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Understanding the ownership costs of personal computers

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

PC users often think that once they bought the machine then that is it. Then the first thing they are hit with when buying a new PC is the installation costs.

The newer PC's are getting better, and if the machine is pre-configured with everything you need then these costs (time) won't stick you as much as the past. It can still be a pain to get things to work together with Win95 - and the Macs are still easier (and therefore cost less). But PC's are so much better than the past, that people are ignoring the fact that they still cost more (or take more time). It's like playing Russian Roulette with fewer rounds in the chamber - PC users don't get their brains blown out nearly as often as they used to.

If you doubt that Windows still costs more to install then here are some links just to remind people of the type of daymares that Mac users don't have to face -

See [REFERENCE : COSTS] for lots of information.

It is obvious, to those that use both, that Macs are easier to install. Installation time is money. PC users forget to factor in time and aggravation when they compare prices.

Not only do Macs cost less on initial install, but Macs also come with more capabilities - like built in Networking, SCSI, ADB, resolutions sensing monitors and other options, so that you are less likely to have to "install" something later. (See upgrades for full list).

  • Built- in networking allows Mac users to just connect the computer together, or plug the computer into a printer network and share the printer. This avoids costly later "installs"
  • SCSI allows you to plug in an external hard-drive with no pain or wasted time. PC users often have to either add a SCSI card and then install a drive, or install an internal drive (more time than externals), or they plug in to Parallel which means slow performance and likely conflict issues if they have a printer or scanner hooked up to the parallel port (etc.).
  • ADB allows you to plug in another keyboard, joystick, scanner or even modems (rare nowadays) and have them work. This is what USB for the PC is a copy of. Of course it has existed for 11 years with Apple machines, and USB is going to become standard equipment on PC's (and Macs) any year now.
  • Some Macs come configured to do video production work or video conferencing (video in and out built in).
  • The list goes on and on...

So Macs install faster, and require fewer installs, either initially to get it to what you want, or later on.

When you do install something on the Mac - Software or Hardware, the process is often much shorter than PC's. For example -

  • I put in a new video card on a Mac. I plugged it in, and rebooted. No dip-switches. The video card can auto-sense what resolutions the monitor supports, pick one of them, and work. I could change resolutions on the fly (it also worked with my other video card - so now I have two monitors on my Mac - so I can browse and write web-content at the same time). There was an "optional" driver I added (put in a floppy and dragged a program to the system folder, and the Mac auto-installed it to the right place). However the video card worked without that driver - so it was just to add features. On the PC I would have likely had to change quite a few settings, use the Win95 install disk if it was PnP - or spend hours of fun if there was a conflict and it was not, I might have had to make sure I removed the first video card (or disabled the on-board video with a jumper), set all the setting to see if it worked. Since the PC's can't sense what resolution the monitor supports there are some surprises if you do things wrong (like blank screens, or monitors than can actually burn up).
  • To install a network in my house - I plugged the two computers and printer together. One cable - no software installs. I did have to "pick" the default printer, and use one control panel to turn on file sharing (so the computers could see each others files). I didn't even have to reboot my machine.
  • I "installed" an extra SCSI drive by plugging it in - that was it. If I wanted that drive to be a bootable drive I could just copy my System folder from one drive to the other, and using the "Startup Disk" control panel select which system to boot from.I can move applications around by dragging them to where I want them (on Windows this will cause major errors).
  • I installed an internal EIDE drive in the Mac, and the system not only recognized it, but asked me if I wanted to initialize it.
    PC's often had fun with mfm and IDE drives with issues like having to manually set lots of parameters in the parameter Memory (cryptic numbers you the user gets to type in to tell the machine what it should already know) - so that the machine knows how many tracks, sectors, and cylinders the drive has. (And you get data loss if you set anything wrong). Also PC's have to install these drives internal - no external option like the Macs and SCSI. Of course you can add SCSI to a PC - for a cost.


If you doubt anything that this article has said, then just talk to IS (information services) people at most major corporations that have used Macs and PC's -- or better yet, look at which computer does better in small businesses that have to support themselves. Try talking to schools or educators that have to support their computers themselves, or talk to PC users about the fun with some of the installation they have had. (There are many books dedicated to helping these people). There are thousands of install nightmares out there about PC's - and very few bad ones (relatively) about Macs -- and the amount of Mac specialists are fewer (so this favors PC's). When you have to do an install of a computer, you may get lucky on a PC and have it work - but you'll be much better off (in 99% of the cases) if you are just installing a Mac.

Created: 02/09/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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