Ask SCORE: Which is better for my business, a Mac or PC?

Mac or PC? This debate has been going on for decades. If you’re a former corporate employee, chances are that you’ve always used PCs for work. But now that you’re the boss, the choice is up to you—and if you love Apple products for home use, should you buy a Mac for your startup, too?

Both systems have their pros and cons for small businesses. Here are some important factors to consider when making your decision. 

What do you currently have? For a one-person startup such as a consultant or freelancer, sticking with the platform you currently have and are familiar with could be the best option. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

What applications do you need for your business, and what is the standard in your industry and your customers’ industries? In the past, PCs were often the default business choice because many business software applications weren’t available for Macs. Today, this isn’t as much of a consideration: Most new business software runs on both platforms or has Mac versions available (such as Office for Mac).

However, running Mac versions of PC programs to fit in with your industry standards can get clunky. In general, it’s simplest to choose the platform most of your customer and prospects use. For example, if you’re targeting government agencies that use PCs with Windows software, doing so yourself ensures files and attachments are compatible when shared.

Macs have long been popular with businesses in graphic design, photography, video editing or other visual fields. Although PCs are starting to catch up in terms of the number of programs available for these industries, Macs boast higher screen resolution and clarity, more industry-standard design programs and a wider variety of fonts than PCs. If you’re in accounting, finance or engineering, on the other hand, you’ll probably prefer the functionality of Excel on a PC versus the more limited version in Office for Mac.

What is your budget? Macs cost more upfront. In 2014, the average price of a Mac computer was over $1,300. That’s not counting software such as Office for Mac that you’ll probably need for compatibility with customers who use Windows. In comparison, PCs can be had for $500 or less. That said, Macs tend to last longer, which may make the investment worthwhile.

What are your security needs? Macs are less susceptible to viruses than PCs, and for many users this is all the selling point they need. However, Macs are not immune to attack, especially as viruses become more platform-agnostic. In addition, Apple tends to end support for outdated operating systems faster than Microsoft does, so if you don’t want to update to the new OS every few years, you’ll eventually stop getting the security patches you need.

How much customization do you want? The PC platform is more open than that of a Mac, which has more restrictions and limitations as well as fewer options for hardware. The comparative ease of customizing software or hardware on PCs is one reason hard-core video gamers prefer them.

Do You Need to Choose? Today, more and more businesses use both Macs and PCs to take advantage of the best features of each. Now that most companies keep data and software in the cloud, using multiple platforms is a lot simpler than it used to be.

Before making your decision, visit stores to test computers in person, read reviews and ratings, and ask business associates for their recommendations. If you’re still not certain which is the best platform for your business, an IT consultant or your SCORE mentor can help you decide.

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