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Macs vs PCs

Because PCs running Windows are by far the most widely used system in the world many people assume they must be the "best" in some way. There are many factors which determine how good a computer is, and many of them are quite subjective, but I think there is a good case to say that a modern Mac running Mac OS X is the best general purpose computer.

Apple is the only company that makes the computer, the operating system, and a reasonable number of the major programs. Because of this the Mac's hardware and software just fit together better. Installation is easier, hardware and driver conflicts are rare (I'm talking about Mac OS X here, this wasn't the case with older systems) and updates in hardware and software stay synchronised well. In the PC world different components come from many different places so installation problems and conflicts are more common. Don't think these sorts of problems are fixed in Windows XP or Vista because they definitely aren't!

One of Apple's greatest strengths is in creating elegant user interfaces. What I mean by this is that how the user interacts with the computer, what the screen looks like, the consistency of design, and the attention to detail, goes away beyond Microsoft. Most users who have used a Mac and a PC for a reasonable amount of time prefer the Mac, usually because it just makes more sense and creates a lot less problems. Have a look at Mac OS X compared to Windows XP (and to a lesser extent Vista) - use them for a while to appreciate the subtleties - its like the difference between a classic artwork something designed by a four year old!

Microsoft's products are full of security holes and flaws. If you use a PC you will be in constant danger from worms and viruses. If you use a Mac you can almost forget about the issue completely. This means that Mac users calmly get on with using their computers for something useful while the PC users are trying to patch the latest Windows, Outlook, Office, or Internet Explorer security flaw. I don't want to claim that Macs are impervious to malicious attacks - but I do want to claim that they are a lot less susceptible to them than Windows. Maybe this is partly because Windows is more widely used, but its also because Windows is just intrinsically less secure.

There isn't as much software available for Macs as there is for PCs, but most Windows users are surprised at how much software there actually is. I have hundreds of different programs installed on my computer and I use them for many different things, and I never feel the need to use a program I don't have available for Mac OS X. The only area there is a lack is in games, but even then there are excellent Mac versions of many major games coming out all the time. Unless you are a real games freak, or have a need for a specific, PC only program, you won't notice any lack in the availability of Mac software.

And if there is any PC software you really need you always the option of running Windows on your Mac. This can be done three different ways: first, the Mac can be re-booted and started up with Windows so that is just like any PC; second, the PC software can be run in a virtual environment (Parallels and Fusion are the two main programs which provide this functionality); third, Windows programs can be run without even having Windows installed using a program like Crossover which provides its own Windows libraries and APIs. The problem with running Windows is that you have to either buy Windows (using method 1 or 2 above) or put up with limited compatibility (using option 3 above). Whichever method you choose it will cost you extra for the Windows installer and/or the compatibility software.

For and Against

This list summarises the advantages and disadvantages of Macs (running Mac OS X) when compared to PCs (running a modern version of Microsoft Windows and typical software)...

Factor Mac PC Winner
Initial Price Initial price usually higher Some models very cheap PC
TCO Lower maintenance means TCO lower Support costs push total cost up Mac
Maintenance Usually much less required Can be high maintenance Mac
Reliability Very good if set up properly Variable, can be very poor Mac
Security Extremely good, almost no flaws Extremely poor, constant issues Mac
Speed Latest Intel Macs are very fast Latest PCs are very fast Both
Ease of Use Generally accepted as easiest to use Poor interface, can be obscure Mac
Peripherals Most major types available A huge range available PC
Software Most major software available A huge range available PC
Innovation Many innovations developed on Mac Microsoft tends to copy Mac

So the PC wins if you want low initial cost (but higher support costs) or you need access to unusual software or peripherals. The Mac wins if you want a more reliable, secure, easy to use machine. Take your choice!

Discussion

Comment by Tom on 2006-09-21 at 12:58:41: Your information is a bit out of date. All Macs use the Intel processor now, so the speed issue isn't very relevant. Also its possible to run Windows software at full speed. This must make the Mac an even better option, doesn't it?

Comment by Ian A on 2007-01-02 at 08:06:59: Hmm, I disagree, Microsoft Windows does have its share of security flaws, but this is partially because 95% of the world uses it. With that kind of circulation more people work on finding its holes. Macs could have just as many holes, or worse security. Simply speaking Macs are not popular enough to be exploited. Also, Windows kinda has the networking edge. Thats all I have time for right now, bye guys.

Comment by OJB on 2007-01-02 at 18:25:46: Its true that the popularity of Windows is a major factor in it being targeted for malware, but that certainly isn't the whole story. There are several design features of Mac OS X which simply make it better. The fact that its based on a real multi-user OS (Unix) is one. Windows is just cobbled together from MSDOS. That makes a big difference. Also, what do you mean by Windows having the networking "edge"? The Internet was built on Unix. Macs do it much better!


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