MacOS vs Windows: Which Desktop OS Is Safest?

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Still think Macs can’t get viruses? That outdated thinking puts you and your data at risk.


It’s a tale as old as computing itself: Macs can’t get viruses. It’s not true, but a new survey by security site All About Cookies(Opens in a new window) seems to indicate that far too many macOS users believe their systems are immune, even though they’re security-conscious about other aspects of computing—at least, compared with Windows users.

The survey of 1,000 US adults, conducted in June, asked a series of security-related questions. For the most part, users of both major platforms seemed to have issues at about the same rate, from viruses or malware to overall computer-repair problems. But when asked about the tools they use to keep their computers safe, far more Windows users than Mac users have installed antivirusfirewalls, and anti-spyware tools.

credit: & All About Cookies


More Mac users have embraced multi-factor authenticationID theft protection, password generators, VPNs, and biometrics. Yet Windows users are more likely to jump on getting system updates installed ASAP.  The only tool where there’s parity is password managers: 32% on both sides report using them. (That’s still a tragically small amount.). Further, 48% of all Windows users install updates immediately when they’re available while 34% of Mac users do the same. 

Again, these aren’t numbers to crow about, since system updates are so important to maintain security. But many people are wary, since we’ve(Opens in a new window) been burned before.

Back to that antivirus-usage dichotomy: All About Cookies also asked questions designed to find out which security and safety issues survey respondents have encountered on their systems. At the top of the list is that almost half of each OS group has contracted a virus. 

The platform with the higher number of virus encounters? Mac users. That’s right, the same group in which only 34% claim to install antivirus software. It’s seriously time to rethink that position.

For more information from the survey, including details on the breakdown between users that feel safe on public Wi-Fi or use browser features that are convenient but pose potential security risks, read the full report at All About Cookies(Opens in a new window).