Basic Back to School Mac Buying Guide


K-9 Students & Families

The newly revamped iMac is certainly a nice home computer at a nice price point – everything a K-9 student & family might need. It comes with iLife and there are dozens of free word processors you can download to use or MS Office Student & Academic version is only $99 after rebate until 9/3/07. You can set up different partitions and desktops and close off or limited usage to certain family members via ACCOUNTS in system preferences.

And while people talk about expandability, the honest truth is that is an old tired argument that’s not very relevant these days – before USB or Firewire, expandability externally was a hassle and required geeks knowledge. You did have to understand SCSI and termination but now, you practically don’t even to restart the computer (though its’ still a good idea). External drives are often even formatted for the Mac so by plugging them in and powering them up – you are ready to go. You can add 300+ GB for as little as $60 and I just bought a 1 TB external drive Mac formatted for $299 – literally plug and play. So, while it’s usually a good idea to add some more RAM, adding a drive is as difficult as plugging the mouse into your keyboard so don’t even consider the “expandability” issue as an anything as 99% of people who own PC’s that are expandable never add anything onto them anyway.

Most software is available in an academic edition from places such as Academic SuperStore or CampusTech as just some examples/choices. Click on the links to read about eligibility.

What’s nice about the Mac is not only its straightforward ease of use but only Apple offers you FREE workshops to help you get started. Just look up the nearest store here, click on the link to see which workshops are scheduled soon (Widget Version). Or if you prefer a One to One private training session, it’s $99 a year and you can choose as many of the topics offered (Moviemaking, Getting Started on your Mac, etc, etc …) via appointment. For business questions and consultants … Or make an appointment at the Genius Bar or paid ProCare.

If you prefer to go it alone, just scroll to the bottom of this page to read about getting starting for every Apple app. If you sign up for .Mac, there are dozens of video tutorials to help you get started.

If you’re switching from a PC, here’s Apple’s page for switchers. Or if you need a personal shopper to help you wade through it all.

College Students

While the iMac is very nice for the home, if you’re getting a computer for a student in the last years of high school or college, you pretty much need a portable Mac for note taking or just being out and about – since the wifi should be campus wide … unless you’re going to that Amish university.



Yes, you can spend time geeking out on the specs but here’s the bottom line. The MacBook’s are the value laptops – you get a great machine that can run 3 OSes including Mac, Linux & Windows. It’s perfect for 75% of students who just want to write, do some presentations, crunch some numbers and surf the web. You want either the mid or top version so you’re talking $1,299 or $1,499.

The MacBook Pro’s are faster with a wide bus for math/graphics calculation (along with a better video card), a keyboard that can light up and a brighter/better LED screen. Whether that’s worth an extra $500 to $1,000 is your call (and you can get by with the install 2GB of RAM in the MacBook Pro’s).

(Yes, I skirted over some specs but you get the idea).

If you’re math, chemistry or in the visual arts, you might want to get the extra speed oomph of a MacBook Pro though it’s like complaining your BMW 3-series is not as nice as the 5-series. The violin you will be playing is still pretty small.

Of course, in the dorm room – you can add a larger monitor – get an LCD TV with DVI in and you can use it as your monitor or feed your DVD signal from your Mac also.


If you’re at a larger college, you should have tech support available to you so AppleCare is less important since you are covered for a year for the hardware & if you buy it on the right credit card – that gets doubled to two years. The $249-$349 you would normally spend upfront is more useful when you want the telephone tech support portion but less so if you have official tech support at the college and or friendly Apple fans abound who are always willing to pitch in down the hall … who might just be dying to meet you but is unsure of if this opening line might work with you, “Did you know the Apple Command key is a Swedish symbol for ….) … it works for me nearly everytime 🙂 Well, at MacWorld … when I’m holding a free t-shirt …

However, if you’re attending a small college in the middle of nowhere and no Apple store nearby, it might be a good idea to add AppleCare then.


Also note, some large schools have licensing deals in place so you can get MS Office or Adobe apps for a lot less. Check with the campus bookstore before you buy academic versions yourself – some of the university’s licensing deals are cheaper than a 6-pack … er, I meant lunch at McDonald’s. This is also important if you plan on running Windows via Boot Camp, VMware Fusion or Nova Parallels Desktop since a retail license of Windows Premium Vista/XP can be spendy but it might be 95% cheaper as part of your school’s licensing deal. Again, smaller schools may not have these campus-wide licensing deals in place but check first.


Of course, Apple offers educational discounts at the Education portion of the Apple store. You can check your eligibility. Apple is also giving you a free iPod.

And please, for the sake of all that is holy and good, use these as templates for your MySpace pages. Facebook is not as easy to deface 🙂

Have fun!


Filed under Apple, Apple Mac, Computing, Gadgets, Internet, Retail, Toys

3 responses to “Basic Back to School Mac Buying Guide

  1. DeRay

    It’s unfathomable that this article does not even mention iWork, especially since yesterday’s press event where iWork ’08 was introduced with updated Keynote and Pages as well as the introduction of Numbers. Please correct or update your article. Thanks.

    (METROXING: iWork’s WP, PAGES is okay – it’s acceptable as a word processor and nice if you’re doing community newsletters, I personally do not recommend it over WORD. I have not really tested out NUMBERS so I cannot say but there’s not much wrong with EXCEL. POWERPOINT is an abominable and a plague upon mankind and KEYNOTE is brilliant – that said, even at the high school level, not to mention the college or corporate level – unfortunately, unless you are Al Gore, Guy Kawasaki or some other marketing guru, you still have to present in PowerPoint – as hideous as it is, the “standard” file format for presentations is PowerPoint. Again, I’m not saying it’s right but resistence at this point is futile. If MS Office were only available at $400+, I would recommend taking a look at it. But at $100 for the academic edition (same version as “pricey” version), there’s not enough to warrant a switch for most students. If you do presentations and you want an excuse not to really share it with anyone (it does export to PPT but PPT is usually too stupid to replicate it correctly), KEYNOTE is nearly everythong POWERPOINT isn’t. Keynote is cool, looks great, fun to use and makes you look like a genius. Powerpoint is moldy, wet toilet paper.)

    (P.S. – if you’d like to write a full fledged review of IWORKS, we’d be happy to post it).

  2. Dan

    You have the wrong link for
    It should be For great deals you can also try

    (METROXING: Fixed. Thanks.)

  3. Excellent article! I had forgotten about the credit card warranty. Since I bought AppleCare, does that mean it doubles to six years? 🙂

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