updated 07:30 pm EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
Study shows clean install of Windows is best for stability
A new study by a cloud-based PC admin software maker, Soluto, concludes that bloatware included on most Windows PC notebooks by the manufacturers is harming the Windows experience to such an extent that the best portable on which to run Windows is now Apple's MacBook Pro. In part this is because, like the other PC models judged to be the most reliable, the Mac requires a "clean" copy of Windows. The company gathered boot-up times, crash or hang incidents, background process logs and BSOD reports from 150,000 notebook PCs to come up with the rankings.
While the mid-2012 13-inch MacBook Pro took the top prize, the 15-inch Retina model also placed in the top 10, in sixth place. It is worth noting that the $1,200 price of the 13-inch MBP was roughly $700 higher than the second-place entry, the Acer Aspire E1-571, though the latter machine is in an entirely different and lower class of Windows portable than the premium MacBook Pro. Surprisingly, another "flagship" notebook, Lenovo's Thinkpad X1 Carbon (which sells for around the same price as the 13-inch MBP) was dead last on the top 10 list.
The company pointed out that getting Windows running on the MacBook Pro was an extra step compared to machines with Windows pre-installed, though many professional Windows users do a clean reinstall anyway in search of better stability. According to the survey, the MacBook Pro averaged one "hang" per week, but actual crashes were less common and BSODs were unheard of.
The average boot time 151 seconds, a little above average, and twice as long as some models. On background processes, however, the two Macs had the lowest scores of any model. Even more surprising than the inclusion of Apple on a "most reliable PCs" list is the fact that three of the largest PC portable manufacturers -- HP, Asus and Samsung -- didn't even make the list.
Soluto did not mention what version of Windows was running on the laptops in their summary, but the survey was limited to only models still available and which had Windows installed on them in the last 12 months, and the company later said about 10 percent were running Windows 8 (with the rest running Windows 7). Overall, the study found that machines would experience a crash on about one in six boots, and a BSOD in about one in 12 boots.
Many of the issues were blamed in an analysis by ZDNet on added-on software provided by manufacturers, known as "bloatware" since customers rarely like or use it. It is curious that Microsoft has shown no interest in controlling the bloatware issue, as Microsoft may be being unfairly blamed for problems that don't stem from its actual product.
Soluto says it will conduct a future study in which only clean installs of Windows are used on all machines to determine overall reliability, but the conclusions of the study seem clear: if the advantages of the Mac -- the ability to run all three major operating systems stably, the integration of hardware and software, a best-of-breed trackpad, style and polish -- are more important to a buyer, the ability of the MacBook Pro to run Windows as well or better than actual Windows PCs should be a factor in the buying decision. If price is the major factor, be prepared for a less-reliable system and unwanted software.