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If you are an Uber driver, your most valuable asset is your car. If you are a photographer, your camera is critical. An Uber driver with a broken car can’t make money, and a photographer with a cheap camera will slowly starve. 

What is the critical tool for an author? What tool will help you earn money and keep you from starving? 

Your laptop!

You write, edit, and promote your book on your laptop. A reliable, compatible computer is key to your success. Put another way, an old, unreliable computer that can’t run the software you need to succeed is a terrible liability.

A good laptop is not only a good investment; it may also be a tax-deductible business expense for professional authors.

As you probably know, I’m a huge nerd. But I’m cautious to let people know just how nerdy I am. I build computers for fun, and I built my first computer when I was 12 years old. In fact, the gaming PC I use today is one I assembled myself. In my teen years, my side hustle was helping my dad’s CPA firm with their IT issues. 

I’ve also been working with authors for over 15 years, and I have a good idea of what they need and, more importantly, what they don’t need to waste money on. 

What kind of computer will best help you in your writing career? 

First, I’ll provide a quick overview of how computers work, and then I will give specific recommendations. While these specific recommendations will be outdated next year, the general knowledge about computers at the beginning will be helpful for a long time. 

What doesn’t matter for an author’s laptop computer?


The CPU (Central Processing Unit) is also called the processor. Computer companies and the media focus on the CPU when discussing computers, but the CPU has no impact on most authors. Computers could run word processors two decades ago when CPUs were thousands of times slower than they are today.

More expensive CPUs have more cores, but most author software doesn’t require all those cores. Having more cores won’tdoesn’t mean your computer is faster in practice. 

For example, Adobe Photoshop will use every core it can get, but most authors don’t use Photoshop. Most authors use Canva, which only uses one core. If you are an author who spends most of your time in a web browser and word processor, extra cores will make little difference in how fast your computer runs. 

If your computer feels slow right now, the CPU is probably not the performance bottleneck. 


The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) is also called the video card. Authors typically don’t play video games, mine crypto currency, or edit multilayered 4K videos, so you probably don’t need to spend a lot of money on extra GPU cores. Most authors make a few videos each year and don’t mind waiting five minutes for the video to render. The extra GPU is not worth hundreds of dollars for most authors.

Touch Screen

While touch screens are fun for a few days, they easily get smudged and don’t help you write faster or better. The fastest way to use a computer is with a keyboard and keyboard shortcuts. The second fastest way is with a mouse and keyboard. The third fastest is with a keyboard and trackpad. 

The slowest way to use a computer is to touch the screen. Your hands block your vision of the screen, and the screen is farther away from the keyboard. That may seem minor, but touching your screen thousands of times a day could be a big drag on productivity. Every temptation to touch your screen is a temptation to reduce your productivity. 

What might matter for an author’s laptop computer?

Storage/SSD Might Matter

Scrivener, Atticus, Word, and Vellum files don’t use much space. The Word document for a 50,000-word book is about half a megabyte. But publishing your book will require more files than a single Word document. You’ll need cover image files, PDFs, EPBU files, and audio recordings. 

My book required about five gigs of storage space, and most of that space was used for the audio recordings of interviews I did as research. The raw audiobook files were another 15 gigs. In total, I used 20 gigs for my book, which seems high. I suspect a typical novelist would need 1-10 gigs per book. An author’s laptop computer with 256GB of space could hold 10-100 books, depending on how many audio files you create. 

For an author who just uses a laptop for writing, 256GB of space is fine. However, if you store a lot of photos on your computer or are a podcaster, you may need more storage. You can always add external storage, but that adds complexity to your setup. Plus, external hard drives will be slower than the one inside your computer. 

My Recommendation

Find out how much storage you are using now, and double that number for space on your new computer. If you currently use 100 gigs of space on your computer, 256 gigs on your new computer will be fine. 

What does matter for an author’s laptop computer?


RAM (Random-Access Memory) is also called memory. The amount of RAM determines how many applications you can run simultaneously. You may not think you need much RAM until you realize that each tab in your browser functions as its own application. 

In my experience, authors love running many tabs in Chrome. Each tab needs as much as half a gig of RAM to run. The more tabs you have open, the more memory you need. Running out of memory causes problems that are often fixed with a reboot. 

Running low on memory also strains your hard drive, which will cause it to fail sooner (and may result in losing all your data). Strain on your hard drive also puts strain on your battery. That’s why memory is critical for authors, especially authors who love leaving tabs open. If your computer crashes a lot or runs slower the longer you use it, you probably don’t have enough memory. 

If you are a focused, one-browser-tab person, you probably don’t need a lot of memory. But in my experience, I’ve found most authors lack that level of focus. I know I certainly do. As I wrote the first draft of this outline, I had 21 browser tabs open across four different monitors. 


An all-day battery allows you to write at a picnic table at the park rather than at a coffee shop near an outlet. It’s also great if you are a parent. I can take my kids to the park and tether my phone for wireless internet access. I can write while listening to birds chirp and children shouting at each other about whose turn it is. 

You will be surprised at how much more writing you can get done in a day when you don’t have to worry about plugging in. Writing outside won’t just improve your mood; it may even improve your writing.

But please realize that lithium-ion batteries degrade over time. You can expect to lose at least an hour of battery life per year. If your three-year-old laptop had a four-hour battery life when it was new, it probably won’t last much more than an hour after you’ve used it for three years. 

The longer your battery lasts when you first get the laptop, the longer it can roam free from the power cord. The battery is typically the first thing to fail on a laptop.

Software Compatibility 

Does your computer run the software you plan to use as an author? It doesn’t matter how fancy your computer is if it doesn’t run the one application you need. 

As a teenager, I used and crusaded for a Linux distribution called Lindows. It was a Debian-based distro focused on usability for end users, a precursor to distros like Ubuntu. 

The problem with Linux back then, and today to a lesser degree, is that most software doesn’t run on Linux. Even though you don’t generally have to use Microsoft Word for writing, when you do need to use it, it’s nice to have it. 

When you use an incompatible computer, you are forced to use whatever works on your computer rather than using the best tool for the job, which makes things harder. 

Regarding compatibility, Apple computers are the most compatible, followed by Windows, then by Linux, then by Chromebook in last place. 

Why Most Authors Use Apple Computers

Most professional authors use Apple laptops. Why? 

Reason #1: Compatibility

MacOS is the only OS that can run Vellum, the #1 typesetting tool for indie authors. Windows authors often have no idea how to turn their Word document into an EPUB file for Kindle or a PDF for print. They often get snookered by Hybrid Publishers, who will generate those files for thousands of dollars. But those same authors could generate their own files with a Mac and Vellum in just a few minutes.

For this reason, most professional authors have already switched to Mac. Even if you are traditionally published, it is nice to be able to make your own reader magnets. Software like Scrivener used to be Mac only, and only recently has their version for Windows caught up to their version for Mac.

Atticus is the one app for authors that runs on everything, even Chromebook. 

Bottom Line: A Mac is the only laptop computer that can run all the writing software authors need. If you want to avoid compatibility issues, it is your only option.

Reason #2: Ease of Use

I’ve worked with authors for 15 years and found that Windows authors complain about their computers far more often than Mac users. Windows systems are just harder to use.

For example, switching your microphone or headphones on a Mac is simple, and the process has remained unchanged for the last decade or more. 

That same process is extremely complicated on Windows. There are three different settings pages that control audio inputs and outputs. What’s worse, the interface changes with every version of Windows. The steps for changing inputs and outputs are different depending on whether you’re using Windows 7, 8, 10, or 11.  

As a podcaster, I find that setting up a guest who uses Windows takes more time than setting up one who uses a Mac.

One Windows-using author I tried to interview tried to get her mic working on three different days, but she just couldn’t. The problem was either with her PC or with Windows, but regardless, it didn’t work, and she missed out on getting interviewed as a result.  

Reason #3: Reliability

Apple computers have the best build quality in the business. While there are PCs with comparable build quality, they also have comparable pricing. You get what you pay for. Don’t expect a $400 laptop to be a rock of reliability, especially over time.

But remember that every author’s laptop computer needs automatic backups. Even if you have the most compatible computer in the world, it can still get lost or stolen. Every author needs some sort of automatic backup in place.  

Reason #4: Battery Life

The cheapest Apple laptop comes with an 18-hour battery. Your Apple laptop battery will outlast your writing stamina in a day. Most PC laptops last only a few hours before needing to be plugged in. 

Reason #5: Lower Lifetime Cost

Macs last longer. One of my podcast guests told me his wife was still using his 12-year-old Macbook Pro. While Windows laptops look cheaper initially, they don’t last as long, which makes them often more expensive in the long run.

Reason #6: Continuity Camera

With a Mac, you can use your iPhone as a webcam with a simple $20 mount (Affiliate Link). This will give you video quality comparable to a $1,000 professional camera rig. I have thousands of dollars in camera equipment, and I now use an iPhone for all my videos. 

Reason #7: Transcription

Mac OS has the best voice-to-text transcription. Windows is second best, followed by Chromebook in last place. 

What should an author avoid when buying a laptop computer?

Refurbished Laptops

Batteries degrade over time. Refurbished is a fancy word for “stuck to an outlet.” Only get a refurbished laptop if it comes with a brand-new battery.

The Most Recent Apple Silicon Chip

You can often save money by purchasing last year’s chip. If the new Macs are running M3, you can save money by buying an M2, and then you can apply those savings towards more memory and maybe a bigger hard drive.

Apple Recommendations

The MacBook Air is shockingly thin and light.

Budget Recommendation:

Walmart’s M1 MacBook Air


  • Only $699
  • Apple Silicon
  • No Moving Parts to wear out. 
  • 18-Hour Battery


  • Weak 720p Webcam (Use Continuity Camera with your iPhone instead)
  • Only 256GB SSD
  • Only 8GB of RAM

This is hands down the best cheap laptop on the market. 

Professional Recommendation

M2 MacBook Air 16GB RAM & 256GB HD $1,199


  • Twice as much memory
  • Better webcam. (I still recommend using Continuity Camera with your iPhone.)
  • Faster CPU.
  • 18 Hour Battery
  • You can double the HD to 512GB for an extra $200 at purchase. 


  • More expensive than the M1 MacBook Air. 

Windows Recommendation

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD $1199 (Affiliate Link)


  • 8-Hour Battery Life
  • Reputation for Build Quality


  • Windows can’t run all author software. 
  • Mediocre 720p Web Cam
  • No Continuity Camera Support 

Chromebook Recommendation

I don’t recommend Chromebooks for most authors. Chromebooks don’t run Vellum, Scrivener, or a native version of Microsoft Word. However, they can run Google Docs,, and Atticus. 

If you have a desktop at home and just need something to type on when you are out and about, a Chromebook could work. If that is your situation, I recommend the following model: 

Acer Chromebook 315 (Affiliate Link)


  • Only $169
  • 12.5 hours of battery.


  • Really only works when connected to the internet. (You can run Atticus offline.)
  • Very cheaply made. 
  • Nothing private from Google.

Bottom Line

I recommend buying the best Apple laptop you can afford. It is better to spend a little more upfront on a good computer than to get a cheap computer and then spend a small fortune on software and services to make it work better. 

Regardless of what computer you get, make sure you have an automatic cloud-based backup system. No computer is so reliable that it can’t crash, get lost, stolen, or broken. 

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