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Ding! Mac vs. PC cost analysis, Round II

August 9, 2007 12:00 PM ET

"My MacPro is now almost two years old. In that time, I have not run one utility to defragment its disk, optimize the system or upgrade software. The worst I've had to do is press the Enter key a few times when the computer upgraded itself (flawlessly each time). I don't know about others, but getting back 50-100 hours a year is a savings that has to be factored into the equation."

4. Software is cheap. Unless you're talking AutoCAD, Photoshop or Microsoft Office, software isn't all that expensive, folks. Just two hours of my time spent working on a Windows PC problem is worth far more than the average cost of most software programs. Even if you're retired, you have to factor in the time wasted wrestling with problems.

The point I'm trying to make is that, OK, so you may have to back your Mac purchase with an investment in software, but you had to do the same thing with your Windows purchase at some point. It's a cost of doing business. But more important, you can amortize the cost of the software against the time you'll save not wrestling with stupid PC problems.

The reliability factor

Mac users who have Windows in their past tend to agree on a simple point: The Macintosh operating system and its custom-tailored hardware make for a far more reliable, less trouble-prone environment than Windows. It's difficult to put a price tag on that advantage, but it's the advantage that I find the most compelling.

Remember the Yugo, a car introduced to the U.S. in 1984 whose main claim to fame was that it was incredibly cheap, woefully underpowered and highly trouble-prone? Yugos spent a lot of time in the shop. In considering the savings on the purchase price, Yugo buyers probably didn't factor in lost personal time, aggravation, repair charges and what they were paying for transportation when their cars were being repaired. This is the very definition of being penny wise and pound foolish.

I'm not saying that Windows is a Yugo, believe me. But reverse the picture: The Mac represents the most reliable vehicle you can buy (perhaps a Toyota?). There's a hidden value to having far fewer problems than average. And a big segment of the computer-using marketplace doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that.

That's why the single most frustrating thing about being a Mac user is the disdain with which some Windows users view Macs. Apparently, you're not a real man unless you're suffering with everyone else.

The thing is, I don't think Windows users (I know, I was one myself for many years before my conversion) give much credence to the notion that Macs are far more trouble-free. Because it's difficult to quantify, it must therefore be false. It's a subjective data point. As a longtime Windows author, reviewer and expert, I know that I felt that I could solve any Windows problem (and probably could), and as a result, the Mac's advantages held less benefit for me.

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