Should I buy a PC or Mac?

Nov 25, 2009 By Craig Crossman

Q. Our 6-year-old PC computer is dying a slow death and we are considering moving to a new iMac but have a few concerns. First, of all, we have several Word documents on our disk drive now that we want to keep and add to as well as many pictures that will be kept as well. What capabilities are available to transfer these files to an iMac? Is there a Word program for Apple? Finally, do you think our decision to change to Apple is the way to go, overall?

A. The question of whether to buy a PC or an Macintosh has raged on throughout the decades. Entire books have been dedicated to the topic along with countless stories that have debated the subject in just about every type of publication that remotely has anything to do with computing. You can't even turn on the TV these days without seeing vs. PC commercials. So I can assure you that the answer to your seemingly simple question won't be definitively answered in this short column. That's mainly because your question is actually a rather complex one and in the world of computing it's right up there with "What is the meaning of life?"

That said, let me highlight what experts typically point out regarding each platform.

On the Windows side:

There are many more PCs running Windows than any other personal . Because there's strength in numbers, more software is written for Windows so you will be able to find virtually any application you need. There are more games for Windows, more business applications written for it, scientific software, you name it.

There are more hardware devices made for PCs. These include video cards, networking products, even exotic peripherals. Bottom line is that if you are a hardware or , you want to make it available to the largest audience and that is still, hands down, a Windows PC.

Windows computers and products cost less than Macs. Apple owners will argue that two systems comparably equipped will be more evenly priced but I've seen some pretty cheap PC configurations out there that are hard to beat. Of course Apple pundits will further argue that you get what you pay for.

On the Macintosh side:

The hardware as well as the operating system is made by Apple. This means that Apple has control over what goes into their computer. Since developers have to follow some very strict Apple guidelines in order to make sure their products comply, you can be fairly sure that whatever you plug into or load onto a Mac is just going to work right out of the box. I'm not implying that Windows products don't work out of the box. They usually do but because Mac products have to be more compliant with each other, that results in a better user experience when adding something new to the system.

There's a lot less malware (viruses, spyware, etc.) for the Mac. It's not necessarily that the operating system is so invulnerable to these kinds of attacks. The same reasoning that works for those software developers I mentioned earlier also goes for those who want to rip you off and write these nasty programs. There are many more Windows PCs out there so writing malware for that platform gives you the biggest bang for your efforts.

As to your other questions, Microsoft makes their Office suite of programs available for the Mac and everything you created on the Windows version is completely accessible on the Mac side. In fact, you can run Windows itself on the Intel-based Macs. You also have the ability to run both Windows and the Mac OS at the same time and even move and run files seamlessly between them.

So to your last question, whether to move from your old PC to your Mac. A new PC will come with Windows 7 installed so you're going to have to learn a newer OS anyway. Why not visit an Apple store if there's one in your area or if not, it's a great reason to plan a little fun trip. After all, you're going to be spending another six (or more) years with your new computer so invest a little time in making the choice. Get some hands on time with a Mac at the store. Ask more questions. Then make your choice. Whatever your decision, it's going to be a big, powerful and fun step up from what you have now.
___

(Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology.)
(c) 2009, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: Madison, Wis., becoming a force in video game industry

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Apple sways potential users with Boot Camp

May 03, 2006

Offer a choice and they will come. This appears to be the situation with Apple Computer's Intel-based computer line, released this year as part of the company's conversion to Intel logic boards and processors.

Apple's Boot Camp Now Supports Vista

Mar 30, 2007

The Mac maker will now support Microsoft's newest OS, as well as XP, with its Boot Camp software, which allows Windows to run on its Intel-based machines.

Control all your computers from one iPhone

Jan 21, 2009

I've gone on record defining the iPhone to really be a mobile computer that can also make cell phone calls. It uses OS X, the Macintosh operating system to run software such as productivity, game, Internet applications and ...

Mac's Boot Camp spawns security worries

May 17, 2006

Growing up, we looked forward to the idea of increased responsibility. Once these responsibilities had been bestowed upon us, we wondered what the hurry to grow up had been about. Apple Computer may be finding ...

Apple to Use Intel Microprocessors Beginning in 2006

Jun 06, 2005

At its Worldwide Developer Conference today, Apple officially announced plans to deliver models of its Macintosh computers using Intel microprocessors by this time next year, and to transition all of its Macs to using Intel ...

Recommended for you

N. Korea suffers another Internet shutdown

7 hours ago

North Korea suffered an Internet shutdown for at least two hours on Saturday, Chinese state-media and cyber experts said, after Pyongyang blamed Washington for an online blackout earlier this week.

Sony's PlayStation 'gradually coming back'

7 hours ago

Sony was still struggling Saturday to fully restore its online PlayStation system, three days after the Christmas day hack that also hit Microsoft's Xbox, reporting that services were "gradually coming back."

Chattanooga touts transformation into Gig City

7 hours ago

A city once infamous for the smoke-belching foundries that blanketed its buildings and streets with a heavy layer of soot is turning to lightning-fast Internet speeds to try to transform itself into a vibrant ...

Uber broke Indian financial rules: central bank chief

7 hours ago

India's central bank chief lashed out at Uber, already under fire over the alleged rape of a passenger, saying the US taxi-hailing firm violated the country's financial regulations by using an overseas payment ...

User comments : 35

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

OBSL33t
Nov 25, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
sender
2 / 5 (4) Nov 25, 2009
Ubuntu and open source is taking fast root in the world of personal computing, if Jazz Inc. doesnt move Apple in the direction of optical computing then pc's will dominate the share markets.
ler177
Nov 26, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ET3D
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 26, 2009
Since modern Macs use standard PC hardware, it's not a problem to install Windows on them. You can do it side by side, in a virtual machine (allowing you to run Windows programs on a Mac desktop) or if you really end up disliking MacOS, format and just install Windows.

So IMO if the only point of consideration is the OS move (no big money issue, no specific hardware missing on the Mac side), getting a Mac and a Windows license will give you all the benefits of both OS's.
pseudophonist
3.2 / 5 (5) Nov 26, 2009
Sure you can run Windows on a Mac... but then why did you buy a Mac?
frajo
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 26, 2009
PC is not equivalent to Windows. In fact, any PC can do better.
Everytime I see an article which preaches that the choice is either Mac or Windows I'd like to know who pays the writer.
iknow
3.2 / 5 (6) Nov 26, 2009
one thing always fails to get mentioned .. price difference.... and comparable (nei Identical) PC will cost up to 40% less than a Mac, so if you want to use Win .. unless you really need a pasty white machine makes no sense unless you happen to be in music or design.

Also another major issue ... upgrading .. PC has a million parts that can be interchanged and upgraded as you see fit and not 1 PC I had stayed the same from build to death.
ET3D
3 / 5 (4) Nov 26, 2009
Sure you can run Windows on a Mac... but then why did you buy a Mac?

The reason doesn't matter. If you were a PC user and you found a reason to buy a Mac, then being able to run your favourite Windows programs is comforting. With time you might transition fully, if you like the Mac environment and you're willing to give up things not available on the Mac (like most games), but having the ability to run your old software in the first place makes it much easier to move to a new environment.
ET3D
2.7 / 5 (3) Nov 26, 2009
Also another major issue ... upgrading .. PC has a million parts that can be interchanged and upgraded as you see fit and not 1 PC I had stayed the same from build to death.

I'm the same, but most people I know don't upgrade (unless I suggest it and help them), and I myself have devices I don't upgrade, like notebooks. Too old? Buy another one. So while being able to upgrade is nice, I don't think it's a deciding factor for most people.

PC is not equivalent to Windows. In fact, any PC can do better.
Everytime I see an article which preaches that the choice is either Mac or Windows I'd like to know who pays the writer.

The publisher pays the writer. Since "better" is your personal opinion (if Linux was really better than Windows for most people, many more would have used it), it makes more sense to say that if the author suggested Linux (the unpopular choice) then someone in the Linux community paid him.
visual
1 / 5 (1) Nov 26, 2009
Apple does not offer traditional desktop configs at all, you have to go with laptop (MacBook), SFF (Mac Mini), all-in-one (iMac) or server (Mac Pro)

Of those, iMacs are probably the best fit for most average customers for use at home, but lack one feature that is bound to get very important in the near future - touch sensitivity.
Just google for 'multitouch all-in-one' and you will find several pc alternatives that are both cheaper and more capable than an iMac.
Royale
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 26, 2009
it's funny to see the arguments now at this point. i don't know any fans of Macs that would consider listening to a different suggestion. likewise for some PC users. the difference i've noticed is that most Mac arguments are baseless. mac people tend to use the commercials as arguments, and that is truly ridiculous. the argument that macs are better for graphics isnt even valid anymore. that actually comes down to drivers. mac developers have to follow strict guidelines so a standard video driver for a mac is more like a PC's QuadroFX or FireGL option. Quite honestly I'd rather use CAD in a windows environment with a Quadro card. i find that mac people are just like religious people. most arguments are baseless, but their devotion is so complete that you're wasting your time trying to convince them of anything else.
Bottom line: pick what you want, but stop walking around saying how wonderful it is just because you've been indoctrinated.
Yelmurc
5 / 5 (8) Nov 26, 2009
I own both a Mac and a PC and I use my Mac 90% of the time. My suggestion to anyone thinking about getting a new computer is to figure out what you plan to do on it. If you just want a PC to check email surf the web and edit video and photos then I'd recommend a mac. If you want something you'd use for your business or gaming, get a Windows Machine.

Like the article says, windows usually has more issues with compatibility. So if your buying a computer for a non tech savvy person, get a mac. I consider the OSX operating system more stable than windows. Apple also has stores in most areas so if there is a problem they can take their computer to the store and get help.

But if your more tech savvy and enjoy the open environment of windows. You may have issues with a mac. Upgrades and limited and its not really suited for gaming since most developers don't make their games to run on a mac. And even when they do, It usually runs slower on a mac from lack of optimization.
Temple
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 26, 2009
Not that anybody reading this hasn't made up their mind long ago, but Macs have considerably higher user satisfaction ratings.

More people that own Macs like them a lot more than those who own Windows-based machines like their computer.

Whatever your argument for the pros and cons, that simple fact should be noted.
NeptuneAD
3 / 5 (1) Nov 26, 2009
Personally I only own a Mac to stay familiar with them as I am a computer technician that works on both sides of the fence, Macs in general are not for advanced users unless you are biased, as you are suffocated by lack of options.

However I do believe that home users who don't know much are better off with a Mac, as they will be usually get less stressed out over them.

The biggest problem I used to have with computers was that they were sold with not enough memory, so as soon as they booted up, they started running like a dog with no back legs and got progressively slower the more they were used.

Thankfully memory has gotten so cheap that this is less of an issue now, as for upgrading, it doesn't matter if it is a Mac or PC, Desktop or Notebook, they pretty much all can be upgraded, and for cheaper than any shop can do it for, the only difficult thing is finding an unbiased technician for advice in purchasing in the first place.
bhiestand
4.7 / 5 (3) Nov 26, 2009
As a lover of both Macs and PCs, I have to point out one minor nitpick: the Mac version of Microsoft Office is horrid. It's not just a mac version of the same software, it's a very different office suite with a different UI and different features.

iWork is Apple's office suite, and it's much more user friendly than the MS version (Office 2008) but nowhere near as useful as the PC version (Office 2007). Keep that in mind if you're going to be doing a lot of document, spreadsheet, or powerpoint work... and make sure to play with all of the office suites before making your decision.

As for upgradability, I've done constant upgrades of every PC I've had for the last ~15 years. Aside from putting more RAM in my MacBook Pro when I first bought it, I've never needed or wanted to upgrade my Mac.
jgtravis
2 / 5 (5) Nov 27, 2009
This is the easiest question to answer in the world:
When someone cares for progress and productivity and user friendly machines and systems/software then do not think twice and simply go all the way and as fast as you can to APPLE and MAC.

Someone can stay with windows based software and PCs if they enjoy crashes, wasting time to fix bugs and the insulting complication of ALL Windows based software. Especially when it comes to graphics and quality throughout!!!

The change to an IMac, even to a new PC, like any change in life will cause some pain but only once. Staying with windows based masochistic nonsense is simply not on to any science publisher as esteemed as Physorg.com
Tesla444
2.5 / 5 (4) Nov 27, 2009
I have to agree with 'bhiestand' about the 2008 MS Office. I have uninstalled it on my Mac and use the older 2004 version.
As 'igtavis' pointed out the security issues with Windows make the Mac and OSX server the best choice for most small to medium businesses. There are thousands of programs available for the Mac and if you need a specific piece of software you can run it on Windows at the same time on your Mac.
I have used both systems and the Mac is hands down, no viruses, very secure & stable, ready to go out of the box, top quality customer service at a slight premium. The author missed the point on the virus issue. It's not the number of computers, its the bad design of Windows by Microsoft that still makes it vulnerable to; now over 500,000 viruses, etc. while the number of viruses attacking the Mac OS is '0'.
A little adjustment with the OS & a few extra $ will relieve you of a lifetime of pain. If you want games buy a Playstation 3 - w/BlueRay.
designmemetic
2.5 / 5 (2) Nov 27, 2009
It seems like all you do with your computer is use word and keep track of pictures. You're only complaint is what used to work well is now working slowly. Probably if the current computer (pc) is not having hardware problems you just need to give it a tune up. even a 6 year old pc runs word and a picture viewer fine unless you've gone 6 years of not being fragmented or tuned up. You could copy all your files onto a portable hard drive (you'll need to do that anyway, if you buy a new computer of either brand), and reinstall windows on your old machine and probably be very happy for another 3 years until you decide you want to do video chat online. But if you're shopping for a new computer anyway so you can start doing video conferencing over skype or other new features, it's a toss up. I use both pc and mac, but I told my sister to get a pc, because for what most people use the important thing is low price, not having to learn a new operating system, and compatibility with work.
Tesla444
2.3 / 5 (4) Nov 27, 2009
I have to agree with 'bhiestand' about the 2008 MS Office. I have uninstalled it on my Mac and use the older 2004 version.
As 'igtavis' pointed out the security issues with Windows make the Mac and OSX server the best choice for most small to medium businesses & its a no-brainer for home. There are 1,000's of programs available for the Mac and if you do need some specialty software you can run it on Windows at the same time on your Mac.
I have used both systems and the Mac wins hands down; no viruses, secure & stable, ready to go out of the box, top quality customer service at a slight premium. The author missed the point on the virus issue. It's not the number of computers, its the bad design of Windows by MS that still makes it vulnerable to; now over '1 Million' viruses, etc. Viruses attacking Mac OSX is still '0'.
Buy a Mac; a little adjustment to use a new OS & a few extra $ will relieve you of a lifetime of pain. If you want games buy a Playstation 3 - w/BlueRay.
riverrunner
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2009
Well I registered solely to tell anyone who might listen to get a mac. I am a professional web developer and would not want to work in this field without a mac. os x is good for professionals and novices alike. Sure I have windows on vmware but only to test sites in IE not for any other reason. I even use MS Office on the mac side - I actually think Excel is a fantastic program so I do not hate MS just to hate them.

Even if you stick with windows do everyone a favor and at least update your IE to version 8 or better yet install Firefox. the world will be a better place!
Bob_Wallace
2.5 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2009
Think about getting a netbook.

1) Inexpensive. A great little machine with a decent sized hard drive can be had for $300.

2) Very portable. I travel with one and don't even notice the extra couple of pounds.

3) Power saving. My ASUS pulls only 14 watts. Less than my CFL lightbulbs.

You can use your old Office software or use freeware. I'm using Google's document and spreadsheet software a lot because the files are saved on Google's servers and I can access them through any computer. Also, there's Open Office which is free and can do just about anything you'd want to do in the way of documents.

For home use get an inexpensive USB keyboard, trackball/mouse and a decent LCD monitor. All the functionality of a desktop, but still portable.

Get an external hard drive and store copies of your pictures there. Keep the external hard drive in a separate physical location for fire/theft safety.
Tesla444
1.3 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2009
re visual's comment: "Apple does not offer traditional desktop configs at all, you have to go with laptop (MacBook), SFF (Mac Mini), all-in-one (iMac) or server (Mac Pro)." PS: If you want MultiTouch by an iPhone.
I'm not sure which Apple site you checked but try apple.com & go to the store. The MacPro is available in the quad or 8-core version & is a standard desktop configuration except that there is NO Windows to allow viruses, etc to mess up your files. There is a Server software package available & a rack version of the Mac Server if you actually want to protect & secure your corporate files & your business. You can also by two other Mac laptops-MacBookPro & MacBook Air. Other that these few items you got it right. Enjoy your new Mac.
I also agree with 'riverrunner', I'm not crazy about Windows or IE, but I've used MS Word & Excel, almost daily, on my Macs since v1.0 on a MacPlus. They did mess up on the recent MSOffice, but they will correct that in the next version.
Tesla444
1 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2009
Bob_Wallace: re the Netbook laptop --- And all your files are on somebody else's computer/server, somewhere out there!! You could be setting yourself up to lose all your data. And what if they are using Windows Servers -- Remember the 1 million viruses, etc. "Save money -- Lose it all" may not be such a good trade off.
RogerB34
not rated yet Nov 28, 2009
Mac is ok but very expensive. I prefer the PC for cost and they can be upgraded inexpensively. I installed a large HDD in Aug and a motherboard in Sep. Both without reinstalling XP or apps. Upgraded from XP to W7 Oct with minimal reinstall of apps. W7 is a winner. Next new RAM and later CPU for a "new" PC. Flexibility allows spreading of costs over time.
austux
not rated yet Nov 29, 2009
Install OpenOffice on your existing cranky old PC. Once that has shown that it can read your MS-Word documents well, grab a USB Flash stick (2GB should be enough), copy the documents (& images) you want onto it, a bunch at a time, for each bunch click the safely-remove thing on the task-bar at the bottom, then plug the stick into a Mac, copy the files off again, erase from stick, safely-remove, repeat until everything is transferred.

Then you can forget MS-Windows, forget constant security updates, forget complex licence codes, forget over 150,000 different kinds of viruses, spyware, forget all sorts of nasty things.

Finally, bung a Kubuntu CD into the old PC, reboot, install, add all of the games (including educational suites & puzzles), give PC to kids. Kids will also be able to read old docs & images, but don't have the fancy, smooth OS X interface.
Bob_Wallace
1 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2009
@Tesla444-

First, files on Google's servers are a lot more secure (in the fire/theft/angry significant other sense) than those on the computer sitting in your house.

And I suspect Google will do a better job of staying updated on viruses than I will, even with a daily anti-virus software update.

Second, I don't put anything "dangerous" such as my Social Security number or credit union passwords in the clouds.

And - I took a look at Apple prices. You could buy a netbook for every member of the household for less than an Apple laptop.

Back almost 30 years ago I ran a business using a bunch of Apple IIs. I now am reminded why we moved to PCs. It's like paying $100 for a pair of $20 jeans because they've got the "in" logo plastered across the butt.
Paradox
not rated yet Nov 29, 2009
Bob_Wallace: re the Netbook laptop --- And all your files are on somebody else's computer/server, somewhere out there!!


Netbooks have their own hard drive. your information is no more "out there" than it would be on any other machine. the difference between a laptop and a netbook is mainly speed, and there is no DVD/CD drive. that's about it. Mine came with 1 Gig of ram, so that isn't even an issue.
Knightraptor
3 / 5 (2) Nov 29, 2009
Why is this article here?
A word pops into my head: Troll.
Bob_Wallace
1 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2009
@Paradox...

Perhaps you don't use Gmail. Or if you do you haven't clicked on the "Documents" link in the upper left of the page.

Any spreadsheets, documents, whatever you create using that software are stored on Google's hard drives, not yours.

And, yes my netbook has a hard drive. 160 gigs.
dtxx
3.6 / 5 (5) Nov 29, 2009
I have a friend who runs win on mac hardware simply because he likes the asthetics of their laptops. That's one area where macs excel.

It amazes me how much people use computers yet they want to learn absolutely as little as possible about them. You don't get in your car and go "oh I just can't get the rules of the road, and I can't be bothered to follow them." Guess what? You will be spending many, many hours using computers in your lifetime. Even just learning some basics will help you out a great deal.

I find Mac distasteful simply because they cater to learned helplessness.

vantomic
1 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2009
windows does not have more compatibility issues. it simply has more options. More options implies more compatibility issues, but it is not windows fault, just the developers. But i would rather have a million options to meet my personal needs than to have a f'in company dictate what I use.

here is my basic argument. I don't like anyone getting in the way of my development and deployment of an application. I want total access to whatever I want. This implies unix (and offshoots), and for popularity, windows. Being able to download any program and run it...even if it is bad...is my right.
MatthiasF
4.5 / 5 (2) Nov 29, 2009
After nearly 18 years of dealing with Apple, Microsoft and most of the major computer manufacturers, I would never suggest buying an Apple to anyone. Not only is much of their reputation mostly hype and lies, the reliability and ease of use often boasted just wasn't there.

I've owned or worked on nearly two dozen Apple computers in my life, and probably eight times the number of non-Apple computers, but Apple's hardware had far more issues proportionally than the latter. Issues that could not be avoided or repaired because of either bad design, lack of warranty support or unavailable parts. Nineteen out of twenty six units, all moderate or premium lines of their products, had issues that made the product either unusable or frustrating to use. That's more than 70%.

Meanwhile, of all the non-Apple computers, I can only think of eight machines that fit in the same category and two of those eight were highly-specialized machines that one might expect the issues inherently.
magpies
Nov 29, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Tesla444
5 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2009
Bob Wallace: You said, "First, files on Google's servers are a lot more secure (in the fire/theft/angry significant other sense) than those on the computer sitting in your house. And I suspect Google will do a better job of staying updated on viruses than I will, even with a daily anti-virus software update."
Actually if you have a Mac & back up your files (on & off-site), you won't need to do a better job than Google, since there are no viruses to worry about, you can just do your work with no worries about viruses or other malware or issues.

vantomic: I gather from the requirements you describe that you must be a Mac owner, the Mac meets ALL your criteria and more! Also, OSX is a derivative of UNIX which accounts for the lack of security issues. Note you can run Windows, MacOS, Linux & Unix, all at the same time on a Mac. Hope to see you soon in an Apple Store.

MatthiasF: Tell us the truth, you actually work for Microsoft marketing -- Right?? Good Try!
dtxx
1 / 5 (1) Nov 30, 2009
Since when is Unix secure?
dferrantino
not rated yet Nov 30, 2009
Any new PC you buy is going to come with Windows 7 and IE8 pre-installed, making pretty much all of the reliability, vulnerability, etc arguments completely moot. I've been running the OS since before it was released, and it's been solid as a rock. I haven't had any crashes, viruses, or compatibility issues, and the learning curve was virtually non-existent. Being tied down to expensive products was bearable when there was a difference in user experience. With the gap pretty much eliminated now, the difference is in price and choice, an area in which PCs have always stomped all over Macs.

Tesla - I don't know what world you've been living in, but you've obviously not touched a PC since 2001 and had nothing to drink but the Apple Kool-Aid. You really do fit the mold Royale proposed above. But I digress, keep on buying your overpriced everything, Steve needs people like you to keep his business running.
jimbo92107
not rated yet Dec 01, 2009
You're looking for the least amount of trouble, right? You can get a nice, new Acer laptop (AMD dual core CPU, 4GB, wifi N, 250GB drive) for about $500 bucks. You already know how to use Windows, so Win 7 won't confuse you. Same with Word, so stick with that. Otherwise, it takes a couple weeks to get comfortable using a Mac if you haven't used one before, plus they cost over twice as much. Download AVG, get rid of MacAfee, de-crapfify the new machine, and you're ready to go. Add FireFox later if you can't stand IE8.
vantomic
not rated yet Dec 01, 2009
windows all the way here. I'm an avid gamer though, so its amazing how much money you can save upgrading components. Its all about what you use it for, as others have said. some people have no idea there are pieces you can upgrade and probably should just get a mac so they never have to.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.