Since the dawn of humanity (the 1980s), the Mac vs. PC debate has consumed much of our collective energy and ruined many otherwise healthy relationships. But this unending conflict is justified. Macs and PCs have distinct differences that give them potential advantages and disadvantages. Without understanding key characteristics, your business could effectively spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment that isn’t ideal for your operations.
That’s why we’re breaking down the Mac vs. PC debate, highlighting the potential benefits, drawbacks, and costs of these two types of personal computers. With an overview of what each has to offer, you’ll be better prepared to make the best decision for your business.
Mac vs. PC: A brief history
Early computers were big, slow, and expensive. In the 1970s, personal computers were first introduced, changing the world as we know it. Several companies, including IBM and Apple, produced models.
But by 1983, only 9% of corporate customers used Apple devices, while around two-thirds favored PCs. Then in 1984, everything changed. Apple launched the Macintosh computer, which became the first commercially successful model to use a graphical user interface, mouse, and operating system. The great Mac vs. PC debate hasn’t subsided since.
Both Macs and PCs have become increasingly advanced and affordable over the years, but users are still divided on which option is best.
Differences and similarities between Macs and PCs
Before we dive into the finer points of Macs and PCs, it’s critical to understand how they differ on a broader level. A Mac is a specific brand of personal computer produced by Apple. While Macs can run most operating systems, Mac OS is the standard. On the other hand, the term PC usually refers to a computer operating on a Windows OS. However, a PC may also use a Unix operating system, such as Linux or FreeBSD.
At a glance
|Average Costs||Low: $699-$999+ | Mid-range: $1,299-$1,999+ | High-end: $1,999-$5,999+||Wider array of manufacturers, models, and price points | Low: $50-$200+ | Mid-range: $400-$600+ | High-end: $750-$1,000+|
|Performance||Easy integration of hardware and software | Exceptional stability||Incompatibilities can affect the stability|
|Security||Less targeted malware||Virus writers usually target Windows PC devices|
|Manufacturers||Apple||Big names include Lenovo, HP, Dell, Acer, ASUS, Samsung, and Toshiba|
|Main operating systems||macOS||Windows|
|Compatibility||Can open most PC files | Can run Windows for greater compatibility||Cannot open .dmg Mac files natively | Software may allow you to read and write Mac-based files|
|Supported processors||Intel | Apple Silicon M1||Intel | AMD|
|Maintenance||Repairs available through Apple Store or third-party specialists||Repairs possible through IT professionals or local computer repair stores | More frequent updates to address vulnerabilities|
In general, you can expect to pay significantly more for a Mac than a comparable PC. Apple is the only company that produces Macs, whereas dozens of companies make PCs. The intense competition in the PC market helps drive prices down. Additionally, hardware-savvy sysadmins can build their own PCs, further cutting costs.
Both Macs and PCs come in a range of price points. The most budget-friendly Mac costs $699, whereas you can find low-end PCs for under $200. Mid-range Macs cost $1,299 to $1,999 versus a mid-range PC for $400 to $1,000. High-end, professional Macs cost upwards of $1,999, while PCs that fall into this category start at around $1,000.
That said, a Forrester study commissioned by Apple suggests that Macs may actually be more affordable over their lifespans than PCs due to reduced implementation, deployment, and support costs.
Key business uses
While both Macs and PCs can be used for most essential business functions, Macs tend to be more popular for artistic endeavors. Graphic designers, video editors, audio engineers, app developers, web developers, and other creative professionals often prefer the intuitive design and high-quality applications and tools.
Users often feel that Macs perform better than PCs. Apple produces its own hardware and operating system, meaning the two are designed to work together seamlessly. Additionally, macOS is generally considered more stable than Windows. Meanwhile, PCs with varying hardware configurations run Windows OS. In some instances, the hardware and software may not integrate as well, leading to stability issues.
The interface depends on the operating system rather than the hardware, but we can’t ignore the differences. Macs running macOS have a more streamlined look, whereas PCs with Windows have a more complex, customizable interface. Think of it as a room organized by Marie Kondo versus a do-it-yourself project.
Since PCs are more common than Macs, most cybercriminals target them. Historically, this has made PCs more susceptible to attack. However, as the popularity of Macs increases, it’s likely that threat actors will increasingly prey on them.
Macs also have a reputation for greater security since Apple controls their hardware and software. However, macOS updates are less frequent than Windows updates, which may indicate that their protection is less proactive.
Macs are exclusive to Apple, so you won’t find any other manufacturers that make them. However, countless companies produce PCs. Some of the big names include Lenovo, HP, Dell, Acer, ASUS, Samsung, and Toshiba, but there are also countless lesser-known manufacturers, like BOXX and Chuwi.
Most Macs run macOS, while the majority of PCs use Microsoft Windows. Both can also run Linux and FreeBSD. PCs are limited in that they cannot run macOS. In contrast, Macs can run Windows using Boot Camp or virtualization software.
Across the board, Microsoft 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud are among the most popular software for business. Both of these heavyweights are available for Mac and PC. However, Apple’s iWork Office Suite is only available for Mac.
Applications also vary right out of the box. A new Apple Mac computer arrives without unnecessary third-party software, but PCs typically start out with so-called bloatware preinstalled. This can slow down your system and create security concerns.
Compatibility & Customization
Either a Mac or a PC may use an Intel processor. However, Macs are transitioning towards using an Apple M1 processor, and some PCs use an AMD processor. Macs and PCs are also both typically compatible with USB, FireWire, or Bluetooth devices.
Popular applications generally rely on the same file formats regardless of whether you use a Mac or PC, meaning you should be able to share files across devices. In general, you can also expect a Mac to be able to open most PC files. However, if you encounter any problems, you can run Microsoft Windows on your Apple Mac computer for greater compatibility. On the other hand, PCs cannot natively open .dmg files from Macs. However, the right software may enable you to extract, open, or even write a .dmg file on a Windows computer.
Because PCs are produced by so many different manufacturers and work with various hardware components, the customization potential is through the roof. Not only that, but an intrepid IT professional could build a machine from scratch to get the exact configuration your business wants.
The customization options for Macs are far more limited since Apple controls the hardware and software. While Mac fans can customize the build to an extent, they won’t have nearly as many options.
As a general rule, Macs require less maintenance than PCs. At the same time, maintenance may be more complicated.
Because Macs use high-quality hardware designed to work with macOS, Macs tend to be highly reliable and stable. However, should you need to repair a Mac, you might encounter more hurdles. AppleCare provides professional support during an initial period after purchase. Should you choose to continue coverage through AppleCare+, you’ll pay extra. Without AppleCare+, you’ll likely need to track down a third-party specialist should you encounter a problem with a machine.
In contrast, PCs generally require more routine maintenance. However, many IT professionals can perform repairs in-house. Should you need outside support, virtually any computer repair shop should be able to provide it.
Both Macs and PCs should also be updated regularly, which is easy with the right solution. MDM enables fast, efficient Apple updates, while PDQ Deploy and Inventory cover your Windows machine patching needs.
Pros and cons
|Stability and reliability||High upfront price|
|Aesthetic appeal||Software is less readily available|
|User-friendly design||Harder to fix|
|Potential long-term savings|
|Less prone to malware|
|Strong resale value|
|Seamless integration with other Apple devices|
What professionals think
“Here’s what I love about Macs, they last for years. Sure they have a high up front costs but those babies will give you solid performance for years to come.” - CriticalConflict222
“For me the Mac laptop line is hands down the best tool for IT Professionals. They are thin, light weight, have great specs and performance. The laptop is super intuitive once you get used to it.” - Zaphod_B
“Ease of use, and the hardware build-quality is far above any generic Windows box. Every manufacturer is racing to the bottom to be the cheapest, while Apple just builds something that works.” - New-England-SysAdmin
|Affordability||Lower resale value|
|Hardware flexibility||Common target of malware|
|Customizability||Some configurations are less stable and/or reliable|
|Widely available support and software|
|More options for compatible accessories|
|Easier to repair|
What professionals think
“Windows has so much more potential, especially since you can basically reinvent the software via clients or whatever you want.” - fazerasputin2007
“Today you can get a Windows device in just about any form factor you can imagine. Hybrids, 2:1s, tablets, etc.” - Rann Xeroxx
“I can easily enroll any supported PC into the windows autopilot and have zero touch enrollment where the user gets the device and logs in.” - ProfessorBlak
Which lasts longer? Macs or PCs?
While it is difficult to estimate the potential lifespan of a computer, it is commonly thought that Macs last longer than PCs. Industry professionals attribute this to compatibility issues that arise with PCs since parts are made by various manufacturers. Over time, separate updates from individual component manufacturers can slow down a PC, ultimately affecting its lifespan.
However, you can generally expect a PC laptop, a MacBook Air, or a MacBook Pro to last 3 to 5 years. Similarly, a PC user and an Apple user can both anticipate their desktops will last 5 to 8 years. Physical protection, routine maintenance, and regular updating can help extend any computer’s lifespan.
In the end, there is no clear winner or loser in the Mac vs. PC debate. Instead, the ideal solution boils down to which option better meets your needs. If you choose to go the Apple route, SimpleMDM will help you manage devices and stay on top of updates. Prefer PCs? PDQ Deploy and Inventory cover your patch management needs.
Navigating the latest in IT can be difficult, but you never have to go it alone. The PDQ blog and YouTube channel are here to provide insight, advice, and sympathy.
Part writer, part sysadmin fangirl, Meredith gets her kicks diving into the depths of IT lore. When she's not spending quality time behind a computer screen, she's probably curled up under a blanket, silently contemplating the efficacy of napping.