Tired of what Apple's offering? Here's what you need to know.
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With Apple making sweeping design changes and premium PCs enjoying something of a renaissance, plenty of die-hard MacBook lovers are playing footsie with Windows for the first time in years.
Personally, I recently switched after spending five years with my MacBook Air. I was tired of waiting years for an update that was never going to come and decided to give Windows a try. After several months, I'm happier than ever with the decision.
I'm not going to lie, though: the switch wasn't easy. Windows 10 has solved most of the major issues that kept me away years ago, but coming from a Mac is still a culture shock. Here's what you need to know to make the transition smoothly.
The number one rule of switching ecosystems is to just give it time. Even if you buy a laptop that looks and feels as great as a MacBook, it'll still take a few weeks to form new habits. Even basic things like learning where the "File" menu went in your favorite apps will take some time.
Typing is also a big frustration at first. Most MacBooks have very similar keyboards and switching from one to another is (a few exceptions aside) usually pretty painless. Because PCs come in a wide array of shapes and sizes, it takes time for your muscles to re-learn how to type at speed.
I typically type at about 100WPM. When I switch to a new laptop I can usually get around 75, but it takes at least a couple of weeks to get back up to full speed and re-learn how to do everything. Keep an eye on your return policy in case you just can't adapt, but don't underestimate the time investment.
The number one hangup I still have with most Windows PCs is how poor the trackpad feels compared to most MacBooks. Your
best bet is to get a laptop that has a Microsoft Precision Touchpad as opposed to one with a Synaptics Touchpad, but either can be tweaked to get pretty close to a MacBook.
Just don't expect a great feeling right out of the box. Even with a Precision Touchpad you're going to want to tweak things like cursor speed, scroll speed, double-click sensitivity, and you may want to turn off some of the fancier gestures on Windows until you get the basics.
I usually carve out at least 20 minutes now when moving to a new laptop just to tweak all the settings to get the trackpad to feel their very best.
The beauty of the Windows platform is that you can get a Windows PC in an incredible amount of configurations. With MacBooks you're limited to a couple minor riffs on the same design, but with Windows you can get a laptop, a laptop with a nearly bezel-less display, a 2-in-1 that can fold backwards to become a tablet, a laptop where you can detach the screen entirely, or a tablet with a cover that turns into a keyboard.
And whether you use it or not, the ability for the entire OS to adapt to work as a touchscreen is impressive. I personally ignore touch most of the time, but it's a great option for the few times I need it.
Even within these design segments, you have a ton of choice. Need a premium ultraportable with great battery life? Done. Need a basic laptop that's affordable and gets the job done? Easy. Want something that can tear through the latest PC games? No problem.
While you may want to just find a Windows PC that comes as close as possible to a MacBook without going nuts, Windows at least gives you a multitude of options.
One key difference between Windows and Mac, still, is the amount of pre-installed software. While Macs have gotten a bit worse about forcing you to use things like iTunes and Apple Photos, Windows PCs have gotten better about including tons of hard-to-uninstall apps.
Anti-virus software, in particular, is no longer the chore it once was. I have a decade-old PC at home that still won't let me delete Norton, so being able to easily ditch it in favor of the default Windows Defender app on a new, Windows 10 laptop was a pleasant surprise.
Of course, you do have another option now: Microsoft Signature Edition laptops. You can get these direct from Microsoft, and they come without any pre-installed junk.
While shopping for a Windows PC can give you the good kind of sticker shock, your first trip through the operating system may erase those good feelings. Windows is much, much more well-designed and functional than it once was, but occasionally you'll open an ugly app or settings menu and be transported back a decade.
Even if you don't find yourself dealing with that much, you still need to learn how to do everything. I'd wager most people who grew up with Windows still know how the Start menu works, but finding things like the options within a given app can be a challenge with many ditching the big options bar at the top of most windows.
For more advanced users, there is one tweak that will make the switch to Windows infinitely easier: swapping out the Left ALT key for a Left CTRL key. You don't realize how often you used the Apple Command key on your Mac until it's moved from right next to the space bar to all the way on the outside edge of the keyboard.
I used a simple, ugly app called Sharp Keys to remap the Left ALT key to act like a Left CTRL and was much happier. If you've used hot key combinations like CMD+A, CMD+C, CMD+V, and CMD+Z so much you should have them tattooed on your body, then this little hack is a godsend.
Just be careful: editing the registry can mess up your keyboard permanently if you're not careful and sometimes updates will reset your customizations. You also don't want to map both ALT keys away, or else you can't do things like CTRL+ALT+DEL. Also, this may break the ability to use ALT+* combos to input special characters.