How much more expensive is a Mac?


2008 Mac Pro

2008 Mac Pro

When I tell people that I spent £1,700 ($3,000) on a shiny new Mac Pro, there’s usually a sharp intake of breath followed quickly by a “How much?!” and “You must be loaded!”. The trouble is it’s very hard to explain to these people where the true savings lie.

My Mac replaced a Windows PC that cost me in the region of £800 ($1,400) to build, excluding software. Add to that the Windows XP license, a copy of NOD32 Antivirus, ZoneAlarm Pro and Webroot SpySweeper which runs to another £200 ($355) remembering that with the exception of XP the other software carries a year on year renewal cost. Now we’re looking at a more reasonable £1,700 vs. £1,000 in the first year, although that figure still seems heavily biased in favour of the Windows machine. So where does the Mac make up the difference?

Time. More to the point… My time.

You see I value my time. Like everyone I like doing the things I want to do, and not so much the things I have to do, and that’s where Windows lets you down. Over the past seven months all my Mac has ever done is exactly what I’ve asked it to. On the other hand, my Windows PC has managed to consume countless hours of my time with various puzzles:

  • One Windows PC won’t connect to a share on another with a ‘not enough memory’ error, even though both machines have 2Gb. After much searching I find a registry hack is needed.
  • ZoneAlarm dies after one particular Microsoft update, wasting hours before I have to finally back out the change and wait for a fix. (I’ve now switched to Eset Smart Security).
  • SpySweeper flags some registry keys suggesting evidence of some really nasty trojan, prompting me to run full scans on everything only to find out it was a false positive.
  • Every 2nd or 3rd reboot of the XP machines results in a blank desktop, prompting further reboots until it mysteriously returns.
  • Outlook becomes unresponsive for no apparent reason and then refuses to load properly until the machine is rebooted. Ultimately I backup my mail, then uninstall and reinstall to try and fix the problem.

I could go on, but it’s a list that is very familiar to tens of thousands of Windows users worldwide. Net result is that I spend needless hours nursing my XP machine along, not to mention the stress levels and over the course of seven months that more than makes up for the higher initial cost of the Mac. Don’t get me wrong, Windows XP is the most stable version of Windows there is for a lot of people, and I dare say there are lots of you who could quote me stories of ‘reliable’ Windows machines. Truth is, I own one myself – it’s a PC running Windows 2003 Server that sits in the loft and backs up my data. Yes I do have the intermittent connection problem where the shared drive on the server disappears from the OS X desktop, but aside from that it sits there and does what it does – helped a lot I’m sure, by the fact that I leave it alone. (I’m currently assessing MountWatcher as a solution to this random ‘disconnect’ problem).

My Windows XP PCs (yes there are others lurking in my loft!) are now switched off most of the time, and when I need to run a Windows program I use VMware Fusion to do the honours. In fact I could argue that my Mac Pro takes the place of several PCs – my XP ‘leisure’ PC, my XP work laptop, my experimental OpenSUSE PC and the dedicated PC I use for remotely supporting clients, as all those bits of hardware are now virtual machines on my Mac.

Now that’s good value!

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