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Reader Comment: sticking with Mac vs transitioning to a PC

Reader Albert L writes:

I understand that this may be contrary to your current commercial/economic interests, but I’d like your take on the tradeoffs of switching from a Mac to a PC, and/or if you know where I can find information on the subject. There likely are other readers of your MacPerformanceGuide who, like me, would appreciate learning your thoughts on this.

With the introduction of the new iMac, it’s obvious that Apple is shifting from producing useful creative tools to producing cute, mass-market, media-consuming toys:

I currently am using a 2010 Mac Pro with dual 3.46 Ghz 6-core Intel Xeon processors running High Sierra (Version 10.13.6). To upgrade to Mojave, I’d have to replace the current graphics card (ATI Radeon HD 5770 1024 MB) with one that is Metal-capable. Apple no longer supports High Sierra and will stop supporting Mojave on November 30, 2021. It thus doesn’t seem to make sense to spend $300+ on replacing the graphics card.

My 2010 Mac Pro has 22 TB of internal hard drives (8 TB, 8 TB, 3 TB, 3TB), two 240 GB SSD’s on an internal PCIe card, and 96 GB of RAM with another 32 GB waiting in the wings. An additional 36+ TB of external hard drives are on a variety of FireWire 800 and USB 3 enclosures and docks.

“Upgrading” to the 2019 Mac Pro and Big Sur (or later) would kill a lot of my costly (and very useful) peripherals and software (much of which is 32-Bit) and I’d have to replace them.

Before I go through the hassle and expense of doing that, I want to learn as much as I can about what I’d gain and lose if I spent the same amount of money on switching from a Mac to a PC.

In view of your refreshingly honest practice of pointing out the worms in Apple products, I'd appreciate learning your thoughts on the subject.

MPG: if all you do is sit inside Photoshop or similar programs, it could make sense. And it could make sense for certain specialized situations. But in general, soon the next generation of Apple M1 CPUs should blow away the fastest PC performance. So if the argument is about price/performance, I’m not buying it for any general usage case.

Yes, the current M1 Macs are shiny consumer objects that won’t please us pro users, but the performance and glitter will delight the target customer base, just like iPhones.

But when an iMac 5K/6K with double the performance cores and at least 64GB memory support arrives, I’ll be a buyer. Even though I’d prefer not to buy anything at all from Apple. In life, one has to choose among least offensive solutions.

What would switching involve?

The hardware cost is all but irrelevenat: for most users, the biggest expenses is the one of having to relearn things. For the single-application user, that’s seemingly not an issue. Now go figure out what anti-virus to use, how to backup, how to configure mail, and 50 other things you’ll have to relearn, new apps and tools you have to discover and learn. Then you’ll find 20 things you miss. What was gained, exactly? Except a lot of unnecessary work.

For me recoding scripts and tools would mean months of headaches and a shit-ton of work and aggravation. All the dozens of little time savers I do would need reinventing.

I would never recoup 1% of the time and aggravation of switching to PC.

Taking one of the smallest things: just having to deal with a "\" instead of a "/" and drive letters instead of paths is a cloud of mosquitoes for someone used to Unix like me—even keyboard habits have to be relearned. Unix shells don’t solve everything. The irritation of a half-assed 1980's system would never go away; it would be a permanent hair shirt.

There are so many headaches with PCs you'll just be trading one set of aggravations for a larger and more troublesome set. Those who claim it’s better invariably have lower expectations and selective attention along with a dash of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias. Oh, and then there is the virus scene.

MacOS has lots of issues, and I bitch about it because it impairs my work. But Windows is no garden of eden.

Garden paths can lead to swamps. And greener grass might be astroturf.

Rob G writes:

I’ve read material on your site for a decade+ and have found it very helpful on a number of matters.  I remember the first things that I read were about the organisation of data on disks and how a partly used disk was faster for a number of reasons.

I appreciate your comments about Apple BitRot etc and understand some of the risks to professional users - mine is as a software developer who choses to write cross platform software on macOS for production use on Windows: this is what the clients need.  I find macOS and the Mac hardware is best for my use.

Whilst I acknowledge that some people don’t have the budget to replace their hardware every three years so  I do think that it unrealistic to complain when Apple kit fails after 5 or 10 years.  5 or 10 years is great for computers.  We don’t expect PCs to last that long in professional environments and need to budget to replace them so that the kit remains reliable. So when Apple kit lasts significantly longer those on tight budgets are obviously a bit frustrated that they need to pay top dollar (GBP in my case) for new Apple kit but that’s still providing good value.

Now, I certainly have some PCs that have lasted well with light use … one of mine is now approaching 10 years old.  But if you work a PC hard it probably won’t last as long as an Apple machine.

I 100% agree with your comments about the pain of moving platforms.  I am much more productive on macOS than on Windows for that past 8 years or so and would hate to go back to Visual Studio from Xcode.  Unfortunately I need to get things working on AWS Lambda, so I expect a lot of time using Linux is in my next few years.  Hoping to do that from Xcode as well and push things to the Linux platform with a variation of my Windows automation so that I don’t actually have to use it much in practice.

Oh and one final thing. Much as I love the new M1 concept and implementation in my first M1 MacBook Air, it is such a pain having to recode AVX by hand. Why could they not have made Rosetta 2 covert AVX?

Progress: provides two steps forward if you do the work that feels like at least one step back.

Anyhow, my first Mac was a Mini PowerPC.  What a lot has happened since 2005!

Thanks again for your helpful materials for many years and long may you continue.

MPG: agreed that 10 years is beyond any reasonable expectations. OTOH, all my 2012 MacBook Pros are going strong and two are servers that have run 24 X 7 all that time. Apple used to be ultra-reliable laptops. A 7-year lifespan should be feasible for a well-built computer selling at a premium price.

Then there is the 'green' hypocrisy at Apple—it’s all about corporate image. And yet very few Apple products can be upgraded in any meaningful way, let alone repaired, which sends a lot of product to the landfill. iPhones and iPads are terrible this way—designed for the scrap heap after a short service life, shortened even further by aggressive marketing of new models and short warranty policies.

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