Do Macs last longer than Windows PCs?

Tony Boyce

Long term investment vs. short term cost?

An Apple Mac can cost a lot more money than it’s Windows PC equivalent, so it’s worth examining the major differences between these two platforms to see what bang you’re getting for your buck. Do Macs really last longer?

Does my computer look good in this?

There is no doubting the iconic good looks of Apple products. They’re sleek, ergonomically supremely well designed machines, and appear hardier than their sometimes clunky looking Windows counterparts. Then there’s the cultural kudos;- a glowing white apple and brushed silver statement just says ‘professional’. But does any of this affect longevity? There’s circumstantial evidence that anyone parting with 3 or 4 times the cash for a shiny Apple Mac will tend to care for it better (my children aside), but is the significant investment worth it?

Hardware: what is ‘Windows’?

It’s worth remembering at this point that Microsoft Windows is simply an OS, built (and constantly rebuilt) to work on any one of thousands of machine models built from components supplied by many different manufacturers. It’s obvious when you look inside a Mac and a Windows PC that there is a very different build ethic at work between these two desktop computers. Apple design all of their components to work together in a seamless way to be part of the Apple ‘ecosystem’ – no third party controlled components to constantly update. Every aspect of a desktop Mac’s production is strictly controlled to optimise the machine and dedicated OS. This goes part way to explain the premium price you can pay for a Mac.

On a Windows PC, the BIOS (the system that allows the OS to talk to the hardware) is generally proprietary to the manufacturer, and Microsoft have little control over PC component manufacture. Seen this way, the inner workings of a regular PC are all down to external companies, which means that seen as a whole, they’re not actually ‘Windows PCs’ at all.

A Windows machine is a collection of discrete parts, which makes processing inherently more difficult. Of course, it also makes PCs cheaper!

Software synergy: what’s the best OS?

The approach to OS between Apple and Microsoft really is apples and pears. The Apple destop mac is designed as a whole entity to be part of the Apple ecosystem of products. As a result of a cohesive OS strategy, they talk fluently. Desktop speaks laptop speaks iPhone and iPad. They are designed at a component and OS level to work together. Given the finite number of Mac models, OS updates and regular bug and security fixes target your machine, and they’re never going to result in incompatability issues.

Windows OS, however, is always dealing with machines that are wildly different in component structure, so are open to software conflicts (not to mention bugs). The OS can get bogged down over time (Microsoft even has its own page dedicated to ‘speeding up your machine’) – something that doesn’t generally happen with an Apple OS.

Over the life of a Windows PC, all those disparate components and applications can receive hundreds, even thousands, of minor and major updates from their manufacturers' support teams. Every change is noted in the Windows registry, which is essentially a very long list of commands that the OS has to read every time it boots up. As that list gets longer, the PC slows down.

If they do last longer, will an old Apple still be fit for purpose?

Absolutely. Apple, of course, want to sell hardware, so as computing speeds increase, the very latest Mac OS may not work on your machine. That, however, really needn’t necessarily be an issue. Apple are really good at keeping even relatively old operating systems updated, patched and working glitch (and bug) free. I run two Apple desktop computers – one in my studio (I’m a music producer), and one for admin/printing etc. My studio machine is a 2013 trash can Mac (on OS Catalina), and goes like stink - I’ve never run out of CPU, even with sample heavy projects. My admin machine is a 2012 iMac – it won’t go beyond OS Mohave, but I don’t need it to. It all works fine.

Apple’s last longer if you give them love

Look after your Mac! Keep it updated, keep clearing out unwanted files from time to time, keep a clone of your drive on an external disk so you’re backed up and you can troubleshoot from it. You’ll be surprised at how much value a well maintained machine holds.

Thinking of buying an iMac from new? Think different.

Apple are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, but computer manufacture is notoriously carbon and rare earth heavy - not to mention the sumptuous packaging!

We all have a part to play in maintaining the environment we live in. By buying a refurbished iMac we are collectively reducing the overall technology carbon footprint and preserving the planet now and for our future generations. A good refurbished desktop Mac is both a sound economic and ecological choice.