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Buying a New Computer — Windows PC or Mac?   (Part 1)

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Buying a New Computer -
Should I Get a Windows PC ora Macintosh?


A number of readers have been asking me for recommendations on buying a new computer. Well, the first decision is whether to buy a PC or a Macintosh.

I used to recommend Windows computers for beginners because they have historically comprised 95% of what the world is using. Furthermore, they had always cost less than a similarly equipped Mac. But things have changed to where I can no longer recommend one over the other, but can only list some pros and cons for a buyer's consideration.

Windows vs Mac — Pros & Cons

A pro for the Mac is that it that it comes with one relatively easy-to-learn operating system, whereas Windows buyers must decide which of seven Vista versions to buy. Beyond this, none of the Vista versions have been the huge success they were expected to be and many PC buyers have opted to return to Windows XP.

Windows & Mac on the Same Computer

For those who would like the best of both worlds, Windows (XP or Vista) can be installed on a Mac, along with dual-booting capabilities. Conversely, no Mac OS can be installed on any Windows machine. Windows users, however, can configure their PCs to have dual-booting between Vista and XP.

Worried About Viruses?

Another pro for Mac operating systems is that, historically, they have never been the target of viruses. Many industry observers argue that this is because virus villains have had no interest in the Mac's relatively small customer base, but worry that this may be changing with the Mac's continuing upward sales numbers. Some even claim they have already found a Mac virus in the wild.

Computer Clubs — Users Groups

A pro for Windows is the fact that its large customer base has always meant it was easy for newbies to find other users to help them get started. Windows user groups abound, but Mac computer clubs tend to be few and far between.

As for specialties, Windows machines have always been the choice of gamers, while Macs have historically been the preference of those who create and edit images and videos. As for business, tons of applications have been written for Windows PCs, while relatively few businesses have Macs in their offices.

In any case, both Mac and Windows versions of Microsoft Office exist — at traditionally high prices. However the free suite is also available for both platforms and is MSOffice-compatible.

Bigger Is Usually Better — But Not Always

Once a buyer has decided on a platform, decisions must be made regarding RAM (random access memory) and hard drive capacity. A new computer should have no less than one gigabyte of RAM, with two being faster and more efficient with many of today's large and super-sophisticated programs.

As for which CPU (central processing unit) to buy, the Intel Core 2 Duo is the one most recommended by industry experts. Also, the reason Windows can be installed on new Macs is Apple's fairly recent switch to Intel chips.

Deciding on the size of a hard drive has become somewhat challenging since they are all relatively large nowadays (at least 250 gigabytes) and since external hard drives have become so relatively inexpensive. Having a huge hard drive is great, but having all your data on one giant drive could be disastrous in case of loss or theft. Always make backups of your important files.

Part 2 will be posted shortly.

Please Send your comments to:

© - Donald Ray Edrington - All Rights Reserved
Buy a Windows PC or a Mac?


Charles Finn
President, Oceanside Macintosh User Group

Dear Mr. Edrington,

I read with interest your piece on whether to choose a Mac or PC when buying a new computer. Thank you for taking a balanced approach to this often emotional (quasi-religious?) argument. As the president of the Oceanside Macintosh User Group (OMUG, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about our group and its programs. OMUG has been around for many years, serving all of north San Diego County. We hold our regular meetings on the last Wednesday of every month.

We do question and answer sessions and product demonstrations, and then have a formal presentation on a different topic each month. At our last meeting we had noted podcaster Adam Christianson speak to our members about podcasting, relevant technology, and how to find and subscribe to podcasts of interest. In addition to our general meetings, we have special interest groups (SIGs) that meet each month, including a Beyond The Basics group that explores software like iLife in depth, a MacEd class, and a Basic SIG where members and visitors can ask questions and get technical support for anything having to do with their Macintosh. Membership is $25 a year, and visitors are welcome at all of our meetings and events.

In addition to our group, there is also a similar organization in San Diego -SDMUG. We Mac users may not be as numerous as our Windows-using brethren, but we are organized, supportive, and friendly.: )

I hope in part two of your article you'll let your readers know that Mac users do have local resources. Here's a link to the official groups in California: locator/find/locate.cgi?state=CA

Thanks again,

Charles Finn

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