Head to head: Windows 7 vs Snow Leopard

In the second of our series of head to head reviews, we pit Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system against Apple’s Mac OS X update Snow Leopard.

Therefore, at 65 from Amazon UK , Windows 7 Home Premium compares very favourably. However, as ever in life, things are complicated by the realities on the ground', which are that Snow Leopard can in fact be installed over Tiger, it's just that Apple doesn't want you to. And yes, students can get Windows 7 for 30, but that's just students, and only till January 2010. Equally, you could argue that Snow Leopard is really, just a service pack' and so should be free, but we'll have to move past that for this article.

With that in mind, the low price for Snow Leopard makes this a win for Apple.

Winner: Snow Leopard

Installation

Upgrading Windows has traditionally been a fraught process, but with every version of the OS, the installation has been increasingly refined. In our review of the Windows 7 beta we noted that on a well specced laptop with a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo and 4GB of RAM, a clean install tool only 25 minutes. Upgrading is always going to be a more complex, as the OS has to make changes to existing code, look after existing data and won't necessarily be on an optimised hard disk. Therefore, we're going to cut Mac OS X some slack for its 55 minutes install time on a, 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo equipped Mac Book Pro with 4GB RAM. Both processes are effortless though users no longer have to be afraid of upgrading.

Snow Leopard only asks for 5GB of free disk space when installing, whereas Windows 7 wants 16GB. Snow Leopard also gets extra points for freeing up large amounts of disks space. Apple says you'll gain at least 6GB of hard disk space, but in practice you can gain as much as 30GB.

Apple likes to give the impression that this is because Snow Leopard is so much more efficient, but in practice it's down to two things: the removal of many printer drivers that Leopard installed by default but that most people didn't need (now available via download) and the removal of Rosetta', the code that enables software to run on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs. Snow Leopard will only run on Intel-based Macs, so there's no need for Rosetta.

Either way though you do gain that disk space back, so it's a win here for Apple.

Winner: Snow Leopard

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