PC or Mac–Which is the Best for Trading?

By September 10, 2018Uncategorized
PC or Mac--Which is the Best for Trading?

The question of whether a Mac is superior to a PC in trading or vice-versa is a hotly debated one. There is no question Windows PCs are far more ubiquitous than Macs–with an OS market share close to 90% vs. just 9.2% for Mac OS.

According to Netmarketshare, there are more than 20 Windows-based PCs for every Mac!

PC or Mac--Which is the Best for Trading?

But does the prevalence of PCs necessarily make them better trading tools than Macs?

For starters, the much higher price point for an average Apple computer certainly has a lot to do with their lower market penetration. A  lightweight 13-inch MacBook Air will take you back a cool $1,000 and change—about double the cost of an average Windows PC.

On average, you pay a 50% mark-up for a Mac in order to get the same amount of processor power on a PC. However, for many traders who use a single machine for trading, cost might not be a major issue. The average day trader and forex trader is more concerned about whether their trading software, indicators and trading computers give them a trading edge.

Mac Strong Points:

Macs for Stock Trading

1.) Easier to Set up

The Mac is superior to the PC is several ways. Macs are generally easier to set up, start up, use and even maintain, compared to an average PC.

  • A Mac can go from cold boot to live trading using just a couple of mouse clicks and in well under a minute.
  • A PC typically involves much more hassle to set up and boot, which can be a critical consideration during the opening bell ritual.  

This is before you add in the fair percentage of Windows junk—some would charitably call them “unwanted core apps” that you’ll need to rid your PC of, before you can start using it. 

Of course, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you might accidentally delete necessary files/apps, so user beware!

Download a quick PDF version of this post.

 

2.) Higher reliability

Macs have a reputation for being true workhorses that rarely break down. Mac hardware is single-vendor-controlled–by Apple.

Every components’ drivers are certified and supported by that one vendor. That dramatically cuts down on the hassles of installing and updating device drivers.

Although you can use the default VGA driver for a Windows PC, Macs have full-featured drivers, installed by default and right off the Mac OS X DVD.

Macs, on average, do not crash as frequently as PCs and do not need a lot of protective software such as anti-adware, antivirus, and anti-spyware that costs money and slows down machines.

You certainly wouldn’t want your computer to start acting up in the middle of a trading session!

Windows PCs have hits and misses, with some brands being more reliable than others. Lower-end PCs, in particular, tend to suffer a rather sharp drop-off in reliability after the first two years of operation, with problems such as overheating and cracked cases.

Macs, on the other hand, tend to be uniformly good with superb longevity.

Part of it lies in the use of higher-grade hardware by Apple, while the other part is due to the use of very stable software.

  • The OSX platform is very stable and even older OSX versions work well enough for most purposes.
  • A Mac will run for months with no need for a reboot.
  • The underlying UNIX OS kernel is very stable and reliable.

3.) Better User Satisfaction/ Customer Support

When it comes to satisfying the user, Macs beat PCs handily. Macs have ranked at the top of customer satisfaction surveys for more than a decade. The same case applies to customer support.

Apple has an impeccable service record that many PC manufacturers would be hard-pressed to match. Many Apple products, including Macs, come with a one-year limited warranty and 90 days of complimentary phone support.

If anything goes wrong with your Mac, you can book an appointment with an Apple Genius at an Apple retail store.

PC Strong Points:

PC Computer For Stock Trading

1.) Better Compatibility with Major Trading Platforms

If there is one area where Windows PCs beat Macs hands down, when it comes to ease of trading, it’s Windows’ compatibility with major trading platforms.

A study, done by EZ Trading Computers, found that 72% of the largest and most popular trading platforms for day traders and forex traders are Windows-compatible, while only 28% have native Mac versions of their trading platform.

A native application is software that is specifically designed to run on a particular operating system.

Of course, this data was generated prior to StocksToTrade Pro, which is compatible for both Mac and PC.

(Try Stocks to Trade Pro for just $7.00 for 7 Days)

The latest Intel-based Macs can dual-boot Windows. The ability of Macs to run Windows natively is a big step forward. But, pure Windows machines still have an edge in this category.

2.) Less Expensive

Some traders use multiple computers for trading and control all of them from one keyboard and mouse.

This allows the trader to distribute the workloads between the computers and can take one machine and carry it with them without interrupting the work processes of the other machines.

For a trader who uses a single machine to trade, the $400 or $500 difference between a single Mac and a PC might not be big enough to warrant choosing a PC over a Mac. But, for a trader who is using six machines, the cost difference between the Macs and PCs can be huge.

Throw in the higher cost of software for Macs and the difference might be too big to justify using a Mac.

3.) PCs are more versatile

With PCs, you really do get the best of both worlds.

  1. You can go buy a PC and everything is installed from the factory and will work just like a Mac, right out of the box.
  2. You don’t need a CD, because everything is installed already.
  3. If a Windows program can’t find a driver, then it goes out on the net and downloads it, so that’s not a big advantage for Macs.

Single-supported vendor or closed systems, such as OSX, are a double-edged sword that might not be worth much in the real world.

Single-supported systems smack of vendor lock-in and have less expandability and fewer options.

Converting a Mac to a Windows PC

For traders who would like to swing for the fences by running Windows-based programs and applications on their Macs, there is an option of running Windows and OS X simultaneously, through virtualization.

windows-mac-virtualization

This is an attractive proposition for traders that prefer Macs but require some ‘must have’ Windows-only software.

Virtualization is hardly a new concept.

Leading virtualization company VMware offers VMware Fusion 11 that you can use to run Windows on a Mac/Linux machine.  It works very well for the ‘must have’ things, such as email through Exchange in a corporate environment.

Another option is the use of emulation software for Macs called Parallels. The software creates a full Windows desktop environment, by seamlessly creating virtual machines with no need for rebooting.

You can expand your virtual Windows machine into full-screen mode and switch back to the Mac desktop simply by using the Command-Tab keyboard shortcut. Many people, though, prefer to switch back and forth between Windows and Mac desktops.

This can be achieved by hiding Windows desktop and simply displaying individual Windows apps.

For both Parallels and VMware Fusion to work well on your Mac, you need a powerful processor and enough RAM. This is because you will be effectively running two separate operating systems on the same computer, thus sharing resources.

For older Macs with limited processor power, running a virtual Windows machine can be a sluggish and pretty disappointing experience. Further, Parallels limits the number of monitors that you can use without seriously degrading the user experience to just two.

Both Parallels and VMware Fusion require under $70 for a single-user license.

The two products provide pretty similar features, though Parallels has a reputation for being a little more user-friendly than VMware Fusion.

Verdict:

Ultimately, Windows PCs continue to dominate the world of finance, simply because most trading apps are Windows-only programs. The average trader is, more often than not, a Windows user and most trading platforms are written for Windows PCs.

Even the trading programs that are written for Macs mostly employ a Windows-first approach. The versatility of the PC lends itself well to many trading platforms. If you do choose a PC for trading, go for a higher-end brand from a reputable manufacturer. 

That being said, if you prefer a Mac, there is nothing stopping you from enjoying the user-friendliness we have all come to enjoy from Apple–especially if you are unhindered by pro-Apple software.

Want to know what we Recommend?

Check out our Top Trading Computer & Laptop Recommendations!

What about you?  Which do you prefer and why?

Seriously, let us know in the comments below. We’re friendly and we don’t bite! 🙂

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