Looking for a new computer? Think different.

laptop_glossyWhen you go computer shopping these days, your primary alternatives are PCs running Windows 8.1 and Apple Macintosh computers running Mac OS X.

Although Apple has made great strides in market share over the last several years, the vast majority of conventional PCs are still running some version of Windows.

If your aging or broken PC is running an older Windows version—Windows 7, Vista, or XP—you might be surprised to find that Windows 8.1, which was redesigned from the ground up, imposes a significant learning curve.

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Unhappily for Microsoft, a sizable number of impartial reviewers of its new operating system have been decidedly negative (see here, here, and here for a sampling).

Weighing all those factors, there’s probably never been a better time to consider a Mac. If you have to learn a “new” operating system when you buy a new computer, why not learn Mac OS?

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Full disclosure: my personal computer (the one I bought with my own money) is a Mac. However, it’s also relevant to note that my employer-provided computers through the years have been Windows PCs. So, I’m intimately familiar with both operating system environments.

Because both PCs and Macs support almost all of the most popular software applications and web browsers, some of the other factors to consider when buying a new computer are reliability, security, technical support, ability to run multiple operating systems, and resale value, as discussed in the following sections.

Reliability

Personally, I’ve found that the build quality of Mac computers is far superior to comparable manufacturers’ products, and that Mac OS runs longer and with more stability than Windows. But don’t take my word for it. Independent studies like this one back me up.MBP15_PF_iBooks_Maps_PRINT.png

Apple is consistently praised for its computer designs, and its Mac OS operating system is built on a highly reliable and secure open source Unix variant, FreeBSD.

On top of this Unix foundation, Apple has built an intuitive and friendly menu- and icon-driven user interface that pervades almost all software applications that run on the Mac platform.

Security

One cannot talk about reliability without also addressing security. Because of its Unix underpinnings, Mac OS X has not been fraught with anywhere near the problems that Windows has had with computer viruses, Trojans, and other malware.

canstockphoto6136116Microsoft has improved Windows security over the years, but Windows is based on legacy code that, unlike Unix, was not built from the ground up with network security in mind.

In addition, despite all its efforts, Microsoft still struggles to keep up with new security issues that emerge on a regular basis.

There’s no doubt that as the predominant platform, Windows is the most visible target for hackers. However, at the same time, an inherently insecure platform will continue to yield weaknesses that can be exploited, and this is true of Windows and applications (for example, Internet Explorer, Adobe Flash and Acrobat) that run atop it.

Does the Mac OS ever run into security issues? Of course. But they are exponentially fewer and farther between than Windows. That’s a fact.

Technical support

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If you have an issue with Windows, you will simply not be able to call Microsoft and get an actual human on the phone to help you. Microsoft would have you call the manufacturer of the hardware for support—Dell, Lenovo, or HP, for example.

These manufacturers have call centers, and if you’re willing to wait your turn, you can get through. Typically, if your computer is more than a year old, you will be asked to provide a credit card number, as support is not free after the warranty period ends.

Now, if you call Apple under the same circumstances, you will also be asked for a credit card number. However, Apple has a better solution, and it often doesn’t cost you anything. If you’re willing to take your troubled computer to an Apple store, an Apple “genius” will diagnose the issue and often fix it on the spot for no charge.

I’ve heard numerous stories of people bringing in equipment that is just out of warranty and Apple repairing or replacing the device at not cost. That is perhaps one reason why Apple has won independent customer satisfaction surveys 10 years running.

Run Mac OS and Windows

If you cut your teeth on a Windows-based PC, it’s reasonable that you may be reluctant to move to a different operating system. Two things: First, the Mac OS is similar enough to Windows that the transition should not be difficult. And second, if you absolutely must run Windows, you can do so on a Mac.Boot-camp

Apple provides a program called Boot Camp that includes virtually all the device drivers that you would need to boot your Mac into the Windows OS. The company also provides a well-written guide that is aimed squarely at the average non-technical user.

My wife, who runs her own company, has found that from a reliability standpoint, her heavily-used Windows laptops had to be replaced every two to three years.

Three years ago, I bought her a MacBook Air as a Christmas present. Being used to Windows, she insisted that I set it up as a Windows computer. She has never used the Mac OS on the MacBook Air. It is set up by default to boot into Windows, and she hasn’t had to give it a second thought.

However, for my own selfish purposes, I keep the Mac OS environment on her computer. When we go on vacation, and I need to use a computer, I can borrow hers, and boot Mac OS.

Resale value

Three years later, my wife’s MacBook Air is still running flawlessly, and she has no desire to sell it. However, if she did, she could easily get 50-60% of the original purchase price for her MacBook Air on eBay.

By comparison, 2- to 3-year old Windows PCs from Lenovo, Dell, and HP are selling for 15-20% of their original purchase price.

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What Mac should you buy?

If I had to make a recommendation, the MacBook Air with the 13-inch monitor is very nearly the perfect computer for all but the most demanding computer tasks. It is extremely lightweight, but with its all-aluminum construction, also very sturdy.mba

Apple recently lowered the prices on its latest MacBook Airs released in April 2014, which is just one more reason to check them out. If you’re in the market for a new computer, you will be hard pressed to leave the store without one.

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