Windows 8 vs Mac OS X Mountain Lion head-to-head review

A comprehensive look at the UI, software, security and business features to see which OS is top dog.

Security features

Security is a sore point for Windows fans and a weakness which Apple devotees use to claim OS X is superior. Apple's OS is rarely subjected to attacks because of its UNIX underpinnings and smaller user base.

However, the growing popularity of Apple hardware means hackers are trying harder than ever to find vulnerabilities in OS X. Cupertino has responded with Gatekeeper, which is a system that checks the unique codes in each application you install to your Mac in order to prevent malicious software from sneaking in.

Elsewhere, Apple uses its App Sandbox to filter out malicious code, runtime protection, encryption options, parental controls and privacy and phishing tools in Safari. There's also iCloud, which can be used to track down stolen or lost hardware.

Microsoft is trying to beef up security too. It's built in Defender app works in the background to protect against spyware and malware, but its free Security Essentials antivirus tool returned "dire" results when tested by our sister title PC Pro it's simply not good enough to protect your PC.

Options included in the standard version of Windows 8 are understandably designed for consumers. Secure boot prevents malicious software from accessing the PC before Windows even loads, picture passwords can be used with gestures to log in, and PIN numbers can also be used. There are parental controls, too.

Other security features are only available to those who use Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows 8. Encryption, Group Policy and domain options are only supported by Windows 8 Pro, and AppLocker, Network File System tools and Group Policy options are only available to Enterprise-level users.

OS X is the more secure of the two operating systems, but Apple hasn't rested on its laurels and has introduced several security tools and features. Microsoft has plenty of its own tools as well as several business utilities, but the awful performance of its Security Essentials package means that this round goes to the Mac.


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