Readers Ask: Should I Buy Windows 7, Windows 8, Or Mac?

My recent post about why people hate Windows 8 sparked a lively discussion on the merits of Windows 7, Windows 8, and Mac. In the commentsFr. Jack Sweeley asked a number of questions that epitomize what everyone wants to know. You can read the previous post and comments here: Dear Microsoft: Why Your Customers Hate Windows 8.

Let’s start with Fr. Jack’s letter.

Dear Triona,

I need to get a new computer and have heard the hype about Windows 8 as well as how many tech people hate it because it is obtuse and does not really add anything new for home and small business users. Also, I have read to use the features on Windows 8, I will need to buy a new touch screen monitor.

However, as the hype goes, Windows versions below Windows 8 will become obsolete re: security updates and new software will eventually be incompatible with Windows versions below Windows 8. So, if I don’t want to be up the creek I need to get Windows 8 now and suffer through the learning curve.

So, I am in a quandary. My old computer keeps sending me “low memory” messages, if I have too many windows open the page fades and locks up, and sometimes I have to shut down the computer and restart it just to keep working.

Yet, I am by far the world’s worst technophobe, squeak by using WORD, and have no idea how an operating system works–and yes, I got sucked into VISTA because I needed a new computer when VISTA came out.

I am on the computer 10-12 hours per day. Much of the time I am doing research becasue I am a writer and need to have many Websites open at the same time. I currently have 8 completed manuscripts on my hard drive as well as 3 more I am working on. I also have about 300 commentaries I have written and over 1,000 photos I have downloaded from the Web.

Basically, I use the computer for my work, email, my 2 websites, and am building another website for my artwork. I am also planning to create a series of videos for Youtube.

What I am looking for in a computer is a hard drive big enough to hold my work with a lot left over and the fastest speed I can get for opening Websites and downloading material from the Web. Also, a desk top because I have tried my wife’s laptop and type like I have fumble fingers on it.

I have no idea about computer prices but hopefully can find something between 700-1,000 dollars.

That said, I don’t know anyone who uses an Apple-Mac–at least they haven’t told me they do–but given the already bad reputation of Windows 8 can getting an Apple-Mac be any worse of a learning curve?

So, my question is, “What are my options?”

— Fr. Jack Sweeley

Many people are in the same boat. You just want a working computer but you’re not sure which way to go.

Computer Crossroads
I have a question in return: What do you envision as your computer future?

We’re standing at a computer crossroads. Ahead lie three paths: Windows 7, Windows 8, and “Something Else”. Down the “Something Else” path you can barely make out a few more signposts: “Mac” and “Mobile” are the only ones you can read. Which path do you take? You’ll have to make some decisions.


Path Of Least Resistance: Stay On Windows 7

If you are a Windows user and want to stick with the closest thing to what you have now, consider Windows 7 – with a few caveats.

Bear in mind this is a dead-end operating system. Microsoft has dedicated its not-inconsiderable resources toward pushing Windows 8, to the point of discontinuing Service Packs for Win7. That’s a bad sign.

Also, there’s still a learning curve to Win7, although not as bad as Windows 8’s. Given that Win8 is the future whether we like it or not, you have to ask yourself whether it makes sense to learn something that you know is going away in the near future.

Learning Curve: Upgrade To Windows 8
Let’s say you’ve decided you’re riding this thing out at Microsoft’s side, no matter what. In that case you are committed to learning Windows 8.

The interface is designed for touchy-swipey and not the traditional keyboard-mouse. I’m interested to hear how that’s working out, for better or for worse. My anecdotal evidence so far indicates that Windows 8 is awesome on tablets but kludgey on standard PCs.

Windows 8 will take considerably more effort to learn than Win7, but Microsoft has promised big rewards for those who take the plunge. We’ll have to see if the results match the hype.

Gearshift: Move To A Mac
Some people think I’m a rabid Mac fangirl because of my Mac tech support experience. Actually I think you have to use the right tool for the right job, and sometimes that ends up being a PC.

But not this time. Given Windows 8’s uncertainty, I see no reason why every consumer out there shouldn’t go get themselves a Mac. It’s either that or wait around for Microsoft to figure out how this whole Win8 thing is supposed to work in the real world. Want to be a guinea pig? By all means – but if you want to know why Steve Jobs used to say “it just works”, get a Mac.

Are Macs are more expensive? Not in the long run. The lowest-end Mac costs significantly more than the lowest-end PC BUT – and I am basing this on 20+ years of PC and Mac experience – Macs last at least twice the lifespan of most PCs.

Worried about the learning curve? Don’t be. Apple has some nice starter guides for those moving from Windows to Mac (much better, in my opinion, than what Microsoft has offered for Win8). You should also read my advice about Mac antivirus: How To Remove A Virus From Your Mac.

Off The Beaten Path: Move To A Tablet
Some people have found that they can do the majority of their work (surfing the Web, checking email) with an iPad or other tablet. If you choose Microsoft’s Surface you’ll still be using Windows, of course, but there are a variety of options including tablets like iPad and Android and e-book readers like Kindle and nook (now partnered with Microsoft).

If you want to see my experiments with this, read my previous post: How To Ditch Your Computer For An iPad.

Pros And Cons By Task
Still not sure which path to take? Let’s go back to Fr. Jack and see if we can find the right choice for him. I’ve broken down the needs he mentioned into five basic categories.

  • EASE OF USE
    Winner: Windows 7, Runner-Up: Mac
    If you are a previous Windows user and want a reduced learning curve, Win7 is the closest to what you have now, and it comes with drawbacks as explained above. Hanging onto an old interface doesn’t seem like the best option to me, and Mac seems easier to learn than Windows 8.
  • WORD PROCESSING
    Winner: All
    There isn’t a computer out there you can’t use for word processing. If you want stunning-looking software go for Apple’s Pages app for Mac, but otherwise word processors have similar functionality across the board.
  • SECURITY
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: Windows 8
    Windows 7’s days are numbered. Security-wise it will eventually fall by the wayside and you’ll have to use Windows 8 for the best cyber-safety. The Mac is not immune to viruses (read my advice on Mac antivirus). But, in my experience, it has far less security troubles than Windows as long as you keep up with basic maintenance.
  • WEB DESIGN
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: Windows 7
    There’s a reason Mac is the standard in the design world. I am going to call Windows 7 as the runner-up because of the current lack of applications for Windows 8. I expect this to evolve in Win8’s future favor, however.
  • PHOTO AND VIDEO
    Winner: Mac, Runner-Up: None
    Hands down, what you want for this purpose is a Mac. Photo and video can be done on a PC, but what most people want is something that’s easy to use and produces gorgeous results. That’s where the Mac really shines.

Conclusion
For Fr. Jack, I suggest either Windows 8 or a Mac depending on whether he wants to stay in the Microsoft world or not. Personally I would go for the Mac. He can meet his target budget with a low end model, but I would bump up the budget to about $1,500 for additional processor and memory.

Stay Tuned For Part 2!
I sent the previous post to Fr. Jack, who had a number of questions based on my analysis. Next week I’ll post Part 2 where we’ll discuss word processing compatibility, hardware specs, and available Mac models. Want to stay tuned to Tech Tips? Subscribe by email, find Tech Tips on Facebook, or follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

What’s your experience? Do you have questions about whether to switch to Windows 7, Windows 8, or Mac? Ask in the comments!

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comments

  1. I use some very expensive software that has, in the past, interfaced with Microsoft OS. I do not want to keep having to buy new versions of this software because Microsoft keeps changing its operating systems. On the other hand, My current version is nowhere near updating and if I go to Mac I’ll have to buy new software now. Is there a way to run an AutoCad for Windows on a Mac?

  2. Deneane – You can do it by running virtual Windows on a Mac, via Parallels or VMWare or similar, or Apple Boot Camp but for that you have to reboot into Windows mode. Bear in mind, running Windows on your Mac slows it down because you’re effectively running two computers on one. With AutoCAD it’ll be worse because it’s such a resource intensive program. But the reality is, we can’t keep running old versions of software, because they require so many kludges and workarounds that they end up being more trouble than they’re worth. I know programs like AutoCAD are expensive (I use Adobe, I feel your pain) but vendors are experimenting with cloud versions and buy-as-you-need options. They’re recognizing that people don’t want to spend tons of money on software. Hopefully this will make it easier for people in the long run. In the meantime, I checked AutoCAD 2013 and it’s available for all three: Win7, Win8, and Mac: http://usa.autodesk.com/autocad/system-requirements/

  3. Ok, now that you are asking, here is my question. Eventually, I will have to order a $3000 to $10,000 office SOAP/doctor system. The company I am looking at suggests using a MS based system despite the fact that the system is also configured to run on Mac. As you may remember, I have had my share of problems with my last note system made for MS based that I used on my Mac (even though the company said the bootcamp made their system work fine on their Mac. Most software companies for doctors offices to my knowledge will not work with a Mac since they say to many problems (my experience agrees). Also to my experience, Macs do not work well in my office since every other thing I touch is MS based. The question is will this change or should I purchase a MS based computer when the bugs are worked out?

  4. At this point, Jeff, I suggest you wait a bit to see how Windows 8 works out as far as a SOAP/doctor system. Win8 changes the playing field radically and anyone who makes software for it is going to have to rethink their interface. In general Mac interoperability with Windows has steadily improved over the years, but ultimately it comes down to your choice. Whether you go with Windows or Mac there will be kinks to work out and features that aren’t quite what they said on the box – that’s universal to all computers.

  5. Hi Triona. First – congrats on a great blog. I just bought another PC (sad face) due to software needs. Some companies (Intuit) are in bed with Microsoft and the MAC versions are awful. I love my MAC and would have used it exclusively but PCs have a software edge. Sigh. I actually like Win7 but am furious that it is no longer supported. Vista drove me to MAC and with the Win7 news, I will never buy another PC. I’ll figure out another way to handle my software needs. By the way, I can’t imagine corporate America is too happy about this. It has millions invested in equipment and software. I don’t see business upgrading to 8.

  6. Linda – yeah, the Mac version of Quicken STINKS. It is totally unlike the Windows version and many people have trouble migrating data between the two. You would think Intuit would have figured out how to make a decent Mac version by now.

    Microsoft’s insistence upon Windows 8 to the exclusion of all other versions of Windows is only going to make people angrier. Yes, let’s change the interface then yank the previous, familiar version, that will make our users happy.

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