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Mac OS X vs Windows 10

By Callum Tennent

Mac or Windows? They're the two big names in the computing world. We help you decide which operating system is best for you.

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Before you set out to purchase a new computer, it's important to first consider which operating system you'll end up using. There's no right or wrong answer - it's strictly a matter of preference. Apple's Mac OS X and Microsoft's Windows 10 are both fully featured and well-rounded operating systems. They have more similarities than differences, but they also have their own distinct strengths and weaknesses. Read on to see which OS is best for you.

If you've already made your mind up then take a look at our all-in-one PC Best Buys to discover the models Which? recommends.

What do OS X and Windows 10 have in common?

While they may have been completely different beasts 20 years ago, Mac OS and Microsoft Windows are now more similar than ever.

Both operating systems offer you the following:

  • A consistent desktop homescreen to which you can save shortcuts and folders
  • A taskbar (Windows) or menu bar (OS X) that permanently resides at the bottom of your screen containing even more shortcuts
  • An easy method of browsing and searching files on your computer: Windows File Explorer and OS X Finder offer nearly identical functionality
  • A place where you can recover your deleted items. Windows has the Recycling Bin while OS X has the Trash.
  • A competent pre-installed web browser. Neither Windows Edge nor OS X Safari are the best browsers out there, but they both get the job done, and you can always install an alternative.

Microsoft Windows 10: Pros and Cons

Windows is the most widely used operating system on the planet for a reason, but it's not without its weaknesses. We outline what's great about it - and what's not.

Pros

  • Familiar to anyone who's used Windows before
  • A great combination of the functionality of Windows 7 and style of Windows 8.1
  • Works very well on touchscreen devices
  • Can run all of your familiar programs, such as Microsoft Office
  • The Start menu is still practical and well designed
  • Highly customisable
  • Comes as standard on a variety of new computers, from high-end powerhouses to simple budget options.

Cons

  • Can be unintuitive at first, even for those intimately familiar with older versions of Windows
  • There's always the risk of viruses, making decent antivirus software essential
  • The Windows app store is still fairly unimpressive
  • There's no guarantee it will run smoothly or quickly if you're using a weaker or older computer
  • After the cutoff date of 29 July 2016, upgrading older versions to Windows 10 will cost you £100.

Apple Mac OS X: Pros and Cons

If you're thinking of buying an iMac, MacBook or Mac Mini then you're going to have to get used to OS X. Here are its best features and its biggest weaknesses:

Pros

  • Significantly less likely to contract viruses than Windows
  • Great to look at and intuitive to navigate
  • Updates are always free
  • Synchronises very well with any iPhones or iPads you may own
  • Comes with an excellent suite of free programs, such as iMovie, iPhoto and Notes.

Cons

  • Only available on Apple-made computers, all of which are expensive
  • While Microsoft-branded software such as Office is available for OS X, it often doesn't run as well or contain all the same features as its Windows counterpart
  • Much more 'closed' than Windows. There's less customisation and power users may be frustrated by how difficult Apple makes it to tinker with things
  • While the app store is excellent, there's less fully-fledged software available for OS X when compared to Windows

How much do Windows 10 and OS X cost?

Windows 10 is free for all Windows users up until July 29 2016. If you don't take advantage of your free download by then then you'll have to pay £100 for it.

Further into the future no one is really too sure how much Windows will cost you. Microsoft has stated that Windows 10 will be its last full, independent release and that it will simply continue to build on top of it. It may be free forever, or Microsoft may adopt some sort of subscription service - only time will tell.

OS X is free, so long as you own an Apple computer. Since the release of OS X Mavericks in 2013 Apple has declared that all future updates won't cost you a penny. The only time you'll be asked to pay for OS X is if you try to purchase it for a non-Apple computer, although it's obviously unlikely you'll ever want to do that.

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