Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Genealogist's viewpoint -- Macintosh or PC?

To answer the question of whether to buy a Macintosh or a PC for use primarily by a genealogist, I have to make a number of disclaimers. First and foremost, I do not have a stake in either. I am not sponsored by anyone at the moment, although I do run Google Ads on my site. But also to be fair, I am one of the original Macintosh users, having been at the Mac Intro in San Francisco in 1984 and I have owned and used Macs continuously since that time. Reluctantly, when I got super involved in genealogy, I purchased a series of PCs to run the programs, especially after Personal Ancestral File no longer had a Mac version. I also had to connect to work on a Microsoft network and at the time, only a PC had the software to connect and run all the programs. Some of this I have reviewed before in previous posts, but this subject needed updating.

Finally, about two years ago, all of the parts of the puzzle fell into place and there was no longer a reason to own or operate a PC based computer separate from my Macs. There were two things that happened to make this possible, first, the Intel based Mac computers became so fast that huge slow programs no longer made any difference. Second, the software program, Parallels Desktop, progressed to the point of usefulness. Now, I can run all of the PC software, RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree and whatever else on my Mac, faster and more conveniently than I could on a dedicated PC running Windows 7. So prior to about two or three years ago, I would have answered the question quite easily, stick with a PC. Now the answer is more complicated. Running Windows 7 on my Mac also gives me connectivity to my office through Remote Desktop. So, no reason to put up with PCs any longer.

What about the cost? Aren't Macs more expensive than PCs? Well, that is really a loaded objection and usually comes from someone who has no intention of buying a Mac. It is similar to the issue of features and speed. Not too long ago, I had one of the IT personnel at work try to convince me he could build a PC from scratch that would out perform any Mac. That is sort of like saying I can build a car in my garage that is better than your Prius. Who wants to do that when you can buy a Prius? Who wants to spend the time trying a get a PC system to work when you can buy a Mac? While I was shopping for my last iMac, I compared HP and Dell feature for feature and in every case, the PC came out more expensive. You can always pay less if you get an older, slower computer with fewer features. In computers, unlike many other products, you usually get what you pay for. There is so much competition, that differences in price are usually (not always however) reflected in differences in the product itself. If you need to buy a computer and want cheap, buy a PC. There are whole systems under $500. But don't expect to get a graphics powerhouse.

Here is the other issue. Have you ever sat down and used a Macintosh computer? If not, don't go around giving advice on what type of computer to buy. I have used almost every type of PC and Mac since 1982 and I will take a Mac every time. I use PCs all day long at work on our office network and until recently, I had a PC at home.

What do I have to do to run genealogy programs on my Mac? Well, you have two options. Use Macintosh genealogy programs or run Parallels Desktop and run all of the PC programs. Either way works fine. I have no more trouble transferring data from and to my Mac programs then I have between computers and programs on the PC. Since Family Tree Maker has released a Mac version, there is one more really good genealogy program for the Mac. But there were already a number of good programs including Reunion, MacFamilyTree and others.

Here is the one big obstacle to running everything on the Mac. It takes a lot of experience and quite a bit of patience to run two completely different operating systems on one computer at the same time. If you don't want to learn about operating systems and computers, stick with one or the other. Don't try both at the same time. But unless you have some overriding reason for purchasing a PC, like it is free or something, you should seriously consider a Mac. I recently stopped using my PC laptop for a MacBook Pro and don't have the time right now to tell you how much better I like the MacBook Pro than my old PC laptop.

Now the real issue for me. I do a lot of graphics. We own a graphic design company. I am a professional photographer. I scan thousands of documents. All of these things can be done easier and faster on a really fast Mac computer.

Enough is enough. Any questions? Let me know.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! I completely agree with everything you said. First, so many people do put price as a big factor when comparing PCs and Macs, but that is all they look at is the price. They need to look more at the hardware they are comparing.

    I use VMWare Fusion as my Windows emulator and I have been wondering whether or not I should try Parallels. I am also using Windows XP in my emulator. Do you suggest using Windows 7 to make it run more smoothly? I have never used Windows 7 in my emulator so I don't know how it would compare.