Thinking about a new computer?
First, consider how you plan to use it. Will you be using it to work from home; for managing personal finances or family photos; or as a multimedia center for playing games or watching movies?
Next, you'll need to decide which type of computer - a Windows PC or a Mac - is best equipped to get the job done. That's where things get more complicated.
PCs come pre-loaded with the Windows operating system. Windows PCs are used in more than 90 percent of businesses, and there are numerous brands to choose from. Competition is fierce, so consumers benefit from wallet-friendly prices. And with Windows' popularity, there are hundreds of thousands of compatible software programs and games available.
Windows, however, is plagued by security concerns, including vulnerability to hacker attacks, viruses and spyware. This means that Windows users are burdened with researching and buying various software programs to protect their systems.
Macs face almost none of these security and stability issues. They are also known for their ease of use and free Web, music and video applications, which are great for novices. From a cost standpoint, there is little difference these days between similarly equipped Macs and PCs.
Although secure and easier to use, there are far fewer programs available for Macs. For example, the popular Microsoft Outlook e-mail, calendar and contact management software is not available. And since far fewer businesses use Macs, there could be compatibility issues for people who want to work at home.
In recent months, however, the Mac/PC gap has closed. With Apple's Boot Camp software, you can run either the Mac or Windows operating system on your Mac computer, but you have to restart the computer to run either one or the other.
An easier solution is a new program called Parallels Desktop for Mac (www.parallels.com/mac), which allows Mac owners to run both operating systems simultaneously and switch back and forth between them. Using Boot Camp or Parallels means users no longer have to compromise between choosing the Mac or PC.
Choosing a new computer doesn't have to be tricky. Decide what you'll use it for, then go with the one you like the best. The right combination of hardware and operating system exists to make the rest a snap.