The insight you need for choosing between a PC and a Mac

n January 2010 I made the switch in my law practice to Apple computers (the “Mac). Currently, I use a 21.5” iMac and a 15” MacBook Pro. Prior to that, we were using Macs at home. For all of my work and personal life I have use PCs running Windows – Windows 95, 98, XP, Vista and 7. I hope to provide some insights that are useful to you in your decision between purchasing another PC or switching to a Mac (my assumption is if you are “switching” it will be to a Mac).

In January 2010 I made the switch in my law practice to Apple computers (the “Mac).  Currently, I use a 21.5” iMac and a 15” MacBook Pro.  Prior to that, we were using Macs at home.  For all of my work and personal life I have use PCs running Windows – Windows 95, 98, XP, Vista and 7. I hope to provide some insights that are useful to you in your decision between purchasing another PC or switching to a Mac (my assumption is if you are “switching” it will be to a Mac).

1. Purchase Price

Money isn’t everything, but operating within the budget is important.  If your budget for the initial purchase is $1,000.00 or less, you are in the PC Market.  If you can go up to $1,300.00 to $1,700.00 you can purchase a MacBook Pro or iMac.  Consider this article by Harry McCracken, former editor of PC World, comparing Macs to PCs for the non-geek.

2. Switching Costs

In addition to the initial purchase price of the machine you choose, there will be other costs, particularly if you are switching from a PC to a Mac.

The primary costs of switching to the Mac is buying new software, if most of the software you use comes from a box or runs on your computer.  For instance, the Microsoft Office products (Outlook, Word, Excel) are available on the Mac, but you need a Mac-Specific version.  Also, the Adobe products you use (such as Photoshop) are available on the Mac but again you will need to purchase new software.  You also may want to use or buy a program that allows you to run Windows on your Mac, like the free Boot Camp or Parralells.  These applications allow you to install and run a copy of Windows (that you have already) on your Mac.

If you stay with a PC, you should not have to buy any new software.

3.  Fitting it into your work life

If you are going to use the new machine in your work, consider whether a Mac is going to fit.  Windows still runs most of business today and this does not appear to be changing.  If the critical software programs you use are Windows-only, you will need to either run Windows on your Mac or stick with a PC.

For me, it was our billing and calendaring programs that were Windows-only.  However, I decided that neither of these programs was worth expending effort on and I switched to programs that either run on the Mac or run in a Web browser.

4. Maintenance costs

The purchase price of the new machine is not the end of the costs.  PCs will generally require more maintenance than Macs.  PCs require anti-virus software and more susceptible to being infected with viruses.

If your PC breaks, you will have a lot of choices of places to have it fixed.  If your Mac breaks and you have an Apple store close, you can it there.  There is a better chance people will know will be able to help with a PC than a Mac.  

Some people argue that the overall costs of owning a Mac is less than a PC because of the total cost of maintenance.  Whether this is true or note, you will pay more initially to buy a Mac.

5.  Ability to Upgrade

If you spend to $600.00-$800.00 on a decently specked-out PC, you made be able to afford an upgrade sooner than if you spend $1400-$1700.00 Mac (either a MacBook Pro or iMac).

6.  What are you using your computer for?

This is an underrated but critical element.  If your primary uses of the computer are for activities that are done in a Web Browser (like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail), it probably does not matter whether you have a Mac or a PC.  Just find a decent browser; there are several good choices on each platform (Firefox, Chrome or Safari if you are on the Mac [avoid the PC version of Safari as if it were the plague]).

On the other hand, if you spend substantial time in programs that run on your computer such as Photoshop, desktop email like Outlook or

7.  Photos and Videos

If you work with a lot of photos and videos, a Mac may better suit because you get iPhoto and iMovie with every new Mac.  These are easy to use programs that provide a decent level of functionality.  Although PCs have improved in this area with the software that is free, the offerings are not up to the same standard as the Mac.  I am not certain I agree that iPhoto and iMovie are reasons in themselves to get a Mac, but they are definitely a plus if you purchase one.

8.  The Learning Curve

While you may end up loving your Mac in a way that is not imaginable with your PC, there will be a learning curve.  You will have to learn a different system.  Your learning curve period will depend on your skill and the amount of time you put in.  But in every instance there will be a learning curve.  With a PC, even if you are upgrading to Windows 7, there should not be an appreciable learning curve.

A couple of other things to consider if you are switching to Mac:

Check out the refurbished Mac deals that Apple offers on its’ website.  You can save around $300.00 and get a machine that is under warranty and usually indistinguishable from a new one.  My most recent MacBook Pro purchase was a refurbished model and it has been flawless.

  • I purposely left out the new MacBook Air announced today by Apple.  I recommend letting it come out and be reviewed for at least a month before considering it.  While the industrial design is gorgeous, you can get more computer for less money by buying a MacBook Pro

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Cazes Roberts, PLLC in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with wife Amy and my two children, Sam (17) and David (9). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."

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