This is part 3 in a series, Coming out as a Mac user.

Like any passionate affair, your romance with a new Mac can fizzle when you discover the limitations of your beloved. Your new Mac is much less likely to drive you crazy than that old machine running Windows Vista, but it’s not without the occasional quirk. Here are five highly recommended investments that will help protect you from software frustrations or hardware failures:<!–break–>

  1. Buy the extended AppleCare. It’ll cost you a couple of hundred dollars to extend your AppleCare from 1 year to 3 years. Do it now! You can wait until your first year is almost up, but there’s little financial advantage to doing so, and you run the risk of forgetting. And I’m almost tempted to tell you that if you don’t need that AppleCare over the course of those two additional years, I’ll refund your purchase. Because the sad truth is, your computer is likely to have the occasional problem; I’m on my seventh Mac, and I can’t think of one that hasn’t needed at least one major hardware repair. (This is especially true of laptops.) AppleCare is a fantastic warranty program: you can take your computer into any authorized Apple repair shop, and they’ll fix it up free of charge. If you have persistent problems, you can talk to Apple itself, and I’ve found them to be exceptionally helpful. Please, get the AppleCare now.
  2. Cultivate outer beauty. Your new computer isn’t just pretty on the inside: it’s pretty on the outside too. So keep it that way, with one of the sexy cases that are available for Macs (thanks to the fact that, unlike PCs, there are only so many Mac shapes you need to make cases for.) We like the Speck cases, available in a range of sizes and colours (though some have reported scratches from the case itself); the Marware Silicone Protection Pack for Macbook Pro 15-inch Aluminum Unibody – Silver; and the Pimp My Laptop customized stickers to cover the front of your screen. Get your protective gear as soon as you get your Mac so you can keep it in virgin condition.
  3. Buy the Missing Manual. David Pogue is not only a musical theater composer, he’s a technology columnist; his New York Times articles often have great Mac tips, and his Missing Manual series for the Macs are the best books for Apple users. Switching to the Mac: The Missing Manual, Leopard Edition walks you through the process of starting your life anew after the bad dream that was Windows. Once you’re ensconced, it’s worth investing in Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual(and consider upgrading to the latest version of both OS and book whenever the next one comes out). Office 2008 for Macintosh: The Missing Manual is a good purchase, too.
  4. Subscribe to MacFixIt. If you’re trying to figure out whether you’re the only person who gets that weird error when you run the Installer, MacFixIt will likely have the answer. Pay for the premium version so you can search Forums according to the type of issue and/or hardware you have.
  5. Add more RAM and get a new battery. If you’re having trouble with your Mac, these are good places to start. More RAM is almost always a good thing. And if your MacBook is more than six months old and has crappy battery life, get a new battery; it’s not cheap, but it will make you much happier. You’ll likely need to replace your battery every 12-18 months but don’t wait if it’s driving you nuts.

Mac newbies, what other forms of protection are you considering? Mac veterans, what other forms of protection would you recommend?