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PC vs. Mac: 10 of the biggest differences explained

Mac vs. Windows: the debate that’s raged since the 1980s. Whole commercial campaigns were put together around this very concept, claiming one was better than the other.

But what are the true, bias-free differences between Mac computers and Windows ones? Tap or click here to hear Kim’s take on Macs getting more attacks than Windows PCs.

We’ve done our research and we found 10 objective differences between Macs and Windows computers. So what sets them apart? Let’s start with their price tags.

1. What you pay

Price is one of the big differences between Windows PCs and Macs. If the price point is a big consideration for you, you’ll want to pay attention.

PCs come in a variety of forms since they’re made by different manufacturers (more on that later). This means they can be very cheap or very expensive, depending on what bells and whistles are included.

On average, Macs are going to cost you more money. They have higher upfront prices for laptops and desktop computers. Macs also cost more to maintain. To get repairs and parts under warranty, you have to go to an Apple store.

This means choosing to pay high Apple prices for everything, or risk going to a general repair place. But if things go wrong, Apple won’t help you pay for a new computer, or even a repair. Given the prices of Macs, it’s not really worth the risk.

So in general, PCs are more affordable. Mac may prove to be worth the cost in other areas, though, like the ease of use.

2. User-friendly?

What helps define a PC vs. a Mac is which operating system it utilizes — but what differentiates these systems?

The big difference is ease of use. How quickly a user can figure out how to do a task they want to do and how easy that task is to accomplish. In general, Mac OS is easier to learn. In fact, since Windows 7, Microsoft seems to be imitating Apple’s simple layout to offer a similar experience to its customers.

Apple Stores also offer classes to use Mac OS, which is a huge help for new users. Microsoft Stores have lots of manufacturers to worry about, so classes like these aren’t as easy to hold.

So, for the technophobes in your life, get a Mac. A PC can be fine, but Macs tend to be more self-explanatory, and if you want to get someone used to using a computer, this might be the best way to go.

3. What software is available?

Apple technically made the first personal computer, but Microsoft helped found more of the basic software it uses. The end result was most software is designed to work on a PC, and Apple is still catching up with compatible or comparable programs for Macs.

This situation was far worse a decade ago, before the iPhone led to the supremacy of the App Store. Now that more people have Apple products, its software has become more accommodating.

But in general, beyond very specific Apple apps, all software is available and compatible with PCs.

If access to software is important to you, PC is the clear winner here. With Apple, you can get by, but you may be learning Apple-specific software instead of the standard, which could limit you if there are only Windows devices available in public areas such as the library, company computers or school computers.

4. Safety

There’s a lot you can do to protect your PC or Mac on your own. Tap or click here for 5 tips for better computer security. But PCs and Macs have different built-in protections and different risks for malware.

Since there are more PCs in use in the world, the common belief is they are at a considerably higher risk for malware. Most viruses are designed to attack PCs, and many can’t or won’t affect a Mac at all.

Though this was true at one point, the rise of the Mac has attracted scammers and hackers. Now, Macs aren’t as safe from viruses and malware as they used to be. Tap or click here to see whether Macs are really less at risk for malware. It’s also important to note Macs have fewer built-in protections.

RELATED: Tap or click for Cybersecurity 101: What you need to know to stay safe online.

Windows PCs have more firewall programs and safety measures, so if you know how to use them, and how to safely navigate the internet, they can provide better security against potential hacks. Tap or click here for 3 downloads you need to keep your Windows PC safe.

Safety is a huge deal, and neither a Mac or Windows computer is 100% safe. Both are at risk of being hacked, so which one is better is entirely dependent on what anti-virus program you use, how you set up your router, whether you understand how to safely navigate the internet and other similar factors.

RELATED: Tap or click for 5 router features you need to use to keep hackers out.

5. What they’re made of

We already mentioned Macs are more expensive, and what parts and materials make them up is a big reason why.

Apple’s use of aluminum chassis and rounded corners increases production costs, but it also makes some strong — and beautiful — machines. PCs save costs by using a lot of plastic, but they can end up flimsier for it.

Internally, both computers have many of the same parts. Apple and Windows can both utilize Intel chips and they can both get great graphics cards and added memory.

But Windows PCs are far more customizable. You can even do it at home. With a Mac, you need a special tool to open the computers, so you often end up going to the Apple Store for repairs — and they won’t upgrade your device. So if you want a better graphics card, you’ll have to buy a whole new computer.

So for aesthetics and strength, you might prefer a Mac. For customization and the ability to self-repair (or get cheaper repairs at several stores), you might prefer a PC. But what about their lifespans?

6. How long they last

When we talk about the longevity of Windows PCs and Macs, we’re talking about how long the machines can generally run. We’re also talking about how soon upgrades come up, and if that forces you to purchase a new computer.

The average lifespan of a laptop is five to six years. But both PCs and Macs can exceed that time with a little bit of care.

Mac customers tend to have fewer complaints about their machines, though, so Macs at least appear to last longer. Apple also doesn’t upgrade its computers every year, while some PC manufacturers do.

New tech released each year can make consumers believe they need to upgrade too, or that they get more by doing so. The truth is, differences may be minimal, so it can be a tricky marketing tactic.

When Apple does upgrade, it tends to stop manufacturing older computer models, and even stops repairing them. In this way, the company forces you to upgrade, while PCs can wait years before taking such actions.

So PCs and Macs can both last for years, but their treatment of upgrades is different.

And don’t forget, you can always upgrade your Windows PC, which gives it new life and removes the need to buy the latest and greatest computer when all it offers is more storage or better graphics. You can install these yourself and save hundreds, if not thousands.

Case in point, if you want to speed up your slow Windows computer, tap or click here for 7 simple tips and tricks. But if you really want to upgrade, buy and install more RAM so your computer can run several programs at once without the lag. Try the Corsair Vengeance 16GB LED DDR4.

If you want to decide for yourself when to upgrade, you might favor Windows — especially since many upgrades are under $100. Just make sure the parts are compatible with your motherboard. But if you want the decision made for you, go with Mac.

7. Who makes them?

As we said above, Windows computers are created by different manufacturers. Acer, Alienware, Sony, HP, Dell, IBM — the list goes on.

This means you have a ton of options when buying a PC, and you can shop based on what specifications you need. If you game a lot, you can get a gaming PC. If you need something easy to carry, you can look at lightweight models.

Meanwhile, Macs are all made by Apple. Apple makes several kinds of laptops, and a few versions of the iMac desktop, but the options are severely limited. You can’t get a Mac that’s specifically good at one thing. You can really just get a Mac, with slightly different charging ports, weights and features.

For the freedom of choice and specificity, PC manufacturers have your back. If you just want specific ports or Apple-specific built-in features, Mac is the way to go.

8. What they show you

Graphics may seem completely different on Windows vs. Mac. Apple prides itself on being ahead of the curve with graphics cards and screen quality, but is it really?

The bottom line is both Mac and Windows PCs can have similar or even the exact same parts under the hood. Some believe Apple provides better graphics, but remember Windows users can use 4K TVs as monitors.

All they have to do is customize with the right graphics card, like the MSI Gaming GeForce GT 710 2GB graphics card. Most are under $100.

Meanwhile, Apple offers a 21.5″ iMac with 4K display for $1,299.00. Sure, Windows users have to buy a 4K TV, but you can get a 32″ 4K HD TV with a built-in Wi-Fi bundle and backlit keyboard for less than $400.

So it’s pretty obvious you can get amazing graphics from both Apple and Windows PCs. It just depends on whether you know how to customize your machine.

9. Where do you go?

Perhaps because they come from so many different manufacturers, Windows PCs are a lot easier to find in different stores, while Macs are only found in a few places.

You can go to Microsoft to get a computer, shop online at almost any tech retailer or buy in person at places like Best Buy, Walmart or even Costco. These stores also offer discounts throughout the year.

Since Apple manufactures its own computers, you mostly find them at the Apple Store. If they’re available at Best Buy or Amazon, they rarely come with a discount. If you manage to find a discount on Macs at these stores, they’re usually refurbished models. These generally work fine, but can come with dings or bugs.

So Windows PCs are available in more places, with more price variations while Macs are available are very specific locations, and you don’t get the options or the discounts of PCs.

10. Smartphone compatibility

Windows PCs and Macs both work well with your smartphone — but each is optimized to work with specific devices.

Unsurprisingly, Macs go well with iPhones. You can answer texts and calls from your iPhone on a Mac and can open webpages from one device on the other. But Macs are not nearly as compatible with Androids. You can still plug things in and transfer music and pictures, but it takes more steps.

PCs are the same, but they favor Androids and can have difficulty with iPhones. So the type of smartphone you have may influence whether a Mac or Windows PC is better for your lifestyle.

These are 10 objective differences between PCs and Macs. They ultimately generate subjective opinions, but that’s what learning does. Hopefully this list taught you something about computers and can help guide you through your next purchase. Just remember to get the best one for you.

By clicking our links, you’re supporting our research, as we may earn a very small commission. Recommendations are not part of any business incentives.

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