the Joy of Macs Recommended Hardware



Note: Amazon offers new & used products from many dealers. New products ordered directly from Amazon typically include free Super Saver shipping. If an Amazon page shows another dealer, click the "used & new" link to find an Amazon-direct page.

Mac mini – lowest-priced Macintosh

If you already have a monitor, a Mac-compatible USB keyboard, and a USB mouse, a Mac mini is your most affordable path to a modern Macintosh.

Note: This newest Mac minis have no optical drive. Amazon offers the earlier Mac Mini MC270LL/A (used) with a CD/DVD drive.

The basic Mac mini 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0 (4 ports), Thunderbolt (2 ports), HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet. The faster Mac mini has a 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, a 1 TB hard drive, and the rest of the basic features. The fastest Mac mini has a 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, a 1 TB Fusion drive, and the rest of the basic features.

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1.4 Ghz model


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2.6 Ghz model


The Mac mini's HDMI port supports up to 1920-by-1200 resolution, and the Thunderbolt port supports up to 2560-by-1600 resolution.

iMac – affordable all-in-one Macintosh

The latest iMac has an LCD/LED monitor, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB RAM and a FaceTime camera in one tidy package, plus a wireless Apple Keyboard and Magic Mouse. Software includes Mac OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) and 18 built-in apps.

Note: This newest iMacs have no optical drive.

Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB memory, USB 3.0 (4 ports),
Thunderbold (2 ports) and Gigabit Ethernet
21.5" LED display
500 GB HD
1 TB Fusion Drive
27" 5K Retina display
1 TB Fusion Drive
1 TB Fusion Drive
2 TB Fusion Drive

MacBook – Mac laptops

Apple's MacBook laptops are the new MacBook, the super-thin MacBook Air, and the powerful MacBook Pro.

Since MacBooks are more fragile than desktop Macs and are subjected to a more hostile environment, extending the warrantee to three years with AppleCare is a wise choice.

Note: This newest MacBooks have no optical drive, and they no longer give users the ability to expand beyond the factory installed memory.

New MacBook
12" Retina display, Intel dual-core processor
8 GB memory, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB-C.
Both models are available in Space Gray, Gold, Rose Gold & Silver.
256 GB flash
512 GB flash
MacBook Air
1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 2.7 GHz), 4 GB memory
128 GB flash
256 GB flash
128 GB flash
256 GB flash
MacBook Pro
13.3" Retina display, dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB memory
2.7GHz, 128GB flash drive 2.7GHz, 256GB flash drive 2.9GHz, 512GB flash drive

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15.4" Retina display, dual-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16 GB memory
2.2GHz, 256GB flash drive 2.5GHz, 512GB flash drive

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Mac Pro

Apple's top-of-the-line Mac Pros are nearly twice as fast as the earlier Mac Pro towers.

Mac Pro
3.7 GHz
Quad-Core Intel Xeon E5
12 GB memory
256 GB flash drive
3.5 GHz
6-Core Intel Xeon E5
16 GB memory
256 GB flash drive
w/ AppleCare

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Mac accessories

Wired Keyboard / Mouse

Once upon a time, every Mac keyboard and mouse was wired to its host Mac.

In this age of wireless everything, wired devices are often preferred:

  • Plug-and-play – just plug the device in, and it works the first time, every time – no configuration, no troubleshooting.
  • No batteries that add weight.
  • No batteries to replace or recharge.
Keyboard Mouse

Bluetooth Wireless

Bluetooth wireless devices are handy:

  • No wires clutter your desk.
  • USB ports are kept free for a thumb drive, flash card reader, ...
  • The host Mac can be across the room.


The MacBook Air and newest iMacs and Mac minis have no built-in optical drive. For the times you need to read or write a CD or DVD, you'll need an external drive.

USB 2.0 & 3.0 Hubs

When all of your Mac's USB ports are filled, a USB Hub can turn a single port into 4 or 7 ports.

These USB Hubs are AC-powered to support most USB devices, from a keyboard or mouse to a printer, scanner or hard drive. One major exception is an iPad, which requires a high-power USB port, found on only the latest Macs (and some USB hubs).

Note: A unpowered (aka passive) hub is limited to low-power devices like a keyboard, mouse, trackball, or trackpad. Keyboard built-in hubs are typically unpowered.

Newer Macs have USB 3.0 ports, which are much faster than USB 2.0. It's especially important to use a USB 3.0 hub to connect USB 3.0 hard drives.

USB 2.0 USB 3.0
4 ports 7 ports 4+1 ports 7+1 ports

Cables & Adapters

Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI/DVI Adapter

This adapter connects a modern MacBook's Thunderbolt port to an HDMI or DVI monitor or high-def TV.

HDMI Cables

HDMI cables come in various lengths (3' to 75') and prices.

Mini-DVI to DVI-D Adapter

Connecting an iMac's mini-DVI port to a DVI monitor requires this adapter.

DVI-D M/M Cable

These cables (3' & 6') connect your monitor to your Mac (most likely through an adapter).

FireWire 400-to-800 Cable

These cables (3' & 15') connect an older FireWire 400 device to a Mac with only a FileWire 800 port.

Zoom USB Modem

Modern Macs no longer have a built-in telephone modem.

This tiny external modem is essential if you have a dial-up ISP or you'd like to dial phone numbers from Address Book/Contacts using Phone Amego.

Note: The discontinued Apple USB Modem is not supported in Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and beyond.

Lightening to USB Cables

These cables (3' & 6') connect an iPhone to a USB power adapter or a USB post on your Mac.

USB Power Adapter

This Apple power adapter can be used to charge an iPhone 4, 5 or 6, an iPad mini, or an iPod Touch.

MacBook Power Adapters

When your iBook, PowerBook or MacBook is traveling, it's important to have a power adapter for times when the battery runs out. A second power adapter means you can have one in your office and one in your laptop bag – no more packing and unpacking for each trip, which saves a lot of wear and tear on the adapters.

MacBook & 13" MacBook Pro
(60W MagSafe)
15" & 17" MacBook Pro
(85W MagSafe)
MacBook Pro
w/ Retina display
(85W MagSafe)
MacBook Air
(45W MagSafe)

AppleCare Protection Plan

An AppleCare Protection Plan extends the warrantee for a new Mac from one to three years. AppleCare is recommended for MacBooks because they're more fragile than desktop Macs and are subjected to a more hostile environment.

Although Mac desktops are less likely to have problems beyond the one year warrantee, a screen repair can be expensive. AppleCare for a Mac mini or a Mac Pro covers any Apple monitor purchased at the same time as the Mac. AppleCare for a desktop Mac may include onsite repair.

AppleCare extends Apple telephone support from 90 days to 3 years.

AppleCare can be purchased with a new Mac or at any time during the one-year warrantee period.

See Apple's site for complete AppleCare Protection Plan Terms and Conditions.


Modern iMacs and MacBooks have a display port for an external monitor. A Mac mini can drive two monitors, and a Mac Pro can drive numerous monitors. Check the specs for your Mac's graphic processor to verify it can drive a monitor at its native resolution.

There are way too many monitor brands and models to fit in this section. So I'm suggesting four affordable monitors from ViewSonic, the brand I chose for my Mac Pro in mid-2011 after extensive research and viewing. When I replaced the Mac Pro with a 27" iMac, my ViewSonic VG2436wm-LED became its second monitor.

ViewSonic has four series of monitors:

The ViewSonic VA series is their "value" (most affordable) models. The ViewSonic VX series is for gamers and others who like high-contrast displays. The ViewSonic VG series is for those willing to pay a bit more for improved image quality. The ViewSonic VP series is for pros who'll pay for the best quality display.
Amazon's ViewSonic pages offer a variety of display sizes.

Laser/LED Printers

Are you tired of the hassle and expense of ink jet printers? A personal or network laser printer is a wonderful alternative.

Brother offers an array of laser/LED printers in three basic categories, with numerous options:

Monochrome Color All-in-1   the Works


Powered Speakers

Videos on YouTube, films on DVD, TV shows on Hulu, and your favorite songs on iTunes are a whole new experience when the sound comes from external, powered speakers that plug into the headphone (or line out) jack on your Mac. Speakers with a separate sub-woofer provide satisifying bass and enable smaller desktop speakers for the higher frequencies.

The Logitech Z623 THX-certified speakers provide room-filling sound, with audio controls on one of the desktop satellite speakers. The Harman Kardon SoundSticks III combine good sound with striking style.

Bluetooth Headset

A search for the best Bluetooth headset for an iPhone quickly led to high praise for the Plantronics Voyager Legend at the Cult of Mac site: Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is Almost the Perfect Bluetooth Headset.

The Plantonics Charge Case provides protection for the headset and includes its own battery to recharge the headset for up to 14 hours of additional talk time.

Headset Charge Case Charging Cable

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Charge Case


Flash Drives

USB flash drives have grown in size in recent years from 10s of MBs to many GBs, and increased in speed from USB 1.1 to 2.0 and now 3.0.

USB 2.0 Flash Drives

16 GB 32 GB 64 GB 128 GB 256 GB

USB 3.0 Flash Drives

If your Mac supports USB 3.0 (10 times as fast as 2.0), a USB 3.0 flash drive is well worth the extra cost. A USB 3.0 flash drive works in a USB 2.0 port (at USB 2.0 speed).

16 GB 32 GB 64 GB 128 GB 256 GB

External Hard Drives (for Time Machine, etc.)

Automatic backup by Time Machine was a key new feature in Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5). Simply connect an external hard drive to your 10.5 or 10.6 Mac, and Time Machine starts hourly backup of your entire internal hard drive.

How large a drive does Time Machine need?

The rule of thumb is a Time Machine hard drive should be 1.5 times the amount of data you'll be backing up. Typically, that's 1.5 times the size of your Mac's internal hard drive.

Having more space means a longer backup history. That's because when the backup drive fills up, Time Machine begins discarding the oldest backup files.

USB 2.0, FireWire 400, FireWire 800, USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt?

An external hard drive (HD) can connect to your Mac via USB 2.0 (faster than older USB 1.1), FireWire 400 or FireWire 800, USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt. Modern Macs typically support only USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt.

N.B. Check the ports on your Mac before ordering a drive.

Pre-configured External HD

Other World Computing offers external hard drives that are ready-to-go, right out of the box:

Desktop (larger, powered from a Back-UPS)

Portable (smaller, powered from your laptop)

Assemble Your Own External HD

Assembling an external drive (i.e., installing a raw drive in an enclosure), has several advantages:

  1. Better hard drive: pre-configured external drives typically use consumer-grade components. Assembling a drive allows you to select a higher quality "enterprise" hard drive.
  2. Longer warrantee: many pre-configured drives have a 1-to-3 year warrantee. An assembled drive has a 1-year warrantee on the enclosure and a 3-to-5-year warrantee on the raw drive.

Desktop SATA Enclosures & Hard Drives:

Portable SATA Enclosures & Hard Drives:

Desktop SATA Dock:

Pop in a "raw" SATA drive, like putting a slice of bread into a toaster.

  • Voyager S3 Hard Drive Docking Station – USB 3.0
SATA Drives & Dock

APC Back-UPS - Uninterruptible Power Supply

When your Mac loses power, you lose any work in progress. And if a file is being written/copied/saved at that moment, the hard drive is very likely to get corrupted.

An UPS (rhymes with "cups") powers your Mac and selected peripherals (monitor, modem, router) during a momentary power interruption. When the lights blink, your Mac doesn't. In the event of an extended power outage, an UPS gives you time to save your files and do a graceful shutdown.


Dataline protection: (none)

4 Battery outlets + 2 Surge outlets

Router, laptop, DVR, TV & Cablebox

APC Back-UPS BE650G1

Power-saving Master Control switch.

Dataline protection: Ethernet

PowerChute computer interface

Mac mini + 17" LCD: 30 minutes
iMac 17"/20": 20 minutes
iMac 24": 9 minutes

APC Back-UPS BE850M2

Dataline protection: (none)

PowerChute computer interface

Mac mini + 17" LCD: 40 minutes
iMac 17"/20": 30 minutes
iMac 24": 20 minutes
Mac Pro + 24" LCD: 8 minutes

APC Back-UPS Pro 1000

Dataline protection: Ethernet, DSL & dial-up

PowerChute computer interface

Mac Pro + 24" LCD: 16 minutes

APC Back-UPS Pro 1350

Dataline protection: Ethernet, DSL & dial-up

PowerChute computer interface

Mac Pro + 24" LCD: 19 minutes

APC Back-UPS Pro 1500

Dataline protection: Ethernet, DSL & dial-up

PowerChute computer interface

Mac Pro + 24" LCD: 23 minutes

Use the APC UPS Selector ("PC or Workstation") to find the right model for other Macs + associated peripherals.

Amazon offers a full range of APC products, with Super Saver free shipping (a big saving for these heavy products).

Enter an APC model number in the search box, or simply click the "GO!" button for a complete list of APC Back-UPS products.

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Surge Protector

Although a MacBook has no need for an UPS battery backup, it's still a good idea to protect the MacBook and its power adapter from hostile power surges, e.g., a nearby lightning strike. Simply plug the power adapter into the surge protection side of an UPS.

If your UPS is not nearby, a standalone surge protector is all you need.

USB Webcam

Video conferencing over the Internet requires four ingredients:

  • video camera
  • microphone
  • conferencing software (free)
    • iChat – Mac-to-Mac
    • Skype – between Mac OS X, Windows or Linux computers
  • DSL or Cable broadband connection

Modern iMac and MacBooks have a built-in iSight camera and micophone. Older iMacs and iBooks have only a build-in microphone. If you have a Mac Mini, a Mac Pro, or an older Mac, you can add an external FireWire or USB "Webcam" (many with a built-in microphone).

FireWire cameras provide the best video quality. Apple's original external FireWire iSight camera/microphone has been a popular choice, but it was discontinued in December 2006; new and used iSights are still available on eBay at a premium price, often $100 (or more) than the original $150 price. There are a few third-party FireWire cameras in the $125 to $200 range, plus $50 or so for an external microphone.

Affordable USB Webcams are a more popular alternative. From the vast array of vendors and models, I've found two Mac-friendly Webcams with good video chat quality and a built-in voice mike.

The Creative Labs Live! Cam Video IM Pro (VF0415) has an adjustable focus lens and a built-in microphone.

Notes: The like-named earlier model (VF0320) has no microphone.

The video-effects software is Windows-only.

The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 has 1080p hi-def resolution and an auto-focus lens, which stays sharp when you move around.

USB Webcams may claim USB 1.1 compatibility. However, USB 2.0 is required for iChat-compatibility on Mac OS X. White iBooks, later model flat-screen iMacs, and all Mac minis have USB 2.0. A USB 2.0 PCI card can be easily installed in a PowerMac G3/G4 tower.

iChatUSBCam is a $10 add-on for iChat that adjusts camera settings (e.g., brightness, contrast) and provides support for a USB 2.0 PCI card.

Cable Modem

When you subscribe to a cable broadband service, you're given the choice of renting a cable modem (for an addition $3 or so a month) or purchasing a modem. (DSL providers typically provide a modem at no additional charge.)

If you have more than one computer, you'll need a router to connect the computers to the modem.

A Motorola Surfboard Cable Modem connects a single computer (or router) to a cable broadband service.

Wireless Routers

Wired (Ethernet) vs. Wireless (Wi-Fi)

A wired (Ethernet) connection between your computer and router provides the maximum speed and reliability. A wireless (Wi-Fi) connection allows your MacBook to move throughout your home or office.

Modern routers support 10 megabit Ethernet for old devices and 100 megabit for newer devices. Some routers offer Gigabit (1000 megabit) Ethernet for the newest devices.

B, G & N and Single- vs. Dual-band

Wi-Fi transmission includes three 802-11 protocols: B (slowest), G and N (fastest). Older devices use B or G protocol. Newer devices can use all three.

Some newer 802-11n routers offer two transmission bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 5 GHz band can provide faster speed, with a more limited range. But the 5 GHz band is not compatible with some devices (e.g., Kindle)

A Cisco-Linksys E1200 Wireless-N Router shares a single Internet broadband connection (cable or DSL) with 4 wired 10/100 megabit Ethernet computers and includes a 802.11b/g/n wireless access point for laptops, smartphones and tablets. A Cisco-Linksys EA2700 Wireless-N Router is an enhanced version of the E1200, with Simultaneous Dual-Band (double the network bandwidth to avoid interference and maximize throughput) and Gigabit Ethernet (10 times the speed for the newest Macs).
The Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (5th generation) supports simultaneous 802.11b/g and 802.11n wireless (which is up to 5 times faster and twice the range of 802.11g routers), three gigabit Ethernet ports, and a USB 2.0 port that turns external hard drives, printers, and other devices into network resources.