How to Shop for Your New Mac - dummies

By Arnold Reinhold

You can buy a new Mac online or in a traditional brick-and-mortar store, and you can buy directly from Apple or from an independent retailer. All these options have pros and cons, and the information that follows can help you decide.

Make sure that you take a list of all the specs that you need, including which Mac model you want and how much RAM, what size hard drive, and which options to choose. This way, you’re likely to stay within your budget and to get no more or no less than you need.

Buy a Mac at your local computer store

The nice thing about going to a computer store is that you can see the various models before you make your final decision. Assuming that what you want is in stock, you get to take your new toy home with you. Also, if you have a problem, most stores have a place where you can talk to someone face to face.

Apple is choosy about which establishments it does business with. It doesn’t want Macs stacked along the wall with all the Windows models in a department staffed with salespeople pushing the PC that happens to be on sale that week. Find your local authorized Apple reseller and call ahead to see whether what you want is in stock.

Visit the Apple Store

Frustrated with the way that its computers were being sold, Apple defied conventional business wisdom and built its own chain of computer stores. Designed with the usual Apple panache and propelled by the success of the iPod, this venture has made its customers and stockholders very happy. If you choose to buy your Mac at an Apple Store, you’ll find that the stores are well stocked with most Apple models and attractively displayed.

The Apple stores carry lots of accessories, both from Apple and third parties — printers; external hard drives; carrying cases; software; games; and (of course) iPads, iPhones, iPods, Apple TVs, and other items in the growing list of Apple consumer electronics.

The coolest thing about the Apple Store is its Genius Bar, a section staffed by people who know their Macs and can answer your questions. If the store is busy — and it usually is — you have to sign in and wait a bit. Most stores give you a pager so that you can shop elsewhere or visit the food court if the Apple Store is in a mall, as many are. After you buy your Mac, the Genius Bar can take your hardware for repair, if necessary.

Apple claims that a large chunk of the population of North America is within a 45-minute drive of an Apple Store. You can also find Apple Stores in many other parts of the world.

Purchase your Mac online

Buying online can be very convenient. Pick out the model you want, and enter your shipping address and credit-card number. In a day or so, depending on how cheap you were about shipping, your computer arrives.

Surf to the Apple online store

You can buy all the products Apple makes from its electronic Apple Store (or by calling 1-800-MY-APPLE).

The online Apple Store is your best bet if you want to buy a build-to-order configuration. Select the Buy Now option for the model you want, and you’re presented with all possible options for that model. You aren’t committed to buy anything until you enter your credit-card information and confirm your order.

Buy from other online retailers

A few other online stores sell Macs, including,, and These stores sometimes offer discounts or deals on extra memory. They may stock only the most popular configurations, however.