Most schools will give one of two non-answers:
- it's personal preference - just use what you like best, or
- check with your major department for their requirements
While these aren't terrible answers, they really won't help most people. Most kids just use features of a computer like the web browser, chat client, skype and office tools, and don't really interact with the operating systems. In fact, it's the same for many parents.
And, most academic departments don't have specific requirements, and if the require specific software it will run on PC or Mac. (YMMV/Your Mileage May Vary - and you should check with that academic department!).
So, we haven't helped answer the question! But here are criteria you shouldn't use: price (alone); "free" items included (like printers), and; don't choose a Mac just because you think it won't get malware!
Here's an interesting recent article on a ransom malware scam on Macs. Ransom scams encrypt your data so you can't get to it and then charge you a fee to have them decrypted.
While there used to be far more malware on PCs than Macs, there is plenty of Mac malware to go around. And many computer problems are not caused by traditional viruses, but clicking on malicious links, downloading malware and, of course, issues like giving away passwords and other personal information through phishing or other attacks.
Whatever system you get for your student, the advice I provided in my Online Self-Defense series holds true. And... have them use a password vault!
So... Mac or PC? Here's the advice I give people when they ask me (after listing the 2 non-answers above!):
- Do you like to tinker or heavily customize your system? If yes then get a PC.
- If you want to just take your computer out of the box and start working, then get a Mac. (same advice I give for Android v iPhone)
A few caveats for those who are already yelling at me:
- Yes... I fully realize that you can heavily customize a Mac or just use a Windows system out of the box.
- And yes, if your student is into computer science or security then linux or FreeBSD are great choices.
There are tons of Macs on campus. That is the platform I have gotten my students, although I do not use Macs myself.
Here are some great links for Mac anti-malware and safety.
How about you? Mac or PC?