A lot of people ask me about what kind of computer to buy. Unless you have to have a PC, a Mac is the way to go, for the following reasons:
- You don’t have to worry about viruses, nor install virus software. (At least until someone figures out how to write an effective Mac virus, which hasn’t happened yet.)
- Macs don’t come with a hundred useless pieces of software pre-installed on them. Nor useless stickers on the outside.
- The Mac applications for managing photos, music, and movies, are all the best of their kind.
- The automated backup system, Time Machine, is fantastic, and anyone who’s storing their photos and movies on a computer needs to be concerned about backup.
- Apple hardware tends to be better designed. And since everything comes from one manufacturer, it works better together.
- Integration with the iPhone and iPods is better and more seamless.
- If you’re near an Apple Store, the support and assistance you receive at the Genius Bars is amazing.
Macs are more expensive than typical PCs, but for all of the reasons listed above, I believe the total cost of ownership to be lower. And they’re definitely more fun to use.
That said, Macs aren’t perfect. Mac reliability is good, but not excellent. You get a year warranty on a Mac purchase; during that year, you can decide to purchase a two year extension, called AppleCare, typically for around $300. If it’s a Mac that you rely on, I recommend it. If it’s a Mac that isn’t “mission critical” and you can afford to be without it when it’s down, it isn’t as important that you get the extended warranty. Especially if you’ve been making backups, which Macs do automatically if you have a second hard drive. But even then, the extended warranty isn’t a terrible idea. (The only clear-cut case where I wouldn’t get the warranty is if I didn’t expect to own the computer for three years.)
To give you some background: I have AppleCare on my work laptop because I can’t afford to be without it long. Plus, it would cost $2500 to replace, so the $350 warranty is a drop in the bucket. On my wife’s laptop (which cost $1100), we don’t have AppleCare. If her laptop died, that would be unfortunate, but 1) she can afford to be without a computer for a few days, and 2) we’re keeping it constantly backed up, so even if we had to buy a new computer, it would be easy to restore it. Extended warranties are always difficult decisions…
If you’re going to be keeping anything important on your Mac (your music and photos count as important items), I highly recommend getting an external drive that can act as your Time Machine backup drive. The $200 or less that it should cost you is completely worth it in the case that your computer’s main drive fails. (In the best case, that can take hours to fix; in the worst–and most common–case, you’ll lose all of your data. You don’t want that to happen.) At a minimum, your Time Machine drive should be at least as big as your internal drive; 2 to 3x larger is better, but not required.