macOS High Sierra vs Windows 10 comparison
In this comparison of Windows 10 and MacOS High Sierra we look at how both operating systems compare. Many of the features we will cover aren't specific to the new version of macOS - over the years Apple has added many features to Mac OS X, now known as macOS, and High Sierra gains only a few changes that users will really notice (it's an update that mostly happens under the surface).
Similarly Microsoft launched Windows 10 in 2015 but various changes have appeared since, and new design changes arrived on 17 October 2017 in the Fall Creators Update (the roll out is likely to take a few weeks).
For those who are interested specifically in new High Sierra features read more here. In summary they include the following:
- New file system - the new new APFS file system should increase security and bump up file transfer speeds
- Photos - new advanced editing tools and the ability to turn Live Photos into Gifs
- Safari - the ability to turn off auto playing videos and stop ads chasing you around the web
- Notes - the ability to use tables in the Mac version of this popular iOS app and Pin important Notes
- Siri - more ‘natural’ language and a more friendly personality
- Spotlight - search for flight information
In summary the new feature in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update are:
- An on-demand feature for files held on OneDrive (so that they don't need to be duplicated on a PC)
- Pin friends to your task bar with My People
- Mixed Reality (augmented reality meets VR)
- Fluent Design Changes - well a first taste of UI changes that are coming to Windows
- PDFs can be opened and edited in Edge (the new Internet Explorer)
- An emoji keyboard
- Cortana improvements
How do Windows and macOS compare when it comes to the high profile features and the tools we use on a daily basis. Are they essentially the same or is one being left behind? We look in detail at the operating systems, and the software that comes bundled with them below.
First we will look at the basics. How do MacOS and Windows 10 compare?
MacOS (previously known as Mac OS X) has been updated regularly since it first arrived on Macs in 2001. Apple frequently issues minor updates, but more significant changes come once a year, usually in the autumn.
The latest update, High Sierra, will be available in the Mac App Store from 25 September 2017.
Windows 10 was released in July 2015, and, like macOS it has regular updates. You won’t be seeing a Windows 11 because Microsoft sees its OS as a service and therefore issues features update for it, rather than completely overhauling it. The most recent major update to Windows 10 was the Fall Creators Update 17 October 2017.
Let’s face it, Apple is famed for the design of it’s hardware so the expectation is that the software design will be similarly beautiful. Microsoft, on the other hand, tends to be though of as, dare we say it, a bit boring and functional. Does the design of Windows 10 reflect this? We’ll take a look below.
The last time the design of macOS (or rather Mac OS X) changed significantly was in Yosemite, when it had an overhaul, at the hands of Apple’s design guru Jonathan Ive, to bring it into line with iOS.
Design-wise, the macOS has changed little since then. High Sierra is identical to Sierra, and Sierra was virtually identical to its predecessor El Capitan, and that to Yosemite.
In terms of the look and feel, macOS is designed for high res Retina displays. The majority of Macs these days feature displays with high resolutions and the interface takes advantage of that with little touches that wouldn’t look as good on a lower-resolution display, such as elegant, thin typefaces and transparency effects.
Some interface elements are semi-opaque, allowing a blurred-out version of whatever is behind the window to show through.
Other features include a Dark Mode, which allows you to darken the menu bar at the top of the screen as well as the drop down menus that appear from that, and the Dock. You can also change the highlight colour for text selections, and the colour of buttons to a less eye catching graphite. This is all enabled by a checkbox within the General System Preferences pane.
It didn't exactly answer the prayers of those who wanted to make their Mac more emo but it does make the Mac interface a little more comfortable to use at night.
There are also various design touches that make the most of a small display. For example, you can hide the Dock, or move it to the side, or hide the menus at the top of the screen. In Yosemite Apple moved the traffic light buttons for close, minimise and full screen mode onto the same level so that the height of the window title bar could be cut. So, for example, in Safari the three buttons are on the same level as the next/previous button and the address/search bar.
Several interface elements were flattened in Yosemite. For example, previously the Dock had a 3D look, but now it’s flat with transparency, and as a result looks simpler and more modern.
In terms of design Windows lacks the clean modern look of macOS, however, There is a design refresh on its way, known as the Fluent Design System, that will include more animations, transparency and blurring elements. This is supposed to make it feel like Windows is intertwined and moving around while you use it.
Users are getting a first look at some of the design changes in the Fall Creators Update, with Photos and People getting a new look.
Based on leaked screenshots that appeared in early 2017, the changes will bring new 3D elements, as well as more light, depth, motion, and the UI elements will also scale to remain usable across different devices.
Other changes coming in the redesign are said to include the minimise, maximise and close buttons being incorporated into the window itself, perhaps in a effort to reduce the space taken up by these interface elements, as in the case of MacOS.
Wondering how much of your system resources will be taken up by graphics? The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update adds a GPU field to the Task Manager so that you can track how much your GPU is being used.
We’ll look at the differences between the user interfaces of MacOS High Sierra and Windows 10 here. Specifically the way you interface with the operating system, rather than the design.
In some ways the interface you prefer is probably the one you are most familiar with. If you have been using a Mac for years you may feel lost on a PC, and vice versa.
Back when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invented the Macintosh they had a philosophy that the interface should be really intuitive. As a result the Mac interface has always been really simple to use, as well as being elegantly designed - like the Mac that runs it.
You interface with your Mac mostly via the Dock, which can house shortcuts to your favourite apps and frequently accessed folders; the menu bar at the top of the screen; the Finder file browser; and Spotlight search.
There are other interface elements that you can use, such as Mission Control, for viewing everything you have open at a glance, and LaunchPad, which shows you all your apps.
Say you want to open an app, you can either click on the icon in the Dock, search for it using Spotlight, open it via LaunchPad, or ask Siri, Apple’s voice activated assistant to launch it.
Looking for a document you have been working on? Again, you can search using Spotlight, use the Finder file browser, find it in a Smart Folder, or Open Recent.
Wondering if it’s the file you were looking for. You don’t need to open it, you can get a Quick Look by clicking on it and pressing the Space bar.
One of our favourite new features in Sierra was the ability to share your Desktop and Documents folders across multiple Macs. So if you were working on something and saved it on your Desktop on one Mac it would be accessible from the Desktop on another Mac you were signed in on.
Alternatively you can allow the app you are using to save it into a folder associated with that app. So if you open the Pages app (Apple’s word processor) on any of your Apple devices you can easily access a document you have created in that app.
If you are really particular about your filing this might sound like it’s not organised enough, but if is so easy to find things that you really don’t need complicated filing systems to make it work. That said, if you really like to keep things in order you could assign a particular Tag when you save something to make filing and finding things really easy. You can then create Smart Folders which include everything assigned with that Tag - and since files can have more than one Tag it can appear in more than one folder without being duplicated.
Other differences in the way you interact with the Mac compared to the PC include the keyboard - with the Command key on the Mac essentially replicating the Control key on the PC. People will say that Macs have one button mice, but that’s not strictly true - you can right click on a Mac mouse or trackpad. But there are further differences to that method of interaction.
For example, the TrackPad on a Mac laptop allows you to use various gestures to interact with the Mac. Sweeping fingers across, or using pinch to zoom, in a way reminiscent of the way you use an iPhone.
In fact a few generations ago Apple switched the way that a mouse scrolls on its head, just to bring the Mac in to line with the iPhone interface. So now you push up with your mouse to move down the page. Once you get use to this it’s logical, but it can really confuse you at first.
Disclaimer: We don't use Windows and we aren’t as familiar with the interface as we are with MacOS. We will do our best to compare the way the Windows interface works with the way that the MacOS interface works here with a little help from our colleagues on PC Advisor.
Where you have the Finder on MacOS you have File Explorer on Windows 10. This allows you to browse and open all the files you have stored on your PC. Quick Access is a useful feature that automatically populates with your frequently accessed folders and recent files, you can also automatically pin things to it to make it easy to find things. To get a similar effect in the Finder on the Mac you could add a file to the Favourites bar, but it isn’t self populating in the same way as on Windows.
As with the Finder on the Mac there is a Preview feature that lets you see an image or view a video without having to open it. The implementation of this isn’t as neat as on the Mac though. It’s a particular view that you have to choose in the File Explorer: Preview Pane.
The Windows Control Panel lets you change settings. It’s similar to System Preferences on the Mac. Windows 10 introduced the Settings app which lets users customise and configure their system. It strikes us that Control Panel is more for fiddlers, while Settings is more for those who might cause damage to their PC if they delved too deep. Of course Apple makes it much more difficult to delve into Settings beyond the ones accessible in System Preferences, unless you have a working knowledge of Terminal.
One of the big criticisms of Windows 8 was Microsoft’s adoption of the Ribbon interface. It was designed to simplify menus. Of course people hate change, and it seems that it was too much change for some. Who has time to re-learn how to use Word and Excel, for example. But the point was it was intended to bring common actions to the surface and make it easier to find certain features.
Another feature that people were critical of in Windows 8 was the disappearance of the Start Menu. Critically, in Windows 10 the Start Menu returned.
The Taskbar in Windows is the strip at the bottom of the screen that includes shortcuts to your favourite apps, the Start Menu, and Search. It’s a little bit of the Mac Dock, and a little bit of the Mac menu bar. It takes up a lot less space than both, but we like having everything a click away, it strikes us that everything is pretty much buried in this set up.
Windows 10 also uses Tiles. These are a little like shortcuts to elements of different apps. A little like Dashboard Widgets in the Mac OS or Glances on the Apple Watch.
There is a Full Screen mode in Windows 10, just as there is in MacOS, but Windows also adds the option to “Snap” up to four apps per screen, with each occupying a quarter. When you’ve snapped an app you can also see a tab view of some of the remaining open apps so you can fill your entire screen. We think it’s a little like a cross between Expose (which allows you to see thumbnails of all your open apps) and the mode that allows you to arrange two apps side-by-side in a shared Full Screen mode on a Mac.
One change that arrived with the 2017 Fall Creators Update could be seen as Microsoft’s answer to the way our files are stored in iCloud and can be accessed and edited on all of our devices.
Where Apple has iCloud, Microsoft has OneDrive, but the implementation isn’t quite as smooth. For example, prior to the Fall update a synced copy of every file stored on One Drive would also exist on your computer - which could take up a lot of space. Now, with Files on Demand, you can see a shortcut to your OneDrive-stored files alongside the files on your computer - those files no longer need to be stored on your PC. You still have to download a file before you can edit it though.
Another addition in the Fall update is the ability to share with one click - when you right click you get a Share option - of course the Share option has been available in macOS for some time.
Also new in the Fall update is My People - where you can pin up to three contacts to your taskbar so you can stay in constant touch with them. If you click on them you’ll see two ways of contacting them - Skype and Mail. It reminds us a bit of the Friends feature on the Apple Watch which appeared in the first generation and is now long gone because nobody used it.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Apple emphasised VR capabilities with the release of macOS High Sierra. Explaining that Metal 2 will increase GPU performance and gain support for VR, and confirming that Mac users will be able to plug in the HTC Vine and run SteamVR.
VR isn’t only important to Apple, Windows Mixed Reality headsets from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are arriving alongside the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. But you won’t need one of these swanky headsets to see mixed-reality images in Windows 10. The new Mixed Reality Viewer augmented reality app in the Fall update lets you use any device with a webcam to merge digital objects with the real world.
Integration across mobile and desktop
Our laptops and desktops aren’t the only devices that we create things on these days so it’s essential that all our devices work well together.
Here we’ll assess just how happily our Macs and other Apple devices play together with their differing operating systems compared to the Windows devices that all share the same OS.
MacOS and iOS
There might be two operating systems: iOS and MacOS, but that doesn’t mean that they are foreign territories. One of the things we love about macOS and iOS is the way that the two operating systems link all our Apple devices together. This is described as Continuity by Apple and it's a feature that's been around for a few years.
Essentially it means that all your devices are linked. This means that you can access anything on any device. This could be an email that you started drafting on your iPhone on the way to work but want to finish on your Mac - once you arrive in the office you can simply open Mail on your Mac and finish the email you were composing due to Hand Off, a technology that ‘shares’ the incomplete email to your Mac without you having to do anything.
Similarly if you have a webpage open on your iPhone when you switch to your Mac you can automatically open the same page there.
A related feature that arrived in Sierra still amazes us a year later. If you have Bluetooth turned on, and you are logged into iCloud, when you copy text on your iPhone you can paste it into something you are doing on your Mac.
There’s also the fact that you can send and receive text messages on your Mac - this is set to become even better in High Sierra as the messages will be stored in the Cloud (which means that everything will be in sync across all your devices). You can also make and receive phone calls because your iPhone can route them through to your Mac.
Speaking of continuity, here's one way in which your Apple devices can work together to enhance your security.
With the launch of macOS Sierra, you can unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch. Get within a certain distance of your Mac while wearing an (unlocked) Apple Watch, and the Mac will detect your approach and unlock: no more typing in lengthy passwords.
This is a handy feature, although the number of people who actually own Apple Watches is still relatively small. We're hoping that Apple will enable Touch ID-equipped iPhones to do something similar with their fingerprint scanners, or that a future Macs, like the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar does now, will have a fingerprint scanner of its own.
Speaking of the finger print scanner, another great feature that brings is Apple Pay, which can now be used on your Mac as well as your iPhone, although the best implementation is on the MacBook Pro with its touch ID equipped Touch Bar.
No such features on Windows quite yet, but it looks like that could change in the near future: Windows Central reports that the company plans to add the ability for Microsoft Bands, Windows Phones and other certified devices to unlock a PC. However, it should be noted that other third-party devices accomplish the same feature - but this would be considered as an additional purchase.
Windows and Windows Mobile
A while ago Apple’s CEO Tim Cook suggested that it is better not to try and create a "toaster-refrigerator". He told analysts in 2012: "You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but you know those things are not going to be probably be pleasing to the user." He was taking a dig at Microsoft and Windows 8, which was designed to work on desktops, laptops and tablets. Cook believed that tablets needed a different interface because they would be used for different things.
As much as we love iOS we do think that when it comes to some professional uses the iPad is a little held back by the fact that it doesn’t run MacOS. Would there be more creative apps for professionals, for example, if Apple hadn't insisted that they run on iOS?
The irony is that when it comes to apps Windows tablets are limited when compared to iOS and Android. People want to run fun apps on their tablets and there just isn't the selection in Windows.
Where Apple has Continuity, Microsoft had Continuum for Phones, which essentially turned smartphones running Windows 10 into desktop PCs when you connect them to a large screen. You would see a full version of Windows, but it would be powered by your phone.
Microsoft wanted to tie all its mobile and desktop devices together with Windows as a common OS. Windows would run on mobiles, tablets and desktops. The problem with this strategy was that Microsoft has had to declare Windows Mobile dead when nobody bought Windows phones. So now the company’s strategy is to bring the Windows experience to Android and iOS.
In the Fall Creators Update the Settings menu gains a Phone section where you can connect your PC to your phone so you can take advantage of "pick up where you left off" functionality a little like what arrived on the Mac with Continuity in Yosemite. In 2015.
Similarly, if you install the mobile Edge browser and/or Microsoft Launcher apps and link your phone to your Windows account, you will be able to push webpages and even files to your Windows 10 PC via a "Continue on PC" option.
You can also respond to texts or see missed calls from your linked phones. There's also a "I’ve got more for you" section on Cortana that will show documents and websites you were accessing on your other devices, so that you can pick up where you left off. For now the list of supported software is limited though.
Critics praised the improvements to Windows 10's bundled software over Windows 8. However, it’s our opinion that the apps that come with Windows aren’t a patch on those that come with the MacOS.
There are lots of apps that ship as part of MacOS but rather than cover all of them we will compare the photo editing and web browsing offerings for each OS.
Photo editing: Photos vs Photos
Photos is the editing and photo library app for Macs and iOS devices and it looks set to become even better in High Sierra, with new more advanced editing tools including professionally inspired filters, Colour Curves and the ability to turn a Live Photo taken with your iPhone into a Gif.
Thanks to Photos in the Cloud you can access all your photos on all your devices - and if you make an edit on one device that edit will be rejected on all your devices. (To use this service you will need to pay for extra storage in the Cloud, but iCloud storage isn’t expensive - find out how much iCloud Storage costs here).
Like Photos on the Mac the Windows Photos app lets you store, share and edit photos. As with Photos on the Mac the Windows app is a companion app to the one you might use on a Windows tablet or mobile phone.
A new addition to Photos in the Fall Creators Update is Story Remix - which we think looks a bit like Memories. Microsoft describes it as an "evolution of the Photos app" that uses machine learning and mixed reality to algorithmically generated a movie montage using your pictures and videos (just like Memories). Windows also adds the ability to pull in 3D objects and animations to these Stories. We don’t think we miss the ability to do this last bit.
Paint also got an update in 2017’s Fall Creators Update. Magic Select can edit out parts of a photo. It intelligently traces their outline, cuts them out, and fills in the background based on the rest of the image. The results are slightly less hilarious, and a lot less professional looking, than those cases of people asking Photoshop gurus to cut their ex boyfriend out of a photo.
(Photo from our collegues at PCWorld)
It strikes us that the Photos app on Windows isn't as feature rich as Apple’s Photos app - it seems that's what Paint is for - and whether that matters to you depends on how much of a budding photographer you are.
Web browser: Safari vs Edge
There are so many alternatives to both the Mac and Windows web browser that the choice of operating system. If you want to use the popular Chrome or Firefox you can.
If you were to stick to the browsers that ship with the operating systems though you'd be looking at Safari or Microsoft Edge (which replaced Internet Explorer). How do they compare?
As we mentioned at the beginning one of the new features in Safari in High Sierra is the ability to stop videos auto playing and stop ads from following you around the web (like when you look for a holiday and then all the ads everywhere you go are trying to sell you a holiday).
Old, but still good, features in Safari include a Reader view that allows you to strip out ads from the page (Apple hates ads), the ability for sites to send you notifications within the browser, a Reading List that you can save to look at later (and even browse offline), and lots of ways to make it quick and easy to visit your favourite sites - you can Pin them to the top of your browser, save them as a Favourite, or as a Bookmark.
If you’ve not been using Windows you might not even realise that Internet Explorer is no longer the default browser. Microsoft literally went back to the drawing board with its web browser, before it launched Windows 10 - that’s how bloated had IE become. Now Windows users have a new browser called Edge, which took over from IE when Microsoft introduced Windows 10.
As with Safari there is a combined URL and search bar. Speaking of search, unsurprisingly Microsoft makes the default search engine its own Bing. Unfortunately Microsoft doesn’t make it very easy to switch away from Bing, and based on the fact that Bing isn’t exactly a popular search engine it must be the case that many users are choosing to use a different browser.
There are some good features in Edge though. For example, it offers a reading view which is similar to Apple’s Reader view which strips all the ads and distractive elements from a page.
As in macOS there is also a Reading List feature that allows you to save things to read. However, unlike the Mac Reading List feature you can't refer to these pages when you are offline.
In the Fall update Edge gained the ability to enter a full-screen mode. If you are a Mac user you are probably astounded that this wasn’t this supported before?
Edge can also be used as a PDF reader, with fillable fields, markup, and even the ability to ink a digital signature right within the app - which means nobody needs to download Adobe Reader.
Edge also integrates with Cortana, Microsoft’s Siri-like virtual personal assistant. We’ll look at that next.
Voice assistants: Siri vs Cortana
Sierra's single biggest new feature is probably Siri - as has been rumoured for years, Apple's voice-control tech, previously available on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV, has come to the Mac.
Having the ability to search through documents using Siri is extremely useful and handy; you can use natural language, specifying various parameters to apply to the document search, and Siri's search results sit afterwards in the Notifications pane from where they can be dragged and dropped into applicable apps, and generally manipulated at your whim.
Microsoft's equivalent of Siri is called Cortana, a system that fields and interprets natural language queries in both speech and text. This has been available on PCs since Windows 8.1, but it gets upgraded in Windows 10.
All the Cortana features from Windows Phone are now in Windows 10. So you can ask (or type): "What's the weather going to be like this weekend?" and get a forecast, or "Remind me to finish my tax return tomorrow night" and receive a reminder at the appropriate time. And this can be tied to people and places too: "Remind me to ring Jim when I get home", and so on.
Cortana has a Daily Glance with your meetings, the weather, information about your commute, sports scores and suchlike. If you allow it, Cortana can also access information from emails, such as flight numbers, and warn you if there's a delay or heavy traffic on the way to the airport.
Finally, Cortana can identify music playing, set alarms, record notes, play specific music, launch apps and give you directions on a map. We think it's great, and one of Windows 10's biggest draws.
In terms of features, Siri and Cortana are roughly on a level right now. For our thoughts on their respective speed and accuracy, however, take a look at our comparison review: Siri vs Cortana vs Google Now vs Amazon Echo Alexa.
There are some new Cortana tricks in the Fall Update. For example, if you take a picture of an event poster, Cortana will notice it in your camera roll and ask whether you want to create a reminder for the event. On a PC you can select a lasso tool and circle on-screen dates to bring them to Cortana’s attention.
Also new in the Fall Creators Update is the ability to tell Cortana to restart, turn off, lock, or sign out of your PC.
The Mac is generally considered to be safe and more secure than a PC. Apple has included a number of security measures that make attacking a Mac particularly challenging. These include: Gatekeeper, which blocks software that hasn’t been digitally approved by Apple from running on your Mac without your agreement; built anti-malware protection in the form of its malware scanning tool, Xprotect; Software that is approved by Apple is also Sandboxed, isolates apps from the critical system components of your Mac, your data and your other apps, so they shouldn't be able to access anything that could allow them to do any damage.
There's also anti-phishing technology in Safari that will detect fraudulent websites. It will disable the page and display an alert warning you if you visit a suspect website.
You'll also notice that plug-ins such as Adobe Flash Player, Silverlight, QuickTime and Oracle Java won't run if they aren't updated to the latest version - another way of ensuring your Mac is safe.
In addition to all that, FileVault 2 makes sure your data is safe and secure by encrypting it.
The Windows 10 Fall Creators update bought ransomware protection and added controlled folder access that “protects your files and folders from unauthorized changes by unfriendly applications.” A bit like the way that Mac apps are sandboxed.
This means that if unauthorized software attempts to access a protected Documents, Pictures, Movies, or Desktop folder, it’ll be blocked and you’ll be notified. You can choose to whitelist individual programs to access controlled folders, and you can manually protect folders that aren’t protected by default.
Apple generally has a good reputation when it comes to user privacy - its public refusal to back down when the FBI wanted its help breaking into a passcode-locked iPhone contributed to this - and it doubles down on privacy with a new feature that is available with macOS Sierra (and iOS 10): differential privacy.
In fact, it would be more accurate to state that differential privacy is an existing field of study that existed long before Apple took an interest; in this OS you see that field's developments incorporated into Apple's software.
Differential privacy is a mathematical approach to privacy that introduces random elements to harvested data sets in such a way that it becomes impossible for a researcher (in this case, Apple itself) to determine the preferences or behaviour of any single user.
Back in the 1960s, a coin flip would be used to add randomness: a researcher might ask, "Are you a member of the Communist Party?" The subject would secretly flip a coin. If it came up heads, they always answer "yes". If tails, they answer truthfully. This gives them plausible deniability, as neither the researcher nor any other party knows if the actual answer is truthful. With enough answers, the noise of that randomness can be calculated and removed to produce a relatively accurate distribution.
Differential privacy is effectively a modern, more complex version of the same idea. Instead of flipping a coin, a system adds sophisticated random values that produce a result that can't be reverse engineered.
For a much more detailed analysis of the concept, our colleagues at Macworld US have written an article: How differential privacy can crowdsource meaningful info without exposing your secrets.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has faced some questions over its approach to privacy. Much has been made of 'spyware' issues in Windows 10, and rightly so.
Windows 10 is the most connected, cloud-focused OS Microsoft has released. For the most part, this is a good thing: your settings, wallpaper, start menu configuration and other things can be synced across all your devices; Cortana needs to access personal data if you want to use its full capabilities, and OneDrive integration means your files are accessible from any computer, tablet or phone.
But negating these advantages is the issue of privacy. Among other ominous warnings, Microsoft's 12,000-word EULA says "we will access, disclose and preserve personal data... such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders" in order to "respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies", to "prevent spam or attempts to defraud users", to "operate and maintain the security of our services" and "if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft".
That may sound worrying and certainly doesn't compare well to Apple's policies and track record. The good news, however, is that you can opt out of most features. You can choose to use a local instead of a Microsoft account, and if you use Microsoft Edge, you can set privacy options online to disable personalised ads and ad tracking. We'd prefer all these settings to be off by default, of course.
It's all very well talking about features, but can your system run Windows 10 or macOS High Sierra, or will you need to buy a new Mac or PC in order to install them?
macOS High Sierra system requirements
High Sierra has the same system requirements as its predecessor, Sierra, so Macs dating from 2010 or later should be able to run macOS High Sierra; a few 2009 models are allowed, too.
More specifically, High Sierra is compatible with:
- MacBook (Late 2009 or later)
- MacBook Air (2010 or later)
- MacBook Pro (2010 or later)
- Mac mini (2010 or later)
- Mac Pro (2010 or later)
- iMac (Late 2009 or later)
For more, see Will my Mac run macOS High Sierra?
Windows 10 system requirements
Windows 10 also has the same system requirements as its predecessor, Windows 8.1.
- 1GHz (or faster) processor
- 1GB RAM for 32-bit; 2GB for 64-bit
- Up to 20GB hard disk space
- 800 x 600 screen resolution or higher. DirectX 9 graphics processor with WDDM driver
macOS High Sierra is a free update for anyone on a compatible Mac, and it will remain free for the lifetime of the product. Mac operating systems have been free since the launch of OS X Mavericks in 2013.
Windows 10 was also a free upgrade until 29 July 2016 (from Windows 7 or 8) - but now you'll have to pay £99.99 for the Home version of Windows 10 and £189.99 for Windows 10 Pro. These are also the prices if you're upgrading from an Windows Vista or earlier.
This makes macOS High Sierra favourable, given that it's a free upgrade and doesn't cost any money for most users - apart from the actual cost of the Mac, of course.
The UK Tech Weekly Podcast team discuss Windows 10 and the end of its free upgrade period - among other things - in their 25th episode, embedded below:
The UK Tech Weekly Podcast comes out every Friday. Follow them on Twitter for links to new episodes.
macOS High Sierra will arrive in September 2017 and will be available through the App Store - just search for "High Sierra" on your Mac. For more on this, see How to update a Mac.
A lot of PC users have got angry about Windows 10, mainly because of how heavy-handedly Microsoft has been pushing people to make the upgrade. Which is a shame, really, because Windows 10 is good: to quote our colleagues at PC Advisor - who should know - it's the best Windows yet. The new features combined with the familiarity of Windows 7 make it very attractive, and it's even better if you have several devices which can run Windows 10 - particularly a phone - because of the tight cross-device integration.
However, based on our experience of High Sierra, it's still Mac all the way for us. Maybe that was predictable all along, but High Sierra and it's predecessors delivers on features - Siri is still a highlight, even if voice control on desktop is one area where Apple is catching up with Microsoft, while Apple Pay, Apple Watch unlocking and the ability to copy-and-paste across devices are clear wins - and the interface, despite Windows 10's strides forward remains far more intuitive, in our eyes at least.