what’s best for you.
- I am going to walk you through various points and explain who the winner is for each, and why.
- Our step-by-step calculator form tries to eliminate bias and subjectivity in the decision process, letting you choose what you care about and why.
Every time I say something about Mac vs PC, when I compare Windows with Mac OS (like in this article), people seem to be split into two camps. Rarely you’ll find someone who sees both platforms as they really are, with their Pros and Cons.
I made that mistake. I’m still making that mistake.
Today I’ll try something different. Instead of telling you what’s best I’ll just walk you through various aspects of this difficult question, then I will let you choose what’s best for you via a “scientific” method.
I put scientific in quotes because I don’t want anyone to take this too seriously. This is not a definitive Windows vs Mac guide. There are plenty of those on the Internet. Some really good, some pretty bad.
This guide is just a different approach for choosing between a Mac and a PC.
- 1 Why is a Mac vs PC and MacOS vs Windows comparison so hard?
- 2 What is the Mac vs PC “decision maker”? How to use the calculator
- 3 Windows / PC vs Mac decision points
- 3.1 Out of the box experience
- 3.2 Variety of apps you can install
- 3.3 Application store
- 3.4 Integration with other devices
- 3.5 Platform openness
- 3.6 Software backward compatibility
- 3.7 Operating system productivity
- 3.8 User privacy
- 3.9 Accessories you can use
- 3.10 Upgradability
- 3.11 Absolute performance
- 3.12 Efficiency
- 3.13 Noise
- 3.14 Gaming
- 3.15 Reliability and repairability
- 3.16 Price
- 3.17 Design and Personality
- 4 What’s not included in this calculator?
- 5 Mac vs Windows/PC: calculate your own score
- 6 What's next for this calculator?
Why is a Mac vs PC and MacOS vs Windows comparison so hard?
First, it’s impossible not to talk about what we are comparing today. Mac vs PC is about the hardware, on the surface, while MacOS vs Windows is about the software, the operating systems.
I remember what I learned in school about comparing, measuring, and evaluating things: you want to keep everything the same, then just change one variable.
So, if you want to compare Mac vs PC then you would need to use the same software. That’s impossible.
Yes, you can run MacOS on a PC, but it’s just a hack, hence the name Hackintosh, and it won’t perform as intended. You would do MacOS a disservice.
Yes, you can run Windows on a Mac, but it’s not the experience you get when you install and run Microsoft’s OS on supported hardware.
You can argue that Apple offers Windows drivers, but they simply just don’t offer the same level of access to the hardware as you get when you run MacOS on a Mac. Thus, you would do Windows a disservice.
That’s why it’s hard to do a good comparison. You can’t talk about Mac hardware (iMac, MacBook, Mac Mini, Mac Studio, Mac Pro) without taking into consideration MacOS.
On Windows you can just talk about the OS, independent of hardware, because Windows runs on all kinds of devices. From powerful workstations to thin laptops, portable gaming beasts, to tablets, or 2-in-1s, Windows runs on pretty much everything under the sun.
And depending on the hardware you use Windows can be an excellent experience, or a subpar one.
So, what are we comparing today?
I will try and compare Mac / MacOS with the concept of PC / Windows. I still believe both platforms are computers, even if Apple likes to say Macs are something different.
Just look at the software both run. Seen any difference? I think not. So, while the methods may be different, the results are still the same. Aka you get a computer no matter what you buy.
What is the Mac vs PC “decision maker”? How to use the calculator
Let’s cut to the chase.
The “decision maker” is a simple form where you select how much you care about a specific thing, let’s say repairability. That characteristic is already attributed by me to the PC. You can’t change that.
But if you say you don’t care about repairability the Windows/PC team gets no points. If you select that you care a bit it gets one point, and if you say you care a lot two points are added.
You can see the calculation performed in real time, as you pick your options.
Why this method?
Because my idea is to let you decide what you care about and how much you care. Most people agree that price is an important decision factor, but what if money is not object for you?
I hope you understand what I want to do here.
Windows / PC vs Mac decision points
Let’s go through the decision factors included in the calculator form. I’ll explain briefly why I decided to award a specific factor to the PC team or Mac team.
Out of the box experience
Winner: Mac – You turn on your Mac for the first time and all you have to do is follow the steps. It’s the same on a laptop or PC that comes with Windows preinstalled. Trust me, the Windows installation steps are just as intuitive (see the guide for installing Windows 11).
If your new PC doesn’t come with Windows, you have to install it yourself. This means downloading the installer ISO, making a USB boot drive, and selecting this disk when the computer starts. That’s beyond most people’s computer know-how.
Variety of apps you can install
Winner: Windows/PC – The sheer number of programs you can find for the Windows platform is amazing. There’s an app for everything, literally. Also, a lot of the useful stuff is free, being built by enthusiasts. You can’t say the same about Macs.
Winner: Mac – I don’t care about app stores. I think they’re just a way to keep you in a walled garden. Fortunately, you can still install apps from third-party website on both Mac OS and Windows.
That being said, a lot of people prefer to download and update apps from an application store. And here’s where Apple’s App Store wins by a large margin. The Microsoft Store is a baren wasteland in comparison. But you can improve it a little bit with something like WingetUI.
Integration with other devices
Winner: Mac – Microsoft has made strides to integrate better with Android phones, and Phone Link works fine for the most part, but the Clipboard sync has been broken on my machines for the past two years with no fix in sight.
Mac works extremely well with all devices in the Apple ecosystem. You just can’t deny that.
I personally don’t care about that, because I prefer to synchronize documents via the cloud, so I can keep a copy, but you may care about this, and I don’t blame you if you do.
Winner: Windows/PC – there’s a stark difference between Microsoft and Apple here. They’re at complete opposite sides of the spectrum. I personally don’t use software or a service that’s not available on all popular platforms.
Why? Because I don’t like my choices to be limited. Why can’t I use Safari and Final Cut Pro on Windows?
I know why: because Apple wants me to buy a Mac once in a while. That’s why I cannot personally agree with Apple’s principles. But I’m not trying to lecture you. We’re all grownups and can decide for ourselves.
Software backward compatibility
Winner: Windows/PC – this is the core of Windows’ principles, the simply amazing backwards compatibility with old software. There are tons of option for running older software under modern versions of Windows.
If you still don’t believe me here’s a story: I’m still using an HP printer from 2008, with drivers for Windows 7. It runs just fine in Windows 11. And it’s something made by HP!
Operating system productivity
Winner: Windows/PC – If you want to get things done in fewer steps Windows beats Mac OS, easily. Windows does window management better. And Windows 11 stepped up the game even more with the predefined snap layouts.
Mac window management? I don’t even want to talk about hide vs minimize, close vs quit. I know the differences. But why?
Keyboard shortcuts use one, two, three keys at the most in Windows. Most Mac shortcuts use three or four keys. It’s like Apple doesn’t want you to use keyboard shortcuts.
Not only that, but Mac OS relies heavily on the touchpad, which is very good, I’ll give you that, but it’s no match for a good mouse or a few keyboard shortcuts.
Winner: Mac – I really don’t like the direction where Microsoft is going with Windows. I’m not saying that Apple is a saint when it comes to user privacy, but they don’t need your personal data as much as Microsoft. Apple wins their cash from services integrated with their devices, which they also sell a lot of.
I don’t trust Apple has my best interests, but I do trust them a little bit more than Microsoft in this regard.
Accessories you can use
Winner: Windows/PC – again the Windows team wins. The open nature of Windows welcomes every manufacturer to build a device that you just plug and works.
Yes, you may need to install manufacturer drivers to take full advantage of what the device offers, but you can’t deny you can make almost everything work with Windows. If it’s not made by Apple, or course.
Winner: Windows/PC – the way desktop computers are built allows for unprecedented flexibility when it comes to upgrading PCs. Sometimes you need to change more than one component, but my current PC built in 2021 and upgraded in 2022, has a few items from a PC I built in 2012!
My gaming laptop offers me the option to upgrade the RAM, storage, and wireless LAN card. Yes, some ultrabooks and very slim Windows laptops don’t offer much choice but compare that to the unupgradable MacBook(s) and you’ll see my point.
Winner: Windows/PC – The latest AMD Threadripper CPUs come with a maximum of 96 cores and 192 threads. The latest Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 takes four slots and can drink more than 600 Watts of power. If you want the best, at no cost, then you have to join the PC Master Race subculture.
Winner: Mac – I wanted to split the computing power in two, because it’s also worth noting how efficient current M1, M2, M3 Apple Silicon Macs are. My M2 MacBook Pro lasts 12 hours easily, and I can stretch that to 15 hours or more if I just watch a lot of movies.
Current Apple hardware based on the ARM architecture has no rival in the Windows camp. Will that change in the future? As a Windows user I surely hope so.
Winner: Mac – I was obsessed with computer noise once and I understand why this is something you would want as a priority. Current Macs are dead silent, no matter what.
Can you make your desktop PC silent? Yes, but you have to invest time and money in the right components. What if you have a Windows laptop? Most likely there’s a silent profile you can use, but that will seriously limit performance.
Winner: Windows/PC – yes, I heard Apple is pushing gaming lately, but I don’t think they really expect people to game on Macs. It’s just a different user demographic. Plus, if you want mass adoption of Macs for gaming good luck hoping people will invest thousands of dollars for an expensive Mac, when a good mid-range gaming PC costs less than the cheapest MacBook or Mac Mini.
Reliability and repairability
Winner: Windows/PC – I bundled these together because I felt it makes sense. Macs are notoriously hard to repair, and make no mistake, this is by design. Why repair your computer when you could do the “sensible” thing and buy a new one?
If you think I’m exaggerating watch a few videos from Louis Rossmann, a guy who runs an Apple repair shop. He knows a few things or two about repairing Macs.
Also, on the note of reliability, the recent Mac butterfly keyboard issues, the laptop screens that are damaged by specs of dust are just a few examples that Macs are not built as well as they appear.
Winner: Windows/PC – I found Windows laptops with 32 GB RAM and 2 TB of storage for under $2000. This is the minimum I consider OK in 2023 for a power user. A similar Mac (with 36 GB RAM, because you can’t get 32 GB for some reason) is about double that amount.
Don’t get me wrong, a nice built Windows laptop like the Dell XPS 15 or the Razer models is also going to be expensive. But the amount Apple charges for RAM and memory updates is ridiculous.
Please don’t tell me about how Mac OS is more RAM efficient. That’s just marketing talk. Keep in mind that on Apple Silicon the system RAM is a shared pool with the graphics memory (VRAM on PCs).
Design and Personality
Winner: Windows/PC – you won’t like this. Macs are boring looking. They all look the same. I’m not saying they don’t have a minimalist design, but you can’t say they look apart when all Macs look the same. Yes, Macs put you in a separate category, but you’re not alone in that category.
If you want to set yourself apart, you’re better off with a PC.
Look at this ROG Strix Scar gaming laptop. Half the case is semi-transparent. Plus it comes with tons of RGB you can customize to your liking, including turning everything off, as I have done.
Want a design more subdued? Sure, you can find a PC to your liking when you shop for a Windows desktop or laptop.
What’s not included in this calculator?
Well, there are things I have considered, but decided not to add to the form. I’ll explain why:
I’ve taken this into consideration at the out of the box experience somehow. Once you have Mac OS or Windows up and running on your computer it’s a matter about how quickly you can learn the OS and what software you are using. Once you learn your way around the desktop it’s a matter of how fast you can do things, and that was also included in the productivity section.
Using the Settings app on both Windows and Mac is not for beginners, trust me.
Bloatware / preinstalled stuff
I may be the only Mac user who only uses one preinstalled Apple app, and that’s the Calculator. Yes, I have a folder called “Useless” where I put all the Apple preinstalled apps I cannot uninstall and never use.
Windows is not a much better story when it comes to preinstalled apps. At least you can delete quite a few of them, with an upcoming EU compliant version that promises to let users remove a lot more stuff. I would like to see the EU imposing something similar to Apple. I think it would be fair.
The more I use Mac OS the more bugs I find. These were my findings a few months after getting my first Mac. Windows is the same: the more advanced your workflows are, the weirder the usage scenario, the more bugs you will encounter.
Software is just becoming too complex. That’s why I didn’t include software bugs in the “decision calculator”.
Also, my experience is that all Mac OS system updates require a reboot. Same as Windows. It’s just that Microsoft pushes updates more often.
And talking about long term support, Microsoft still supports Windows 10 officially, and that OS was launched in 2015. Manufacturers on the other had stopped providing device drivers and BIOS updates a lot sooner, so it’s a mixed bag and depends on the hardware you use.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that Macs don’t have viruses or security issues. This will only expose you more because your guard is down. Keep in mind that security threats have moved to more subtle ways of tricking you, and use tricks that are operating system or platform independent.
How would we compare this? Microsoft doesn’t offer support when you have computer problems (it does for Windows, but not when hardware is involved). You have to ask your manufacturer, and some do a very good job at that, some not so much.
If you think I’m being unfair add one or two points to the Mac, but before you do that, try and read some of the horror stories with Mac “geniuses”. Also keep in mind the company’s track record with reliability problems what were only acknowledged and fixed after costly lawsuits.
It’s weird to compare this because it’s an abstract contract, depends on what you count as innovation, and how useful that thing is to you. Windows and PC manufacturers copy Apple features all the time, both hardware and software. Apple does add things the Windows team had for years.
The idea is that both platforms drive innovation forward and change the tech we use (mostly) for the better.
Mac vs Windows/PC: calculate your own score
What score did you get?
I got 20 in favor of Windows / PC and only 6 for Mac. This is the only proof I need that I'm a PC guy.
What's next for this calculator?
Depending on your feedback I would like to add more questions to the decision maker. This will hopefully make the guide more useful if it manages to touch all important decision factors.
I would also like to keep a balance between keeping the form simple, useful, but also comprehensive.
Last but not least, I think some characteristics/points may need to be reassigned if an angry mob shows up at my door.
Keep in mind I'm trying to be objective. The Mac is not perfect, nor it Windows and the PC. What matters is what's right for you.