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Ask Max: Need Help Buying My First Mac

Asked on 09/16/2008:

I’m a student that’s looking into my first Mac computer. I’ve always owned PCs and get frustrated because within a year or two they’re slower, less reliable, and for whatever reason act up and it costs a fortune to secure them against viruses and every other technological threat. So I’ve heard that a Mac can avoid these this true?

Also... as I said I am a student, and if I can I’d like a refurbished Mac laptop (to help save a little money) and I have a few other questions. Why is it these Macs are refurbished? Was something wrong in the first place? Also, what sort of computer would be appropriate for me? I like music and my iTunes so music storage would be important, and other than that just normal document storage and fast Internet browsing would be the only other things I’d need. So what type of computer would fit me? Do I need a dual processor and how much memory...all that. I don’t know much about it so anything you can tell me would help.


It’s true that Mac computers are far less prone to viruses and other junk that makes for a frustrating experience on Windows machines. This is not to say that Macs are impervious to attack, but it rarely happens. Macintosh computers are great for any user who has no interest in becoming a computer security expert or continuing to invest in repairing and reconfiguring a computer.

Macs are refurbished for a legion of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with anything having gone wrong with the machine. A computer could have been refurbished simply because it was returned by a customer who found it not the right fit. Maybe it was a display machine or a loaner system. Those are often refurbished too.

It is also just as likely, however, that a refurbished Mac had some problem, real or perceived, and was returned. Those systems are repaired and re-boxed as refurbished by Apple. Be aware that computers are really modular, so if a component goes bad, simply replacing that component will restore the machine to factory-level conditions. However, it is always a good idea to include AppleCare with a Mac purchase, which gives you three years of hardware protection and worldwide service coverage (you know, for that trip to Spain you always wanted). If a computer has any lingering issues they’ll become evident within those three years and you should be able to get it fixed at no cost.

For your specific needs, if you’re looking for mobility, I think a MacBook laptop with 2GB of RAM will work perfectly and is a quality starting point - and they’re stunning little notebooks. If you want a bigger screen and don’t plan to take your computer out of the house, then the iMac is my favorite choice.

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