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When you buy a new Mac computer you are getting the best that personal computing has to offer in your base purchase price, but there are a few extras that aren't included and are pretty well essential in my opinion.
The first thing is Extended Warranty, taking the parts warranty up to 3 years and also offering unlimited telephone support. This last is a big deal: you can phone the Apple tech support line 1300 321 456 and ask the friendly, helpful person anything about any Mac product that you own. This is includes such things as 'how do I make a slide show in iPhoto?' or 'how do I burn a CD in iTunes' or 'how do I synch my Contacts from my computer to my iPhone?'. So it's not only problems that they deal with, it's tuition too. In my experience they are very knowledgeable and take plenty of time with the caller — as long as needed.
Of course if you can't get online or the machine won't start at all they deal with that too. Of course if something goes physically wrong with the machine then it gets fixed — for 3 years. Essential part of the purchase of any new Mac says I.
Remember when you buy Extended Warranty it has to be registered before it is any use, something that the salespeople often forget to remind you! This can be done online at the AppleCare site or by telephoning Apple on 133 622.
The next essential to be factored into the price is a Backup External Hard Drive. These are very cheap at around $100 and simple to use. See Backing Up and Using Time Machine . Once it is set up you are safe! please don't try to save money by skipping this step: you will regret it!
To protect your new purchase a Surge Protector is a very important piece of kit costing about $30-$50. The computer, printer, modem and any other bits and pieces plug into this to offer some protection from the surges in power that invariably plague our mains electricity network. They look like a power adaptor board with 6 or more outputs but have surge protection as part of the deal. Absolutely essential.
There is one more expensive option to the surge board called an Uninterrupted Power Supply or UPS. This has a battery so that if the mains drops out completely you can still shut down the computer and they also have better surge protection. A decent one costs about $150, which is a lot more than a surge protector, but if you are serious about protecting your $2000+ purchase it is money well spent. Yes, I have had one for years and never have any problem with power...
The last aspect for consideration in your budget is software. Now your new Mac comes with a heap of software built-in to do a wide range of things such as: retrieving pictures from your digital camera and organising them — iPhoto; creating and editing movies — iMovie; opening and editing PDF's, jpegs and almost any file — Preview; making music — GarageBand; recording movies and stills with the built-in camera — PhotoBooth; ripping CD's into the computer, organising your music, buying audio, films, podcasts and a lot more — iTunes. That's just some of the software already installed. But there are a few items that I consider essential:
The industry standard word processor is Microsoft Word, which for all its fault does a good job. It is part of the Microsoft Office Suite containing Word, Powerpoint for making and viewing slideshow presentations, Excel the default Spreadsheet application worldwide, and Outlook, Microsoft's email application which many people use rather than Apple's Mail. A big mistake! Outlook is a dog.
An alternative to Microsoft Office is the Open Source Open Office a free download from the Open Office site. A fully featured suite that will open all Microsoft Office documents and also allows you to save the documents you create as Microsoft Office files so they can be opened by anyone with any of the Microsoft products.
All new Macs come with Apple's own office suite called iWork which also contains a word processor — Pages, spreadsheet — Numbers and presentation — Keynote and can also save as Microsoft Office files.
Now although the Mac can burn CD's and DVD's from the Finder a really worthwhile purchase is Toast from Roxio. It gives you a simple interface offering a wide range of options for burning disks as well as being able to convert different file formats, compress double sided DVD's onto a single DVD and a lot more. It can for example take an entire DVD movie that you have ripped onto the computer and convert and compress it to fit on an iPhone or iPad, even putting the finished movie into iTunes ready to be moved to your iPhone the next time you connect it! Toast costs about $130.
As for free but essential software, here is a list that I install on all computers and links to their download sites:
Chrome: a browser like Safari which some people prefer.
VLC Player: this Open Source movie player will play any movie file format, something that QuickTime Player doesn't always do. It also lets you pause a DVD movie and take a Screen Shot of the frame which DVD Player doesn't!
Google Earth: for viewing satellite images of the entire planet as well as the sky above us!
Skype: wonderful application for video conferencing to any computer in the world for free! Keep in touch with the relos all over the world.
I have a service which is a monthly Second Hand Mail Out where anyone selling pre-loved Macs and related things can list them for free. Subscribe to the monthly Newsletter to receive them both into your Inbox.
When buying a second hand Mac care should be taken as with buying any old equipment. Computer years are like dog years! Anything older than 4 years is ancient — although it might be in perfect working order it's days are numbered by the seller probably paid a lot for it and wants to get some money back. Look on the Apple Store to see the prices of similar new machines to help you make a decision on what it's worth.
You can also check these sites to look and see if there are any similar machines available giving you an idea of market prices. Microseconds and AppTech have a stock of second hand macs and peripherals so check them out first.
If any warranty is available obviously that helps even if it's nearly run out. Then general condition when you see the machine is important and what operating system it is running, how much RAM it has and what capacity hard drive it has are all factors. To get this info visit the page Finding Information About Your Mac.
Laptops usually have a harder life than desktops and this is reflected in the price Apple charge for extended warranty: it costs almost double! The condiiotn of the battery is important as well as a new battery is around $160 and they have a life of about 3 years before replacement. All things to consider.