This level of fluidity is unprecedented. In many respects it has never been easier to move from Mac to Windows or Windows to Mac.
Yet switching from one to the other or for that matter to Linux or a Chromebook can be trouble. It can be so much trouble that you need powerful reasons to move.
A missing HDMI port is not enough reason.2 At least not on its own.
Wrench number one is that most long-term computer users have invested in one or more expensive apps that don’t make a good journey to the alternative operating system.
This is less of a problem now that many apps are cloud-based or purchased as a subscription. It’s not going to worry anyone who uses, say, Xero.
If, say, you move from a Mac to a Windows machine, and use Microsoft Office then you can kill the MacOS account and download the applications to your new Windows computer in a matter of minutes.
You can keep your iCloud account active long after moving to Windows. Likewise, Microsoft OneDrive works well on Macs.
More specialist applications and games can be more troublesome.
There aren’t many third-party hardware devices still limited to only Apple or Windows. Printers, back-up drives, routers and so on can make the switch in minutes.
If you like a big screen or typing on a mechanical keyboard your old devices will all work with your new computer. Although you may need to buy a dongle to connect them to the ports on the new machine.
You may run into unforeseen compatibility problems between devices like phones or tablets. iPhones and iPads play nice with Windows PCs and Macs, but the experience is much better when you are all Apple.
Likewise, the flow between your Android phone and your Windows laptop will be different if you switch to a Mac. Maybe not worse; different.
There will be minor niggles.
Standardisation and convergence mean from a hardware and software point of view moving from Windows to Mac or Mac to Windows isn’t a big deal.
However, moving your brain from one way of thinking to another is harder.
This isn’t so much of a problem for casual users who don’t dive too deep into their operating system. There will be frustrating mysteries in their new system, but there already are in the old one.
More sophisticated users can struggle. All of us who work many hours each day with computers develop habits, learn shortcuts and productivity hacks to get more done in less time. These rarely translate from one operating system to another.
You’d be surprised how many you have accumulated over the years.
It can take hours to get used to the basics of a new operating system, it can take months to get to peak productivity.
This is why moving can be trouble.
Within hours of firing up a new computer with a different OS you’ll take delight in features that were missing from your old one.
Not long after you’ll start to wonder why simple things that were so easy with your old computer are suddenly hard — or even seem impossible.
You have to build this learning curve into your planning before moving.
If you are unhappy with what you have, if your frustrations have reached boiling point or if you like the look of that fancy new computer then by all means move to another operating system.
While changing may be rewarding in the long-term, in the short-term it could be harder than you expect.