A Decade Long Mac User Tries Out Windows for the First Time in 15 Years

A few weeks ago, I installed Windows on my Mac using BootCamp. BootCamp allows you to have both operating systems on your computer at the same time and choose the one you want to use when. I was curious about Windows. So I installed it and tried to use it for a few days. Here are my impressions. Just as background, I've been on a Mac since I was seven and I last worked on a Windows machine in 2004.

Pros of Windows

  • Speed: the operating system is much faster than Mac. Starting the computer takes less time. Logging in after you shut the machine is instantaneous. Even websites load much faster. I was surprised. The more I use it, the more noticeable the speed delta is to the Mac.
  • Battery life: I can last 4 to 5 hours on my MacBook Pro running Mac OS, but I can get 6 to 8 hours with Windows. I'm not quite sure why this is. The applications I use on Windows are the same.
  • Applications: There is a universe of applications that I couldn't access before. Things like Excel plug-ins which many data providers use. They are powerful, fast and easy. to help a lot when I'm gathering data.
  • Dictation: Dragon dictation software performs miles better on Windows. Dictation is better integrated into the operating system. It's faster and more accurate. The Mac version of Dragon is buggy, and no longer supported by Nuance. I presume because Apple has integrated into their operating system. The iPad version of VoiceOver (Apple's brand name for dictation) shines. The desktop version is unusable: it maxes out the CPU and simply doesn't work.
  • Linux kernel: like the Mac, Windows now has a native Linux kernel, which makes it feel like a programmer's machine. With VS Code (Microsoft's development environment), and you have a powerful combination.

Cons of Windows

  • Feels like a TV: every time I click the start menu on Windows, I see advertisements for Mickey Mouse or Xbox gaming. For business machine, it feels out of place. It also makes me wonder how much of my behavioral data is used for content targeting.
  • Keyboard shortcuts: Getting used to a different keyboard layout is tough. Instead of the command key, the control key is the magic one for shortcuts. I tried remapping them using an open source tool and editing the registry. I had forgotten about the registry and the run tool in Windows. But this didn't work. there's also nothing like an Alfred App (which I find indispensable on the Mac). There are few alternatives, but none of them work as well.
  • Scrolling: remember when Mac switched scrolling directions on the trackpad? It took a while to get used to. Windows defaults to the old way, scrolling by dragging down. Also, there's no inertial scrolling, where you drag down quickly and the page scrolls down but slows down with time. The mouse seems to work differently for some reason that isn't intuitive.
  • Old and new: The operating system has a Jekyll and Hyde presentation layer. Sometimes it is beautiful, but every once in a while you run into a dialogue that must have been written in 1993.
  • Drivers: Rediscovering Drivers and DLLs were an unwelcome return to the past. These files complexify everything and I remember hours Googling to find the right one to connect a hard drive or printer.

Overall, they are far more equal than I would have guessed. This was a huge surprise. Each OS has its own trade-offs, but I can now could imagine using both. In fact, I do. I switch between operating systems depending on the kind of work I'm doing and whether or not I'm traveling.