Mac or PC? How to Get the Most for Your Money

by Jamie Simmerman · 7 comments

Are you a Mac person? Or a PC person? Whichever side you’re on, when it comes time to buy a new computer, how do you really get the most for your money?

Benefits of Buying a PC

PC people love their familiar-to-operate computers. Windows is a well-known operating system and is the one most often taught in schools and tech classes. PCs mesh well with most popular apps, and they’re easy to set up with file sharing, printer sharing, and other commonly-used functions. Most people know a few basic PC tricks, like CLT+ALT+DEL, which will bring up a window to stop an unresponsive program or allow you to shut down a frozen computer.

PCs are fairly inexpensive, but you can purchase high-end systems if the desire strikes. The PC crowd often complains that Macs are too expensive and that learning a new Operating System is too much of a hassle.

Benefits of Buying a Mac

Mac people are often die-hard fans of all things Apple. Some use PCs for work or school, but prefer Macs when given the choice. The Mac interface is intuitive and easy-to-learn, and the Operating System rarely crashes or freezes. There aren’t as many viruses floating around for Macs when compared to PCs, and therefore, antivirus software is often free. Macs are nice to look at and have useful features like lighted keyboards and built in Cloud storage.

The downside? Macs are expensive. The cheapest Mac you can get, the Mac mini, currently sells for $599. In comparison, you can buy a brand new PC tower for $99 (or under). The laptop comparison doesn’t fare much better, with a MacBook Air coming in at $999 and a PC laptop at $199 (or less).

Getting the Most for Your Money

In my opinion, getting the most for your computer dollars depends mostly on what you plan to use your computer for on a day-to-day basis. Macs are better suited for high-end graphics, music composition, and hard daily use. PCs are better suited for everyday surfing, occasional graphics or music projects, and common activities like checking email, composing a document, or storing photos.

For most people, a PC is the best investment for your money. They’re easily replaced and repaired, and easy to use.

Why I Bought Macs

When I first starting writing, the advice I got from my mentor was, “Buy a cheap PC and run it ’till it’s dead. Then buy another cheap replacement.” This advice served me well for the first couple of years, but then I started running into problems. I was using my computer heavily everyday for research, writing, and email, and it just wasn’t holding up to the abuse. I was spending more time troubleshooting, maintaining, and fixing my PC than I was comfortable with. My cheap computers were costing me money by eating up my time and killing my productivity. So I switched.

At first, I was scared to spend so much money on a computer, and I was even more frightened of learning a new Operating System. Windows was all I’d ever known, and with Macs, even the familiar minimize and close buttons on the windows were in the wrong place! But I played around with a Mac in the store and found it was fairly easy to navigate. The sales clerk explained the dock, and I liked the logical arrangement. I took home my first Mac and loaded it with productivity software — it lasted for three years of heavy daily use. When it died, Best Buy refunded my original purchase price, and I went home with an updated smaller Mac with a new service plan and enough money left over to buy my first iPhone. That same Mac is still going after three years of hard daily use. Not a bad deal.

I do have PCs in the house — five, in fact. I have a high-end Toshiba laptop, three cheap laptops, and two netbooks. They each serve a specific purpose in our house, and they each give me their own brands of grief from time to time. But I still keep, repair, and maintain them. The one regret I have is spending $1,500 on the Toshiba laptop because, well, the thing has more quirks than beta app. The cheapy Acer laptop I purchased on a whim because the price was right rarely gives me headaches and runs like a racehorse. Perhaps I got a lemon, perhaps it’s user error. Who knows? But my experience with computers has shown that buying a cheap PC or a Mac yields the best results.

My Advice

Think carefully about what you want and who you’re buying for. For example, you should buy your student a cheap PC. They’re likely to have problems after banging it around in a book bag full of heavy textbooks, and replacing a cheap PC is much less painful. Just be sure to invest in a backup, cloud or physical, to keep you from losing your work and important apps.

If you’re just going to use your computer for light internet use, purchase a cheap PC. If you plan to run your computer eight hours or more a day, or if you need high-end graphics or music composition capabilities, the Mac is your best bet dollar for dollar. And if neither one fits the bill for your lifestyle, there’s always Linux.

What do you recommend? Tell us about your PC or Mac experiences.

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  • Priswell says:

    I switched from being a Windows user to being a Linux user. Linux and Macs share a common Unix background, but building and keeping a linux computer has been a bargain for me. I currently have an almost state of the art computer that I bought with Linux pre-loaded, and work it like a horse, but I know I could find an older computer, load linux on it, and use it for a secondary computer without any problems.

  • KM says:

    The article seems a bit biased (as all Mac users are). I have been using PCs all my life and rarely have problems. I only recently rebuilt my 8-year-old tower because it was too weak for the newer games and I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that PCs don’t hold up to heavy daily use. Besides, you are forgetting that PC users don’t consist solely of Windows users. Linux is usually so much more stable and pleasant to use, but its compatibility with the programs I want to use is quite poor, which is the only reason I use Windows. It has its quirks, yes, and it’s targeted by more viruses than anything else, but virtually everything is compatible with it. If you use a lot of programs and play a lot of high-end games, Windows is probably your best bet. I think PCs are also a lot cheaper than Macs for the same speed, especially if you can build them yourself.

    The only thing I see that Mac has going for it is usability for novices, shiny user interface (hardware and software) out of the box, and less problems with malware because fewer people target them. You can have the shiny stuff for PCs too, but you have to hunt for them, but I highly prefer that ability to customize anyway.

  • Ghassan says:

    Of course, a fun and frugal option for Mac lovers may be to take on a DIY project and build a Hackintosh. It’s not as challenging as it sounds, as long as you can follow directions. I had never built a computer before, and the desktop Mac I built last year cost me under $900 but runs like a Mac Pro that would have cost three times as much.

  • Meghan says:

    I was definitely leaning towards Apple for my next computer but now that I’ve had my iPhone a while, I’m not as sure. The battery life has diminished significantly and you can’t just replace a battery on a Macbook like you can on a PC (or at least I don’t think you can). I have to keep my PC plugged in but it’s also 8 years old. It still runs though!

  • Michelle says:

    This post came at the perfect time. I have a PC at work, and all Apple products at home. I do need a new laptop, and I almost want to go the Windows route.

  • Christine says:

    We’re kind of a Mac family. I bought my first Macbook (the old school black plastic one) years ago and the thing still runs pretty well except for a faulty battery. My husband is an amateur photographer and does quite a bit of photo editing and printing. The graphics/photo stuff I do is pretty minimal but it’s nice to know that as my capabilities grow, my computer will be able to keep up. 🙂

  • John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    We live in a split house – my wife is a die hard Apple fan and I’m a PC guy. I will say that she’s had her computer three years and has used it hard and their service is second to none.

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