What Are the Similarities Between OS X and Windows?Every day, we are bombarded with information comparing one operating system to another as if to provide some new breakthrough revelations in order to further widen the divide between users. Frankly, these two operating systems have more in common than they do in difference. Each has its own set of pros and cons, but they share many of the core features that define a desktop operating system in a modern era.

Let’s take a moment to move past the this vs. that way of thinking. If I were a first-time switcher to OS X, I would be better served by having the similarities pointed out to me rather than the differences. It’s these common features and capabilities that make the transition easier, after all.

So, what do these two titans of the operating system world have in common?

Robust External Accessory Support

Both OS X and Windows have a robust set of integrated drivers that enable a wide range of external accessories to work flawlessly out of the box. Printers, mice, keyboards, joysticks, webcams, and even those troublesome scanners can typically be used on either OS X or Windows on a plug-and-play capacity.

Despite popular packaging, there really isn’t a difference between a hard drive made for Windows and one made for OS X. You may have one pre-formatted with a Mac-specific journaled file structure or one set to NTFS for Windows, but all you really need to convert the clean (new) drive for use on either operating system is a quick reformat.

External peripherals have been commonly made to work with universal drivers for nearly a decade now. A webcam manufacturer may have their own preferred software for Windows and/or OS X, but it’s rare to find one made today that doesn’t operate from these universal device drivers pre-installed with Windows and OS X for the past several years.

Included Software

Both OS X and Windows come with bundled software to help carry out basic maintenance and security tasks out of the box. You can partition a drive, update the OS, pull up a basic document editor, and use a calculator without having to install any additional software.

You also receive an included browser which many people use to download other browsers of their choice, most of which work on both OS X and Windows.

Contrary to popular belief, OS X does not come with iLife. iLife is bundled with new Macs.

Available Productivity Applications

Microsoft produces its Office Suite on both Windows and OS X. Likewise, LibreOffice and other open source alternatives almost always do the same, making all the same productivity options available to users of either operating system.

While some of the supported video and audio editing programs may differ, both have a significant catalog of multimedia applications available for users. Adobe Premiere CS6, for example, is made to work on either operating system just as well. Where iMovie might be the popular choice for consumers on OS X, Windows Movie Maker is just as available for Windows users.


You can argue until your face turns blue that one platform has more games available to it than another, but you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone that one operating system is more capable of running them.

OS X and Windows each have significantly optimized operating environments that support common gaming engines. I’ve seen games perform exceedingly well on OS X, despite the platform having a reputation for not being a good gaming platform. Steam has opened its market to Mac users with a great number of titles being available across both platforms.

There are plenty of Mac gamers out there.

Common UI Elements

The Dock in OS X is a lot like the task bar in Windows. It houses common application shortcuts and gives you quick access to running applications, complete with a preview and ability to close things from it rather than having to rely on a hotkey or exit button on the application. The real difference between the two (since Windows 7) is that one looks different from the other, and that puts people on edge.

Application windows can be minimized and maximized using buttons along the top of the window, though those buttons may be located in different places. Software looks and runs the same as it would on either operating system.

If anything, the only real difference between the two operating systems are the hotkeys used to do things like copy and paste, and even those can be remapped to match either operating environment. There are some advantages to one over another here and there, but whether or not these are pros or cons is up to the user to determine for themselves.

App Store

Windows 8 introduces an app store for Windows. This would be another commonality with OS X as the Mac App Store has been around since Snow Leopard. Both of these stores help the user manage existing and purchased applications as well as to discover new apps they may not have otherwise known about.


Contrary to popular belief, Macs can and have had viruses. Malware and spyware are problems for Mac users as they are for Windows users, and the introduction of synced universal browsers have opened up a whole new can of shared concerns as hackers figure out ways to cause mischief.

The only reason OS X hasn’t been the primary target for this malicious software as of yet has been its lower market share among corporations and budget consumers. Once this market share evens out, you’ll find out just how vulnerable OS X can be.

OS X and Windows generally fare about the same in hacking contests such as PWN-To-Own where hackers are timed to see who can infiltrate a given system and take control of it the fastest. Even some of the more popular Linux distros are not immune to malicious attack.

Final Thoughts

Should you buy a Mac? Should you buy a PC? Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Each one will help you get done the vast majority of the things you need to get done throughout the day. In the end, it comes down to personal taste and needs.

The biggest problem I find while writing articles about either of these platforms is the constant bickering and nonsense that fills the comment threads associated with them. People have some strange desire to look down on (or talk down to) people who make different choices than they do when it really doesn’t matter at all.

I’ve written articles, edited video, updated my social media status, and gamed on both of these platforms extensively over the past decade and over that time I learned that either one is equally capable of getting the job done. It’s just a matter of what specific software you use, and where you prefer to use it.

Keyboard by Petr Kratochvil