Q&A: Switching from Windows to Mac

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.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

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:

Editorial standards