Walt Mossberg

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Do Macs Last Longer Than Windows PCs?

Here are a few questions I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.


Do Macs last longer than Windows PCs? I am willing to pay the additional cost for a Mac if it will last significantly longer, but if it has approximately the same lifespan as a PC from a reputable manufacturer, I will stay with PCs.

In my years of using both types of computers daily, I have never noticed a significant difference in when Macs and Windows PCs become unfit to use, and I have never seen claims from Apple (AAPL) that its computers last longer than competing models. Obviously, on the Windows side, there’s a much greater variety of manufacturers and of quality levels, while Apple makes all Macs, and receives generally high marks in well-known surveys of reliability. But so do some Windows PC makers. All computer makers turn out the occasional lemon, and how long a computer “lasts” depends tremendously on how you use it and how you judge its usefulness over time.

My laptop hard drive crashed last year and I lost some digital pictures that were on it. My daughter had accidentally copied those digital pictures onto her iPod but she didn’t select the option to store them at full resolution. I know I can get the pictures back off the iPod, but is there any software that can get them back at full resolution?

Not as far as I know. Unless you tell iTunes to store the photo at full resolution, what is on the iPod is a version of the photo that has been scaled down for the iPod’s screen resolution and storage capacity, and that is the resolution they would retain if you copied them back to a computer.

I have an H-P (HPQ) laptop using Windows XP and Microsoft (MSFT) Office 2003. If I purchase a new H-P laptop with Vista and Office 2007, what must be done to make the two machines compatible? My goal is to be able to take a copy of Office files from one computer and use them on the other.

The difference in the operating systems won’t affect your plan, but the difference in the Office versions might. The newer 2007 version of Office can easily handle your files from the older version. But Office 2003 can’t handle files in the new default Office formats introduced in the 2007 version. These formats use file suffixes that end in the letter x. For instance, the new Word format has an extension of docx, instead of the old, familiar doc.

Luckily, the new Office can still save files automatically in the old formats, if you change a setting. Here’s how.

On the computer with the new version of Office, click on the round “Office Button” at the top left of the 2007 versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Then, in the window that appears, click on “Options.” In the next screen that comes up, click on “Save” in the column at the left. In the panel that appears at the right, you’ll notice an option called “Save Files in this format,” with a drop-down list of choices next to it. Display the list of choices by clicking on the arrow and select the format that corresponds to Office 2003. Then, click OK at the bottom of the window. For instance, in Word 2007, the format you want is called “Word 97-2003 Document (*.doc).”

The other option is to enable Office 2003 to handle the new formats, by downloading a free “Compatibility Pack” from the company’s “Download Center,” at www.microsoft.com/downloads. You’ll find it listed there under “Popular Downloads.”

  • You can find Mossberg’s Mailbox, and my other columns, online for free at the new All Things Digital web site, http://walt.allthingsd.com.

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