Major Differences

1. The Mac is not a graphical interface running over a command line shell. It is a graphical interface. What you see is what it is, unless the icon is an alias. You can directly access the System Folder and its contents. You can also really screw it up if you mess with it and don't know what you are doing. For beginners, or those with children, I suggest you check your General Controls Panel, in the Apple Menu, Control Panels folder. In most later versions of System Software there is an option to "Protect System Folder", and I suggest you turn it on. It will not let you remove anything from it when this option is on.

OS X (that is "TEN" not "EX") changes all this, and puts a command line under a graphical shell, and many familiar Mac features are gone, with a host of new ones introduced.

2. The Mac lets you interact more directly with your files and applications. You can organize them in any manner you like, and there is no dialog box to go through to do it. Leave the System Folder alone, leave it where it is, and do not rename it. But other than that, you can create Folders to your heart's content, and organize things as you like. Keep all the parts of a single program in the folder the installer put it in, but put that Folder where you like, to remember where it is. I create the following folders: Applications, Documents, Games, Internet, Utilities. My kids know they can get into the Games folder, but to leave the rest alone.

3. No BIOS. No CMOS. When you do an upgrade on a Mac, the Mac recognises the item and uses it. You have to install drivers for some items, which usually means installing a control panel or extension, but there is no configuration under the operating system. Even a hard drive just plugs in and works. RAM upgrades consist of plugging the RAM into the slot and restarting. You don't have to use an Add Hardware control Panel to do anything.

4. No Windows Registry. The Mac is modified by Control Panels and Extensions. There is a Control Panel called Extensions Manager that lets you turn them on or off if you have problems with them. You don't have to know a command to open a hidden program to troubleshoot or to turn it all off to save RAM for an intense computing session.


Extensions Manager allows you to save Extension/Control Panel sets.

5. No 8dot3 file names for true Mac files. All file names, even in the System Folder have real names. Of course, not all of them make sense, but they do have actual names! The only exception to this is in hybrid CD programs, or graphic files that are cross platform (and an increasing number of programs that use PC files for Mac). Compressed files also have a 3 letter extension, but they do not have an 8 character limitation to the name before the dot.

6. Fewer Parts. More parts are integrated into the motherboard. This is an advantage and a disadvantage. It means that parts tend to be more expensive, but far easier to replace. The typical Mac case contains a motherboard, RAM, PRAM battery (comparable to a CMOS battery), perhaps a ROM chip, perhaps a VRAM chip or two, the hard drive, CD drive, floppy drive, and power supply. Oh, and a little speaker. That is all. No sound card, no video card, no disk drive controller cards, and ethernet is even built into some motherboards.

7. Macs and PCs handle memory differently. Actually, it isn't all that different, a PC doesn't expect you to do any of it yourself, unless you are a PC techie, the Mac expects that you can do some of it yourself, and that you are smart enough to do so. Windows automatically sets virtual memory (disk swapping to fake your computer into thinking it has more RAM than it does) and uses a changable amount of disk space to do so. You can only change this if you have a minumum of a degree in computer science (joke!). Otherwise Windows will bawl you out for being presumptuous. The Mac has a Memory control panel where you can tell it if you want virtual memory used, and if so, how much. And if you don't want it, but want to run on the heady speed of pure actual RAM, you can do so. But this also means that if you try to open 13 programs all at the same time, on about the 14th one, the Mac will scold you and tell you that you are going to have to close something before you can do that (if you have really limited RAM, you may have to juggle just to get two programs opened at once!).

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