switch from pc to mac
July 24, 2007 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Switch from PC to MAC? After over 10 years on the PC... I am thinking about switching back to mac? anyone made the switch and regretted it?
posted by specialk420 to Computers & Internet (46 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak from experience, but I have a friend that has made the switch after several years on a PC. The only thing he missed was the availability of many mainstream video games.
posted by Sufi at 9:59 AM on July 24, 2007

I switched from a PC to a Mac when the TiBooks came out in order to run MAX/MSP (which wasn't available on Windows at the time).

I still have my mac, and while I admire the physical design and the occasional elegance of the way some software works, I find accomplishing any work efficiently in the OS a real chore. A lot of the UI is anti-intuitive if you're used to doing things the "Windows" way. Over the last few years I used it exclusively for playing live performances and then watching videos, and now it's just lying around my house (although I'm thinking about using it as a dedicated recording machine, just because it never gets moved).

The people who seem really happy 'switching' are guys who go from linux to a macbook (the mac os reminds me a lot of the desktops avail for linux/x windows, etc), or folks who aren't yet totally accustomed to windows. if you're the type of guy who has to spend half a day getting a fresh install of windows to where you like it, you're probably going to hate it, at least in the short term.
posted by fishfucker at 10:00 AM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I made the switch a year ago and have definitely not regretted it. It's a better experience in pretty much every way. I would definitely recommend waiting until the next version of the Mac OS (10.5 "Leopard") comes out -- October -- because as great as the current version is, I think that would probably just be annoying.

I haven't missed any of the programs I had back on my Windows machine. Of course, I never used it for anything other than word processing and email, so it's not like I was attached to some big design program or anything. But still, if you do find that there's a program that you can't live without, there are several options. Parallels allows you to run Windows and Windows programs right there on your Mac desktop.

Additionally, if you find you're missing some of the little things from Windows (like the Maximize Window behavior), there are some websites where you can learn all about customizing your Mac experience. This is the first one I stumbled upon, but I'm sure there are other guides out there. My advice though? Throw off Windows for good and embrace what the Mac offers.

Further reading: Lifehacker Guide to Switching
posted by dondiego87 at 10:01 AM on July 24, 2007

There have been a few technical people who have switched to the Mac, but then felt encumbered by the fact it's still a proprietary system, and then moved to Linux. Mark Pilgrim is one major example of someone who was on Mac initially and then switched to Linux for various reasons.

I've only heard of one instance where someone switched back from the Mac to Windows, however. I can't remember who it was, but it was someone reasonably well known in the Web 2.0 / tech blogosphere.

One of my friends also switched back after a few years due to his PowerBook exploding and his inability to afford anything but a PC. He whines about it for ten minutes every time he calls me up now bitching at how "crappy PCs are" and "how did I ever manage to use a PC, they still suck!"
posted by wackybrit at 10:41 AM on July 24, 2007

Please search the archive. This topic has been discussed to death here.
posted by mkultra at 10:45 AM on July 24, 2007

Switch, you'll love it.

Also, what mkultra said.
posted by sveskemus at 10:49 AM on July 24, 2007

I have a Mac at work, and much prefer my PC at home to it. It has a tendency to start stalling at the worst possible time (usually when it decides it's time to update the software).

If you do get a mac, and you like to right click though, make sure to get a two button mouse, it's infinitely more enjoyable than control-clicking.
posted by drezdn at 10:52 AM on July 24, 2007

Can you give any reasons why you're considering the switch? Or rather how do you use your PC currently?

If you want something stylish, trendy, and "well designed" then you'll probably be happy with the Mac. If you worry about being constrained by hardware choices, play games, or use your PC in some other way then you may be better off sticking with the PC.

Yes, Windows sucks. Even Vista is a painfully rancid OS, but the PC platform is certainly more versatile...
posted by wfrgms at 10:55 AM on July 24, 2007

At this point you're not switching "back" anywhere: OS X isn't like the System 7 or OS 8 you remember, and you'll be buying Intel hardware, just like a PC, instead of PowerPC.

Go to an Apple store and play around. Make a list of the things you absolutely need the computer to do and see if they're all available on the Mac.
posted by mendel at 10:59 AM on July 24, 2007

I use both by necessity, but I'm vastly more productive in OS X, and I find it more pleasant to use. Finder is superior to Explorer for me, and Expose (the service that allows you to show/hide all windows) makes switching between things almost instantaneous for me, especially with those actions set to screen corners (note: if you get a mac and proceed to set it up this way, everyone who ever uses your computer ever again will hate you, and you will laugh, but later pity them). Quicksilver is a killer app, and your security worries are somewhat reduced by means of security through obscurity.

There are downsides. Freeware is much rarer on OS X, and it seems to be less a result of the number of the developers and more of just how the culture operates. There are others, but I'm having trouble thinking at the moment. Overall, I think you'll be happy with your decision.
posted by invitapriore at 11:01 AM on July 24, 2007

I ordered an intel mini the day they were announced (coming from a Windows background with some Linux/BSD experience)

I regretted it for the first while.

Then I got more RAM.

Night and day. Now I like my mac, and it does basically what I need fairly well. I don't struggle with it as much as I did initially. Just make sure you get lots of RAM. The virtual memory implementation is apparently quite bad, cause I couldn't run two applications on it with 512Mb of RAM. Pretty bad.
posted by Nodecam at 11:13 AM on July 24, 2007

I grew up using PCs - they were at home, in the schools, and (eventually) at work. My only exposure to Macs was at a job I had in college, where they still ran OS 9 (and I hated it).

In 2002, I wanted to get a laptop, and did my research, and decided the iBook was the best value out there. I bought it, made the switch, and haven't looked back.

One word on right clicking: the new Might Mouse does offer right clicking - even though it appears to be a one-button mouse, it responds to a press on the left or right side of it. Pretty neat, for an ex-Windows user.
posted by rocketman at 11:15 AM on July 24, 2007

Oh, and one more thing - I bought the first generation of Intel iMacs when I decided I needed a new computer, and it is honestly the best computer I've ever used in my life.
posted by rocketman at 11:15 AM on July 24, 2007

I remember reading on Lifehacker.com a complete guide (by Adam, i think) for ppl switching to mac from a pc. This guide may help you out; sorry, i don't have the link to it any more though--but should be able to find it easily w/ lifehacker's search.
posted by uncballzer at 11:21 AM on July 24, 2007

thanks for all the tips folks. omnioutliner is just about worth making the switch for. If someone made a reliable widescreen pc laptop that had vaguely as good a form factor as the macbookpro - i might be convinced to stick with windows for a while... the rumoured intel machine looks great - but who knows when it will be released.
posted by specialk420 at 11:30 AM on July 24, 2007

Make sure you get enough RAM. I can't emphasize that enough.

Make the switch. You'll love it.
posted by bshort at 11:49 AM on July 24, 2007

I have a new MacBook and it hasn't lived up to the hype. The cult of Mac is far beyond my comprehension. I don't do any gaming, programming, or video editing, so I can't speak to that. For general use (i.e., word processing, web browsing, other very basic stuff), I'd say go with a PC. It would probably be less problematic if you weren't already very familiar and comfortable with the Windows environment. But since you are, your brain is accustomed to doing things a certain way. When you get your Mac, you'll feel like you're mentally retarded and it will take you a lot longer to accomplish the simplest tasks. And the one-button mouse is so annoying.

It is pretty, though (except for the browning of the trackpad and wrist rest)
posted by HotPatatta at 11:53 AM on July 24, 2007

Made the switch from PC to Mac almost exactly one year ago, blogged about it.

A year later, utterly delighted with my choice.

As others have noted: If you use any Windows apps (e.g., Visio) that there is no Mac version of, and you're buying one of the new Intel-based Macs, Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion will let you run Windows and the relevant app whenever you need.

Also, the guys who publish the venerable Tidbits newsletter have a great e-book on the subject: Take Control of Switching To The Macintosh.
posted by enrevanche at 11:54 AM on July 24, 2007

Lots of Mac fanboys on here, and I won't argue with them that Macs are nice. However, I can only recommend getting a mac if money is no issue. You'll get a lot more bang for your buck with a PC.

Hell, it might even be time to try out linux, if you're relatively tech-savvy. The new Ubuntu distro is really nice.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:12 PM on July 24, 2007

Seconding the recommendation of "more RAM." One of the perennial complaints against Apple is that they tend to underload their machines when you buy them from the store.

You want 2GB of RAM. Really, you do. And if you're going to be playing with VMWare or Parallels, add the amount of RAM you want your Windows system to have to that 2GB. In fact, if you can afford it, just max the system out and then save yourself from ever worrying about it again.

It's possible to get by with a lot less but the more you have, the happier you'll be, and the less weird "stalling" issues you'll have (which infuriate me). Firefox, in particular, loves to give the 'Spinning Beach Ball of Frustration' if it doesn't have gobs of memory.

But feed the machine, and it will reward you.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:16 PM on July 24, 2007

I switched just before the introduction of the intel processors and although it would be nice in a few cases to boot into windows or run Parallels I don't regret the switch. Given that any new Mac you buy can now run windows too I wouldn't give it a second thought unless you're a big gamer or if cost is a huge factor for you.
posted by JPDD at 12:53 PM on July 24, 2007

If you're comfortable with a Unix-y commandline and have any experience with Unix (or are the kind of person who would learn that sort of thing), you'll love it. Otherwise, it's probably hit or miss.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:24 PM on July 24, 2007

Sure! I would get a Mac. But I would put Ubuntu on it ;)
posted by gergtreble at 1:45 PM on July 24, 2007

I shouldn't have to say this, but the comments about the 'one-button mouse' are pretty redundant, as the Mac will recognise any standard two-button mouse, so right-click away.

Sure, a 'PC' mouse might not fit in with the Apple 'form factor', but I've always hated Apple's mice, so screw that. (I've used a near 8-year old laser Intellimouse on my eMac since 2002, and I've never lost any sleep over it.)
posted by macdara at 2:43 PM on July 24, 2007

chrisamiller is incorrect. feature for feature macs are the same price or slightly cheaper than PCs. However, if you're after a low end machine you'll find you won't be able to get a low end mac because apple don't make them - they start at what would be mid-range in the pc world.
posted by singingfish at 3:11 PM on July 24, 2007

I've used Windows for, oh, just about forever so when Vista came out, I was first in line. Within two weeks I wanted beat Microsoft's developers into a bloody pulp, revive them, and then do it again. Vista is, IMO, suckitude of epic proportions. Though I *could have just gone back to XP, I decided to take a look at a Mac because I'd also had experience with them.

Let me tell you, I've never made a better decision in my life. I may have the damn logo tattooed on my forehead. If I were to have any more children, they would be named Mac and Mac-ette. The only fruit I allow in my house now are apples.

Love is not too strong a word.

Take the plunge.

In all seriousness, yes I do love them. I'm a computer nerd anyway, able to sensibly explore all the options, and I've been just thrilled with my Macs since making the switch. Google for Windows/Mac "switcher" stories and you'll find a ton of podcasts and Websites with loads of user experience info. I guess the biggest indicator of whether it will be a good experience for you is why you want to make the switch in the first place. Tell us some of the reasons and maybe we can tell you if you're barking up the right tree or not.
posted by _Mona_ at 4:35 PM on July 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Same boat. Lifelong PC user who switched a couple of years ago. My impressions:

=OS X is as intuitive and easy to use as everyone says. It has never crashed on me. More importantly, it does not constantly bug me with pop up warnings and suggestions.
=I did not miss the two button mouse.
=Safari crashes, though. I am much happier with Camino.
=If you are an MS Office user you are in for some adjustment. Interface consistency with MS Office for Windows is not that good.
=Keystroking is a bit different. There are no accelerator keys for menu items. You have to alter a preference to make the tab key move through every control.
=The biggest adaptation I had was discovering that, during text editing, the delete key operates like a windows backspace key. There is no equivalent key for text delete on my iBook. (There is a keyboard combo to do this but I can't be bothered to learn it.) Basically your keyboard navigation skills will have to be relearned.
=You are limited in your choice of music services. For example, there are no subscription music services that I know of for Mac.
=On the other hand, iTunes is the de facto standard and as good as everyone says.

Overall, I'm fine with my switch and happy with OS X/Mac/Apple in general; enough to already be planning my upgrade to a new Macbook (or whatever they will be called).

Would I do it all over again? I'm on the fence. I would suggest you have a good reason for switching because there will be adaptation costs.
posted by dzot at 4:50 PM on July 24, 2007

dzot - in case you ever change your mind, Ctrl-D will get you a forward delete. mnemonic: D for delete.

Also easy to remember C-f:forward, C-b:back, C-n:next, C-p:previous. I had to force myself to use them for the first few weeks, but now I find it really makes a difference to not have to move my hands back and forth from the keyboard to get the simplest things done.
posted by Mr Stickfigure at 5:59 PM on July 24, 2007

I have to go against the wind here about the 'smooth-sailing' switch to Apple. I'm happy I switched but it was pretty difficult for me.

I consider myself an advance PC user: my first PC only had DOS 6 and fun time was that gorilla game in QBASIC. someone came along later and installed Windows 3.1 for me and I had Solitaire, after Win3.11 + Win32s I had FreeCell and I was happy. Just before I switched to Apple, I was running Win2K with Litestep, cygwin, WindowBlinds, Miranda, foobar2k, MediaPlayerClassic, xplorer2, etc. i.e. someone who really liked to customise the way their programs work.

But my PC was pushing five years, I couldn't play the latest video encodes, nevermind the 1080 stuff and the I was sick of the fan noise and heat. So despite being comfortable with Windows, I went for the Intel Mac mini as soon as it came out because it's small, quiet, power efficient (~30 watts) and OSX looks very shiny and everything is suppose to be easy.

I didn't have a problem learning how to do things the Mac way but my perception was that everything felt very dumbed down and there was emphasis on one preferred way of doing things.

For example, I don't like iTunes. I think it's slow and limited in functionality. But on OSX, you have either iTunes or you have VLC, Cog, floola or some other open-source program. However as limited as I think iTunes is, nothing else even offers as much functionality or UI polish as iTunes. So I'm stuck with iTunes.

Same with IM. The standard of choice is Adium and it's pretty polished but in terms of UI customisation and functionality, it lags behind what I'm used to in Windows. It's come a long way since last year but MSN support is still a joke. There are alternatives but again, they don't offer as much as Adium.

Same with video players (VLC or bust), the browser (Safari or bust), the file system explorer (Finder or Pathfinder or bust). I knew I could download the source to some Linux alternative and compile it for OSX but I switched to Apple because I wanted the pretty OSX interface and the ease of use. If I wanted X windows or the CLS, I would've went with Linux damnit.

During this period, I was pretty damn unhappy because it felt like all I got was a pretty UI but with less functionality. Then one day I just gave in and accepted whatever was the de facto standard. And if there was no configuration option for something I wanted to change, I accepted it was because the developer decided that it would be better to not be able to change it.

This went a long, long way in making me enjoy the switch to Apple. I still think TextMate is lacking compared to UltraEdit but now I just shrug it off and accept that UltraEdit is very good at what it does in Windows but it wouldn't be as good in OSX because UltraEdit is made for the Windows way of doing things. In OSX, TextMate is what it is in response to the OSX way of doing things so if I'm going to use OSX, then TextMate is my best bet. Likewise with everything else, including the home and end keys.

So if you're pretty comfortable with the PC world of doing things and you've got your Windows setup quite customised with non-mainstream programs, I think you'll have a hard time switching. On the other hand, if editing the Windows registry is about as advance as you get, then I don't think the switch to Apple will be a problem. I made the switch and have turned into someone that just watches videos, chat on msn, browse the net and do some finance budgeting from time to time. I'm much happier for it.

On a side note, it looks like you're looking for a laptop so hardware-wise you're probably better off with an Apple. Had you been going for a desktop, I would've warned you that once you filled up your drive, you're limited to either replacing the internal drive with a larger drive or getting an external drive unless you get a top of the line Mac quad.
posted by tksh at 6:23 PM on July 24, 2007

It is a tougher call that one would imagine... i am still on the fence on this one. I wish someone made a better PC laptop - its suprising what shite they all are - my asus w2v has caused me more agony in the last year than i care to remember.
posted by specialk420 at 7:12 PM on July 24, 2007

feature for feature macs are the same price or slightly cheaper than PCs. However, if you're after a low end machine you'll find you won't be able to get a low end mac

I see your point, but I'm willing to argue that many of those mac features are overkill for the average user. I can get a Dell laptop with comparable processor speed, RAM, and video card for a hell of lot less than a Mac.

Sure, I may not have bluetooth, firewire, or a webcam built into my dell, but 95% of people don't use those anyway. Most people need their computers for internet, office, music, photos, and solitare/snood.

What's the point of spending money for features that you don't need?
posted by chrisamiller at 8:15 PM on July 24, 2007

I never got very far into the pc way of doing things, and upon switching to the mac, got very deep into the mac way. These are the things I appreciate the most:

1. Finder's column view mode. Navigating my filesystem with keystrokes? Yes please.
2. A real command line. It's been a learning curve, but since getting into it, I feel completely crippled whenever I'm on a windows machine.
3. A clean, and compete, filesystem. Some hidden things, but there's nothing that's actually outside the filesystem. I know were everything is in the filesystem, after taking the time to walk myself through the entirety of it, and basically understand what it's all about there. When I install programs, they almost always keep things clean, remain self contained. The few times they clutter up my computer, I can recognize it, and take action without worrying about messing up my system. No registry mess.
4. Consistent look and feel. The vast majority of programs on the mac I can boot into and know most of the key shortcuts without having to look them up, I know how things will behave. This is because there are good standards for these things, and most program designers follow them. It makes my life better.
5. The ability to turn off the desktop. Pure fluff, and a hidden option besides, but it makes things so much cleaner. Most people probably wouldn't want this.
6. Multiple desktops. there's a hack available for 10.4, and it'll be built into 10.5. I love them.

Things I could do without:
1. Finder has an annoying habit of dropping invisible files all over the system. Maybe the new version coming out with 10.5 fixes this, but I doubt it
2. lack of a lot of freeware, open source mostly makes up for this
3. I probably need more RAM. Annoying habit of being slow, especially if I load web pages with a lot of flash, or things like that. WMV files are a complete pain in the ass in this regard.
4. Lack of games

I am more than happy with my switch. Windows no longer makes any sense to me. I have difficulty using it if I need to dig into the system at all at this point.
posted by Arturus at 9:37 PM on July 24, 2007

what about a laptop for power users? - i dont need a tv tuner or a hooky subwoofer (toshiba osimo, sony whatever their theatre system is, aforementioned asus) - i do need something with a big screen (apple), light (apple), nice form factor (apple), an operating system that is not intrusive (linux i suppose), that runs all the modern communication apps in a light streamlined environment - but also runs the unfortunately necessary off the shelf apps as well (adobe, microsoft). is there space for a new OS? adobe OS on a apple box. hook me up.
posted by specialk420 at 9:40 PM on July 24, 2007

that said.. aurtrus - you do make a good case for apple.
posted by specialk420 at 10:03 PM on July 24, 2007

I've found that if you are tech-savvy, the Macbook / OS X is actually a brilliant platform to work on. XCode is a great IDE, BBEdit is an incredible text editor and it's fantastic having a POSIX-like system to develop on. I can test my code locally, upload the *.c files to my Linux box and compile them with no changes required. With the help of VMWare / Parallels, cross-development for Windows is now an absolute breeze!

I nth the additional RAM comment. While OS X was nice w/ 512MB, it's absolutely glorious with 2GB.
posted by PuGZ at 12:07 AM on July 25, 2007

I should add that I had been using PCs for thirteen years when I made the switch (and continue to use them) and I had no trouble making the switch. This may or may not have something to do with a few years of *nix experience, though.
posted by PuGZ at 12:09 AM on July 25, 2007

My SO bought a MacBook Pro just over a year ago. The first one's integrated web cam was busted. Took it back and they gave him another, at which point we realised they had tried to foist off a faulty used one as the setup was entirely different.

Then we noticed how hot it ran; store said that was normal and we fashioned a piece of cardboard with four felt supports on the corners to help air circulation.

Then there was a battery recall about 6 months in. Though we didn't notice any telltale bulging, it's better to be safe than sorry and we got a new one through the online battery replacement program.

Three weeks ago, that replacement battery suddenly crapped out. Low and behold, there's yet another battery recall. We waited two weeks for a final reply of 'Sorry, your warranty is expired, so you are not eligiable for the replacement program this time.'

So on a (at the time) 2,700 € laptop, a faulty battery is replaced with another faulty battery, and the latest faulty battery won't be replaced because even a brand spanking new replacement battery is only covered by the original warranty. That's pretty shitty hardware and service, in my book.

I've also now noticed a lovely scattering of dead pixels across the bottom of the screen. Again, this is a pricey laptop that is just over a year old. I just hope the SO doesn't notice, as I fear he'll take the thing back to the store and shove it up someone's bum sans lube.

Color me not impressed with Mac.
posted by romakimmy at 6:18 AM on July 25, 2007

And the one-button mouse is so annoying

Then get any USB two-button mouse.

If you use any Windows apps (e.g., Visio) that there is no Mac version of

OmniGraffle (dumb name, great software) is the rough Mac equivalent.

Same with video players (VLC or bust), the browser (Safari or bust)

Video players: MPlayer, DivX for Mac, Windows Media Player, Google Video Player

Browsers: Opera, Firefox, Camino, Shiira, Netscape Navigator, OmniWeb.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:40 AM on July 25, 2007

Just FYI - the word 'mac' is not spelled with all capital letters. You may get a lot of grief in other venues if you capitalize the word.

Anyways, I made the switch two years ago and have gone from a PowerBook G4 12" to a MacBook Pro 15". It's really important to not give up during the first few weeks. I know quite a few people who have made the switch and were extremely frustrated for several days. Make the effort to learn about your new machine and you'll be happy.

If you're programming a lot, definitely take a look at TextMate. It's by far the best text editor that I've ever used and the user community is incredible. If you have a problem or a question just connect to FreeNode and join ##textmate. CyberDuck (an open source SFTP/FTP client) is also highly recommended.
posted by swhitt at 7:07 AM on July 25, 2007


Sorry when I meant bust, I meant that as in the alternatives weren't quite there yet and not as in there are no alternatives.

Taking the video player example, VLC simply works a lot better than the alternatives.
  • MPlayer (GUI version not the CLI version) lacks basic options like changing the audio or subtitle track. It also seems to be worst than VLC at decoding x264 videos, I often had jerky playback.
  • DivX for Mac, as the name implies, plays DivX. What about other formats and non-AVI containers? DVD, x264, mkv, ogm?
  • Windows Media Player is WMV only and worst, there is no Universal binary.
  • Google Video Player plays gvp/gvi files only. Again, it's not a general video player as VLC is.
To be fair, if you install Perian, Quicktime-based players (QTAmateur, NicePlayer) can play almost all the popular formats with a few caveat. Not quite VLC though.

I admit there are quite a few broswers for OSX and that Camino and OmniWeb are quite nice (I found the others either slow, ugly or unstable). But in the end, they just didn't feel as nice and polished as Safari. Though if you don't mind paying the $20 for OmniWeb, it gives Safari a good run for its money.
posted by tksh at 7:50 AM on July 25, 2007

does anyone run firefox on the mac? it would be tragic for me to lose all my plugins.
posted by specialk420 at 10:51 AM on July 25, 2007

Most Firefox plugins work on the Mac, only a handful don't. Userchrome.css, usercontent.css, etc. work as well.
posted by tksh at 12:07 PM on July 25, 2007

I nearly exclusively use Firefox on the Mac. It works well, looks great, etc. The only complaint some anal users seem to have is that it doesn't integrate with keychain and the widgets (form controls, etc) don't look native.. but it's hardly a big deal, the Web isn't meant to look like OS X. Firefox isn't as fast as Safari though, but you get used to it, and it's more than worth it because Firefox is a far better browser.
posted by wackybrit at 8:42 AM on July 26, 2007

Personally, I use Camino as it seems to be Firefox done right on OS X. Your mileage may vary.
posted by PuGZ at 5:29 AM on July 29, 2007

as my horrible asus w2v slowly crumbles its way to to junk heap... i pulled the trigger on a new mac - ill let you know how it goes.
posted by specialk420 at 9:13 AM on August 15, 2007

i should note - this thread was very helpful in considering the decision.
posted by specialk420 at 9:14 AM on August 15, 2007

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