Are Macs really more reliable than PCs?
April 1, 2005 7:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a laptop and leaning heavily towards a powerbook. In my research, I have been looking for a comparing the overall reliability of PC versus Mac. Does anyone know of any studies that have been done comparing the two? Personal feedback is also welcome.
posted by renyoj to Computers & Internet (19 answers total)
Response by poster: That should read: I have been looking for a study comparing the overall reliability of PC versus Mac.
posted by renyoj at 7:35 AM on April 1, 2005

Woo, talk about opening up a can of worms. Here, I'll try to be fair. I own both an OS X laptop and a WinXP desktop. I've found that, in my use, Windows XP is almost as rock solid as OS X. Each crashes on me about as often as the other, which is never.

The real difference is that OS X' use experience makes it much harder to catastrophically screw up a system, whereas XP is more vulnerable to user error. Part of it is OS X' BSD-inherited permissions system, part of it is Apple's greater attention to user experience.

Now, if you're talking aout hardware reliability instead of software reliability, I'd say Apples are somewhat more reliable than typical PCs. Their hardware is mostly the same as PC hardware now, so the failure rates would be similar; but the integration of the parts is a bit better. My experience has been that Thinkpads and Powerbooks are roughly equivalent (cost, performance, reliability), with the Thinkpads a bit more physically robust. iBooks tend to get better survivability ratings than Powerbooks, which is not surprising, since they're targeted right at students' bookbags. On the other hand, I have a 15" Powerbook, I'm a student, and the thing has been a tank. Absolutely the best computer purchase I've made.

So, there you go. :) I'll see if I can track down anything more specific for you.
posted by socratic at 8:05 AM on April 1, 2005

I feel like I've defintely seen this question before, but I can't seem to find it by searching the archives. Closest I've gotten is this. Blame it on my search skills.
posted by scazza at 8:30 AM on April 1, 2005

Response by poster: Scazza, I thought this question had certainly been asked before, but my search was fruitless as well.

Socratic, I think the two systems are probably equal, but I would like to see actual data comparing the two. I'm leaning towards the Powerbook based on the fact that I like the interface a bit better and I like the fact that the basic 12" powerbook comes with everything I want without me having to have one custom built.
posted by renyoj at 8:36 AM on April 1, 2005

I'd moot the discussion and say this isn't a factor you need worry about. In terms of hardware, Macs and PCs are built in the same few factories in China and Taiwan out of largely the same components, and in terms of software, Windows XP and Mac OS X will both work fine 99.9% of the time and fuck up once in a while.

Working out which has the highest chance of fucking up is really totally academic and I doubt anyone here (or any study) can offer any useful insight into this, especially as most problems are caused by the user doing something stupid. Even big differences between the average reliability of either are drowned out by what you happen to be doing with them at the time.
posted by cillit bang at 8:42 AM on April 1, 2005

After years and years of only using Windows machines, I went out and bought a powerbook about a year ago. It was probably the smartest purchase I've ever made. As a college student using a PC laptop, I had some serious infestations of spyware, adware, and malware that made my system bog down hardcore. I'd run all the tools and clean it out about once a week, and it'd run fine for awhile, and then the cycle would repeat itself. When that computer was finally run into the ground (and I tired of reformatting and reinstalling; losing all your files every few weeks is a pain in the ass!) I decided to fuck-all and buy a mac. I haven't looked back since. The UI is intuitive, installing programs is a snap, there's no spyware to speak of, it interfaces absolutely seamlessly with my iPod and digital camera... the advantages are numerous. The only person I'd recommend a PC to (other than my mortal enemies) would be someone who plays computer games all day - the game selection for the mac is significantly smaller, but growing.

Get the powerbook - you'll love it. (Get an AirPort Express with AirTunes too. Best $99 ever spent.)

One more note: Wait until Tiger is released before you buy a Mac. That way you won't have to buy the upgrade. (From what I've seen, 10.4 will be worth the wait.)
posted by salad spork at 9:03 AM on April 1, 2005

Really, i think it is a more of an issue of what type of user you are, and what you want to do with the machine.

If you are either a) Someone who likes to use their computer to look at pictures, surf the web and write a few things on Word and never have to touch the control panel of anything ever.

Or B), Someone who wants to get down to the nitty gritty of the operating system and go "hole hog". Type one command at the prompt and have the machine whirring for hours doing incredibly complex stuff. You want to churn through device drivers, and config files, tweaking your machine to do exactly what you want, when you want it to.

Then you want a mac.

If on the other hand, you fall in between those extremes, I say go for the PC.

It's going to be more versatile for your everyday needs. It'll have more software, be compatible with more things, but require a bit more tinkering to get it to work. to make a pc worthwhile, you have to be a bit more computer literate, and willing to install ad-aware, antivirus, firewall, etc in order to have a functioning computer a month from now.

It's all about your preferences really.
posted by Freen at 9:07 AM on April 1, 2005

I own three Ibooks, one Toughbook (Panasonic) and have carried Dell, Toshiba and a slew of others over the years.

The first post had it about right in general terms of reliability, though on both my Ibooks I've had a couple bizarre issues with the monitor and on one of them the battery crapped out after less than a year. My wife and I both tend to be pretty rough on our gear, though, so unless you're flying a lot, bumping it around a lot, etc, the Powerbooks/Ibooks are generally a good buy and I don't think you'll have an issue. Go ahead and buy the extended Applecare warranty, I think it's worth it.


If you're using this for work (you didn't specify) you might have some issues at the corporate level which preclude the Mac. Many IT departments won't support Macs, much of the business-class software won't run on it, no matter how stable Virtual PC is. This may not be a concern, but if it is, it's something you need to check on.
posted by TeamBilly at 9:20 AM on April 1, 2005

Response by poster: TeamBilly, I will be using it for a few business things, but mainly personal. I think the only software I'll have to purchase is Microsoft Project and Office, but I'm taking my Flash drive full of documents to the Apple store this weekend to see how well transferring works. Most of my business stuff is Excel and Word related.

A couple of you mentioned spyware and that was the primary reason I started looking at Macs. I have reformatted my hard drive on my PC more times than I care to remember, thinking it was easier than finding the particular spyware that simply would not go away. Mainly my home computer has become just for email, surfing, a few work related things and the occasional game.
posted by renyoj at 10:03 AM on April 1, 2005

oh yeah, games.

Not alot of em for the mac.
posted by Freen at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2005

Unfortunately there's no MS Project for Macs. If you want it, you'll have to either run something like Virtual PC, or use the RDC client to make a PC's desktop show up on your Mac. (The latter is better, but requires that you have a network connection to a PC running Project.)
posted by xil at 10:26 AM on April 1, 2005

There are plenty of games for the Mac, unless you use the computer for nothing but playing games and/or insist on having the latest games, which would probably suck to play on a laptop anyway.
posted by kindall at 11:15 AM on April 1, 2005

purely personal: I got a Powerbook after twenty years of Windows PCs and laptops, and I love it. OS X is wonderful -- different but wonderful.
posted by anadem at 11:51 AM on April 1, 2005

I love my iBook, and have never had any serious problem with the machine or the Apple software. For some reason, Word sometimes likes to crap out on me, especially when I'm on deadline, but everything else has worked beautifully (and I hate Word for other reasons too). I find the user interface to be a lot more elegant and intuitive than Windows'.

I haven't used a Windows machine in two years, and from what I've heard the more recent versions of the OS are much better, but if I was to compare my experience with each, I'd say that Apple's reliability has certainly been better. And you're automatically protected from almost any virus.

The only reasons to go with a PC, in my mind, are if you're a serious game-head or need to work with certain corporate business applications. I never had much luck with Outlook on Mac, for example.
posted by lackutrol at 11:58 AM on April 1, 2005

Get a powerbook.

If you don't get a powerbook, get a thinkpad.
posted by bshort at 12:13 PM on April 1, 2005

My standard advice is: At least look seriously into a "desktop-replacement" convertible tablet-PC.
I don't use mine in slate mode very often, prefering laptop mode, but having a stylus instead of having to carry around and plug in a mouse all the time (or worse, having to use those useless fingerpads) makes a world of difference. The rotating screen allows far better ergonomics in cramped spaces (such as watching DVDs on the plane or bus commute), and drawing right onto the screen is especially useful for graphics/photoshop stuff.

The OS (XP tablet edition) is a superset of XP Pro - it's XP Pro with a bunch of extra features added to make use of the extra hardware, such a handwriting recognition, speech recognition, portrait/landscape screen toggle button, and additional programs allows things like guesture recognition to do things like launch programs or cut/paste etc. Battery life tends to be taken more seriously than other laptops, and so on. I'm not convinced the electronic-notepad concept is useful to me, but the features added to give you that option of an electronic notebook mode make for a far better laptop than anything else in the PC or Mac world.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:41 PM on April 1, 2005

Here's my very similar question and very helpful responses.
posted by lychee at 4:43 PM on April 1, 2005

MAC. Pure and simple no Spyware, Adware, and no Malware. It's virtually virus free, and I only get the rare pop-up in Safari. It never crashes and it's damn sexy too.

With windows I spend 15% of my time just making sure it doesn't crash, updating all of the different security programs and making sure they don't conflict or delete important files. With Linux I spent 50% on it trying to figure it out.

With my iBook 14" i spend 100% being productive with it. I will never use another windows box again (unless they switch to a Unix/Linux core op sys... YEAH RIGHT!)

However I would get a powerbook over a iBook for many reasons but I would have to say choose the powerbook because it shows less wear and tear after time. The iBook's white exterior attracts dirt and scratches like a magnet. The Powerbook is either metal or carbon (depending on whitch model you go for) so you're good there.
posted by Livewire Confusion at 5:51 PM on April 1, 2005

However I would get a powerbook over a iBook for many reasons but I would have to say choose the powerbook because it shows less wear and tear after time. The iBook's white exterior attracts dirt and scratches like a magnet. The Powerbook is either metal or carbon (depending on whitch model you go for) so you're good there.

I disagree with just about everything in that statement.

I throw my iBook around constantly. I never worry about scratches etc. It does show some wear but it doesn't attract dirt at all. I know several powerbook owners, and they show wear also. Besides, even if true, why would anyone pay 500 bucks more for a powerbook because it won't scratch as much?

I'll take the 500 dollars thank you.

If you need all the speed you can get , powerbook. Need a superdrive, powerbook. (the 12 inch ibook is the way to to, the 14 inch is too close to the powerbook)

The ibook has better wifi and battery life. Good luck.
posted by justgary at 7:49 PM on April 1, 2005

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