Apple did an extraordinary thing when it designed its latest computers: It gave them the ability to pull a fast switcheroo and change into a Windows PC.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
T e c h n o f i l e
Cheapskate's Buying Guide: Computers
Attention, PC shoppers! In Aisle 3, you'll find an incredible deal -- a Windows PC that's also a Mac! Or was that a Mac that's also a Windows PC?
Nov. 26, 2006
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, The Post-Standard
This year's Cheapskate's Computer Buying Guide is written especially for non-geeks. It's in plain English.
Choosing a new personal computer used to be difficult. But this year, the choice is especially easy, thanks to a new kind of computer from one of the oldest manufacturers in the PC business.
The new computer is a dual-function PC from Apple Computer, which has been making personal computers since the mid-1970s. It's sold with Apple's advanced internal software, or operating system, along with a suite of programs for managing photos and music, making DVDs, recording audio and doing e-mail and Web browsing.
I've been recommending Apple's computers for many years. These models -- called Macintosh computers, or simply "Macs" -- are easier to use than the ones made by all the other PC makers, called Windows PCs. They're also much safer -- Windows PCs are, literally, under siege from 200,000 viruses and countless spyware invaders, while Macs have no actual viruses or spyware -- and, as if this weren't enough, Macs also tend to last longer.
If you add the other advantages Macs have -- they have a stunningly modern version of Microsoft Office and thousands of other highly rated programs, have parental controls built in and fit easily into modern dˇcor, unlike the ugly beige boxes of typical PCs, to name just three -- you'd probably wonder why anyone shopping for a new computer would choose a Windows PC.
But shoppers already used to a Windows PC sometimes prefer the enemy they know over the friend they're never met. So Apple did an extraordinary thing when it designed its latest computers: It gave them the ability to pull a fast switcheroo and change into a Windows PC.
Apple's Macintosh computers are the first consumer models from any PC maker that can do this. Nothing is sacrificed, either. When they're behaving as Macs, they're better than any other Mac models at doing the stuff Macs are known for; when they've done the quick-change operation and turned themselves into Windows PCs, they're fast and just as powerful at running Windows as any standard, single-operating system PC.
This is ideal for a Windows computer-game enthusiast. Functions that require a safe computer, such as Web browsing, Internet downloading, e-mail and instant messaging, can be done while the computer is running in Mac mode. But simply restarting the computer is all that's needed to access a simple menu that turns the Mac into a fast Windows PC, ready for the most intense Windows games.
Apple's dual-function computers are available as desktop computers and as laptop models, and are sold online (from www.apple.com) and from stores in major cities worldwide. (The Apple store in the Syracuse area is at Carousel Mall.)
Laptops start at $1,099 and desktop computers start at $999. Apple's most stylish desktop computer is the iMac, in which the computer itself is built into a flat-panel LCD screen. iMacs are available with 17-inch, 20-inch and 24-inch screens.
Apple also makes a model called the "mini" -- the company avoids capitalization whenever it can, so the model is indeed spelled "mini" -- that comes without a mouse, keyboard and monitor. That saves money, of course, and Apple knows that Windows switchers already have those three items -- but it also saves space; the mini is the size of a small hardcover book. You can get a mini for about $600.
Apple's dual-function computers come with software that enables this easy switching to Windows. It's called Boot Camp. If you'd rather run Windows at the same time as the Mac operating system, called OS X, you can purchase separate software called Parallels Desktop. Get it for $79.99 from www.parallels.com.
You'll also need a Windows installation disk. If you have a Windows PC you're no longer using, you can use the installation disk that came with it. (But remember: You have a legal obligation to remove Windows from that PC first.) You can also buy a copy of Windows from any PC store. Windows XP costs less than $100 if you shop around. Windows Vista will cost about twice that. See www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec091006.html.
Keep in mind that while Apple's Macintosh is a safe computer on its own, running Windows on a Mac means you are tossing out all the Mac's built-in safety measures. The Windows side of any Mac must be protected with antivirus, antispyware, antihijacking and zombie-blocking software. (Zombies are virus-like programs that turn Windows PCs into relays for spam, viruses and more zombies. Most spam now comes from zombie relays, so it's a very serious problem.)