Switching from Windows to Mac OS

A Little Background

I’ve been using Windows since 1998 when my father purchased a laptop for me for my college studies which ran Windows 95. I learned a lot on that little machine and as the years went by I progressed through Windows 98, Windows 98SE, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 7. I skipped Vista because – as we all know – it was terrible.

Fast forward to 2011 when I first started working at the BBC. The first thing I noticed in the office was that most people were using Macs – and not just designers, but management, support staff and developers as well. To cut a long story short, this mostly turned out to be because ATOS – the incompetent IT contractor at the BBC – would provide new staff members with an ancient, under-powered, bloated Windows laptop that could barely handle email and web-browsing if they chose Windows; or a brand new, almost factory-spec Mac if they chose Mac OS.

After a brief spell wrestling with my garbage BBC-issued Windows laptop, I decided to hand it back and make the switch to Mac to run Windows within a virtual machine – which was still faster than running it natively on the other laptop. Of course, in order to do this I had to become at least familiar with Mac OS, and as time went on and I became more confident in the OS, I spent more and more time in Mac OS and less in my Windows VM.

When I left the BBC and went to work for Massive, I opted for a Mac straight away. It has been a joy to use. So stable. So reliable. So consistent.

The Disaster Of Windows 8 And The Promise of Windows 10

In August 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8. I excitedly installed it on a VM on my gaming desktop to see what Microsoft’s latest and greatest had to offer and was immediately disgusted by what I found. The UI will surely go down as the worst of any OS in history. Just what were they thinking? Even 8.1 failed to make it usable. So I stuck with Windows 7 and just hoped that 8 was another misstep that would be corrected in its successor.

Thankfully the terrible sales and overwhelmingly negative reviews of Windows 8 didn’t fall on deaf ears and Microsoft was keen to right its wrongs with its next release – a release they were so keen to distance from Windows 8 that they even skipped a number.

Since support for Windows 7 would soon be ending, and since Windows 10 offered a whole new DirectX that came with huge performance improvements, the fact that it was almost as nice to use as Windows 7 – though not quite – meant that as far as my gaming desktop was concerned, an upgrade was inevitable.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

It didn’t take long for the shine to fade though. Despite almost daily updates since launch (itself a nuisance as most require a restart), Windows 10 continues to be buggy. Some of these bugs have been in previous versions for years; others are brand new to this release. Some are quite serious and significantly affect usability; others are just niggles that spoil presentation. What they all have in common however is that they detract from what is supposed to be a premium experience.

First the annoyances:

  1. OneDrive is built into the OS and you can’t remove it very easily. In the Enterprise version of the OS you can disable it via group policy, but that still isn’t removing it. I don’t want to tie myself into services that are only available on one vendor’s products when OS-agnostic alternatives like Dropbox are available, so I don’t want this rubbish installed when I’m not using it.
  2. The lock screen ignores user input until the computer has fully woken up from hibernation. On Windows 7, if you locked your machine and then allowed the monitor(s) to turn off, you could start typing in your password and hit enter to wake up the machine again: when the monitor(s) finally caught up you were logged in. Windows 10 doesn’t do this: what happens here is that when the monitors turn on you’ll be greeted with an error message on the screen because the first few letters of your password were ignored while the computer was still asleep. So then you have to type your password again. To prevent this from occurring you have to tap a few keys or move your mouse to turn on your monitor(s), wait patiently for your lock screen to be displayed (I hope you’re not in any kind of hurry!), and then – and only then – enter your password.
  3. Can a company like Microsoft not afford to get some graphics guys in to redesign the operating system’s icons so that they all look consistent? The Control Panel is a mismatch of icons dating all the way back to XP (and possibly beyond), all the way up to brand new Windows 10 additions. The same applies to toolbars. It looks a mess.
  4. The Settings app, as a watered-down, dumbed-down version of the Control Panel feels a little pointless. Sure, it provides slightly streamlined access to some commonly-used settings but as soon as you need anything beyond that you’re in the Control Panel anyway. And where the Settings panel could perhaps have provided a one-stop-shop for making certain changes in bulk, the reality is that you still have several different screens to navigate in order to change certain behaviours in a consistent manner – especially when it comes to privacy. But then perhaps Microsoft deliberately hides these settings across multiple screens because they don’t want people to disable them?

And here are just some of the bugs:

  1. Copying or moving a large number of files to or from a network drive gradually grinds Explorer to a halt. Transfer speeds will slowly fall from several mbit/s to a few kbit/s. Eventually even browsing the network drive becomes impossible. Restarting the Explorer process temporarily fixes this, but it doesn’t take long to re-appear. This has been a problem with Explorer since as long as I can remember.
  2. Even before the above action is started, Explorer insists on spending an eternity “Discovering Items”. Exactly what Windows is doing at this point is a mystery but it first started in Windows 7. It can be avoided by using the command line but since that in itself is a poor substitute for a bash shell, that isn’t a very appealing workaround and it’s also beside the point. There are alternative copiers like TeraCopy or UltraCopier and while they do seem to eliminate the “Discovering Items” issue, they introduce their own problems.
  3. Explorer often stops automatically refreshing, meaning that you have to manually refresh it in order to view changes to files or folders. Restarting the Explorer process makes no difference here: the only fix is to restart Windows. This has also been a problem for as long as I can remember.
  4. The taskbar sometimes stops working. Clicking on icons, tabs and shortcuts achieves nothing at all. Restarting Explorer fixes this one. The issue didn’t occur on Windows 7 but since I shunned Windows 8, I don’t know if it was introduced in that version or in 10.
  5. The links in the Quick Access area of Explorer windows often duplicate themselves. Various threads exist online where this is discussed; none seem to have a fully working solution. This is new to Windows 10.
  6. The Notification Area introduced in Windows 10 just doesn’t work. Messages are cropped so you only get to read half of them, and clicking on a message does nothing even when the message itself says “Click here to [perform some action]”. It’s like the feature is still in Alpha or is even a neglected, incomplete homebrew utility.
  7. The right-click menu sometimes breaks: right-clicking anywhere will give you a narrow column with no text items inside it. Restarting Explorer achieves nothing: a restart is required to fix this one. Like #4, this is new to either 8 or 10.
  8. The privacy issues around Windows 10 mean you either have to share your entire life with Microsoft or go without many of the headline features. I disabled all of them when installing it but there are reports that Windows still sends a lot more data to Microsoft than you might expect. I don’t like that.
  9. There’s also this issue which I discovered when setting up the OS for the first time.

Time To Make The Switch

The above has finally convinced me to make the decision that so many before me have made: to switch from Windows to Mac OS. I’ve purchased a Mac and my Windows machine is for sale. Goodbye, Microsoft!

The above is a list of reasons that I no longer like Windows. In a future post I’ll describe what it is that I like about Mac OS.

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