A computer will be the most important asset your business ever has.
Don’t make your decision based on which model is on sale this week. Pick the right computer for running your business.
WINDOWS or MAC
Choosing between Mac or Windows is more of a decision of software than hardware, but it is a serious consideration before you spend a bunch of Benjamins on either.
The short answer: Pick whichever one you are more comfortable with.
I started using Microsoft stuff when Windows 95 was new. It wasn’t until 2010 that I first used a Mac computer.
What’s the difference between Windows and Mac? Not much, and a lot:
- The Close/Expand/Minimize buttons on Windows are on the top right, but are on the top left for Mac. That’s probably the biggest difference
- Most DAWs, plugins, and other programs offer versions for both with few differences between Windows and Mac
- Many services we use are browser-based, so the operating system almost doesn’t matter
Your mileage may vary.
Example: I tried going back to Windows for my “travel computer”, but had serious problems that nobody could figure out. I sold it and went right back to Mac. I’ve never been more relieved.
Britany Felix has a similar experience to share, except she had been using Windows machines for years and once tried to start using Mac. I remember reading her horror stories on Facebook and wondering how she got such a lemon of a machine when I’ve never had issues with my Macs (and I’ve had four since 2010).
Summary: Pick what you are already comfortable with. Wait until you are stable enough in your finances and your workflow to try another system. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
DESKTOP or LAPTOP
For the money, you can’t beat the power of a desktop computer (formerly known as a tower).
Desktop computers are more customizable than laptops, although most people aren’t building their own systems like we were back in the late 1990’s.
I should note that most desktops don’t come with a monitor unless it is sold in a package.
Apple desktop options:
• Mac Mini (best value)
• iMac (all-in-one computer with monitor and tilting stand)
• Mac Pro (dude, seriously!)
Windows desktop options:
• There are way too many variations and brands to list here
• Often you can find a package that includes a screen
Summary: When choosing a desktop, seriously consider keeping it off the floor and a few inches away from a wall. More dust is collected when we stick our computers in a corner of the room, which will eventually clog the air vent holes, make the fans run longer, and possibly overheat.
While more expensive than a tower, laptops are portable. And let’s be real: The power needed to edit audio is easily met by almost any computer made in the past several years.
Apple laptop options:
• MacBook Air
• MacBook Pro
• iPad (only if you find the right editing software)
Windows laptop options:
• There are also too many variations to mention when it comes to Windows laptops
• Some have touch screens
One of each!
I get to work from home, so my main computer is a powerful desktop.
When I’m away from home, I still need to get some work done. As I mentioned above, I have a “travel laptop”. It isn’t as powerful as my home computer and certainly doesn’t have as many features. You might consider buying a really good computer for home and a less-than-stellar laptop you can beat up while on the road.
Summary: Don’t let price be the leading factor when making a decision on which model to buy. Read on for more things to consider.
NEW OR USED
Buying new may come with a guarantee or additional support. However, a used machine could save you a ton of money.
I shouldn’t have to tell you about the risks of buying used on places like eBay and CraigsList. However, I can offer you a list of places you can look for good used computers:
- Find refurbished and factory restored systems at EPC (https://deals.epcusa.com/pc-systems)
- Apple offers their own Refurbished store (https://www.apple.com/shop/refurbished)
- BestBuy also has a Refurbished section online (https://www.bestbuy.com/site/searchpage.jsp?id=pcat17071&st=refurbished+computer)
- Look local. Sometimes you can get great support by buying locally
Tip: Find ways to boost the power of a computer, either by having the manufacturer install different parts or have a used dealership install better components.
The guts of a computer are changing all the time, so I won’t give any specific recommendations here.
However, I do think the following are important:
- CPU: The processes inside your computer. Usually, a faster chip is better but also consider how many “cores” it has.
- Cores: Not only is processor speed important, but the number of processors can help improve the performance when running multiple programs.
- SSD or HDD (Hard Disc Drive): SSD is superior in many ways, but it adds quite a bit to the price tag of any computer. HD are slower and more prone to damage if dropped on the floor. Make sure to go through the “External Storage” module of this course for more ideas to help make this decision.
- RAM: Temporary memory. I recommend a minimum of 8GB, but 16GB if you can swing it. (32GB is fantastic too)
- Graphics: A top-of-the-line graphics card is less important for editing audio, but if you do any video production then you need to add this to your checklist
Summary: You can get lost in a lot of the technical jargon. Concentrate on what is important to editing podcasts and ignore the rest.
PORTS and CONNECTIONS
Remember when computers came with CD-ROM drives? As time goes on and technology advances, the number of ports has also been reduced – especially on Apple laptops.
Consider the following port optionss that help connect external devices or hardware:
- USB, USB 3 or USB-C ports…and how many?
- HDMI and VGA for connecting external/second screens
- Do you prefer a wireless or BlueTooth mouse and keyboard?
- 3.5mm headphone jack (quickly being phased out)
- Ethernet port (if you want a hardwire connection over using WiFi)
- Does the computer have a decent built-in webcam for client meetings? If not, how will you connect one externally?
Don’t forget to use the checklist below to keep track of what you want. It can help you filter available units faster on sites like Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, or even the salesperson at your local shop.