Trend: To avoid giving free tech support, IT pros recommend Macs to friends and family

IT pros are diehard when it comes to their recommendations on personal computers, but some are bending their convictions to avoid becoming a go-to support system

Image: iStockphoto/Smithore

As an IT pro, it can be hard to explain just what you do to your friends and family. Failed attempts to explain what a system administrator is results in you answering the question of, "What do you do?" with simply "I work in computers."

Being known as the "techie" of your family is nice little boost to your ego in the beginning, but it can quickly become the most frustrating aspect of your existence. Recommending a computer to a friend or family isn't the hard part, it's the hand-holding and support that comes with it. To get around this, many IT pros, who are resilient in their pledge to support Windows or Linux products, have begun recommending Apple computers.

When it comes to personal computers, Microsoft and Apple are still the warring factions of the IT world, but stepping over the proverbial line in the sand doesn't hold the connotations that it used to. By recommending Apple products, IT pros are able to avoid some of the most common troubleshooting issues and pawn off some of the work.

Part of this has to do with the products themselves, and the other part of it is the existing support structure Apple has created. Let's take a look at why some IT pros are doing what would have once been considered unthinkable and pointing recommendees toward Macs.

The products

One of the main groans we hear from our readers is the lack of customization with Apple products, and it's true. Apple owners are subject to the pre-set packages that the company deems appropriate while Windows and Linux users have a myriad of options when buying or building a machine. But, most average users aren't looking for that level of customizability.

Andrew Soderberg, vice president of customer support at OmniUpdate, Inc. and a long-standing Mac proponent, said that ceding that control is a blessing, not a curse.

"I used to 'love' getting in and customizing and tweaking computer settings for myself and others. Now, as much as I like the idea of 'total control', I don't have the time or the inclination to do that; and with a Mac, you don't have to. I believe that Apple has found a pretty good balance between flexibility for the user (via safe well designed user interfaces) and 'lock down' where users shouldn't or can't mess with settings they don't know how they affect the use of the computer," Soderberg said.

For most family tech support providers, malware cleanup and software/OS installs are the majority of what they end up dealing with. While Apple products are not impervious to malware attacks, they are easier to keep clean. If you have to end up troubleshooting a Mac, running a McAfee scan probably won't turn up much. Abdul Jaludi, CEO at TAG-MC, recalls the calls he used to received from friends and family with Windows products.

"Many of these calls were technical issues where the vendor technical support dropped the ball and gave them bad information or just didn't want to be bothered, telling them they needed a new PC. I can't remember how many times I had to rebuild a PC that I recommended someone buy because of the blue screen of death or a virus infection," Jaludi said.

A lot of what finally pushes IT pros over the line to recommend Apple products is the "set it and forget it" mentality of their products. It's not that any one tech pro hates their family members, but constantly seeing your family under the guise of fixing a computer can put a strain on that relationship. While you will probably end up troubleshooting a Mac or two that you have recommended, the good news is that you don't have to if that person lives close to an Apple store -- pawn them off on the "Geniuses."

SEE: Decoding the Genius Bar: A former employee shares insider secrets for getting help at the Apple Store


For those of you that can't stand to field another call about why an iPhone won't sync or why there is a spinning beachball of death, the Apple Store can help bail them out.

"If I do decide to help a friend or family [with a Mac], I can figure it out. If I am to busy or the client doesn't have a budget, Apple does offer great support in-store and with the purchase of Applecare," said Adam Silver, creative director at Silver Lining Productions.

Busy tech professionals have to consider how much their time is worth, and do they want to be spending their evenings and weekends doing what they do in their day job. Many of them have decided that they don't, and that it is easier to recommend people to get Macs and use the Apple Store for support.

"When the hard drive on my wife's Mac started making noise we took it to the Apple Store. They backed up her data, replaced the failing hard drive, reinstalled the operating system then restored her data," Jaludi said. "It only took them a day and even though the warranty had been expired for several years, they only charged her for the hard drive and not for the labor to replace it, reinstall the Mac OS or to move her data. If this had been a Windows PC, even if it was under warranty, I would had to spend an entire day or more doing the same thing."

What do you think?

We want to know? Have you recommended Apple products to friends and family, or did you bite the bullet and point them to a Windows machine? Am I completely off-base? (I probably am) Sound off in the comments!

Also see