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Choosing between Mac and Windows

Nothing gets more heated in the computer world than the arguments between Mac and PC users, does it really matter?

Regardless of the passion some people have for their computers, the reality is technology is a tool to help you to do a job. You need to choose the tool that works best for you.

For some people that is a Mac, for others a Windows system and for some neither Windows or Mac suits them.

Having decided what you want to do with a computer it becomes a lot easier to decide which you need. There are a number of other factors to consider as well. Probably the most important is what do your peers use.

What do your friends, relatives and colleagues use?

Modern computing is about sharing data, whether it's emails, photos or CDs. Your computer must be compatible with the people you share files with. Having the same type of computer as your friends, relatives and colleagues saves a lot of heartache and irritaiton.

Having friends and workmates who can help you is the quickest and cheapest computer support. Few of us know everything and find we have to turn to friends and colleagues to show us how to do things. If your computer is different to theirs then you can't turn to them for support.

If you are using your computer for work, then your computer must be compatible with your industry. Even programs that are available in both Mac and PC versions can have subtle differences that change your work. By keeping to the same standards, there are less potential problems and its easier to find staff and consultants that know your system.

What are you used to?

Your experience is important too. If you're an experienced Mac user then you will struggle for a few weeks getting used to the Windows way of doing things.

Windows users will spend some time scratching their head on how to do things, particularly closing programs, on a Mac. Dan Warne has a good description of the differences on his website.

Overall though, the superficial differences between the systems is not as great as it was. Both systems have made great strides in being more user friendly in recent years. Even the most sheltered Mac or PC user can quickly pick up how the other system works with some patience, time and curiosity.


In recent years, the price difference between Macs and Windows machines has narrowed dramatically. Apples are still more expensive but the price difference isn't as simple as it first appears and there are a number of factors that work in favour of the Mac.

Unlike PCs, Macs have a resale value while second hand PCs are pretty well impossible to sell. There's a thriving industry in selling even dead old Macs. This alone pretty well eliminates the 15% price difference.

Further in favour of the Mac, the total cost of ownership can be much higher on a PC. The cheaper Windows systems are not as well built as Apple Macs and are more prone to failure.

An even bigger issue is the cost of preventing and removing spyware and the other security problems that plague Windows computers. A couple of calls from your friendly neighbourhood computer tech will easily wipe out the price difference.

One plague on Windows computers is the use of trialware where free programs bog down even the most powerful new computer. While Apple aren't adverse to putting some of this stuff on their systems, it's nowhere near the plague proportions seen on many Windows computers.


On security, the Mac wins hands down. A user on a Mac cannot damage the system files or install viruses and spyware without the root password.

On Windows computers this is not the case. Until recently many software packages insisted on having full rights to the computer or they wouldn't work. This one issue is why spyware is such a problem in the Windows world.

While this has improved with Vista, there's still a big difference between the operating systems and the Mac is still ahead.


The better security of a Mac has created a myth that Mac users are invulnerable to Internet problems. While it is true that Mac users don't have to worry about spyware and the ten of thousands of viruses that are the bane of Window's users, Mac users still need to be aware of phishing and other scams.


This is where the Mac falls down compared to Windows. A lot of programs, including those designed for old Macs, won't work on newer Apple systems. While Windows can be coaxed into running almost anything if you have the time and patience. We know of people running twenty year old software on Windows XP systems.

It is true too that there are vastly more programs available for Windows systems. Most importantly if you have teenage boys, there are a lot more computer games available for Windows than the Mac.

It is possible to run Windows on modern Apple Macs, but you need to run the Apple Boot Camp or Parallels software. Both of these options require you to have a legitimate copy of Windows and Mac software won't run on them, which adds to the cost of an Apple system.

Overall, there's some very compelling reasons for buying a Mac. Windows will remain the dominant system given it's compatibility with older software and the number of people used to it. But everybody's needs are different and the Apple systems meet a lot of people's requirements.

We'd strongly recommend the Mac to households that are concerned about viruses and spyware. The ease of setup is also an important consideration.

For businesses, you should consider very closely what your business needs are what will work best for your customers and staff. Whichever you go for, we'd suggest you visit a number of computer stores to try out the various systems before making a decision.



PC Rescue Pty Ltd
Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
©Technology Publishing Australia, 2008