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Doug's Mailbag: Safety Record

Many of you wrote in with your thoughts of which is safer -- Windows or Mac OS. Here's the first batch of your responses:

I firmly believe that a Windows 7 PC is as safe as any other client PC operating system out there. If you leave the Windows Firewall in its default configuration, leave UAC enabled and install a good antivirus application, you should be as safe on Win 7 as you are on any other OS -- and maybe even more so. Of course, this presupposes that the user will not take any action to shoot him or herself in the foot, such as approving a UAC prompt to install an unknown application. There are some user actions that the best OS imaginable cannot protect against.

I don't have much sympathy for those who continue to run a 10-year-old operating system with expired antivirus, and then blame Microsoft for their problems. It's not possible to elevate Windows XP to be as secure as Vista or Win7, and it's not reasonable for XP users to expect their operating system to be as secure as one two versions newer. The 2000 car I just traded in was not as safe as the new one, despite the fact that they are otherwise very comparable.

Isn't the biggest reason why Windows gets hacked due to the proliferation of Windows, as well as the hatred of Microsoft, which make the hackers focus their attention on Windows?

We are definitely seeing a significant shift in vulnerabilities. The vast majority of vulnerabilities is being found in Oracle, open systems, Google Chrome, Red Hat, etc. The number of Windows vulnerabilities now can't compare to a few years ago. Maybe it is just me, but I like the fact that there is someone 'minding the store' -- constantly patching and updating. Who is doing that with the open source OS?

Macs still have the issue of cost and compatibility. Until that is more even, they will not be likely to overtake the market in the corporate world. Some think it is trendy to own a Mac, and others genuinely like the features better. It is true that not everyone can own a PC...

We all know that Macs are attacked far less often than Windows systems because, with less than 10 percent of the market share of Windows, they are simply a dramatically smaller target. Also add the fact that far fewer people are trained in Apple internals each year than those seeking professional Microsoft Certification -- that's a big reason why the Macintosh is less vulnerable.

All Apple 'security' comes at a price -- a price far too high for the bulk of the market:

  • Higher cost of entry: Complete Macintosh systems start at $999, $699 without keyboard, screen, or mouse. Complete Intel systems start $400 (laptops), with complete desktop systems starting at $450.
  • Few choices: Apple offers few optional upgrades on a limited number of models. With Intel, the options are limitless.
  • Apple technical support is exceedingly limited. Intel OEMs offer a variety of support options.
  • Safari is not 100 percent compatible with public Web sites -- you MUST download a third-party browser to get that compatibility back.

By installing one of the many free AV solutions available on the Web, almost all threats to Windows can be easily mitigated.

So no, I do not trust Macs more than I value what Windows has to offer me.

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to [email protected]. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/10/2011 at 1:18 PM


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