What operating system do most students prefer?

As an incoming freshman looking for a new computer, should I get a Mac or Windows OS? I will be taking an intro into computer science class and will be majoring in business.

Either will work just fine. Buy a laptop you like and can afford.


Both my kids (one engineer, one social science) are on Windows machines.

My daughter’s machine broke and the college lent her a machine which she kept for the entire year - not sure why. It was Windows.

At work, I’ve only had Windows.

But your school should have a computer suggestion/requirement page and you’d get a formal answer there.

I think my kids just preferred Windows but could have gone either way.

1 Like

Check with the IT department at your school and for your major. My D’s school had very specific recommendations.


The school department might have a suggestion on their website but in reality and your major it won’t matter. Use what your comfortable with unless the actual department says something different. For computer science you hook into their servers usually and use their software per se.


So we learned the challenging way. It can depend on the degree program. My daughter is an interior design student and the programs she uses do not work with a Mac. Does the college have a computer req page?

1 Like

It’s really a matter of preference. Either OS will work fine. Unless the school has a specific requirement for you to have a Mac or a Windows computer, they expect that students will have either one. Generally an “intro to CS” is familiarity with the advanced functions of MS Office and Visual Basic. That can be done easily on either OS. All you need is MS Office, which you can buy at the college bookstore.

Ah! This is a great example of how colleges differ. At leading CS schools, intro to CS is an introduction to computer science principles and includes programming, understanding of data structures and algorithms, etc. Example .

So the focus of the course will depend on where OP has matriculated. But I’m still pretty confident either OS will work.

Maybe that describes “intro to IT” from a business department, but that is unlikely to describe an “introduction to computer science” course at a college with a decent computer science major. Even high school AP CS principles and AP CS A do not fit the description above.

1 Like

Students get discounted or free programs. Don’t buy anything till they find out

1 Like

Well, it all depends on your preferences and budget. Both OS will be good for a student. I have Mac, and it works for me. There are all the apps I need for studying, and I’m satisfied with everything.
But I also know that some degree programs can have specific requirements, so it’s better to check that info

Depends on your preferences and the course requirements or what your department suggests. If they don’t have any preference, and you neither, then Windows will work better as most uses Windows than mac.

Once upon a time, Macs were dominant on some college campuses (because Apple’s heavy promotions and incentives in the education channels), and Windows OS were dominant elsewhere. Those days are long gone. Many oft-used apps are cloud-based and available to any internet-connected computers, regardless of what OS they run on. Almost all localized apps are generally available on either OS (occasionally, and usually temporarily, the version running on one OS may have slighter richer set of features than the one running on the other OS). So for typical college students, it’s usually immaterial which OS their computers run on. I can’t think of any college that would only primarily support one type of OS but not the other these days.

However, there’s a caveat. If your student will be into machine learning, I’d recommend a Windows based computer (PC or laptop). S/he may need/want to take a course on GPU programming. Nvidia and its CUDA platform dominates the GPU market (GPUs, not CPUs, are used in machine learning applications). Even though Apple has made great strides in its M-series processors with their GPU cores, they aren’t CUDA-compatible.

1 Like

I use a Windows computer that has about the same computing power as most Macs. It is plenty, and plus, most softwares that schools recommend will work on Windows. I have never heard of anyone with a Windows OS not being able to download software for classes, but I have heard of MacOS users having that issue. That being said, if you’re not sure, I would check with the IT department at your school. At mine, they say that either MacOS or Windows is recommended. So, both would work great.