Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Save Money, Buy a Mac

OK, that title is a little cheeky, so let me explain. While a little technical, hang with me and we'll get to the financial impact at the end.

I've heard from a lot of people that their machine has been slowing down. The first obvious reaction is to assume that it's because the computer has been getting on in age. In fact, most of you probably heard that computers need to be replaced every couple of years. This isn't necessarily true though. When people say computers are out-dated in 2 years it's because the technology has advanced so much and the new software is designed for the new system. However, if you're running the same software as always it doesn't need to run any faster than it did when you bought it. Like all machines though they do break down and parts need to be replaced. Sometimes those parts cost more than a new computer and that's when it's time to move on.

The problem with Microsoft Windows is the way files are written to disk and the way the internal database (registry) is written to. Over time the file system and the registry end up as messed up as a ball of yarn after my cat is through with it. The computer starts searching for the information it needs and becomes lost in the tangle causing all your slowness. Throw in some spy ware and a virus or two and the machine seems to grind to a halt.

So the financial impact? I needed a windows machine for school and I figured that meant spending a couple of grand that I didn't have. I'd already tried the typical tools that were suppose to speed it up my existing box, but to no avail. It took 10 minutes just to start up, so there was no way I was going to want that stress while in school. Finally figuring I had nothing to lose, I erased the hard drive and re-installed everything. It was like night and day. Still not the fastest machine in the world, but 100 times better than before the re-install. It was a pain to do, but it was worth it in the end.

Maybe Windows 7 has fixed these issues, but I doubt it. Even if they have,how much time and money do I need to invest in them before I just give up. Mac's don't have any of the above mentioned issues. The only issue they seem to have is not running certain software. The problem for me is that I still need Windows to run AccPac and QuickBooks, but hopefully that will change one day.

So before you buy another machine you don't need, why not try a re-install instead. When it does come time for a new machine, if you don't have any Windows specific apps like me, buy a Mac. It might seem more expensive, but factor in your time for maintenance, the time wasted waiting for a boot-up or an app to run, and the time waster removing viruses. Not to mention the nice Mac safety features like the magnetic power cord. This little feature would have saved me from needing to replace my laptop.

Any Windows lovers out there that care to disagree? Any apps you can't live without?


  1. I both agree and disagree. We switched to Macs at home about 5 years ago...and since then we have now purchased 6 Macs - in 5 years. If we were using PCs there's no way that would have happened. Macs are great for your basic home use, but Apple is also a fantastic scam artist. I had to buy a new MacBook 2 weeks ago, simply because my 2.5 year old MacBook would not be able to use the new OS and without the new OS I could not use other Apps that I wanted to make use of. So now I have a MacBook that functions perfectly fine with the software that's on it, but is essentially useless to me, how wasteful. We keep buying Macs because a) my husband finds them easy to use and I don't have to worry about fighting with viruses, and b) because of the user-friendly, nice to have software. Apple is particularly good at making "must have" software and hardware (or creating the perception that it's must have), creating consumer greed and wastefulness. I wish they at least had a trade-in program to wipe and donate working machines to less fortunate people/countries (and maybe give the consumer $100 credit towards a new machine). Apple has the most die-hard followers, yet they have zero customer appreciation.
    I stand by my Toshiba PC laptop with Vista and Office '07 for working at home though.....

  2. That's someone to watch for then. I'm relatively new to Mac myself. So I'll have to see if that's a problem 5 years from now.

    My Windows box is XP with Office 2000, so I'm not much of a latest greatest guy (well anymore anyway). So it's frustrating to have to replace it because it's so slow and yet is running less stuff now then when I purchased it.

    Have you tried reselling? On Craigslist perhaps. I'm sure I could offer at least $100 ;)

    Due to my profession I'll probably buy a PC again anyhow. Hopefully Windows 7 will finally be usable and maybe the PCs can come up with a magnetic power cord and fancy Mac-like mouse pad.

  3. knowing nothing about computers, technology or anything useful, I'm confused! Why does the Windows registry "end up as a ball of yarn" after some time? Is this where you would de-frag it? (something I sortof know about since my husband has done it on our computer)

    I have an Acer laptop, if that means anything, but I have about zero apps on it! :)

  4. As far as I know there is no way to fix the registry without re-installing Windows. I've heard rumours of some tools that fix it, but I wasn't inspired with enough confidence to try them.

    The registry is basically a database. It stores things like the last 4 word documents you opened and your default working directory for specific applications. Rather than each application using it's own database this shared database was the recommended approach. Over time it just gets so cluttered and searching through it is slow.

    Disk fragmentation is another issue. It's technically a problem with Macs and Linux as well, although the fragmentation on a non-Windows machine is so minor, it's really a non-issue. Again these other operating systems just handle this better.

    Whenever you uninstall an application it leaves an empty space on the disk. So when you install a new application the space gets fills up again. However, if the new application is larger than the gap, the application ends up filling multiple gaps. Then to run the program the hard drive has to jump all over the place. Defrag resorts the data so that the applications are continuous.

    Hope that helps.

    Also, if you don't have a lot of apps, I can't imagine that you have any Windows specific ones. In which case a switch to Mac (or Linux) might be for you next go around.