Mac vs. PC, part the umpteenth: Reliability of machines you've purchased

Figured I might as well start a thread about this. It seems like one of the themes I’ve noticed (though admittedly this may be confirmation bias) is that I keep seeing posts about (a) how high-quality Macs are, and (b) how people keep needing to get them repaired, and that it’s essential to get the extended warranty.

The dichotomy has always struck me as being a bit odd.

So I’m curious about what kind of reliability you’ve seen from machines that you’ve purchased for personal use (i.e., not supplied by somebody else).

Personally, I’ve bought machines that have been low-end-workstation grade, and have had good luck with reliability. In the past decade or so, I’ve had the following hardware problems:

One dead monitor
One dead mouse
One dead DVD drive (took about 10 minutes to replace, including time to read the manual)
One video card that intermittently stops outputting a signal upon bootup (workaround: cycle the power, and it would always work the next time. The machine is getting on to end-of-life anyway, so it’s not worth it to fix the problem for real)
One cooling fan bearing that squeals intermittently (solution: turn up the radio more)

What problems have you had?
Disclosure: I work for a large software company based in Redmond, and I haven’t used a Mac since grad school.

I’ve bought low-end PCs with no problem. I’ve bought high-end Mac (currently own two MacBook Pros and a MacPro desktop) and have no problems with either of them. I prefer the Mac (obviously, as I switched over), but I’m not zealous about it. Apple does get on my nerves as much, if not more nowadays, than Bill Gates and his PCs ever have. But damn do I like their computers and operating system.

I’ve had a ton of computers (including Suns, SGIs, NeXTs, etc.), but my “main” computer at home (as opposed to at work) has been a Mac since we got one in 1993 when I was in high school. Those machines were:

Performa 630CD
PowerComputer PowerCenter 150 (Mac clone)
Powerbook 1400
Powerbook G4 (Titanium)
Powerbook G4 (Aluminum)
MacBook Pro (pre-Unibody)

I’ve never had a complete failure of a machine or key component such that the machine was unusable (i.e. no hard drive failures, etc.). I’ve had very few failures at all. The Powerbook 1400 had an intermittent crashing problem that was solved by replacing the logic board IIRC (though MacOS of the day was pretty crashy anyway, so who knows). The MacBook Pro had a problem where every once in a blue moon the keyboard would stop working unless I put the machine to sleep and woke it up. Fixed with an “upper case assembly” replacement. Both of those were fixed under warranty, 2 or 3 day turnaround (the 1400 was repaired by the campus computing center when I was in college).

The old-style power adapters on the Powerbooks were a bad design and after a while the connector craps out. I’ve gone through a bunch of those, but I took to buying cheap third-party replacements that broke even sooner but still came out to be cheaper. The MagSafe connectors (on the MacBook pros) haven’t given me any trouble at all. Obviously, the batteries eventually wear out, but it’s not really right to call that a reliability issue.

My Aluminum PB G4 is now about six years old, and still in use by my wife. It’s been through a lot. Just recently the screen has started getting a little bit flaky – sometimes the bottom half won’t work unless you squeeze the enclosure. I blame my wife’s bad habit of picking the machine up by the corner of the screen…

That’s about it as far as I can remember. Again, that’s speaking only of my primary machines. I’ve had many failures with my other stuff (including PCs, but always running some form of Unix – the only Windows machine I have ever personally owned is my current MacBook Pro which has Windows 7 installed, even though I only use it about twice a year). I just had a hard drive failure in my TiVo around the beginning of the year. I feel like I’m long overdue for a HD failure on my main machine since I’ve never had one in my life, so I’ve been extra paranoid about backups lately…

I’ve had four computers since 1995. The sole reason for replacing each of them has been simply that they became too slow for each of my connectivity-internet upgrades over the years.

HP something-or-other 1995-2000
Gateway Millenium 2000-2005
Compaq Evo 2005-2010
Acer Aspire 4 months

Haven’t had a problem with any of them (they were all still in working order when retired) and have been ecstatic with each upgrade, now even moreso with being able to stream HD content to my 37" monitor!

These are the computers I’ve used on a daily basis for the last 20-something years (Not all of them have been mine, personally)

Pacbell 386 - dos/windows 3
Pentium 60 - Win 95 (first pentiums on the market)
Pentium of some sort from Quantex - Win 98
Dell - WinXP
Dell2 - WinXP (My Dad still uses this machine for solitaire and poker)
Motion Tablet (I bought this as a laptop, sent it back because I hate aluminum latp tops.)
HP Tablet 1100tc - Windows XP Tablet edition (I still have this, rarely use it)
Falcon NW - XP/Vista (My mom uses this computer now)
My hand built machine - Vista/Win 7 (My current machine)

I haven’t had a problem with any of these machines. I still use & maintain four of them.

There mostly have not been any true low-end Macs. Instead, middle of the line and top end. PCs, of course, come available through the whole spectrum.

Thus Macs get the reputation of being so much more solidly built (and they are well made machines but the observation is skewed in part because low end PCs get included in the comparison). Reciprocally, Macs get the observation of being pricey (and historically there’s been a premium, although only marginally in the last decade; the observation is skewed once again by the inclusion of low end PCs in the comparison).
First Mac was a used SE, had a hard drive failure, other than that ran the hell out of it for four years then sold it cheaply in '97 around 10 years old.

I still own:

7100/80, solid as a rock, not set up any more but boots and runs if asked to

PowerBook ‘WallStreet’ G3 Series 98, a couple of design flaws have necessitated a few repairs but I still use it to run a couple old scanner and to record and edit audio. For a 12 year old laptop, not a bad record.

Current machines are an identical pair of G4 PowerBook 17s, last of the PowerPCs, abut 4 years old. Blew one motherboard post-warranty, and had a problem with the audio output port, but other than that no issues, 5 year old laptops at this point if I’m counting correctly.

1: Macintosh PPC6100 (1994) - had to replace the power supply, eventually it stopped booting up. Never took it in for repair because I needed a new computer anyway.

2: Dell Inspiron laptop (1998?) - after a while the display developed a 1" discolored stripe down the left side. Never bothered to fix it. Still works but I don’t use it for anything.

3: Dell Dimension 8100 desktop (~2000). No hardware problems, still works. I use it to run a virtual synth.

4: HP dv9000 17" laptop (2006) - the clamshell display cover split up one side, replaced keyboard X2 (it’s falling apart again), replaced motherboard. I’m still using it as my main computer.

5: Intel iMac 20" (2009) - Hard drive failed (out of warranty), replaced with external.

6: HP Pavilion desktop (2010)- No problems so far. I use it in my music room.

The only real unexpected out-of-the-blue failure was the hard drive on the iMac. In hindsight the other problems were more or less self-inflicted either by environment or mishandling. I sent the HP laptop in for repair twice under extended warranty (I got the extended warranty because I had twin toddlers), so that was definitely worth it.

You work for Nintendo? Awesome! :wink:

But yeah, I’ve purchased four or five low-end to mid-range PCs since 1996 and the only things that have ever crapped out on me are two monitors and a mouse.

I adore my Dell computer and my Gateway before it was excellent as well. Both were mid-low end laptops and ran beautifully for many years.

My Apple at work is horrible. It is a high end IMac and does very little well.

I was actually excited when it arrived. I really wanted to become an expert in Apple computers, but this one is slow. It’s running OS X, by the way. We have many that also have Windows on them, but my experience with them is limited.

Perhaps it runs Windows better? That would be weird.

I didn’t vote in the poll because the hardware reliability has been good enough for the PCs I’ve bought, and more than good enough for the Macs.

It’s the software reliability in the PC world that kills me. On my old work PC if I ever got a message that a program was “not responding”, I had to reboot. Usually I could save my critical work, but not when it was Windows Explorer that was not responding. On my much newer work laptop, I still cringe when I see that a program is not responding. On that machine I can usually just shut down and restart the offending program, but again if Windows Explorer is not responding I have to get medieval on the machine. :mad: And how the frack can the Operating System not respond?

On the other hand, Mac software has been almost bulletproof. On the rare occasions when I have to kill a program on my MacBook, I can use the easy built-in function “Force Quit”. Force Quit actually works, as I describe [post=11725043]in this post[/post].

MS search tools are barely useful. I ask for help in [thread=561728]this thread[/thread].

Oh, and there are the install/upgrade/patch processes. Simple on the Mac (once you get the hang of it), but varies from simple on the PC (Firefox, Thunderbird) to nearly impossible (M$).

Microsoft, why is software written my “mere hobbyists” easier to install and maintain on your own operating system than your own software, written by “professionals” who have access to your entire library of proprietary documentation? And more reliable, easier to use, and less expensive? Why is my boss paying you again?

Either you’ve been lucky or I’ve been unlucky, as I regularly have Force Kill hang on all my machines at least once I week. I end up having to go into Terminal and killing processes from the command line, sometimes having to even “sudo kill” them, because they just won’t die. (The “sudo kill” one is relatively new. I had a process that wasn’t giving me permission to kill it for some reason, even though I only have one account set up on this Mac and I have admin privileges.)

I do know how to drop down to the Unix prompt and run a kill command, but I have not had to do that yet. Even if I had to learn how to run terminal, look up a PID, and issue a kill command, that would still be easier and less stressful than some of the things I’ve had to do to kill wayward Windows programs.

I do admit, “kill” does kill a process good. I’m not sure I’ve ever had that fail on me. If I can get to it. I’ve had a handful of instances where I’ve gotten the spinning beach ball of death that would not go away and would not let me launch Terminal or any new processes. Those few times, after waiting up to an hour, I had to do a hard reset (i.e. kill the power.)

That actually sounds like pretty bad luck. I’ve only ever had to force kill Mail on a couple of occasions when a server is being unresponsive, and sometimes I have to kill Eve Online because I run out of patience waiting for it to quit itself. What is it that you find yourself having to kill?

On the other hand on my WinXP work machine, I’m constantly having to bring up the task manager to kill Outlook 2003 and Firefox. I don’t know if it’s a Windows problem, or a problem with those two apps.

I’ve had four PCs since I bought my first one in 1997, and all of them have been the upper end of mid-range as far as pricing goes - I got taken with the first one. Sure, it’s tempting to spend $400 to buy a computer, but I haven’t been able to convince myself it’s a good idea.

Anyway, the cd-rom drive on computer #1 died after eight months and was replaced under warranty, but it was the worst compter I’ve ever owned (a packard bell from shortly before they poofed out of existence - last time Dad ever played computer consultant) so what can you expect. And I had one monitor, the one that came with computer #2, die after 14 months. That’s it for original hardware/component problems.

Which isn’t to say I’ve haven’t had computer problems otherwise - with computer #3 a secondary hard drive installed after purchase and an external hard drive both died on me within a year and a half - but since those didn’t come with the computer, it’s hardly the computer’s manufacturer’s fault.

Oh, and in 13 years, I’ve only had to wipe a hard drive and reinstall things once.

I’ve had horrible luck with macs… and good luck with PC’s. Thanks to Macs the mere sight of a question mark is enough to induce vomiting in me.

Spent literally days screaming at three different Macs to do something, anything. Had one powerbook go to the store for maintenance, and sent it back 2 days later for the same problem… got new memory for it… sent it back a day later, non-responsive again… they sent it to the factory (or so they claim)… got it back a week later… sent it back 3 days later, got a new HDD… sent it back a week later with the same problem, got a new one to replace it. And that was the *good *Mac. Funnily enough, my OSX86 laptop has had no problems in almost 2 years.

On the PC side… sure, I’ve had some issues, but usually issues I could resolve blindfolded and one-handed (mostly software related, and mostly Microsoft kit). I’ve had quite a few… usually the ones I’ve built seem to hold up better than off the shelf systems.

Up until my last Dell, I have had good luck with all my PCs.

Dell however, sucks.

My last PC was a high-end machine built by a local computer shop specifically for video editing. Every single thing in the computer went bad within the first 3 years (CPU (yes, really), motherboard, HDD, video card, optical drive, even the power supply) except for the $600 video capture card that was in it. I must say, the shop I bought it from was good about fixing it every time something went wrong, and since the last piece was replaced, the thing has been fine and is still running today (5 years later). However, that was the last PC I bought. I’ve had 5 Macs since then, with no hardware problems with 4 of them. The one problem I did have is that one of my iMacs developed a vertical pink line of stuck pixels (one pixel wide) down the side of the screen.

My latest is a 2-week old Core i7 27" iMac that I love. Of course that one’s too new to be able to say anything about reliability-wise.

(I’m a Mac developer these days, so more people buying Macs means more potential customers for my software. You might say I’m biased because of that…)

Can’t remember exactly–usually something like Photoshop, Lightroom, or Firefox.

Anyhow, it just happened now, or something similar. I was transferring over a bunch of CF cards to my hard drive. On the next to last card, something hiccuped. I ejected the card. The drive ejected, but a folder showed up on the desktop with the CF card’s name. The folder (not an external drive icon) could not be deleted, but had an “eject option,” even though nothing was connected. I put in another CF card, and that pops up as a normal drive. I download it no problem. I eject, and put the problematic card back in. No dice. Doesn’t even show up on the desktop. So I eject the folder with the card’s name. I try plugging the CF card back in. Computer won’t recognize it. So I go to kill the finder to restart it. The finder is killed. But never restarts. I have a blank desktop, although I can access all applications. Try as I might, I can’t get the Finder back. I have to restart the computer. I go to restart, and it goes through the motions of restarting. But it never actually restarts. So I have to do a hard reset.

Once I do that, everything is peachy again. Thing is, the above problems happened about an hour after starting up the computer, and I had very few processes running (basically Mail and maybe Firefox in the background) when the problems started happening. I’ve run memtest, I’ve checked my hard disks, etc., but no problems. And it’s not just on this computer–similar things happen to me on all my Macs from time to time.

And, as I said, I prefer Macs to PCs despite these occasional hiccups. And I rate them as reliable machines overall. However, they are not at all problem-free, at least in my experience over the last five years.

I prefer Macs for the OS and software. The machines themselves have caused me problems. To be honest though, I tend to be a bit harsh on my laptops physically. The one tower I had beat the pants off all it’s contemporary PC competitors. In fact, that 12 year old machine still runs my MIDI keyboard and the only scanner I have. I have no reason to replace it.