Is it ok to talk about "personal PCs", in the sense of distinguishing it from a work PC? Or would it be regarded as a case of RAS Syndrome?

  • 3
    "personal PC" sounds weird, except if you write something like "work PCs and personal PCs ...". However, a good alternative may be "private PC".
    – Graffito
    Sep 21, 2016 at 22:15
  • 2
    "PC" no longer means "personal computer", but rather refers to a computer that is reasonably portable by one person (ie, a "portable computer"). PCs can be "personal" -- belonging to one person -- or they can belong to some company or organization.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 21, 2016 at 22:16
  • 3
    Who's doing the regarding? And why should you care?
    – choster
    Sep 21, 2016 at 22:36
  • 12
    @HotLicks - where is PC defined as "portable computer"?
    – HorusKol
    Sep 21, 2016 at 23:32
  • 5
    You could also say, to avoid confusion, "personal computer". Expanding the acronym does by itself emphasize the personal aspect of it.
    – daboross
    Sep 22, 2016 at 0:31

2 Answers 2


Though the word personal is repeated in the expansion "personal personal computer", the two repetitions use different meanings of the same word. The first personal means "owned or used by a specific single person" (definition 1 here), while the second indicates "designed to be used by a single person" (definition 2 here, again). Both instances are required to convey the full idea and thus are not redundant. Consider the following examples spelled out in full:

  • Personal PC: personal personal computer, (the usual case of a personal computer owned by a person)
  • personal mainframe computer (I have a Cray in my bedroom),
  • Public PC: public personal computer (a PC that is installed in a kiosk usable by anybody)
  • 26
    @AndrewGrimm any computer that causes the lights to dim when you turn it on is a mainframe
    – mgb
    Sep 21, 2016 at 22:44
  • 4
    @AndrewGrimm I picked Cray as an obviously not-PC computer. The models that I'm aware of were constructed as room filling, mainframe computers. If anyone has a better example of a mainframe computer, I'm all ears.
    – Dave
    Sep 21, 2016 at 22:51
  • 3
    @AndrewGrimm Cray is generally considered a supercomputer since it's used for scientific numerical simulations. "Mainframe" has historically meant a computer used for business purposes or data processing, such as an IBM S/390.
    – Random832
    Sep 22, 2016 at 3:30
  • 5
    The old Crays from the '70s and '80s, while not quite room-sized, were certainly substantial pieces of hardware, clocking in at several tons and having a diameter (they were circular) of a couple of meters. Debate "mainframe" vs. "supercomputer" all you want, but they certainly match @mgb's definition of "any computer that makes the lights dim". I'd also argue that any single computer that needs a reinforced floor fits there :P Sep 22, 2016 at 15:15
  • 2
    Typically, mainframes are designed for high I/O bandwidth and supercomputers are designed for high compute power. Sep 22, 2016 at 20:11

Like the other answer, I say that personal PC isn't redundant, but for different reasons. While PC does literally stand for personal computer, as opposed to a mainframe computer, the term picked up a lot of additional meaning over the last 40 years.

IBM's most successful personal computer line in the 1980s was called the IBM PC, and its popularity led to other manufacturers producing machines that had similar hardware configurations and were compatible with software written for the IBM PC, and thus became known as PC-compatible, so PC in general parlance came to refer to a specific type of personal computer, rather than all personal computers.

Later on (I believe late 80s/early 90s) Microsoft Windows came to be the dominant operating system for PC-compatible systems, and PC came to mean a personal computer that is running Windows. This is in part because the Intel x86 architecture that the IBM PC used more or less dominated the processor market at the time; the only significant competition was from computers made by Apple or licensed Macintosh clones, which used the unrelated PowerPC architecture.

PC still means Windows to this day, even though Apple switched to x86 about a decade ago and there are now versions of Windows that run on other architectures, like ARM. So personal PC is a perfectly reasonable construction, especially if you're referring to a Windows computer that's owned for personal use.

  • 3
    I wouldn't say PC implies Windows, as it seems completely normal to talk about, say installing Linux on a PC.
    – ilkkachu
    Sep 22, 2016 at 18:49
  • 2
    "PC still means Windows to this day". No. You can use Linux on your PC just fine. It refers to the hardware, not the software. Windows Servers usually aren't run on PCs but on dedicated server hardware.
    – Polygnome
    Sep 22, 2016 at 20:40
  • I agree with you both, but it's undeniable that to many, a modern personal computer is either a PC or a Mac. PC should mean any personal computer, but read any tech news site and you'll see it used in more limited terms. Sep 22, 2016 at 20:44

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