Good web site for Mac/Windows comparisons

Let me recommend the web site X vs. XP for anybody who is trying to get a fair and balanced comparison of the OS X and Windows XP operating systems. There are point-by-point comparisons for dozens of different user and administrative tasks as well as applications. But the writers at the web site are not Mac or Windows zealots, and it seems for the most part that they rate OS X and WinXP pretty much equally highly, with some exceptions. OS X definitely does not come out ahead in everything, which from experience I believe is true.

I’ve found it valuable, as I have been rehabbing an old PC for the kids’ playroom, for figuring out how to do certain things on WinXP that I had gotten used to while using OS X. Or, as the case may be, I have learned that certain things that are easy on OS X — like restricting user access to specific apps — are simply impossible on WinXP.

Now if it can just tell me why the wireless network adapter I bought yesterday keeps totally forgetting how to connect to our network every five minutes, I’d be happy.

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10 responses to “Good web site for Mac/Windows comparisons

  1. virusdoc

    I’m thinking of replacing all three of the PC’s in my home with iMacs. The straw that broke Bill Gates’ back? I upgraded my main home PC to Vista, and what used to be a smooth, slick, state-of-the-art PC became horridly slow and ponderous. After running the Vista Performance wizards, I was informed that I needed double the RAM and a spiffy new video card–a minimum of $300 to get back to something resembling a brisk, attentive GUI. All of a sudden, Tiger looks very, very tempting.

    Should I pull the trigger? I’m almost swayed by the fact that I can still run XP and all my Windows software in Parallels on the iMac.

  2. Well, you know my position on OS X advocacy, and of course I would recommend a switch to OS X. It’s just a better OS all around, and I’ve had a very good overall Mac experience. Especially for somebody with an extensive Linux background, a switch to a Unix-based OS — but which “just works” in ways that Linux never really did for me — will feel very comfortable.

    However — why not just wipe off Vista and start over again with XP? Do you guys have hardware or software that *has* to run on Vista?

    I’ve not used or even seen Vista, but by most accounts it appears to be a disaster on multiple fronts for Microsoft.

    Almost forgot — keep in mind that a major upgrade for OS X (“Leopard”) is coming this fall, so if you go to “the dark side” you might consider waiting until then. I don’t know if you’d be allowed to upgrade for free if you bought new stuff now.

  3. virusdoc

    I could still use XP–I set the system up as dual boot and retained the XP partition. But there are some features (mostly aesthetics) of Vista that I really like, including the visual theme and the Gadgets. However, I’ve learned that most of these features are cheap knockoffs of MacOS features.

    Mostly I just want to do something different and easier for my home computer. I use XP at work all day long, and it’s fine but showing its age and somewhat clunky. But at home I am sick of maintaining our PCs and I am wooed by the promise of a maintenance-free computer experience. I also like the all in one chassis design of the iMacs, which would cut by 90% the number of wires I have running around my home office.

    So in short, I just want a change. I was hoping Vista would be that change (and it was only $34 with my Purdue faculty ID), but it’s a change for the worse.

  4. In some sense you may want to purchase a Mac before 10.5 comes out. It is such a substantial change from 10.4 that it may be worth it to let the kinks get worked out of 10.5 before you have to rely on it. One major advantage to waiting until 10.5 though is that Boot Camp (Apple’s free software which allows you to partition your hard drive into OS X and XP partitions) will be out of Beta, although I haven’t had any trouble with the Beta that is currently available.

    The iMacs are wonderful machines. If you get one, make sure that you avoid the lowest end model. The video card doesn’t have its own RAM; it shares the system RAM. It also doesn’t come with a DVD burner. For about $200 more than the base, you get the DVD burner, 512 MB more RAM, and the much, much better video card (oh, and the Apple Remote, which is kinda cute). I replaced my wife’s PC with the next-to-lowest iMac, and she just raves about it. I used the Boot Camp Beta to partition her drive so that she could keep some of her PC software, but 95% of the time she never boots it up in XP.

  5. A few other things about potentially switching from Windows to Mac that I thought of:

    (1) The Apple Store still lists the Mac mini among its products, but I remember reading that it was being discontinued. We bought a Mac mini because we wanted to switch and were on a budget; the mini is just the box housing the computer itself, and you provide your own keyboard and monitor. I like our mini very much for its small form factor and versatility. But it isn’t really an option for anybody buying new, just in case you were wondering. The iMac is probably the right machine to be considering.

    (2) I’d also recommend the Macbook laptops. I’m practically married to my Macbook Pro.

    (3) You get an educator discount if you buy through the Apple Store. When you go to, look over in the right sidebar and click on the link for the Education Store. It’s the exact same thing as the regular Apple Store, except a discount is applied to most items (especially new computers). The discount on the 17″ 2 GHz iMac is $100, or about 8% off. Not insignificant.

  6. virusdoc

    Thanks–I have been shopping the Apple education store. The mac mini is still listed there as shipping in 24 hours, so I assume it’s still normal stock. I like that design as well, since I already have a wireless keyboard/mouse and a 20″ LCD that would otherwise need to find a new home. But I am nevertheless leaning toward the 20″ iMac because the performance specs are much better than the mini. I thought about the Macbook, but this machine would rarely leave the desktop so that’s probably not a good choice for us.

    I may wait until Leopard is released, as you advise above.

  7. virusdoc

    Eric: My only concern about buying an iMac now is that Leopard might have greater system requirement than on the currently shipping units. I can’t find any details of the Leopard RAM or processor requirements on the apple website. Leopard is also supposed to be 100% 64 bit compliant, and as far as I know the current iMacs shipping with Intel Core Duo’s are only 32 bit compliant, so I might not be able to take full advantage of the Leopard 64 bit architecture. But I’m new to the Mac scene and would appreciate any education you could offer.

  8. Odd. According to the Apple website, the Intel Core Duo’s currently shipping are 64-bit (

    In coming into the Mac world, you’ll find that old machines can often run the newer incarnations of OS X without choking. For example, I’m running the most recent version of Tiger (10.4.something) on a practically ancient 533 MHz G4 dual processor with about 640 MB of RAM. It’s only mildly clunky at times. With Macs you get none of the OS upgrading nightmares that exist with PCs.

    Some background about my Mac/PC experiences, just so you know where I’m coming from:

    I grew up in a Mac household, where my dad bought a Macintosh LC II (286 equivalent) when they first came out. I used and loved Macs all through high school (my PC friends gave me lots of grief), although in college and early graduate school I went through an experimentation phase with PCs. About three years ago I switched back to a desktop Mac because of some stuff with my research, and I haven’t looked back. My wife grew up a PC girl and had a fanatical loathing for Macs; however, my lowly G4 won her over. Then, when Apple started putting the Intel chips into their Macs, and consequently it became possible to partition the hard drive and run XP, she declared that her next computer would be a Mac. I’m currently typing on her lovely 2 GHz iMac right now (as a side note, the LCD displays are just plain beautiful).

    One thing about the Mac mini. I was considering one at one time, and when I talked to a guy at the Apple store, he said that they are basically manufactured using off-the-shelf laptop components, which were of lower quality than those in the iMac. In your case though, since you already have a monitor and keyboard, from a cost perspective it might be a good way to jump into the Mac world.

    One possibility though, would be to buy a 13″ Macbook, and then extend your desktop onto your monitor using a $17 miniDV to DV cable, giving you a heck of a lot of viewing space on your desk, as well as the ability to up and take your Mac and use it out and about (Macs are fantastic multimedia machines when traveling).

    Hope this is somewhat helpful.

  9. Eric neglected to mention that he actually used a functioning Apple Newton throughout his college years (1997-2001, well after the Newton had been discontinued). So he has serious geek cred.

  10. virusdoc

    Eric: Yes, the Intel processor iMac’s have a 64 bit CPU. But since they aren’t currently running a 64 bit OS it’s hard to predict whether or not the system bus and surrounding architecture will perform well in 64 bit mode. There are all sorts of variables that determine how well a 64 bit CPU can handle 64 bit code, and I’m sure I don’t know half of them. But I think you are correct that Leopard ought to run well on a current iMac–it wouldn’t be consistent with Apple’s philosophy to do otherwise. Leopard will be released in both 32 bit and 64 bit versions, I imagine, in order to accomodate older chips.

    I’m going to go to the Apple store in Indy to play with an iMac and ask questions today. Since I can get the educational discount even at the store, I might just come home with a new toy…