Thoughts on Going PC: A Decade-Long Mac User Makes Peace with Microsoft

My post from a few weeks ago, detailing why I’d decided to switch to a PC from a Mac, really got some of your blood boiling. While there were a few folks utterly aghast at my decision to nix the shiny world of Apple for the starker, more sterile world of Microsoft, on the whole, I think most of you were pretty supportive of my choice. (As an aside: Mac Mini was still too expensive!)

The rundown: All in all, the whole computer cost us about $300 or so (including Windows 7), and a third of that was from an Amazon gift card we had. We used spare parts from a Dell we had on hand, as well as a new motherboard, processor, and power supply. An awesome friend of ours gave us the video card (both the first and second, more on that later) at no cost other than the promise we’d play WoW and D&D.The biggest expense ended up being Windows 7.  Now it all sits comfortably (and quietly) in an obsidian black box near my feet.

One of the things commenters on my first post asked for was an update as to what life was like after the switch. And indeed I wondered the same thing: what would working on a PC be like, ten years after starting with Macs? Truth be told, I had a short stint with Vista in about 2005 — but that experience was akin to some sort of torture. So I’ve got to say, initially my expectations really weren’t that high.

So, here are my first overall observations now that everything is fully functional and Tyrol the Cylon PC is now my day-in, day-out companion.

The Joy of the Buy

Buying parts for your own computer is both really exciting and really frustrating. I’ve never just been able to traipse into a computer parts store and buy stuff to put in my computer. So the experience has been kind of novel for me. I picked out my own power supply, ordered my processor and motherboard. Then I put them into my computer — with the help of my far more technically-inclined husband — and everything, after a fair bit of troubleshooting, actually works. It’s kind of magical!

However. Buying parts for your computer can also be frustrating. Finding cables and power supplies and then bringing them home to find out they don’t quite work, for example. Or having a video card simply fail. These things happen. But it’s part of the experience, this troubleshooting. And it’s super empowering to find the solution yourself! Which, most of the time, is the case. And if you’re having weird errors? Oh, Google Search is totally your friend.

The Operating System

Windows 7… is pretty awesome. I learned to type on an Apple IIe. Not until I was in high school, and my parents got an Aptiva (through which I became horrifically addicted to the game Torin’s Passage), did I have any schooling in the ways of Microsoft and IBM. And even then it was kind of crappy. Then I had that whole Vista debacle I mentioned before. I won’t even get into how much trouble Vista gave me, as these discussions are like beating a dead horse. Thankfully, Microsoft listened, and finally have an OS that is a breeze to use.

Windows 7 is easy to organize and, dare I say it, very Mac OS-like. It’s streamlined and easy to get used to. I no longer have the problem of files downloading into the netherspace (which was always my gripe with previous versions). Not to mention the search function is great. I think I’m doing more than I’ve ever done on a PC before, simply because it’s easier.

Plug and Play… No Really!

Devices. Oh, sweet little devices. I have a really cool phone that takes pictures and videos. But it wasn’t compatible with my Mac. I just plugged it in to the PC and, voila! Pictures. Videos. Right there. Extremely cool, magical, beautiful, awesome, fantastic. Peripherals and networking have also been a snap. Of course, this is somewhat expected as the vast majority of gadgets and whatnots are designed for use with PCs; however, having never had the money (or the available contract) to get an iPhone, this is still really exciting for me (and probably slightly annoying for the people I keep sending pictures to). Sorry, Facebook friends. The thrill will wear off soon enough.

Other Considerations

Shortcomings? I’d be lying to say it’s been easy. We had a video card meltdown, as I mentioned. We had some pretty weird errors as we went along, too. But all in all, it’s been over a week of me exclusively using the PC and, with so much of my job now in the cloud (at last count I had something like seven separate WordPress accounts), I can honestly say the experience isn’t really that different than it was on my Mac. Gaming is better, sure. Media sharing and networking is easier. But so much of the computer experience these days has less to do with hardware than it does to the internet at large that it’s really not as big of a transition as I expected.

My only significant complaint? The beta version of Scrivener has too many bugs, which means I’m back to using Word for writing. Hopefully when it’s out of beta, Scrivener won’t eat all my formatting and send me stomping into the next room. For now, it’s Notepad for posts and Word for novels.

If I had the money, would I splurge on a MacBook or an iMac? It’s possible. I don’t know if Apple will ever stop being appealing to me, even if I know better on some level. They are great computers that work for a very long time and do some very remarkable things. However, the price of that dependability and greatness is high–far too high for me. For now I’m pleased as punch — and admittedly proud — of putting this really nifty little computer together.

Geek Achievement… unlocked. 40G.