How to Choose Between an Apple Macintosh and Other PCs

Nowadays Mac and PC are deadly enemies, both furiously boosting their products to see which platform will win. Which platform do you want to run? This guide will help you with your purchase decision to choose either an Apple Mac or another computer for personal use. All computers with either Linux, MacOS, or Windows installed are considered "PC"s (personal computers). But which one to choose?

Each platform has its own advantages and weaknesses, but any of these is a fine choice for basic computing. If you'd prefer to weigh all of your options first, it's helpful to review the differences between an pre-built Apple Mac, a pre-built Windows PC, and a custom-built PC.


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    Decide what you want to do with your computer. All computers and platforms will function well for casual computing, including web browsing, document manipulation, scheduling and management, and multimedia playback. However, there are some platforms which excel in specific areas:
    • Games. Many games are available for both Macs and Windows PCs, but this is one area where things are greatly skewed. If hardcore, cutting-edge gaming is one of your primary reasons for buying a computer, a Windows PC is advisable. The library of games available for the PC is exhaustive, and hardware specifically tweaked for gaming performance is much more readily available for Windows. Some of the more popular titles are released much later, if at all, for the Mac. There is no native DirectX support in Mac OS and Linux, although there are compatibility layers such as Wine and Cedega. If you're looking for a computer to play games on, focus on a PC. The array of graphics cards and upgradability also favor Windows-based computers.
    • Home Office. Microsoft's ubiquitous Office suite is available on both platforms, although with slightly different offerings, notably, the Access database module is absent from the Mac version. Apple has recently released iWork '09, which currently consists of an MS Office-compatible word processor called Pages, a spreadsheet application called Numbers, and presentation software called Keynote. A large number people regard Keynote as being far superior to PowerPoint for quality presentations. Beyond that, there are a plethora of third-party solutions for both systems such as the free software, as well as Sun's Star Office. Microsoft Office 2007 can be installed on Linux too.
    • Content Creation. Although Windows plays host to a score of Adobe's multimedia content creation software, the Mac has been home to these applications for a long time. Many professionals who need to create studio-quality content will opt for MacOS because of both its history and community involved in this field of work. The Mac has been long touted as an artist's choice. Even though this does not necessarily address the hardware or software differences of the platforms (there are little, if any at all), it does generate "buzz" that helps drive and market the Mac to professional studios. In turn, it generates a community of professionals willing to help each other with software tips and techniques. For instance, most Hollywood movie special effects are created on the Macintosh platform, including Pixar's successful computer-generated movies.
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    Remember that there are no limits. Learn the strengths of each platform. Any specific computer system that is sold as a PC, no longer has the same limitations of PCs decades ago. It is easy to be ensnared in this thought process, especially when fans of each platform emphasize specific strengths. There is no such thing as the best platform overall; there are only best platforms for each individual and their intended use. Strengths of each platform will help guide you to understand what best suits your needs.
    • Apple Mac: Historically known as an easy to use platform with powerful multimedia applications. These are no longer a Mac's primary strengths, due to recent changes in computer hardware and software. Instead, the Mac's strengths are focused on a no-fuss, pre-configured and pre-installed system with a variety of software and utilities to get even the most computer-illiterate users up and running in a minimal amount of time, with good user support. Apple laptops are also know for their sleek designs and attractive looks. Apple has been consistently ranked number one in product reliability and customer support by Consumer Reports, and for good reason. Since Apple designs the Operating System and controls all hardware configurations the end result is increased reliability and product support. Apple also has its customer support center based in the United States, unlike many other manufacturers who have outsourced customer support to other countries.
    • Pre-built PC: Many people run Windows because it's what they know, and what their schools, offices, and friends use. Some pre-built PCs are now shipping with Ubuntu or other Linux distributions. The strength of pre-built PCs is that you receive a pre-configured and pre-installed system that is ready to install most third-party software and be compatible with a majority of other computers in existence.
    • Custom-built PC: Sometimes viewed with a bad reputation, or viewed as an option that is 'just for computer geeks', custom-built PCs don't receive the proper respect or consideration when new computer users make a purchasing decision. Despite their reputation for high-end, specialized systems, opting for a custom-built PC to run Linux, Windows, or MacOS can be a frugal and rewarding choice. The strengths of a custom built PC are focused on price, performance, and freedom.
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    Be aware of any hurdles you may encounter. PCs of each platform have strengths, but they also have weaknesses that may hinder your goals and desired usage. No computer is perfect, and the same concept applies to all platforms.
    • Apple Mac: Weaknesses focus on price and compatibility. Apple desktops and laptops are very expensive when compared to other PCs. They are also very proprietary in regards to their hardware, software, and software licensing even though they're based upon an open source BSD kernel (Darwin). This brings a higher cost of hardware and services, resulting in a higher ownership cost. Though it should be noted that the average Macintosh user is more inclined (and more able) to keep a computer system for a longer period of time, resulting in lower average ownership cost.
    • Pre-built PC: Similar to a Mac, except without the price downside, and sometimes less proprietary hardware. Some manufacturers such as Dell and HP/Compaq will sell models that are very proprietary (power connection, motherboard size, system layout, etc.), yet others may adhere to component standards used throughout the PC industry. It varies by each manufacturer and their model. This in itself is a weakness. Also, Windows licensing has become extremely restrictive with Vista, and support for these consumer-level pre-built systems is questionable at best - many peripheral devices (printers, scanners, etc.) that worked with older systems no longer work with a Vista-running computer.
    • Custom-built PC: A weakness associated with custom-built PCs is that they are less user-friendly for new computer users. This may be offset with the help of friends and acquaintances who are able to build the system and offer advice. Yet, there is no denying that a PC built from individual parts requires a good deal of research and a high learning curve for non-technical users.
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    Research the nuances of each platform. Every PC and operating system has its share of individual quirks or benefits that are sometimes passed up as 'trivial' or insignificant. However, these nuances can translate into a world of differences for specific users. Below are individual features, aspects, and even models to provide a glimpse of each platform's individual features.
    • Apple Mac

      • Mac laptop (called MacBooks) trackpads has only one "mouse button", but you can do right clicks by tapping the trackpad with two fingers. Apple's current line of laptops allow you to right click by clicking the right-hand side of the trackpad/button. Connecting a regular 2, 3, or multi-button mouse will get past this limitation. Apple's 'Mighty Mouse' has been adopted as a Macintosh multi-button mouse, with a multi-directional scroll wheel, which comes included with the iMac (Mac Desktop computer).
      • An iMac is an all-in-one desktop computer, built behind a widescreen monitor. It includes built-in Bluetooth, wireless connectivity, speakers, a microphone, and a web cam. The power cable is essentially all that is required to run the computer. An iMac has a limited upgrade path, that my result in purchasing a new computer to perform an upgrade.
      • MacOS can be more secure than Windows since it's not often a target of virus and malware developers. This is mostly because it isn't cost effective for virus writers to target Macs, because Macs have a smaller share of the PC market. Mac is also built upon a BSD kernel (Darwin), which helps boost its stability and decrease its susceptibility to existing viruses.
      • The most powerful (and most customizable) Macintosh is currently the Mac Pro. It supports up to 2 quad-core 3.2 GHz Intel processors, for a total of 8 cores, up to 32 GB of 800 MHz DDR2 RAM, 4 1-TB SATA hard drives for a total of 4 TB of storage space, either up to 4 ATI Radeon 256 MB HD 2600 XT graphics cards which can support 2 additional 30-inch Apple Cinema Displays per card or one 1.5 GB NVIDIA Quadro FX 5600 graphics card, and 2 16x SuperDrives for the ultimate computing experience in gaming, design, video making, programming, server hosting, 3D rendering, and productivity.
    • Pre-built PC:

      • It is possible to get an all-in-one designed PC. Some examples include the Gateway ONE, the Dell XPS One.
      • There has not yet been a single widespread Linux malware threat of the type that Microsoft Windows software currently faces; this is commonly attributed to the malware's lack of root access and fast updates to most Linux vulnerabilities. Windows systems have the widest and best selection of anti-virus and anti-malware software available to them. This doesn't necessarily make the operating system any more secure than other platforms, but it does offer some of the best detection algorithms and scanning throughput performance of all other platforms. Where there is a need, there's a solution. Windows systems are frequently targeted by virus and malware developers, so third parties and stepped up to confront this weakness with powerful applications.
    • Custom-built PC:

      • A common misconception is that PCs are sold in drab, plain looking cases. In fact, there is a striving community of people who enjoy modifying PC cases, resulting in fantastic computers. These "mods" can be anything from a paint job, to gutting and cutting an existing case, or even fabricating an entirely new case. This is as much an endeavor for better cooling, faster speeds, and quieter PCs, as it is purely for artistic and aesthetic value.
      • Linux can be used with either a PC setup or a Mac and can be bought pre-installed from Dell online with Ubuntu Linux. Linux has much lower system requirements then Mac or Windows and is totally free and open source, because of this there are several versions of Linux to choose from. Linux can be used on just about any processor platform from x86 to the old PowerPC based Macs. The only problem is that if you don't know how to use the console in Linux (inputting commands, somewhat similar to MSDOS, or Unix startup in Mac) you will be missing out on a portion of what Linux has to offer.
      • Linux also is compatible with many Windows (and Mac) applications via software such as Wine and Crossover Office, and can emulate MacOS X with different software. Linux and Macs are both UNIX-based, so they can share some of the same codebase, making them both reliable options.


  • Recent Consumer Reports reports state that Apple has the best tech support of all computer makers. They solve over 82% of issues, more than second-place IBM's 69%.
  • Intel Macs offer the ability to partition the hard drive offering the ability to run both Mac and PC software. Bootcamp, Parallels, or VMWare Fusion will be needed to run PC software. Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) comes with Bootcamp as part of the standard software. Once Bootcamp is installed, a user can partition the hard drive and install Windows on the new partition. Using Bootcamp, a Mac will run Windows natively, so all Windows programs can be run and all hardware resources resources can be used by Windows. However, a restart is required to boot into each operating system. Parallels and Fusion both run in conjunction with OS X, so no restart is required, but both operating systems are slowed because the computer's resources must be split in order to run two operating systems at the same time.
  • If you decide on a Mac, you'll want to buy it either at an Apple Retail store ( or from the online store. Most mainstream retailers do not carry Macs (with exception to CompUSA, Best Buy, and a few others), so you'll probably end up going directly from Apple. Places like Apple's online store ( and MacMall ( are geared toward Macs and offer all Mac products. sells a limited selection of Macs.
  • PC systems can handle high-end video editing and high-end graphics as well as Macs, however, a PC with those capabilities can be found for less than a Mac. One advantage Macs have here is called Xgrid, a component of their operating system which allows you to 'link' the processors from multiple Macs together to form mini 'supercomputers'. This allows the user to used the combined processing power of all the linked Macs to render video (or animation) much faster. PCs also have this capability.
  • Consider refurbished models. They come with the same one-year limited warranty and the AppleCare extended warranty is available to extend it to three years of support.
  • Linux comes installed with many applications similar to those of Windows and Mac, but it depends on your distribution, different ones are tailored to a specific user-base.
  • Remember, Dell isn't the only option for pre-installed Linux computers. Among many others, there are companies such as System76, R-squared and ZaReason. Many of these have competitive (or better) prices to Dell and have better support for Linux. Tech support will also not be Windows-based.


  • Because Macs have a smaller proportion of users, there is less software developed for the platform, however the software is generally regarded as higher quality. When it comes to programs, Windows users generally have a huge range of choices, including commercial, open-source and freeware programs. Software choice on Macs can be restrictive. Linux also suffers from this problem of lower user-base and most Linux software is Open-Source and has fewer commercial software titles then Windows and Mac
  • Many internal components of some Macs are inaccessible and can be impossible to upgrade. Although the Apple Online Store allows these parts to be customized before ordering, a user may decide to upgrade again later. In a Mac Pro, most components are upgradable, but in an iMac, only the RAM can be upgraded. Keep this in mind before making a purchase.
  • Apple changes all the coding of their operating system every time that they make a new OS (even though this doesn't happen very often). This means that if you ran Office 2007 (or any other program) on a Mac, and the operating system of the Mac changed, you would have to buy an all-new version of Office to run on the new OS. All old Windows programs work on even the latest editions of Windows.
  • Although a Macintosh may have the speakers built in, you may notice that there is quality loss. If you want to avoid quality loss, you may consider buying another set of speakers to hook up to your Macintosh.
  • If you are switching from a PC to a Mac or vice versa, you will have to adjust to some minor keyboard differences (i.e., you will use the command key instead of the control key in most instances when switching from PC to Mac, or there's a windows sign instead of an apple).
  • Avoid the salespeople at "Big Box" electronics stores who usually know little about computers and a lot about this week's special offer. Talk instead to a devotee of either (Both is better) the PC or Mac platform before making your choice. Get both to show you what each machine can do with the software that comes with the machine. To find out if the salesperson knows about computers ask questions like "Will overclocking my processor cause any negative effects?" Answer: Void any warranty, if done incorrectly can cause your cpu to explode. If done correctly it will increase the cpu speed.
  • Windows usually upgrades their operating system every four to six years, and upgrades can cost anywhere from $100 to $400 depending on the version and the features you need (Business users, home users, gamers, basic users, etc). Apple usually updates Mac OS X no more than every two years, and the Snow Leopard upgrade costs $35. The latest upgrades(10.9 and 10.10) are even free. In a 6 year span you will spend $100 to 400 for a PC, and for a Mac you will spend $70.
  • When you do buy a new computer from a different platform then your used to, it may be a wise idea to keep your old one in case you don't like the new one as much as you hoped. This is also good if you have many documents, pictures, or programs on your old computer that still want to keep and use. Also it's just good to have an extra computer around, for your kids or whoever.
  • The new version Mac OS (10.7) will be compatible with many of Apple's more recent systems (Except for the PowerPC systems), and the new version of Windows (7) will work on many recent PCs. However, both may suffer from performance issues when installed on lower end hardware.

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