General Question

Sponge's avatar

Can Macs do whatever Windows can?

Asked by Sponge (541points) February 22nd, 2012

I’ve been using Windows forever but now I’m really thinking about buying a 13” MacBook Pro as my new laptop. I’d like to know what to expect, what the differences are between the two OSs. What are the pros and cons? Are all video,audio and picture files compatible with the Mac OS? How long will it take for me to adjust to the new Mac environment? When is the new MacBook Pro likely to come out?

PS: I’m familiar with Apple other products since I own 2 iPods, an iPhone 4 and an iPad 2 but I’ve never even touched a Mac computer so I’m kinda hesitant.

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52 Answers

Patton's avatar

Well, they sure can’t get viruses like Windows computers do.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

Start here, Apple’s introduction to first time Mac owners. They have short, simple videos that show the basics of what to expect.

Any video, audio, picture that you use on a PC can be used on a Mac. Sometimes a third party app is suggested for some rarer formats. But the standard, .avi, .mov, .mp3, .jpg, etc.. are all very easily viewable on Mac.

I switched to a Mac after being a very long time PC user. It took me about 2 days to get a feel for how things work on the Mac. Been using a Mac for 6 years now. I still learn a few tricks now & then. Instead of trying to learn how to use every function of the Mac in one sitting, just go about your normal computer habits & learn along the way.

It is rumored that a new line of MacBook Pros/Airs may be coming out in March. A lot of Mac resellers like MacMall are having very deep discounts (around $600 off the current models) right now.

If you have any other specific questions about the OS or file formats & such, feel free to ask.

Rarebear's avatar

They can’t often run the same software but you’ll be able to do the same stuff. I do a lot of presenting and I’ve had trouble with PowerPoint compatability, so I stuck with Windows and I’ve been happy enough. Also, all my telescope software is PC so I’m stuck.

XOIIO's avatar

@Patton Yeah, they just act like carriers.

If you want looks and simple features use mac. IF you want raw gaming power, and extremely advanced applications for almost anything use PC. Basically mac is for artsy fartsy crap and PC is for usefull stuff and gaming.

And by the way, macs CAN get viruses, it’s just not as popular to make mac viruses because they only have 10% of the market while PC has the rest, and PCs are used more for buisness and accounting, including bank transations and confidential info.

Buttonstc's avatar

Unless you’re a hardcore gamer, the answer is yes.

And especially after Mac started using Intel chips. There are also two software applications which act as emulators to run any Windows software programs.

Take a look at either Parallels or Bootcamp. To get an idea of how they accomplish running Windows software.

Theoretically, Macs can potentially get viruses. But there have never yet been any Mac viruses “out in the wild” only those created at developer conferences and such in order to expose weaknesses which may be exploited.

RocketGuy's avatar

@rarebear is right – you can do mostly the same things, but with different software. And there are quite a few Mac viruses, so you still have to run anti-virus and keep your software updated.

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XOIIO's avatar

They also don’t support a wide variety of file systems, including NFTS which is used for external hard drives.

There are programs to write to the file system, but not having it native is another bad thing. The only reason I have hackintosh on my triple boot machin is to try app programing.

Nullo's avatar

I never did find a defrag tool. Maybe MacOS doesn’t fragment files?

More stuff is developed for Windows than any other single OS. And non-Apple PCs have more choices for hardware customization. Provided that you’re working with an open-architecture box, you can usually make upgrades yourself.
Macs tend to be more expensive than PCs without offering better performance, something to consider if you’re on a budget.

XOIIO's avatar

This explains it pretty good, there’s one with two ferraris and says when a max breaks you buy a whole new car, and when a pc breaks you buy a spark plug.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

@Nullo Here is why you don’t need to defrag a Mac hard drive.

rooeytoo's avatar

To answer your question simply – yep, only better!!!

sliceswiththings's avatar

I made the switch a few years ago and am so glad I did. The only thing I miss about Windows is Paint!!

ragingloli's avatar

Nope. It does not run most Games, it does not run 3ds Max. And no, virtualisation does not count.
It also uses the same hardware as normal windows PC’s, just at twice the price.
And yes, Macs can get viruses. The only reason it is less prevalent is that virus programmers do not bother making them for an OS that only a tiny minority uses.
In fact, in a hacking contest between a windows, linux and mac system, the mac system was the first to fail.

robmandu's avatar

Let’s distinguish between the operating systems and hardware.

A Mac (MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, Mac mini, iMac, Mac Pro) is a physical machine made by Apple. It comes preinstalled with the OS X operating system, but it can run any of the popular desktop operating systems available today including Windows and Linux without going into overly specialized effort.

Else, you can get what is typically labeled a “PC” which is everything else. Most PCs come preinstalled with the Microsoft Windows operating system, but they can also run Linux easily enough. There are some hobbyists that have fun hacking PCs to run OS X – called Hackintosh – but it’s not for the faint of heart.

So, the direct answer to your questions is: Yes, a Mac can do whatever Windows can, because it can run the Windows operating system.

As a general rule, people who switch to Macs rarely regret the decision and do not switch back. That’s not to say Macs are perfect in any way. Any computer platform is subject to problems and you should expect some. But Apple’s customer service leads the industry in satisfaction.

As to @ragingloli‘s point of cost, yes, they cost more if you’re comparing against some ugly-ass beige But when the major manufacturers, like Dell and HP attempt to build something similar in terms of style and performance, they fall short and cost more every time.

Why buy a poor knock-off? Get a Mac. Be happy.

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Silence04's avatar

To put it simply, a mac and windows machine can acomplish the same things. if you already own those apple products and enjoy the way they function, chances are you will also enjoy the Mac os x.

Virus/malware is not as common, not because macs are a lower percent of the market, its mainly because there are fewer vulnerabilities. there are only 2 ways to gain root access on a Mac… 1. By the user manually granting authorization. 2. By discovering a new jmv exploit (same day attack). What ragingloli was saying above about being the first to hack is completely incorrect, what hes refering to has nothing to do with OS hacking.

Also, you can replace parts on a Mac yourself, as easy as you can on a pc. But you also have the option on bring it to an apple store to fix it if you don’t want to deal with it…. Which is completely free for 1–3 years, btw.

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BhacSsylan's avatar

@Silence04 the person who managed the hack disagrees with you

“Luring the user to a suspect site in Safari, the VUPEN researcher remotely launched OS X’s calculator app and wrote a file to the disc—essentially paving the way for a full hijack of the machine. This was all done without the browser crashing or showing any irregularities.”

Also, Charlie Miller, an OSXsecurity expert, said this in the article: “Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town.” Which is exactly the same as what others have been saying. It’s easy to hack or attack, people just don’t. Yet.

That said, no, they cannot. However that’s been said and explained better by others. If it does everything you want and you like the systems, go for it. But they are different systems with different designs and capabilities, and pretending that Macs are exactly the same or strictly better is being naive.

XOIIO's avatar

@robmandu Actually, I can install OSX, windows 7 and linux on one hard drive and triple boot them, and it only takes 2–3 hours because of windows updates. It’s extremely easy.

And by the way, considring you can hackintosh most any PC, I’d like to see your non-knockoff mac running on a quad core, 6 core or octa core computer with 12 gigs of ram. Show me one of those flimsly all in one macs that can do that why don’t you.

@Silence04 Have you ever opened up the iMac? You have to reash a credit card and kill you fingers because of the clips they use to keep the case together, and it takes several times as long.

@robmandu You can make a PC that is 3 times as powerfull as a mac for the same cost easily.

robmandu's avatar

@XOIIO, the “all-in-one” iMacs are not intended for heavy-duty professional use. You know that. That’s why Apple offers the Mac Pro with support for up to 12 processor cores.

And I never said – or even implied – that performance alone should be the cost differentiator. The entire package must be considered. And in that contest, when even the major competitors cannot provide a compelling and price-competitive offering, what’re you gonna make in your garage that’s even close?

And you’ll note that while I stipulated creating a Hackintosh is possible – and I’ll even raise that to easy for the right kind of technical person – you should agree that it’s not a simple, straight-forward, easy-to-accomplish task for the uninitiated.

Let’s look at the person who asked this question. They’re completely unfamiliar with the world of OS X. They don’t even know what comparable products are offered or where to really begin.

And for this Mac neophyte, some of you are seriously suggesting do-it-yourself alternatives that, while arguably cheaper in upfront costs, have a substantial learning curve that is beyond the expectation and desire of 99% of the consumer market. That’s simply not helpful.

Silence04's avatar

@BhacSsylan They hacked safari to gain top level access… not root access.

@XOIIO that is exactly what a spudger and/or opening device is used for…do you not have those?

XOIIO's avatar

@Silence04 I don’t work on Macs, and those devices aren’t readily available around here.

@robmandu No, actually, if you use chameleon it’s super easy. Just partition, install windows, install mac, install lunix, and type one line of text to sync the partition table and it’s all set.

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Aethelflaed's avatar

@robmandu Well, you are treating people who buy PCs as stupid, as well.

Look, Macs are great – for people who want Macs. That doesn’t mean they’re for everyone, and people who aren’t Mac people aren’t happy with Macs. Macs are easier to use for those who aren’t that familiar with technology, they take care of all of the little stuff for you, and they’re pretty. But, yeah, you do sacrifice some more advanced capabilities, as well the ability to customize (let’s assume someone asking this question isn’t going to buy a Mac and then install another OS), as well as a sizable chunk of your wallet. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer on the computer front.

rooeytoo's avatar

I will pay for the beauty and ease of use of the Mac just as I do for a car or furniture or clothing or any superior product. I play tennis not computer games so that is not particularly relevant to me. I buy Asics running shoes, not the cheapest at Kmart, I buy a better quality shampoo not dishwashing detergent. I prefer sheets with a higher thread count instead of burlap. As they say, to each their own!

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phaedryx's avatar

@Sponge I suspect that your media files are compatible.

If I were you I’d make a list of the things I use a computer for. I would go to an apple store and have a salesman show me how to do all of those things (if possible). I would try things out on my own for a while. I would weigh the features, user experience, and price and choose whatever I liked best.

Unfortunately, mac vs. pc is a holy war that has gone on for decades. I doubt you’ll get unbiased answers.

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augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Please remember: This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Sponge's avatar

I’d like to thank everyone for their responses and I’d also like to add that I don’t care about gaming on my laptop, I have a PS3 for that. I have 2 external hard drives I’ve used to backup stuffs from my Viao. I have some 1080p mkv files on these drives will I run into trouble when i try to transfer them to a Mac?

gorillapaws's avatar

@Sponge Macs can do whatever PC’s can do. You can install Windows on a Mac via several methods, so if you’ve got software that requires Windows then that is always an option. As for mkv files, there is a great free tool called Perian that will allow Apple’s Quicktime video software to play many of these types of files.

There really aren’t that many tasks where there is a hole in the market not filled by some 3rd party OS X developer, and all of them are fringe/niche things (with the exception of hardcore gaming). It sounds like a Mac would work fine for your needs, although it would be helpful if you let us know the types of tasks you’re looking to do with your Mac to give us a better idea.

As for security, they are very secure. You need an admin password to install anything, and are built around UNIX which adds a lot of security. WIth the recently announced Mountain Lion coming out this summer, there will be 3 security settings available:

1. allow all apps to run (this is how OS X currently works)
2. allow only apps from the App Store, or apps that have been signed by a developer (which will become deactivated with a master kill switch if they start using their certificate to make malware)
3. allow App Store apps only.

#2. will be the default, so if you keep you system up-to-date, you will be very well protected.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

@Sponge, that plugin @gorillapaws recommended (Perian) works great. It has a couple drawbacks depending on how you plan to use your .mkv files.

Opening an .mkv with Quicktime takes about a minute to load before it can play it. Depending on length of video & resolution, it will take longer. This is because, as stated from their website, “QuickTime expects to know the location of every single frame in a movie in order to play it.”

If you plan on cutting/editing the .mkv files, then Quicktime works best. If all you want to do is play the file, then use something like, VideoLan. I have been using this program for years. Simple & it works. Drag just about any file to it & it will play it instantly. Even .rar files that haven’t been extracted & .VOB files that are missing their counterparts & without a VIDEO_TS folder. (if none of that made sense to you, don’t worry about it)

Something you said just raised a red flag… “2 external hard drives..” Depending on how you formatted the hard drives, they may not be recognized when you plug them into a Mac. If you are able to transfer all the files to 1 hard drive, do it. Then format the other drive to FAT32. Transfer everything to that one & then format the other drive to FAT32.

XOIIO's avatar

@gorillapaws Especially considering someone hacked into a mac in 5 seconds if you follow a link above. Mac users are generally less computer suavy, and that makes them easier targets.

@rpm_pseud0name That seems like a pretty stupid way to design a media player, actually. Not sure why they do that.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

@XOIIO, it is only with .mkv. All other formats load/play instantly with quicktime. Not sure why. It’s mostly for editing purposes. If I want to cut out a scene from a 1080p .mkv file & it starts at frame number 2485.. not many video players allow searching/playback-scrolling by the frame number.

XOIIO's avatar

Ahh, I thought that was with all. That’s still ridiculous though.

Nullo's avatar

@rooeytoo @XOIIO‘s and my own angle is value. Being able to buy a more powerful computer for the same money means that you could buy a similarly powerful computer for less money.

XOIIO's avatar

Exactly, I mean, that comparison picture of a mac and PC price, you can get the same value, and still have money left over to buy a couple 30” monitors. is ” inch? I forget.

augustlan's avatar

[mod says] Let’s stick to answering the actual question, folks: Can Macs do whatever Windows can?

phaedryx's avatar

Meh, I don’t think most of these answers are helping @Sponge at all.

1. He wants a laptop
2. He isn’t interested in gaming on it

I have a windows machine downstairs. I assembled it myself from components I purchased on newegg. I have it hooked up to my TV for gaming and other media. I like my setup. That said, I don’t think that building your own computer is practical for most people, especially a laptop.

Sure the mac usually is the first target in pwn2own. It’s also the most valuable and provides the more notoriety to a security firm. They have months to research and prepare their hacks. The windows machines are hacked soon afterwards. I think that security is more about how careful the user is (e.g. I use chrome instead of safari).

I use linux and OS X on my macbook pro. I am not “artsy fartsy.” I do useful things. I use advanced applications. I do a lot of web development and all of our production servers run linux. Having a mac is very convenient; trying to do the same stuff with windows would annoy me to no end. (I’d probably futz around with cygwin for a while, then just install linux out of frustration). At the opensource conferences I’ve been to, most people are using macs, with a smattering of linux machines; windows machines are rare. It is about what meets your needs.

Value is very subjective. If you like to open up your laptop and tinker, a windows machine might be more valuable to you. If you care mostly about having a high-end graphics card and frames per second, you might find the mac options pretty limited. If you value something inexpensive and portable, you might be happy with a netbook. If the extra things like a solid, unibody, aluminum frame, a bright screen, an illuminated keys, a multi-touch trackpad, etc. appeal to you, the mac could be pretty compelling. If you want something unix based, a mac could be the perfect fit.


Yes, a mac can do most or maybe all of what you use your windows machine for.

There are alot of ways to either run your .mkv files directly or convert them to another format, just google around a bit.

Figure out what your needs are. Prioritize your what you value and what you’re willing to spend. Trying using a mac for a while. Make a good decision.

Sponge's avatar

@rpm_pseud0name Yeah I don’t have a laptop right now that’s why I’m shopping around for a new one I’m doing everything on my iPad. A few months back I backed up all my files( pic,music,video) to 2 500 GB external hard drives I don’t remember formatting any of them before dragging and dropping the files in.

GracieT's avatar

Amazingly enough, when my husband worked at a state university, all of the people that worked with him in I/O psychology, which was
studying how people interact
with machines all of the
department, all of them, chose
to use Apple computers.
Anything you can do on a windows machine you can do
on a Mac. You also have the luxury of using programs
designed for Linux machines and windows. With Macs you have the knowledge that the platform is more tightly controlled, that not everyone
who wants to could design
them. This led to a more
controlled design, not one in
which every Tom, Dick, and
Henrietta could design
whatever they wanted to and
say that it was Apple approved or designed. I find it interesting that the people that are more agressivly attacking the other system are pc people.

XOIIO's avatar

@GracieT I don’t see how it is a luxury if PC can do the exact same.

Silence04's avatar

@xoiio obviously because being able to choose from Mac os as well as Linux and windows “natively” is a luxury.

We get it, you personally have a thing against macs. There is no reason for you to flame everyone that is trying to answer op’s question with an objectionable opinion about macs.

XOIIO's avatar

No, I don’t have anything against them, there are just much better options avilable. I suppose being able to run linux.unix programs is good, but a lot wont be compatible right off the bat, and you need to configure bootcamp for windows stuff (unless that has changed in lion)

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