Downgrading from two Macs to one?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by terriyaki, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. terriyaki macrumors 6502a

    Aug 4, 2005
    So here's the story. I have two Macs. A 20" 2.4Ghz C2D iMac (800Mhz fsb, 4GB of RAM, 500GB HDD, ATI 2600 PRO from 2007) that I've had since late 2007 and a 13" 2.0Ghz Polycarbonate MacBook (1066Mhz fsb, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 7200rpm HDD, Nvidia 9400M) that I recently got this year to replace an aging 12" G4 iBook.

    I've fallen in love with having a modern capable portable machine again ever since getting the MacBook. The problem, though, is that ever since then the iMac has been a bit neglected, and to me, it seems like a bit of a waste of money just sitting there on my desk. I find it hard to justify having a machine just lying around not rarely being used so I was thinking of selling the it.

    Now to supplement my desk and large screen needs I was planning on getting a Dell 2408 to pair with the MacBook. The larger screen space would primarily help when editing RAW images (I take pictures as a hobby with a Canon 5D classic) and scanned images from 120 film negatives in CS3 though I may update to CS4 sometime soon. This way I have a much larger screen on my desk with roughly the same computing power I had in the iMac + I have the option of taking the MacBook on the go. I'd lose out on .4Ghz of CPU power, internal hard drive space (though this isn't that big of a deal since I have a lot of external firewire storage), and a FW800 port.

    So here's my question. To me, on paper, it seems like I should be able to make do with just having a MacBook but I was hoping for some of your opinions.
    • To those of you who have both a Mac Laptop ad Mac Desktop: Do you find it useful to have two machines?
    • To those of you who only own a laptop and use it as your main machine: Do you regret only having a laptop? How is only having a laptop working out for you?
    • To those of you who have made a similar move (IE: gone from a dual machine setup to a single laptop setup): What are your thoughts on your move? Do you like it or do you have any regrets?

    On top of that, do any of you think it's necessary for me to move to a MacBook Pro (Keep in mind I need some sort of Firewire port so it's either the polycarbonate or the Pro)? If so, why?

    Thanks in advance, guys.

    • I have an iMac and a MacBook but feel like I could get by with just the MacBook. Should I sell the iMac?
  2. old-wiz macrumors G3

    Mar 26, 2008
    West Suburban Boston Ma
    Two systems gives you backup if one breaks down. I have an Intel iMac and an iBook, and have a copy of my home directory on both so that if one breaks I can switch to the other with minimal disruption.
  3. J&JPolangin macrumors 68030

    Jul 5, 2008
    Thule GL @ the TOW
    I had a similar delima, I liked how the new whitebook got the 9400 graphics (the 3100 graphics was the main reason I never got a macbook in the past).

    Our on base PX had the new whitebook for $989 NIB and a previous gen 20" iMac 2.4 Ghz model for $979 NIB... I decided to get the iMac since I have the two laptops mentioned in my signature and my desktop is "very" old.

    Besides, this way I get to wait for newer, more powerful laptops to come out to switch away from my older winXP machines completely:p
  4. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Despite the fact that my desktop is now lacking a bit of power, having two computers is very convenient. I have my desktop on all the time and it's backed up, so I can store my important files in it and be able to access said files over the Internet without any issues.

    If you can afford it and only want one machine, I would suggest selling both and get a MacBook Pro—something portable which also offers power of your desktop.
  5. Gregintosh macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    I am having the same thoughts as you, in terms of wanting to consolidate my machines.

    I think it will simplify your life by having one designated work area and not being tempted to take work on the go with you. Vacations will be more fun if you don't bring your computer along, and you will have less stress going anywhere not having to worry about squishing your computer or having it stolen or otherwise broken.

    You also have less to manage in terms of keeping your software and data synched and backed up.

    I say go for it. I think I will be a one computer man sooner than later as well (maybe by the end of the year).
  6. MooneyFlyer macrumors 65816


    Nov 18, 2007
    Rather than a downgrade I would look at this as an upgrade.

    For about the past 10 years I've had only one machine. I'm one of 3 people in the company that have a Mac as well and fortunately they don't mind.

    I find having everything in one place the only way to go. No more synchronization, trying to keep setups the same/similar, etc. I added a 24" LED to my Alu 2.4G and I've been extremely happy with it. With a large screen and 4G of ram I feel like it's a reasonably powerful desktop as well.

    One person mentioned that you don't separate work well with one machine. I would agree and fortunately I don't choose to. If separation is what you need you could make separate accounts on the machine.

    Go for it -- I think you will be very happy with one machine. Maintain a rigorous backup plan though. I have TimeMachine going and I'm adding Mozy as well.
  7. zer0tails macrumors 65816


    Mar 23, 2008
    The way I see it, if you want to downgrade to one machine then go for it, especially since you say you've fallen in love with your modern macbook. Though to be honest, your imac ain't exactly ancient.

    However, if downgrading means you're gonna be spending more $$$ by switching to a MBP then i'll say stop right there. If things are working great for you now don't complicate things.
  8. terriyaki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 4, 2005
    Hmm that's definitely a good point but with the advent of backup solutions like Time Machine along with programs like SuperDuper! and CarbonCopyCloner, I'm not quite so sure this is that big of a deal. Plus, using an older iBook as a supplement to an iMac is a completely different situation when compared to using a MacBook together with an iMac when they have similar specs.

    So you're FOR two or more Macs I take it then? Hmm.

    As I said with old-wiz, I can definitely see the advantages in having two machines in a situation where I would have one to fall back on if the other were to fail. However, other than a rare situation like that I don't think it's quite worth it to have and keep a second machine around just for that scenario. Plus, when you have multiple machines you're never fully utilizing any of them and if you are you are neglecting the other(s). So in the end you're paying for something you're not even fully utilizing. Does that make sense at all?

    Regarding your MacBook Pro suggestion: What is it that you think that the MacBook Pro will give me and help me in that my current setup won't? (And just to be clear I'm honestly asking and not trying to be a smartass or anything like that. I just want to make an informed decision that I don't regret in the future :))

    Yes, I definitely know and understand what you mean. Having to sync files between computers can get quite cumbersome over time. Having only one machine to worry about seems kind of liberating.

    Thanks for your input! :)

    Oh yeah, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that my iMac is ancient at all. I'm just saying that if I'm using my MacBook more than my iMac to the point that the iMac is only used maybe once a week then why keep it - regardless of whether or not the iMac is old or not (on paper the iMac's specifications are quite close to my MacBook's)?

    Great point about the MacBook Pro. I suppose there's another option in all of this. That would be to sell the iMac, buy a external LCD for my MacBook and just see how things go from there and leave an upgrade to a MacBook Pro for the future. That way I'd already have an external LCD ready for a MacBook Pro upgrade or not.
  9. J&JPolangin macrumors 68030

    Jul 5, 2008
    Thule GL @ the TOW

    ...actually, with the addition of the iMac that makes 5 computers in my house:

    1. Dell desktop 8100 P4 1.3 Ghz w/ 768 MB of RDRAM - 10+ yrs old in excellent shape but slow

    2. Toshiba 1905-s303 laptop P4 2.4 Ghz w/ 768 MB of RAM - 8+ yrs old in excellent shape but slow

    3. Sony PCG-TR3A Centrino 1 Ghz w/ 1 GB of RAM - 6 yrs old and still going fairly strong!

    4. Asus eeePC1000H 1.6 Ghz Atom w/ 2 GB of RAM - 1 year old, its a great portable netbook, but still a netbook in terms of power

    5. Apple iMac 20" 2.4 Ghz w/ 4 GB of RAM - still NIB have to set this puppy up!

    *** waiting for notebooks to get more powerful before adding any more machines to my house... didn't want a mini and didn't want to spend the $$ on a Mac Pro...
  10. Nickisgodofmacs macrumors member


    Nov 26, 2008
    just my input

    I have just a macbook (the one right before the aluminum update) and honestly i have to say that sometimes you need the extra power that your laptop can't handle. I do a little bit of FCE and PS on my macbook (2gb of RAM) and have to say unless you have a fully loaded macbook and your imac is technically faster than your macbook. I'd say keep both, once you sell your imac your going to have to do something that your going to need it for, Always happens. Hope you solve your problem.
  11. seattle macrumors 6502

    May 15, 2007
    "To those of you who have both a Mac Laptop ad Mac Desktop: Do you find it useful to have two machines?"

    Yes. I also have a Macbook and an iMac although I find myself using the iMac a lot more than the MacBook. I mostly use the Macbook when I am out of town and then I mostly use it to remotely connect to my iMac. I also like the fact that if one were to break I could use the other.
  12. Gregintosh macrumors 68000

    Jan 29, 2008
    I don't think having a backup machine in case your main one breaks justifies the expense -- unless your job absolutely depends on having a fully loaded system accessible at all times, and I don't think many people (if any) fit into that category (unless your job involves making decisions that are literally matters of life and death).

    Many people who think they must have 24/7 access to a fully loaded mac are wrong. Everyone knows that computers crash, and even the cruelest boss or client will probably not make a major strategic decision in terms of firing you or dropping your services because your computer crashed and you need an extra couple of days to get back up and running. No situation is that critical.

    Don't believe me? Think about it this way, would you be fired if you had a medical emergency? Probably not (I believe in many jurisdictions this would be illegal anyway). Whatever you were working on could wait a day or two until you get that sorted out and can return to work.

    This is all assuming you have your vital data backed up regularly, like in the cloud or on flash drives so that you can get back up and running quickly should your computer experience hardware problems (it'd be different if you lost months worth of work and couldn't recover it, then you would be screwed).

    If your mac needs to be sent out to repair, a worst case scenario, and it will take 2-4 weeks for a repair or replacement, you can always buy a new one and return it.

    A 15% restocking fee will set you back $150-$200 one time at a retailer, which is cheaper than buying a $1,500 computer and letting it lose value and get outdated on your desk or in your closet. Keep in mind, this is a worst case scenario in which your computer cannot be fixed in a couple of days and must be out for service for a long period of time (a scenario that in all likelihood will probably not play out).

    I am not sure if the Apple store gives loaner units, but if they do, then it won't even cost you a dime to have a replacement the next day or whatever (assuming you are within reasonable driving distance of an Apple store).

    Alternatively, if your job requires you to stay connected through e-mail or perform basic office tasks in addition to the ones that require a fully powered mac, you can pick up a $250 netbook and keep that in your closet as a backup since its not a big deal compared to buying a machine that costs 6 times as much. This way you can at least do part of your work while your machine is being fixed or replaced.

    Conclusion: The downtime risk associated with having ONE machine (with appropriate backup capabilities) compared to having two machines is MINIMAL.
  13. student_trap macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2005
    'Ol Smokey, UK
    I'd say 3 things:

    1. Forget the macbook pro, its not very different from your macbook

    2. If you are going to sell the imac, sell it and keep the cash for other stuff you may want (rather than a screen). Buying a screen kind of goes in the face of the 'chilling on the sofa' computer use that a laptop enables.

    3. If you are insistent on having a larger screen, stick with your imac, imo id much rather have a computer behind my screen already than have to keep connecting up a laptop to get things working (esp when the computer is very speedy itself, and even more so if you are considering the LED ACD, which pound for pound would pretty much mean a swap of your imac for a monitor).
  14. jb1280 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 13, 2009
    On point 1. I agree, unless you absolutely need the dedicated video card of the macbook pro or plan on using the notebook's display as your only display, stick with the macbook.

    On point 2. If you are able to, why would you not want a 24" display to work on. Having a large display and a notebook is the perfect combination in that it allows you the flexibility to work on the go, on the sofa as you say, or in a traditional desktop position with a higher resolution larger working area?

    On point 3. It's such a tremendous hassle plugging in a display. If the original poster had a 24" imac I would consider keeping it, but going from a 20" imac's display to 24" I would consider an upgrade.

    From my personal experience, I have gone from a macbook pro plus 20" display to a 24" iMac and Macbook Air, and I am contemplating going to a macbook plus 24" display.

    You can only use one computer at a time, and having a lightweight, fully-featured, upgradeable notebook and a large external display makes for a very compelling set-up.

    Having everything on one system is just easier.

    If you can run everything adequately on the macbook, there is no reason to keep the iMac.
  15. student_trap macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2005
    'Ol Smokey, UK
    Im sure that for many people this represents a great option, however my thinking is that if the OP had a use for the larger screen, they would have used their imac more. its lack of use therefore proves a certain degree of contentment with the laptop alone, and as such the purchase of a larger screen would be as superfluous as the imac itself, an as such an unnecessary expense.

    again my point is that while definitely an upgrade, if it isn't used (as the imac isn't) then it's a waste of cash.

    great setup:), however imagine you never used the imac at all, would you then see buying a larger external screen as that much of a deal?

  16. clevin macrumors G3


    Aug 6, 2006
    no, its hard to synchronize your stuff on two machines if you were to try to use both, its just a hassle.

    I still kept my mini because my roommate is using it, other than that, i see no point for myself.

    back up machine is a good idea, but doesn't have to be a $1000+ machine.
  17. theblueone macrumors member

    Aug 5, 2007
    Maybe you could do a "trial separation"? If I were in your position, I might get all the files I knew I needed, and put the iMac away for a couple weeks. Go about your life as if you only have the lappy. You ought to find out pretty quickly how indispensible it really is. If you're daring, you might want to try going as far as wiping the drive and packing the ol' anchor up, eBay style.

    If you try this, try to keep everything in proper perspective as far as your options go. Remember that finding yourself occasionally wanting a bigger screen probably calls for an external monitor rather than just keeping the iMac, the same way that needing/wanting more power may point to a macbook pro rather than just keeping the imac.
  18. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    Well you mentioned you don't really use the iMac anymore, which is understandable since the MacBook is such a capable machine; however when you work with photos, you will benefit from a bigger screen especially if you decide to use Photoshop and maybe something like Lightroom which the iMac would have provided; since the iMac isn't portable at all, you are stuck with a small laptop with a 13.3" screen; even if you get an external monitor, I don't think you would take that with you.

    So by that, the best solution would be to get a MacBook Pro, you get the sleek computer with the processor and CPU comparable if not faster than your iMac's with a bigger screen that you can use to process your photographs on-the-go. I would say that getting the MacBook gives you Firewire, but the polycarbonate MacBook you own already offers that feature. If you follow through your plan to buy Photoshop CS4, you may benefit from the slightly faster GPU on the MacBook Pro, plus all the nice multitouch features to manipulate your photographs; sure there are drawbacks to the multitouch implementation, but the general consensus is that it's a good thing to have; it is very nice to use.

    So I suggest a MacBook Pro as a compromising solution between the MacBook and the iMac; it's like a portable iMac, minus the spacious display; in anycase, you can always buy an external display for the MacBook Pro, but unfortunately that involves spending a lot more money than you may want to.
  19. terriyaki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 4, 2005
    Heh, that's quite a lot of computers there. Do you use them all? Will you be getting rid of any of them once you get a newer Mac laptop?

    Good point. For the past couple days now I have been testing out what it would be like to not have the iMac. I've grabbed the family Dell 2005FPW to simulate what it would be like to have an external display and so far it's working great.

    However, I can definitely notice a slight decrease in performance when converting RAW files in Photoshop but the decrease is so slight that it almost seems negligible. If ever down the road I feel I'll need more horsepower I always have the option of selling my MacBook and going with a MacBook Pro. And by then I'll have a nice 2408 to pair with it! :)

    Other than remote connecting to your iMac and having one machine serve as an emergency backup to the other, how else do you find having those two Macs useful to you? Do you use them both fully simultaneously? It doesn't sound like you do, to me it sounds like when you're using one, the other one is just either idling or off.

    Very good points. This is exactly why that I think that *for me and my personal situation* the iMac is kind of a waste.

    Well the thing is a large screen would be quite useful to me. I'm a hobbyist photographer and I don't think I could live with only having the MacBook's 13". I haven't been taking many pictures in the last little while due to a busy school schedule which is probably why my need for the iMac's larger screen has gone unnoticed. But I definitely know I'll need a larger external display.

    I think a combination of a nice portable machine for everyday tasks and a large external display to pair it up to when working with photos is a much more ideal combination than having two separate machines.

    With regards to the LED ACD, as much as I'd love to get it it's a lot of money. Plus, I don't even think it's compatible with my polycarbonate MacBook. At the moment I'm looking at the Dell 2408 which would be compatible with my MacBook and the unibodies should I ever choose to upgrade to one in the future.

    Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking! :)

    Valid point. I failed to mention that I haven't been taking many photographs lately in my original post due to being a bit busy with school as of late (but I did mention it earlier in this post!). Like I said, I think that that has played a big part in me not wanting or craving the iMac's bigger display. Once spring and summer kick into full gear I'm sure I'll be taking a lot of photographs again and I'm positive that a large external display will help me.

    Yeah I totally agree. Just keeping simple things like my Safari Bookmarks and Stickies synced between the two machines isn't hard but it's definitely annoying.

    Heh yeah, I've been doing a trial separation for the past day or so now. So far so good. Like I said, I think I notice a slight decrease in performance when converting a handful of RAW images in Photoshop but it's so hard to tell that the decrease in performance is probably negligible at most.

    Yeah that's a lot of coin. I could always go ahead and sell the iMac now, get an external display for my MacBook and use that for a while (I'm doing a trial run of this exact setup at the moment and so far so good) and if I ever need more horsepower in the future I could always upgrade to a MacBook Pro and by then I'll already have a nice 2408 to pair it too! :)


    Wow, that was a huge post. Thanks to everyone so far for all of their advice!
  20. seattle macrumors 6502

    May 15, 2007
    Originally Posted by seattle
    "To those of you who have both a Mac Laptop ad Mac Desktop: Do you find it useful to have two machines?"

    Yes. I also have a Macbook and an iMac although I find myself using the iMac a lot more than the MacBook. I mostly use the Macbook when I am out of town and then I mostly use it to remotely connect to my iMac. I also like the fact that if one were to break I could use the other.

    "Other than remote connecting to your iMac and having one machine serve as an emergency backup to the other, how else do you find having those two Macs useful to you? Do you use them both fully simultaneously? It doesn't sound like you do, to me it sounds like when you're using one, the other one is just either idling or off."

    I like having the MacBook because if the weather is nice I can work outside or if I want to relax on the couch I can. Most of the time though my MacBook is in the laptop bag turned off. I don't really care if it does not get much use and I find that my laptops will last longer with less use. I have a PC laptop that is six years old and works great. I also have a iBook that I never use and I really should get rid of.
  21. Yanwoo macrumors regular

    Aug 6, 2006
    I did this very same thing recently and have no regrets. For me it was about simplicity. The fact that I could only really ever use one machine at a time always played on my mind!

    I now have a new macbook pro with a 24" monitor, replacing a black macbook and last gen 20" imac. I have all the power I need without the hassle of 2 machines.

    Although, saying this, I do run a mac mini as a media/file server as well...which could act as a backup if the macbook pro broke.

    All the best with your choice - IMHO less is more.
  22. terriyaki thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Aug 4, 2005
    Hmm interesting way of looking at laptop usage and longevity. I can't say that I agree but whatever floats your boat!

    With regards to your iBook, you are right, you should sell it! Those PPC laptops still fetch a pretty good price all things being relative. I recently sold 12" 1.33Ghz for a pretty decent $400 CAD.

    Heh, good to hear! I've got a Mini too but it's paired to my hdtv and acts as strictly a download/htpc/server and nothing more which is why I didn't feel it necessary for me to mention it. If my MacBook or whatever sole machine I had were to go down due to an unseen failure I guess I always have that to fall back to just in case.

    Just out of curiosity what are the specs of your MacBook Pro and what are the most intensive tasks that you perform on it?
  23. vaderhater245 macrumors 6502

    Mar 4, 2008
    Flagstaff, AZ
    2 laptops have worked out well for me now. I sold a first gen Aluminum Imac to get the new Unibody Macbook. while my old macbook pro is aging, I'm not sire what I want to peruse next. Excluding my pc, I'm actually interested in getting either a mac pro or 17" MBP for design work. keep my MB for personal use.
  24. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    ...or you could just keep what you already have and not buy anything new. :eek: (alright, i know that's no fun)

    It seems like you already have a natural divide in your use of the two computers. The imac is for photo editing and everything else is being done on the macbook. You don't really NEED to sync EVERYTHING between the two. It's easy enough to copy the occasional file from one to the other if you want to put a copy of the photo files on your macbook.
  25. mgridgaway macrumors 6502


    Feb 25, 2006
    I have a relatively new iMac and a 2004 ibook, and I think it's a great combo. I use the ibook when I (rarely) travel away from a computer and use my iMac for everything else. I like having 2 computers because I know that should my iMac have any problems I always have a convenient backup. Sure, it's not very powerful, but it handles 90% of what I need done well.

    I'm probably gonna consider getting a netbook in a year or two, once the Atom processor is better than the PPC. At this point, however, they're pretty much the same.

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