Upgrading to Mavericks vs. Upgrading to Windows 8

Over the last 12 months, I have had the opportunity to upgrade both Mac OS X and Windows. Here I compare the experiences.

Moving up to an new operating system is probably one of the biggest moves a computer user will make – short of a reinstall of their current version.

The latest trend in the Apple, Microsoft,and even Linux world is to upgrade from a previous version, saving your settings, applications, and files – and theoretically saving you serious downtime while you get everything back to how you like it.

But is it a smooth experience?

Upgrading to Mac OS X Mavericks

Apple released OS X 10.9 Mavericks in October 2013 – a free upgrade to anyone running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard with a machine capable of running Mavericks via the Mac App Store. It is available to Snow Leopard, OS X 10.7 Lion, and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion users and costs absolutely nothing. It runs on exactly the same hardware as Mountain Lion. The process for upgrading Snow Leopard to Lion, Mountain Lion. and Mavericks is the same. Let me walk you through it.

  1. Turn on your Mac. If you are running Snow Leopard, you need to ensure it is updated 10.6.8 to get the Mac App Store.
  2. Load the Mac App Store, search for Mavericks, and click install. You might be asked to key in your Apple ID and password. (If you are installing any version other than Mavericks, you will be asked to purchase it.)
  3. This will set it off downloading, and your internet speed will determine how long it takes. Mavericks download is just over 5 GB.
  4. Once the download is complete, the install window will pop up on your desktop. Click Continue and follow any onscreen instructions, then sit back and let it do its thing. It will restart and possibly spend time updating further files. Once finally rebooted, you are ready to enjoy your new version of OS X.

As ever, Apple makes things so simple. You won’t run into hardware or driver issues. Each version of Mac OS X is either compatible with your Mac or not, and if it isn’t, Apple won’t let you download it.

Upgrading to Windows 8

My kids have a fairly powerful PC tower, a 2 GHz Core 2 Duo with 6 GB RAM, 120 GB hard drive, and a 1 GB PCIe video card. It was running Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit version, and despite Vista’s reputation, I quite liked it.

However, when Microsoft released Windows 8, they offered an upgrade version at a ridiculously reduced price of £24.99 until 2013.01.31, after which it would rocket to the normal £120+ price tag. Was this a counterattack at Apple’s new pricing scheme, or was it an attempt to pull more users from the aging Windows XP and Vista?

Whatever the reasoning, it worked. I bought it.

Microsoft simplified versioning, offering Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, Windows 8 Enterprise, and Windows 8 RT – but still offers 32-bit and 64-bit. While Apple has moved to a fully 64-bit OS that is backward compatible with 32-bit software, Microsoft are still sitting on the fence and offering two separate purchasable versions.

Upgrading to Windows 8 from Vista was also a fairly simple process.

  1. Download the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant and run it. This checks whether your system meets the requirements and which version of Windows your machine needs. As I was running Vista 64-bit, it told me I would be getting Windows 8 64-bit.
  2. Once the Upgrade Assistant has determined that your machine is compatible and what version you need, you purchase it. I paid only £24.99, but now it is at the full price of £120+, a hefty price tag.
  3. After purchasing, downloading will start. It is a 3 GB download,and how long it takes depends on your connection speed.
  4. Once the download portion is complete, you will be faced with other options such as install now – but a handy option (not offered by Mac OS X) is the chance to create installation media or save as an ISO. Beware. If you do not create media/ISO now, you will not be able to do it later.
  5. If you create media/ISO, you will be taken out of the installer and expected to run the installation from the media/ISO you create. If you continue with the installer, follow the onscreen instructions.
  6. Both installing straight and running the ISO should present the following screens: Installation code, accept the licence terms, whether you want to keep files or nothing, then click install. Then sit back and watch it install and do its thing.
  7. It will reboot and then ask you to personalise and set up your account, and then you can watch the colourful psychedelic “we are setting up your computer” screen, and then presto, you will be faced with the tiled interface formerly called Metro ready to enjoy your Windows 8 experience.


Both operating systems expect you to have an existing compatible version installed. Apple make it very easy, simply loading the Mac App Store and downloading it. Microsoft’s Upgrade Assistant is a bit more complicated and clunky, but it does a good job of determining which version you need.

Apple, as always, has no installation codes, whereas Microsoft requires you to input the code from your purchase email.

Redownloading and Creating a Backup ISO

Apple make downloading the installer very easy, and if you have already purchased it, all you have to do is log in to the Mac App Store with your ID, and re-download it. However, they make no mention of saving the ISO file for future use. You need to save the DMG file from within the installer packager before upgrading, as installing will delete the installation files.

This used to require going in manually and using Disk Utility to create a bootable disc from the InstallESD.dmg, but DiskMaker X (formerly known as LionDiskMaker) can take the leg work out of it.

With Windows 8, I seriously suggest you save the ISO when asked if you want to in the installer screen, as there is no way to do this afterwards.

My kids’ PC recently went wrong. I messed with the bootloader while trying to dual boot with Linux, and after a few tricks not working, I decided to use the Windows DVD to try to fix the problems, but I didn’t have one backed up. I called Microsoft and was passed to various representatives only to be finally told there was no way to re-download the ISO. My only option was to purchase it again.

I think not.

Luckily I had my original purchase email, which had a link to download the ISO. However, this wouldn’t work on a Mac, as it was an EXE file. I had another machine running Windows XP, so I loaded up my email and tried to download, only to be faced with “this computer is not compatible”.

I then tried loading Windows 7 (a legit free ISO from Digital River) in a virtual machine (VM) on my Mac, only to be told the VM wasn’t compatible, because it only hit 1 GHz, and that wasn’t compatible with Windows 8.

In the end I had to wipe the hard drive on the problem PC and start from scratch. I had to installed Vista 64-bit again, just so I could redo the whole Windows 8 download process.

Needless to say, I saved the ISO and backed it up on my external storage.


Both Mac OS X and Windows 8 are very easy to upgrade to from a previous version. Both require a download and can run the installer from within an existing installation, making it very easy.

Apple make it easy to re-download but give you no option to save an ISO, while Microsoft make it near on impossible to re-download but do give you the option to create media or save an ISO direct from the installation screen.

Apple have always made upgrading very easy, and I have never had any issues with it. Microsoft have offered upgrading for quite a while, but I have always run in to driver issues.

However, I have to say in Windows 8 defence that it detected every piece of hardware in my PC, including the WiFi USB stick (which Vista didn’t). This is the first time hardware problems haven’t arisen for me in Windows.

I am not going to get in to which OS is better; this is a comparison of installation options from upgrading.

I hope you enjoy this comparison.

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