The Great Debate: Are Apple Computers More Secure Than Windows?

For decades, the cold war between Mac and PC users has loomed large in the world of technology, with each camp touting the security of their operating system (OS). But which is actually more secure? The truth is more complicated than you may think.
We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Is Mac or PC more secure? It depends on the situation, including whether you use antivirus software.

Let's dig into the details to see how well the security measures of Mac and PC (Windows) systems stack up against each other.

In this article
Mac and PC security threats
Mac security
Windows security
How to keep your computer safe
Mac vs. PC security FAQs
Bottom line

Mac and PC security threats

While the internet is filled with useful information, helpful tools, and just about anything else you can imagine, its dangers are undeniable. From malware and phishing scams to hackers and fraudulent websites, the threats are endless. And they are only growing in volume and sophistication each year.

The people behind these scams are after your data and anything else they can steal, and they have no moral qualms about how they do it. That’s why it’s important for you, the user, to stay vigilant. To help, here we dive into the specific security differences between Macs and PCs.

Curious to see how iPhone security stacks up to Android? Find out in our guide for Android versus iOS security.

Mac security

Threat level

Chances are, you’ve heard it before: “Macs are more secure than PCs!” 

It’s a claim that’s easy to accept at face value, but is it entirely accurate? A large part of this claim stems from the fact that Windows PCs are targeted more often than Mac devices simply because there are more of them.

Another factor is that Apple has full control of all hardware on an Apple device, whereas Windows devices contract with multiple companies. However, these facts shouldn’t deter any Mac users from taking cybersecurity seriously. Their devices can still have vulnerabilities, which is why taking precautions matters.

Operating system security

Because macOS is owned and run by one company — Apple — this reduces the number of loopholes, backdoors, and inconsistencies that hackers can exploit. 

However, unlike iOS, the Mac operating system allows for downloading of third-party apps from destinations besides the Apple App Store. Users should be extra careful when downloading one of these third-party applications.

It’s also important to keep your operating system updated. While updating your Mac’s software can take time, it’s crucial to keep your device and online activities protected.

Browser security

Safari is Apple’s native web browser, and in general, it is fairly secure. 

It includes security indicators and malware protection as well as the option for advanced security features. Safari also gives you the option to customize privacy and security preferences, although the default settings are in place already.

Update frequency

While Mac devices generally have software updates available about every year, it’s not unusual to get several updates for bug fixes and security adjustments in between. 

This isn’t because Apple dropped the ball, though. It’s simply an added measure to help keep your user experience safe and convenient. It’s also important because hackers don’t operate on the same schedule as standard operating system updates.

Always keep an eye out for the notification that you should update your device as this will help you keep it secure.

Third-party security software

MacOS devices may have some quality security measures built in — like GateKeeper, which prevents software that hasn’t been approved by Apple from running on your Mac without your consent. However, you would still greatly benefit from using third-party security software as well.

A good place to start would be with the best antivirus software available, which can help protect your device against malware and other digital infections. Many of the world’s leading providers of cybersecurity technology have created Mac-specific antivirus software because of the unique characteristics of the operating system.

Downloading a virtual private network (VPN) can also help you prevent unwanted tracking, something that no computer is completely immune to. And when you’re worried about existing malware on your device, a good malware removal tool would help get rid of the programs that make it past Apple’s firewall.

Windows security

Threat level

Because Windows, a PC operating system, is more common than macOS, most current malware and other viruses are geared specifically toward these devices. That means that you’ll want to make sure you take the proper precautions when browsing the web or otherwise using your computer.

Operating system security

Since many of the core functions of a PC device are via third-party apps, there is much less standardization and cohesion in PC devices when compared to Macs. 

That means security measures for each one of those applications could all be different. So, while one application might be nearly impenetrable, another could have practically no firewall in place whatsoever, making it an easy target for malware and other cyberattacks.

Luckily, downloading a quality antivirus software like Webroot helps remedy that.

Browser security

Because a core part of a PC’s functionality is tied up in third-party apps, that also means it’s much more easily compatible with available third-party apps, including web browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox. Just make sure you pay attention to the security and privacy settings for each one.

All of these browsers are relatively secure. Both Firefox and Chrome are highly customizable and come with several privacy features. 

However, Microsoft Edge is the native app for Windows 10, which means it is tied in directly to the operating system and updates with the same frequency. This makes for a slightly easier experience in securing your browser if you are using Windows 10.

Update frequency

PC devices undergo regular software updates to improve functionality, fix bugs, and address any security issues. Make sure you update your device when it says it’s time. It could mean the difference between a secure online experience and contracting a virus.

Third-party security software

Because Macs are built on a closed system owned by Apple, most software developers engineer their apps with a PC device in mind. This means you have plenty of options for high-quality antivirus programs compatible with PCs. The same goes for malware removal tools and VPN encryption.

At a bare minimum, PC users should download a quality antivirus software to account for the slightly elevated risk of malware infection that comes with the operating system.

How to keep your computer safe

We’ve discussed a few of the tools available for keeping your device secured, but what other methods should you employ to stay safe online? It isn’t enough just to rely on third-party apps to keep you safe, so read our helpful guide to staying safe online to learn some best practices for browsing, including:

  • Understanding online dangers like pop-up ads that might contain malware
  • Using strong passwords
  • Using two-factor authentication
  • Installing antivirus software
  • Keeping your software updated — especially security updates
  • Securing your device when using public Wi-Fi
  • Learning how to spot online scams
  • Avoiding sites that don't start with https://
  • Avoiding oversharing sensitive information
  • Using a VPN on public Wi-Fi

Recommended antivirus software

Consider these antivirus services to help keep your computer safe:

  • TotalAV: TotalAV is user-friendly and provides everything you need in a complete antivirus solution. That includes real-time protection, malware scanning, and antivirus scanning. 
  • Get TotalAV | Read Our TotalAV Review

  • McAfee: McAfee is a longtime favorite for antivirus protection, and for good reason. You can take advantage of full and custom scans, parental controls, ransomware protection, and much more.
  • Get McAfee | Read Our McAfee Review

  • Bitdefender: Bitdefender provides comprehensive device protection at a reasonable price. Features include cross-platform malware detection and customizable scans.
  • Get Bitdefender | Read Our Bitdefender Review

Recommended VPN providers

Consider these VPN services to help stay safe while using the internet:

  • NordVPN: NordVPN is one of the most well-known VPNs, providing access to over 5,000 servers at an affordable price. It also unblocks Netflix and other streaming sites.
  • Get NordVPN | Read Our NordVPN Review

  • Surfshark: Surfshark makes sense for multiple users because it allows for unlimited simultaneous connections. You can also access over 3,200 servers with fast upload and download speeds.
  • Get Surfshark | Read Our Surfshark Review

  • ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN costs a bit more, but this premium VPN is often worth it for top-notch speeds and security. It also doesn't hurt that it's one of the easiest VPNs to use.
  • Get ExpressVPN | Read Our ExpressVPN Review

Mac vs. PC security FAQs


+

Can an Apple computer get hacked?

Though Mac’s aren’t as commonly hacked as Windows computers, there are still cases where hackers have targeted and successfully infiltrated macOS.

If you notice strange activity, like windows opening or closing without your consent, your cursor moving on its own, or slow processes, it’s worth running an antivirus scan to ensure your Mac is malware-free.


+

Is it easier to hack a PC or a Mac?

It’s generally considered easier to hack a PC than a Mac, but both devices could become a target for cybercriminals. To ensure your device is secured, you should install antivirus software and practice online safety no matter if your device runs Windows or macOS.


+

Is Mac antivirus necessary?

Yes, antivirus is necessary and you should install one on your Mac computer. According to data gathered by Securelist from Kaspersky antivirus reports, 26% of Kaspersky’s macOS users were infected by the AdWare.OSX.Amc.e malware in the second half of 2022, and the top 20 most common types of Mac malware also included Trojans and backdoors.

Bottom line

So, which operating system is safer? As is always the case with cybersecurity, there’s no easy answer. It’s not accurate to say one Mac is inherently more secure than one PC given the number of factors in play. 

For example, a Mac that has an outdated operating system is going to be more at risk than a PC stocked with antivirus software and an updated operating system.

Whatever device you use, you should always be careful online, use quality antivirus software, protect your data, and keep up with important software updates. When combined, all of these measures will help you maintain a safe digital life.

Online Protection With VPN Access and Identity Monitoring
5.0
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On McAfee's website
All-In-One
McAfee
Save $90 on a 2-year plan
  • Inclusive antivirus, scam, and web protection with the added privacy of a VPN, identity monitoring, and secure password manager
  • Get a real-time Protection Score that measures your online safety and offers guidance to improve security
  • Added peace of mind with 24/7 expert online support and McAfee’s Virus Protection Pledge
  • Multiple pop-ups for text notifications can be annoying

Author Details
Juliana Kenny is a seasoned writer with over a decade of experience in cybersecurity topics. She holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in Irish Literature, a B.A. in French, and a minor in Art History. Since 2010, she has explored the dynamic intersection of technology and security, specializing in endpoint security, cloud security, and networking technologies like secure access service edge (SASE).