Switching To The Mac: A Guide For Windows Users

Psst! Wanna switch to a Mac? Here's everything you need to know, including what hardware and software to get and how to navigate the new operating system.

iMac, courtesy of Apple. Click image to enlarge and to launch image gallery.
With all the buzz surrounding Apple Computer these days, many Windows users are starting to think the unthinkable: Should I switch to a Mac?

There are plenty of good reasons to consider a Mac. Most of Apple's current desktop and laptop models are shipping with Intel Core Solo or, more commonly, Core Duo processors, putting to rest the longtime stigma of "overpriced and underpowered" that critics attached to many Macs. And the release of new products like Boot Camp and Parallels that let you run Windows on a Mac mean that switching is no longer the one-way street it was a few years (or even a few months) ago -- which makes the idea of moving to Apple and Mac OS X much easier.

Then there's the matter of style. Some PC manufacturers have tried, but none can match the sleek sophistication of Apple products -- and Apple knows it. You can't help but notice a certain glee in the way the company's advertising flaunts its products' superior design.

Switching To The Mac

•  Price

•  Hardware Differences

•  Operating System Differences

•  Applications

•  Running Windows On A Mac

•  Mac Security

•  Choosing A Mac

•  Transferring Data To Your Mac

•  Image Gallery

Once you get past the cute commercials and talking heads, there are some hard facts that you need to know to make an intelligent decision about switching. And, to be honest, there are some things about Macs that will seem a little weird if you do make the switch. We're here to guide the way.


One of the most constant truisms in the computer business is that Apple hardware is more expensive than everyone else's. If all you do is look at price tags, you can no doubt find cheaper products than Apple's -- especially if you dip below the first-tier computer manufacturers.

However, if you compare Apple with first-tier manufacturers such as Dell, HP, Lenovo, Sony, and Toshiba, and you keep the feature sets the same, the price difference is not that great. I've regularly seen cases where Apple was not the most expensive choice, and even when it was, the difference was only a couple hundred dollars when the feature sets were equalized. For example, every Intel-based product Apple makes comes with Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11g wireless networking support, Bluetooth 2.0, USB 2.0, FireWire 400, Serial ATA drives, and analog and optical audio in/out. Add those features to a bare-bones model from another PC maker and you'll quickly see its price come close to or even surpass Apple's.

Bottom line, you can get a Mac desktop starting at around $600, or a Mac laptop starting at around $1,100, and they'll all have the features I listed above. As in the PC world, the more you spend, the more you get. But those are the starting points for a good, basic computer in each class.

Yes, there are times when a Mac will cost more than a similarly-equipped PC. In that case, why get a Mac? Well, ask a BMW owner why she didn't buy a Dodge. They're both cars; they both get you where you need to go. But the BMW does it with more style and grace, better construction, and more of an "Ooooh" factor. Same thing with a Mac. You get consistently better quality, style, grace, and the instant attention that the Apple logo creates. For more than 25 million people, that's well worth some extra cash.

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