I just switched from Windows to macOS for the first time — here’s what happened

The MacBook Pro 2021 (14-inch)
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

I've been using Microsoft Windows as my primary operating system for my entire adult life. Starting with Windows 98 on a Compaq Presario desktop, I’ve used most Windows iterations released over the years. Though Windows can sometimes be an unintuitive and cumbersome operating system, I always appreciated its versatility and flexibility. Windows-based PCs suited my needs so well that I never considered giving Apple’s Macs a proper shot.

There were a few factors that made me feel that way. The first is that I’m generally an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” type of person. If Windows PCs served me well, what use did I have for Apple’s computers? The other, perhaps more important reason, was that Macs were always out of my price range. I have some familiarity with Apple’s operating systems and applications. I’ve owned several iPods and currently have a 2019 iPad. The PC version of iTunes is still my default music player when I’m on my desktop. Though I found Apple’s MP3 players and tablets easier to use than those offered by the competition, I still didn’t feel the need to try Mac computers, even when I was able to afford them.

Shortly after finishing his Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch review, Tom’s Guide senior editor Henry T. Casey shipped his review unit to my apartment. I was able to get extensive hands-on time with macOS and see how it differs from my beloved Windows. After a solid week of using the M1 Pro-powered MacBook Pro, I’m surprised by the results. Pleasantly surprised.

I want to state a few things before moving on. This is not a MacBook Pro 14-inch review. Nor is it a how-to guide for first-time Mac users. This is a summary of my thoughts while using macOS extensively for the first time. Though I’m not saying anything macOS users don’t already know, Windows users may find my experience useful — especially if they are considering purchasing a MacBook or other Apple devices for themselves. With that said, let’s get into the heart of this article.

Setting up the MacBook Pro 14-inch was as simple as setting up my iPad and old-school iPods. In fact, the setup process was so smooth that I just went through the motions without giving it much thought. The on-screen instructions did an exceptional job of guiding me, which was appreciated. After setting up my passwords and linking the MacBook to my Apple account, I was ready to go.

I studied the desktop for a few moments to familiarize myself with everything on it. There was a slew of different applications on the taskbar, most of which were unfamiliar to me. The menu options at the top of the desktop were interesting since they were reminiscent of standard tab options in Windows. Despite its alien appearance to my Windows-accustomed eyes, I loved how clean and inviting everything looked.

(Image credit: Apple)

Though my experience with Apple is limited, the user-friendliness of its products is something I’ve always appreciated. I had no trouble downloading and installing apps. In fact, I found the process smoother than on Windows. There was no need for an Install Wizard. All I had to do was download apps and then drag them from the download folder to the apps section. This was a mini-revelation. Installing apps on Windows now feels unnecessarily cumbersome in comparison.

Macs have long been the go-to computers for professional artists working in illustration, animation, video editing, music recording and more. While I’m not a master in any of those fields, I know the basics of video editing and Photoshop. Thanks to the M1 Pro chip powering the MacBook 14-inch, I was able to render 1080p videos in Adobe Premiere in a handful of minutes. Using Photoshop was also snappy and responsive. I now understand why so many artists love using Macs to bring their work to life. Thanks to the ease of use, one can simply focus on creating without having to wrestle with a potentially unwieldy user interface or slow computer.

I acclimated to macOS faster than I expected. I had to wrap my brain around things like the red, yellow and green buttons (macOS’ version of close, minimize, and expand) and am still learning a dozen shortcuts. I doubt I’ll be a Mac expert anytime soon, but based on my time with macOS, I can see myself becoming more proficient with it than I am with Windows.

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

Sadly, I haven’t had time to play a lot of games on the MacBook Pro 14-inch. Gaming on Macs has always been a dicey proposition. It seemed the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips would finally give Apple a competitive edge in the gaming space, as they appear powerful enough to handle even demanding AAA games. Sadly, as our own tests playing the latest games through Parallels have proven, playing titles that aren’t optimized for Macs is still a disappointing experience, even with the power of M1 Max. However, as great as gaming on laptops can be, I prefer playing PC games on a desktop. To that end, I won’t hold macOS’ AAA gaming shortcomings against it.

As a life-long Windows person, I have to admit that macOS is a solid and thoroughly user-friendly operating system. In fact, I like macOS so much that I am seriously considering purchasing a MacBook Pro 14-inch for myself. Editing videos and photos is a snap, and everyday tasks like working or watching YouTube videos are a breeze on macOS. Also, I simply want to experience more of the eye-pleasing user interface. Gaming aside, there’s very little I dislike about macOS.

If you’re a die-hard Windows user like me, I suggest giving macOS an honest try if possible. You may find yourself having a similar experience.

Tony Polanco
Computing Writer

Tony is a computing writer at Tom’s Guide covering laptops, tablets, Windows, and iOS. During his off-hours, Tony enjoys reading comic books, playing video games, reading speculative fiction novels, and spending too much time on X/Twitter. His non-nerdy pursuits involve attending Hard Rock/Heavy Metal concerts and going to NYC bars with friends and colleagues. His work has appeared in publications such as Laptop Mag, PC Mag, and various independent gaming sites.

  • michaelk8
    Nice article, Tony. Years ago I moved from Apple to Windows because, while Windows isn't as smooth or "cool," it's always seemed like a better value. Considering functionality and longevity, given your recent experience, do you think it's worth it to pay more for the Apple product?
  • testertony
    I bought my first iMac in March 2021, even though I owned iPhone and iPad for years. I am convinced that the price difference was worth it so far.
  • Okeribok
    I am a life long Mac user and am saying goodbye to its toxic anti-customer walled garden. So there’s a warm spot where I was. Enjoy your endless new bugs with every forced update, disappearing purchases and incompatibility with just about everything else.
  • Aceraldo
    I am not too sure the author is unbiased... It didn't sound like an honest article comparing the two experiences and the pros and cons.

    I am also a life long Windows user. A bit back, I had a week with a Mac. Honest to goodness, at first, I was excited, but after a few hours I could not wait to go back to my Surface laptop. Even the hardware was questionable. What is up with that cutout with sharp corners on the bottom half of the laptop? It kept cutting into my wrists while typing. Why is there no double-tap function on the trackpad? Where is the Backspace key? How is that not there??? That I found incomprehensible. What am I missing here? To top it up, I spent days afterward deleting these files that Mac OS had sprinkled everywhere in my folders as well as all shared folders I had accessed! I don't remember allowing it to do that.

    BTW, this being my work laptop, I do not game on it (that in itself is an extreme no no...), but even then I would not go the Mac way. My IT has given me the option for either, but no thanks. Any thoughts of wanting a Mac got flushed down the sink after that week. Having said all that, I am always open. Maybe I'll try in a couple of years. Maybe.