Windows 10 and macOS are two of the most popular operating systems in the world. Both operating systems utilize security features to protect user data and minimize threat risks. However, both have different security and privacy standards. The competition between macOS and Windows 10 has been ongoing for years, and the question remains: Which is better for privacy?
MacOS is better for privacy and is a more secure operating system than Windows 10. At the same time, both operating systems offer similar security features. Apple shares fewer user data with fewer third parties and has a more secure browser (Safari). Windows 10 has a lesser reputation for data sharing.
- Windows 10 vs macOS Privacy
- Similarities between Windows 10 and macOS
- Windows 10 pros and cons
- Windows 10 Trusted Boot
- Microsoft Defender Antivirus
- Microsoft Store
- Software updates
- BitLocker Encryption
- Edge Browser
- Microsoft Data Tracking and Harvesting
- Find My Device
- macOS pros and cons
- M1 and T2 Apple Chips
- The App Store
- Software Updates
- FileVault2 Encryption
- Safari Browser
- Mac Data Tracking and Harvesting
- Find Your Mac
- Which is more secure: Mac or Windows?
Windows 10 vs macOS Privacy
This guide will look at the specifics of operating systems to compare and contrast their security and privacy features. Read on to learn more.
Similarities between Windows 10 and macOS
Before we dive into each operating system and its pros and cons, let’s first discuss the basic similarities between the two.
- Both Windows 10 and macOS offer boot-up protections. These protections are critical and ensure the security of your operating system and device. Both systems use secure chips to scan OS files before the files load. These scans protect the BIOS and ensure that all firmware and hardware components work correctly and aren’t compromised.
- Out-of-the-box malware and antivirus protection come with Windows 10 and macOS devices. Malware and viruses wreak havoc on computers. These malicious programs steal passwords, sensitive information, delete files, and — in some cases — damage a computer beyond repair. Any malware or virus infections can affect your computer’s security and exploit your data.
- Safe app stores are accessible on both operating systems. Windows 10 and macOS use screening processes before apps in their app stores are available for download. These processes prevent users from downloading malicious files that could harm their devices and steal personal information.
- Windows 10 and macOS offer automatic updates. These updates keep the computer running safely, securely, and efficiently. If automatic updates are disabled, both systems will notify users when it’s time to apply an update.
- All operating systems, including Windows 10 and macOS, offer built-in hard disk encryption capabilities. Both offer standard encryption as well as their encryption software. This technology protects sensitive information by translating it into scrambled code, essentially a cipher. Data is accessible by authorized users only.
- Both operating systems have their default browsers with built-in safety features. Windows 10 uses Microsoft Edge, and macOS uses Safari.
- Windows 10 and macOS offer a feature to find lost devices. When a device is lost or stolen, these features allow users to trace their device using GPS.
- Data tracking and harvesting is a problem with both operating systems. macOS and Windows 10 track user data and sell it to third parties. However, Windows 10 seems to track and sell more data than macOS.
Windows 10 pros and cons
|Boot-Up Protections with Trusted Boot||High Amount of Cyberattacks|
|Built-In Malware & Antivirus Protection||Few Extra Features|
|Protected App Store||Requires More Upkeep|
|Automatically Installed Software Updates||Edge Browser Is Less Safe Than Others|
|Find My Device Service||Data Harvesting and Tracking|
Windows 10 offers multiple forms of protection to keep your device and data safe. It includes boot-up protections, built-in malware & antivirus protection, a secure app store, automatically installed software updates, and a “find my device” feature that lets you find a lost or stolen device using GPS.
As of 2021, more people use Windows 10 than macOS.
Unfortunately, because Windows 10 is the predominant desktop operating system, it’s at a higher risk of cyberattacks. Hackers target it more often than macOS because it has more users.
Many Windows 10 threats target system vulnerabilities, meaning that downloads aren’t the only way to end up with a virus or malware. As a result, it requires more security upkeep to keep them safe. Fortunately, threats continue to slow over the years.
In addition to more cyber threats than macOS, Windows 10 runs on different devices, making it more vulnerable to attack. Each brand on which it runs has its own systems and configurations. That means that when Windows 10 runs, it’s at the whim of these other brands’ configurations.
Also, Microsoft has been under scrutiny for its data collected about users.
Microsoft Edge consistently gathers user data and sends it to third parties. Unfortunately, there isn’t much information about what Microsoft does with this information. Moreover, this data gathering is questionable in terms of security and privacy. However, Microsoft allows users to turn some data-sharing off, which we’ll discuss in this guide.
Windows 10 Trusted Boot
Before Windows 10 is booted up, it protects the firmware, operating system, and other files. It supports Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UFEI) and uses Trusted Boot for these protections.
Before the system boots up, the chips installed on the motherboard analyze the operating system files.
If there are any attempted unauthorized changes to these codes or configurations, the chips will prevent them. If the chips cannot prevent the changes, the user will receive a critical warning on the next boot-up.
Microsoft Defender Antivirus
Windows Security is the center for all of the security upkeep on a Windows 10 device.
Microsoft Defender Antivirus is the built-in antimalware and antivirus software on Windows 10. This antivirus software runs in the background and detects and prevents malware and viruses from compromising the computer and its files.
As soon as Windows 10 boots up, Microsoft Defender Antivirus is activated.
Microsoft Defender Antivirus runs quietly in the background and constantly scans for malicious files, viruses, and other security threats. Protection is in real-time, and updates are automatically downloaded to keep the device safe and protect it from security and privacy threats.
However, Windows users need to maintain this security. The operating system, third-party antivirus software, drivers, and browsers must be updated regularly to ensure safety. If users bypass updates, they’re putting their computer — and their privacy — at risk.
The Microsoft Store, available in Windows 10, boasts many apps for your computer or other devices. Microsoft verifies that all apps are safe and adhere to privacy, content, and security standards before they’re available for download.
These protections ensure that users aren’t downloading malicious files to their devices.
When developers submit apps to Microsoft, they’re scanned for any files that might harm the computer. If any packages in the app show malicious files, they won’t make it through to the app store.
Even though apps are screened before entering the Microsoft Store, they’re scanned again with SmartScreen upon download and the first time the app is run. In this guide’s “Edge Browser” section, we’ll discuss SmartScreen more in-depth.
Unfortunately, the Microsoft Store’s scanning process isn’t 100% secure. So now and then, an app with shady intent makes its way through. Fortunately, Microsoft is quick to address these issues.
Windows 10 constantly scans for and updates software to keep the device secure. These operating system updates maintain security and protect user data. In addition, Microsoft is known for taking a more proactive approach to discovering and resolving security vulnerabilities.
The update cycle for Windows 10 is very aggressive compared to macOS. However, these updates are critical to the system, as they detect the latest threats and prevent them from compromising the system.
Encryption secures your data by scrambling it into unreadable code. This data cannot be read without a sophisticated decrypting program, and only authorized users can access the information.
Standard device encryption is available on all operating systems, including Windows 10.
If you want to use Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption instead, it’s available on their Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions (not on the Home edition). In addition, some users utilize both types of encryption for additional security.
Windows’ native browser, Microsoft Edge, differs from its predecessor, Internet Explorer.
Internet Explorer was considered an inferior browser, so much so that it became a meme. So naturally, Microsoft has attempted to distance itself from Internet Explorer’s shoddy reputation. Microsoft launched Edge in 2015.
Edge has three privacy levels: basic, balanced, and strict. In addition, privacy settings in the browser are adjusted based on the settings you choose.
SmartScreen is a Windows 10 feature that protects the computer from harmful applications and files. It works in Microsoft Edge, Microsoft Store, and other browsers, including Chrome and Firefox. The program checks all downloaded files and applications to be sure they’re not dangerous.
During a Phishing Protection test by NSS Labs, Microsoft Edge with SmartScreen enabled blocked over 95 percent of phishing attempts and over 98 percent of malware attempts.
Edge is strong on security.
Unfortunately, Microsoft has a poor reputation when it comes to data collection. Their data-gathering methods are questionable, and because they sell this information to third parties, it’s considered a potential privacy risk.
Let’s discuss this further in the next section.
Microsoft Data Tracking and Harvesting
Microsoft has been scrutinized for its user data harvesting and tracking over the years. They’ve improved but still have a long way to go.
While Windows 10 has dozens of privacy settings, you must opt-in, as they’re not the default settings. However, enabling them all doesn’t mean complete security. It seems nearly impossible to obtain total privacy when using the Windows 10 operating system.
Microsoft claims they’ve significantly improved privacy and security, but much of the data is required for sharing and cannot be turned off. This includes user diagnostics, which are traced and include personal identifiers.
When Microsoft traces the websites you visit, your Cortana transcripts, and your location history, it includes your account information with that data. You can, however, delete the data, but less tech-savvy users might not know this is an option or how to delete it.
Unfortunately, you cannot turn off basic diagnostics, as they are set to “required” by Microsoft.
The amount of data that Windows 10 collects on its users is alarming. Microsoft isn’t transparent about what they do with this information, but it’s well known that companies often sell data to third parties as a significant revenue stream.
Find My Device
When setting up a Windows 10 device, users can activate the “Find My Device” feature. This feature lets users locate a lost or stolen device via GPS tracking. Unfortunately, the device must be connected to the internet and have enough battery power to send its location.
macOS pros and cons
|Boot-Up Protections||Cyberattacks Are Increasing|
|Built-In Malware & Antivirus Protection||Slower Update Cycle|
|Protected App Store||Users May Be Less Vigilant|
|Automatically Installed Software Updates||New Updates Not Available for Old Devices|
|Secure Browser||Data Harvesting and Tracking|
macOS’s system security includes boot-up protections, built-in malware, antivirus protection, a protected App Store, software updates, and a secure browser.
There is a common misconception that macOS is secure by default. Unfortunately, this is not true, and the belief could be detrimental to users more relaxed in their security behaviors due to a false sense of security.
macOS is vulnerable to security and privacy threats like all operating systems. However, Mac devices aren’t as prone to exploiting system vulnerabilities as Windows 10.
With that said, Mac recently surpassed Windows for the first time in cybersecurity threats. Most of the threat growth, however, is geared toward malicious downloads. Hackers may begin exploiting system vulnerabilities as they become more familiar with Mac devices, but that doesn’t seem to be a significant issue.
Data harvesting and tracking is an issue with Apple. However, they seem to sell less data than their competitors.
We’ll discuss Apple’s data tracking and harvesting more in-depth toward the end of this guide.
M1 and T2 Apple Chips
Apple uses the M1 or T2 security chips to maintain boot-up protection and additional computer security. These secure motherboard chips protect the macOS on startup. In addition, they verify that Apple authorizes the operating system and provides encrypted storage and security for Touch ID data.
These boot-up protections are automatically activated on startup.
The Mac won’t boot up if the chips detect a security breach. Instead, it’ll switch to secure recovery and attempt to resolve any issues. No matter which chip your Mac device uses, it continues behind the scenes to protect the operating system as it runs.
Like Windows 10, macOS also features built-in malware and antivirus protection through XProtect.
XProtect is a scanning tool that works quietly in the background when you open downloaded applications or files. This built-in antimalware and antivirus program will alert you to any files or apps that contain malicious data and prompt you to delete them.
It’s similar to third-party antivirus software but written into the operating system, making it speedy and relatively invisible. In addition, the software is regularly updated, keeping your device protected from the latest threats.
The App Store
App Review protects Apple’s App Store. This program tests each app developers submit before they’re allowed into the App Store for download.
For additional security, the macOS has Gatekeeper. Gatekeeper ensures that all apps are safe before you run them for the first time.
With this security program, malicious software is blocked and prevented from relaunching. Gatekeeper only allows users to download software from the App Store and verified developers on the web.
Unfortunately, Apple often allows apps that harvest personal information, which we’ll discuss in the “Mac Data Tracking and Harvesting” section.
When new macOS updates are available, users are alerted. Users who prefer automatic updates can opt-in to have updates applied when the Mac isn’t in use.
MacOS has a slower and less aggressive update cycle compared to Windows. Despite this, it checks for daily updates and applies them whenever available.
One of the major downfalls of the macOS is that after several years, old devices and operating systems can’t install or apply the newest updates. In these cases, the devices become less secure, and the only thing to protect them is investing in a newer device.
Similar to the Windows BitLocker encryption, macOS offers FileVault 2.
This encryption software protects all of the data on the Mac. For example, passwords are protected using the Apple M1 or T2 chip, and file-level encryption is activated.
Safari is the default browser on the macOS.
It’s touted as one of the most secure browsers available, as it has privacy protection technology built right in, including Intelligent Tracking Prevention. Intelligent Tracking Prevention locates trackers throughout the web and stops them from collecting personal information and data.
Privacy Reports are available via the Safari Toolbar. These reports inform users what trackers Safari has blocked and how Safari protects users during browsing.
In addition, Safari features full ad-blocking features, as well as secure password storage via iCloud Keychain. The one downside to Safari is its slower update cycle.
Mac Data Tracking and Harvesting
Apple is a closed platform, meaning the macOS is made specifically for Mac devices. This differs from Microsoft’s operating system on many other brands’ devices.
A closed platform has the potential to be a more secure system. However, it also means that there is little data about what Apple does with the data it collects.
Apple collects data, but not much is sent to third parties. macOS offers on-device processing, which is considered a major security advantage.
On-device processing means Mac doesn’t have to send user information to third-party servers. This dramatically reduces the risk of hacking or data interception.
In addition, data encryption is stored locally. Therefore, it isn’t accessible by third parties or Apple.
When the macOS does send data to Apple’s servers, Apple keeps the data as private as possible. Therefore, no personally identifiable information is sent with the data. For example, in macOS, Siri requests are sent to Apple’s servers, but your Apple ID is not included.
This is a huge step from Windows 10, which uses identifiers to track data.
Apple sets a high bar on user privacy. While other companies send user data to third parties and use it as a revenue stream, Apple sells its business using security. Yet, it should be noted that Apple still allows app developers to collect data from users directly. However, users can accept or decline specific app permissions when downloading applications.
When it comes to privacy and security, Apple isn’t perfect. But they’re doing more than their competitors.
Find Your Mac
If you lose it, you can find your Mac using the “Find My” app. The app locates the device using Bluetooth, whether offline or sleeping. Once the signal is found, the device’s location is sent back to iCloud so that you can retrieve it.
The process is anonymous and encrypted.
In addition to the “Find My” feature, the Apple T2 or Apple M1 chip supports Activation Lock, meaning that if you lose your Mac, you are the only person who can replace or reactivate it.
Which is more secure: Mac or Windows?
Even though Mac faced more malware attacks than the average PC in 2019, it still seems to be the safer operating system.
MacOS makes your data safer and more private than in Windows 10. In addition, macOS decreases the likelihood of hardware vulnerabilities, as it’s a closed system.
While Microsoft Windows 10 continues to improve security, its data tracking and harvesting are concerning. Tech-savvy users or those familiar with Windows PCs may be better able to disable any questionable security settings, but even still, browsing is never fully private.
With that said, both Apple and Microsoft could stand to do more to protect their users’ privacy and data. For example, data tracking should be disabled by default, not an opt-in feature.