Apple and Microsoft have been competitors for over 30 years. In that time, each company has released hundreds of products and brought huge refinements and upgrades to its lead operating system. Windows and OS X are both powerful tools that can help you with school, work, and play, but the two operating systems offer differences in many categories, including features, hardware support, available applications and price. Understanding which is best for you requires careful consideration of each OS's capabilities.
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One of the biggest differences between Windows and OS X comes in the form of hardware options. While Windows is available on computers from Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Alienware and many other manufacturers, OS X is only available on Apple computers. If you're thinking about building a PC yourself or want more flexibility in price and manufacturer, Windows will offer you greater choice. However, because OS X is limited to Apple computers, it is able to utilize features only present on Mac devices such as Apple's proprietary swipe technology.
Windows and OS X usually come pre-installed on new laptop or desktop computers. In fact, the only way to acquire OS X is to buy an Apple computer. Windows is available as a standalone operating system in normal and "Pro" variants, priced at $119.99 and $199.99 respectively. OS X isn't available as a standalone operating system, but previous updates have been priced at around $20. With OS X Mavericks, which debuted in 2014, Apple switched to free upgrades for all OS X users. It's worth noting, however, that there is more total price flexibility on the Windows side of the fence since Windows is available on a much wider range of laptops and desktops.
Not all applications are available on both Windows and Apple computers. Apple has a robust selection of OS X exclusives such as GarageBand, Final Cut Pro and Aperture. Microsoft has an Office lineup that includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint, though older versions of this software are available for Mac systems. Many high-end programs, such as Adobe's Creative Suite (PhotoShop, Dreamweaver, etc.) and Autodesk's Maya and 3DS Max, are available for both platforms. Windows has a wider selection of video games. Mac users can use OS X's Boot Camp functionality to run Windows from their Apple computers, giving them access to both operating systems and the software they support.
Microsoft's Surface tablet runs on a modified version of Windows 8. It shares many features with the desktop version of the software and is capable of communicating with your desktop PC and using networked devices. Apple's iPad and iPhone devices run on iOS, which is built to integrate tightly with OS X. OS X Yosemite allows for the sharing of SMS messages from iPhone to OS X and all files can be backed up to iCloud and accessed from any Apple device. It's even possible to accept calls made to your iPhone on your Mac computer.