You will always hear people with Apple computers saying that Macs are better than PCs. Are they saying this to defend their very minor representation in the market share (8.1%) or is a Mac computer really a better machine? I will explain – very simply – the reasons that Macs and PCs are different, how that affects the cost, reliability (stability), and flexibility of the machines.
When comparing these operating systems, Windows vs Mac, two aspects of the systems that we can compare are hardware and software. So first, let’s define exactly what we’re talking about.
SOME BASIC DEFINITIONS:
- Hardware – the circuits, wires, drives, memory (RAM), fans, and power supply all squished into the box that you plug all of your accessories into (keyboard, mouse, monitor).
- Software – the actual intangible “programs” which instructs the hardware to complete tasks like sending email or editing a picture. Even drivers are a type of software – a translator of sorts – these are the files that come on a disk with new hardware that you buy and they basically tell your operating system and other programs how to speak to the hardware.
- Operating System (OS) – a type of software that literally “runs” your computer – it is the manager by which all of your programs are made to work within so that you can do more than one thing at a time.
“PC” which means personal computer is commonly the name we use for a machine that runs the windows operating system – Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista are all really similarly structured systems that can run on almost any type of hardware.
It’s really amazing to think about… There are thousands of manufacturers of chips and circuits and sound cards and wireless cards – and most of them are making hardware to work in a machine running Windows. Whether you purchased your Windows computer from Dell, HP, or built it yourself – you can swap your hardware out for a different brand and it will work in your system.
This is part of the reason that Windows has so much of the computer market: versatility. The machines are flexible because the OS has been tailored to allow manufacturers from all over the world to develop hardware for them. If you want to purchase a machine that runs Windows, there are a lot more configuration options, tons of different companies that sell and support the product, and there are lots of inexpensive options. Basically Windows machines and machine components can be bought and sold in a robust and competitive market.
Apple‘s OS, “OS X”, on the other hand, only runs on one hardware platform (currently there are two now, but PPC is being phased out of support due to the new Intel chips). Additionally, Apple hardware can only be bought from Apple – nowhere else.
Therefore, Apple only has to support one system architecture at a time. OS X does not run on a machine made by Dell or HP – there are no other manufacturers. The hardware in an Apple machine is all compatible with the other hardware, and the system is designed to run on it. This is part of the reason that Apple computers are known for their stability. They only have to focus on supporting one type of hardware at a time. Generally, Apple buys and tests high-quality hardware – Apple machines (especially laptops) do not have anywhere near the amount of hardware problems as Windows machines do.
Another reason that is commonly toted as a reason for Apple’s stability is that the window management system is a marriage of NeXT and BSD Unix. These are two operating systems that are well regarded for their stability, security, and simplicity. (However, this can lead to complications later when you are trying to troubleshoot your own machine and you may have to use the commonly-feared command line. Please check back in a few days for a comparison of troubleshooting Mac vs. PC.)
However, unlike the robust market that exists for Windows machines, Apple has a monopoly on the hardware that run it’s OS, therefore the computers are more expensive. And so are the replacement parts. Generally speaking, Apple machines cannot be upgraded from 3rd-party manufacturers and are difficult to upgrade yourself – you have to go to Apple (or to a company like Rent-A-Geek). For instance, I’ve seen plenty of memory errors in Apple machines that are using cheaper 3rd-party RAM that seem (by specification) to be identical to the RAM supplied by Apple directly. Meanwhile, the hardware in PCs (especially memory) can be swapped out and replaced with parts from a cheaper, different manufacturer than the original and they will work.
So… What’s better a Mac or a PC? We have to choose between opposites: flexibility or reliability.
A PC machine has more hardware versatility and it is usually more cost-effective to purchase and repair compared to an Apple machine.
An Apple machine is more expensive, but usually more stable than a PC because it only runs on one type of architecture.