Q&A: Switching from Windows to Mac

Q&A: Switching from Windows to Mac

Summary: I've written a lot about my switch from the Windows platform to Apple's Mac operating system, and that has resulted in an influx of questions from people who have questions about making the shift. You have question, I have answers.

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I've written a lot about my switch from the Windows platform to Apple's Mac operating system over the last 18 months, and that has resulted in an influx of questions from people who have questions about making the shift.

You have question, I have answers.

Note: My answers are based on my experience of making the switch. What works for me may not work for you, and as such your mileage may vary.

Q: Is OS X better than Windows?

A: It's all subjective, and rather than promote one thing over another, what I'm doing is highlighting something works for me and answering questions that others have directed at me. Bottom line, what you should be focused on is what works for you. While I've heard from countless people who's experiences parallel mine, I've also heard from people who have gone the other way – OS X to Windows – for reasons that sound similar to mine.

Ultimately, it's about what works for you.

Q: Is there a lot of learning involved?

Depends on your exposure to different platforms. The more you're used to exploring and finding your way around operating systems, the easier it is. Those who have seen a few different version of Windows come and go, and who have used iOS or Android or Windows Phone will find the process easier than those who have only ever used Windows XP.

I didn't find the transition that bad, but others have reported to me that they found switching quite jarring, and that their productivity took a huge hit, especially in the early days.

Google – or Bing – will be your friend.

Q: Aren't you just an Apple fanboy telling us what to do?

A: I'm sharing my experience. It doesn't bother me in the least what your choice of operating system is. Use what works for you.

Q: Is it expensive to switch?

A: I'm not going to lie to you, it's not cheap.

Beyond the cost of the hardware – which ranges from moderately expensive to eye-wateringly expensive – you also have to think about the software that you use. Unless you're going to run Windows on OS X – and to do that you'll need a spare Windows license to allow you to carry out the installation – then you're going to need to invest in OS X-compatible software.

If you use suites such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, then switching is going to be pricey (although some licenses, such as that for Adobe Creative Cloud, allow you the option to choose Windows or OS X).

But yes, this is not going to be cheap. The hardware alone is going to be hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. 

Q: What applications/utilities do you see as "must haves"?

A: Here's my list of "must have" apps:

Q: Why not use Safari?

A: I prefer Chrome.

Q: How do you backup data?

A: Since I have a lot of data related to photography, I use a number of backup mechanisms, including:

  • Time Machine
  • Carbon Copy Cloner and Super Duper backups to external hard drives
  • CrashPlan offsite backup

Q: Do you run an antivirus program on OS X?

A: Yes, AVG AntiVirus. The only thing I've seen is Windows malware embedded in emails.

Q: What hardware essentials do you have connected to your Macs?

A: Here's what I see as mush-haves:

  • Apple Bluetooth keyboard
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple Magic Trackpad
  • 29-inch LG display hooked up to my Mac mini
  • Variety of external storage (WD My Book, WD My Book Duo, WD My Passport Pro)

Q: Is it worth maxing out the RAM on a Mac?

A: On devices that you can't upgrade yourself, it may be, especially if you think you'll need it at some point in the future. However, if you can do the upgrade yourself – for example, on the Mac mini – then that will save you money.

Q: What about upgrading the CPU?

A: Only if you know you'll be needing the extra performance boost it'll offer.

Q: Is AppleCare worth the money?

A: I think it is because it gives my devices a three-year lifespan.

Q: Do you use Time Machine for backups?

A: Yes, and it's saved my butt at least once.

I have one Apple Time Capsule and I also use another WD My Book (which is a lot cheaper) as a Time Capsule storage device.

But I'm a cautious sort, and like to have a separate backup to an external drive or NAS box, as well as keeping a current off-site backup as well.

When it comes to keeping my data safe, I like to make sure that all my ducks are in a row.

Q: Anything else?

A: No matter how optimistic you are, and how used to finding your way around operating systems you are, changing operating systems is going to hammer your productivity in the short term. 

Q: Is there a cheap way to test-drive OS X before taking the plunge?

A: I can think of a few:

  • Ask someone you know who uses OS X if you can take a look.
  • Go to an Apple Store and play with the demo systems.
  • Buy a cheap Mac mini.

See also:

Topics: Microsoft, Apple, Operating Systems

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94 comments
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  • 3 years?

    You say that the Apple extended warranty gives the device a 3 year lifespan.

    In my experience devices usually go wrong in the fist couple of months, or they run for years.

    My iMac is now coming up for 7 years old, and apart from being unusably slow with Lion installed, it still works fine - in fact the Boot Camp partition with a Vista licence runs a lot better than the OS X side nowadays... :-S

    I didn't bother with the Applecare extended warranty. Likewise on my notebooks (Acer from 2004 and a Sony from 2010), I never bothered with an extended warranty, both are still running fine - although the battery on the Acer only holds around 75% of its original charge now.

    Given the price of a MacBook Pro Retina, if it wasn't covered on my household insurance, I would probably get the Applecare, just in case it was dropped.
    wright_is
    • AppleCare is worth every penny

      I get it for every Mac/iDevice that has a LCD screen as the screens are the most expensive to fix. That said, the times I've had to use Applecare for repairs were NOT screen-related. On my iMac G5 ALS, I had a problem with kernal panics caused by the AirPort/Bluetooth module - fix required replacing both the module AND the logic board. On my current iMac i5 Intel, I've had to have the Sony Optiarc optical drive replaced twice due to the same mechanical defect internally.
      romad@...
      • Too bad

        That you've had to use AppleCare so often says an awful lot about Apple products, doesn't it?

        Doc
        Doc.Savage
        • To be fair

          Studies have concluded that Apple devices are average in terms of reliability, so it's not much different than owning most other brands.

          The problem is that their marketing department would have you believe otherwise, and many fall into exactly that trap.
          dricht1
        • you wish

          My wife and I have used Apple products for 20 years. We've only needed AppleCare twice, and not recently.
          moyashi@...
    • Performance the same

      I found the same - my six year old MBP 4,1 (pre-unibody) was so slow under Mavericks but was greased lightning under Win 7 Pro. I've just (this past weekend) replaced the original 5400rpm 256GB HDD with a 480GB Crucial M500, so the system flies again. But that's just a maintenance upgrade really. Even my car isn't as old as my trusty MBP!
      Ben_E
  • 3 years?

    You say that the Apple extended warranty gives the device a 3 year lifespan.

    In my experience devices usually go wrong in the fist couple of months, or they run for years.

    My iMac is now coming up for 7 years old, and apart from being unusably slow with Lion installed, it still works fine - in fact the Boot Camp partition with a Vista licence runs a lot better than the OS X side nowadays... :-S

    I didn't bother with the Applecare extended warranty. Likewise on my notebooks (Acer from 2004 and a Sony from 2010), I never bothered with an extended warranty, both are still running fine - although the battery on the Acer only holds around 75% of its original charge now.

    Given the price of a MacBook Pro Retina, if it wasn't covered on my household insurance, I would probably get the Applecare, just in case it was dropped.
    wright_is
  • Win & Mac

    Since 1986, I have owned one Apple computer after another; during that same period, I have had to learn and use Microsoft powered computers in the workplace. It is hard to discuss this topic objectively, but a few facts emerge.

    I never had to buy manuals in order to use the Apple computers, but many times I had to consult PC material (discovering Control-Alt-Delete comes to mind...). Microsoft has made great strides in that department, becoming more user friendly, but it's not quite there, yet.

    Over the years, I have learned to not be an Apple proselytizer because people tend to stick with what they have known, regardless of its quality; however, oftentimes, after helping a buddy solve his Win problem, the subject turns to why I prefer Apple. I simply list the advantages I see and leave it at that. I have "converted", so to speak, 14 former PC guys. Nobody I know has ever convinced a Mac guy to switch over to Windows operated computers.

    As for having to invest in new software when switching, there are many applications out there that cost nothing and do an excellent job; for example, GIMP and LibreOffice; in some ways they are superior to Microsoft and Apple productivity suites.
    bob.rondeau@...
    • No manuals

      I've gone from DOS to Mac OS to Window to Linux to OS X to Windows over the years. To be honest, I don't really see any big differences between OS X, Windows 8 or Linux in terms of usability of functionality. They are all much of a muchness.

      At the end of the day it comes down more to which applications you need to use.

      At the moment I need to use MS Office a lot and as the Mac platform is lagging in that department (especially Outlook), Windows is the natural choice. For many years I used Linux as my main desktop, then OS X, before going back to Windows.
      wright_is
      • Don't blame Apple

        for Microsoft's foot dragging on updating Office for Mac.
        romad@...
        • He Didn't

          He didn't blame Apple for the foot dragging, any more than he failed to point out that Apple is slow to upgrade Safari and iTunes for Windows...
          dksmidtx
          • Re: Safari and iTunes for Windows...

            Apple no longer develop Safari for Windows as it proved not to be popular.

            Updates to iTunes for Windows however coincide with those released for OS X.
            5735guy
    • I remember Word 5.1 for Mac....

      came with a huge, huge hundreds of pages manual. That, by the way, was a fantastic word processor. May be among the best version they ever did on any platform.

      I still think manuals, or extensive documentation, is a good idea. These programs can do an awful lot, and if you don't learn about what they can do under the hood, you don't max out your use of them.
      Mac_PC_FenceSitter
      • Thank God for David Pogue

        and his "The Missing Manual" series!
        romad@...
    • opposite experience

      Posting from my phone so this may get dicey, but I know five people besides myself that have used mac extensively as a primary platform. Two have switched to windows 8 after I showed them what it can do, one remains content with osx, and the other two refuse to acknowledge that anything without an apple logo is a legitimate option.

      What I've found is that in the wild you are statistically much more likely to run into a basic Windows user than anything else, and if you list off the advantages of any given platform while downplaying the downsides they will give anything a try and find it a nice upgrade from their no doubt aging current hardware. Windows, mac, even Linux - they all perform well in the right machine.

      Personally having used a little of everything I won't be sinking money into a mac unless they step up their game a bit.
      dricht1
      • depends on your work

        A software developer would not prefer Windows unless he/she was stuck in Windows-only work. Most cutting edge open source Dev is done on unix-like systems these days, which is why OS X is highly favored by developers. It is the best of both worlds: a real command line; a consistent and stable UI. Not to mention, best possible integration with the iPhone and iPad.
        moyashi@...
        • MacOS is highly favored by developers?

          In what world?
          christoban
          • I just said it

            "Cutting edge open source..."
            Certainly the NodeJS, JavaScript, Ruby, Python, OCaml, MongoDB, Redis and Go communities, to name but a few.
            Google employees have a choice between Goobuntu and OS X. MS Windows machines are used internally mostly just for compatibility testing; to obtain one, a form has to be submitted justifying the security risk.
            moyashi@...
      • Yeah

        the pricing of the Apple hardware is the problem for me.

        When I bought my iMac, it wasn't that expensive, compared to a similarly specified PC + 24" display - but that included my lecturer discount.

        In the meantime the hardware prices have plumeted, but Apple's prices have remained stable, so they aren't as attractive as they used to be.

        One of the resons I went with the Sony last time round, a top end MB Pro with lesser specification cost more than double what I ended up paying for the Sony (and the Sony wasn't cheap, around $1800).

        Compared to Windows 7/8, I don't find anything that justifies the price difference - here in Europe the prices of the Apple are even higher, compared to the competition. The entry level 15" MB Pro costs $2721.77.
        wright_is
    • Never used a Windows manual.

      Sure, looked online for some solutions from time to time but no manuals required in my experience of 15 years from Win98se right through to Windows 8.

      Learned it all on my own.

      My dear old dad of now 81 has done pretty much the same.

      Similar to countless people I have known over the years who still use Windows today as they have done for over a decade without a manual or lesson.

      Im not saying some may not have needed a manual, but seriously, never met one.
      Cayble