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Apple Macs (PCs) & MacBooks

If you're a Microsoft user, Apple computers may seem very different and odd to you - and the same the other way round of course! This is very much down to their very different Operating Systems (OSs) and their ways of working, but Apple Mac and iOS are really just like any other operating system, they have to do pretty much all of the same things that any other operating system has to do, they just do it a bit differently and, due to different priorities and considerations in the design, the User Interface (UI) is also very different.
The same goes for Linux and some other not so popular or common OSs, like Unix. In fact, these and most other OSs - other than Microsoft - were originally based on the Unix OS and, to a lesser or greater extent, have been developed from this over many years and no longer closely resemble the essentially industrial OS that Unix is. This is good news, as Unix is a very stable, reliable and generally safe OS.
On older Apple computers, the hardware was also very different, but later ones use the same processors usually found in Microsoft computers, so they have something in common now at least. The main difference though, is that you can only buy an Apple computer, Laptop, Tablet, Phone etc., that has been manufactured BY Apple, whereas Microsoft licenses other manufacturers to make Windows PCs and Laptops and install their software on them and also allows other manufacturers to make and sell the components needed to make a windows PC or Laptop, as long as they all comply with the interface Standards set by Microsoft and the other organisations that originated the PC (i.e., IBM).
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This means that you can buy the various components yourself and build your own Windows PC from scratch, which a lot of enthusiasts and gamers do - and you can't do that with an Apple computer - well, not easily, or legally anyway! It is possible to make what is often called a 'Hackintosh' though, which is basically a PC which runs Apple Mac OS, though it's nowhere near as simple as that implies. This is strictly for those with a good understanding of computers, as there are many pitfalls for the average person to attempt this.
Windows computers are far more 'open' to being built, configured and tweaked to the way you want to work. Apple computers are built pretty much the opposite way, you get it just the way it is and you are limited to how much you can personalise it, though of course you can change what the desktop, background etc. look like and configure some other operations to how you like them. Hackintosh machines are for someone who wants an apple Mac, but wants the freedom to build it the way he or she wants, with the components
they
want and at a price that
they
can afford and decide on - Apples can be rather expensive!
Most people tend to belong to either the Windows or Apple camps and rarely do people use both systems or even rarer change from one to the other. There are a few though and to do so, they may use what are called 'virtual machines' which run software that emulates a different Operating System, or environment, so that you can run a 'virtual Apple Mac on a Windows PC, or vice-versa.
This can also be used to work in a safer environment, as if an error occurs, or a virus is downloaded, it only affects the 'virtual' computer and disappears as soon as you close it down and go back to normal, re-start your machine, or simply start a new virtual session. These are for specialist use though and not generally for the general public, as they can be complex and difficult - though some commercially available software actually requires a virtual environment, so it's possible you might have come across it.
If you are an Apple Mac user, especially in a commercial environment, access to Windows programs and being able to easily view and share Windows format files, can be very important and convenient. There is software available that can make this easy, without having to go down the more manual virtual machine route, such as Parallels Windows on Mac software. This makes Windows software and files very easy to access and share, it even being possible to drag and drop between your Mac and Windows desktops.
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For most people though, if you have an Apple computer, you are very likely to be very happy with it just the way it is and quite likely to be in the art, design, or graphics business, or linked to it, as that is one of the traditional strengths of these machines and their software. Or maybe you were just brought up with it and that is what you are happy with. Whatever the reason, they are very good machines.
However, although the user base is smaller than for Windows, and Mac OS being based on Unix, that does not mean that you can ignore security, as it is still very worthwhile criminals targeting Apple devices, especially as people are often brand loyal (even more so with Apple) and someone who has an Apple Mac or laptop, are very likely to have an iPhone as well. In fact, iPhone ownership itself has certainly turned a lot of people into 'Apple enthusiasts' and encouraged the purchase of many an Apple MacBook laptop or Apple Mac.
Yes, Apple Macs, MacBooks, iPads and iPhones probably
ARE
a bit safer than a Windows or Android device straight out of the box, due to the way that Mac OS and iOS has been built on a Unix base and developed over the years, but, they are
NOT
invulnerable and, as iPhones have vastly extended the Apple brand popularity and that of their other products and therefore their Operating Systems, it has also increased the vulnerability of Apple products, simply due to the greatly increased user base of Mac/i OS, in all of it's varieties and releases. This has made it far more of interest to the criminal community! So, get to know your device and it's operating system, options and settings if you want to keep your devices and data safe - and get an Internet Security Suite or two installed!
So, what CAN you do to be safer when using a Mac or other Apple device on the internet?
1. Make sure you keep your OS up to date, including any patches. Check your security settings and make sure it is set to automatically download any updates and patches. To see if your OS is up to date (for MacOS Mojave (10.14.6), or Catalina (10.15.4)), go to 'System Preferences' from the 'Apple' menu and click on 'Software Update'.
If you are running an earlier version, such as High Sierra (10.13.6), Sierra (10.12.6), or earlier, you should consider updating to Mojave. if you can't, or don't want to, check that your current version is up to date by opening the 'App Store' app, click 'Updates' in the Toolbar and downloading and installing any available updates shown, until there are no more listed.
To automatically update in the future, go to the 'Apple' menu, 'System Preferences', click on the 'App Store' and select “Download newly available updates in the background”. You will then be notified when updates are ready to install.
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If your system states that your OS is up to date, that also includes Books, Calendar, Mail, Messages, Photos, Safari, iTunes and FaceTime.
2. Although not generally thought necessary for Apple Devices - and not available in the same way or quantity as for Windows and Android - there
ARE
some Antivirus and AntiSpyware utilities for Appleand are a useful addition to the already strong and safe Mac or iOS environment. Check out AVG Internet Security for Mac, Vipre for Mac and Malwarebytes for Mac.
3. The most important thing though, as with anyone else using the internet, whatever the device you're using, is to be aware of all the tricks that hackers and scam artists use to get into your system, go to our Be Web Aware page. The tips and advice here are just as useful and important to Apple users as they are to windows or Android users.
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This page was last updated on: 08 November 2023
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