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Step aside PC, I'm switching to a Mac! But wait, how do I move my stuff?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / May 27, 2011 4:42 AM PDT

Step aside PC, I'm switching to a Mac! But wait, how do I move my stuff?

I am switching from a Windows PC to a Mac computer very soon, but before I do any of that, I have some questions. First off, is there an easy way to transfer all my information from the PC to the Mac? I have a lot of files that include office documents, photos, music, and video files, and other miscellaneous data. Will I run into compatibility issues once they are transferred? What things should I be aware of--any particular dos or don'ts in this process? I'm completely green to the Mac world and any advice, recommendations, or tips on how to make this transition to the new system as painless as possible would be greatly appreciated.

--Submitted by: Bernie B.

Here are some member answers to get you started, but
please read all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this question.

Switching to Mac --Submitted by: mrmacfixit

Here's an idea --Submitted by: timhood

It in not always that easy to switch from PC to Mac --Submitted by: waytron

External Drive to Time Machine --Submitted by: presleydotcom

Transferring data is small part of the job.--Submitted by: Practical-Mac

Thanks to all who contributed!

(Note. Please keep this discussion civil. This isn't a Mac vs. PC discussion or debate. We are here to help out, and if you can't contribute something helpful or useful, then please do not post anything at all. Thank you!)
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Ease the transition, run Windows on your MAC.

I have been a MAC user for many years but I also run Windows 7 on my MAC using VirtualBox. It is simple to use, you don't have to re-boot, you can run both systems simultaneously. You can transfer data using CD/DVD or memory stick, but I use DropBox which makes life very simple. So, continue using Windows until you have familiarised yourself with OSX.

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You have it exactly right, Zanyjazz
by Larry Launstein Jr / June 17, 2011 9:06 PM PDT

Zanyjazz, this is the best advice anyone can possibly give for those switching from a PC to a Mac. Not only should they be continuing to run Windows until they get the hang of OS-X, but they also should be taking their time accumulating the programs necessary to be 100% compatible.

You can retrieve a lot of files just by accessing them from the drive the file is stored on. You won't be able to get at applications, but you can get at a lot of other things.

And for being able to play video files from Microsoft Media Player, there is a program that you can get for the Mac called Flip 4 Mac. I believe Quick Time can also handle these sorts of files.

And to the person who asked the original question - by all means get a good professional, preferably an authorized Apple technician, to handle the transfer for you. It is not as easy as it sounds for the average layman to handle Bootcamp and to upload Windows and everything else.

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Switching from PC to Mac

Many file formats are supported on the PC and Mac. Office documents are no problem (assuming you install Office on the Mac). Many photo formats are compatible, especially JPEG. Music files in mp3 and wav are fine. Video files can be an issue but it all depends on what the formats are that you are using on the PC.

One area of concern are files in a proprietary PC application format. You might not be able to find an equivalent app on the Mac. Sometimes such a PC app will allow you to "export" the files in a common format.

Besides running Windows on the Mac, you might be able to network the PC and Mac together by connecting them to the same router in your LAN. I've done that but it was long ago and likely is way different these days.

As mentioned in another post, data can be moved via compatible media (CDs, DVDs, flash drives, etc.). And files can be uploaded to space in the internet and then downloaded to the Mac.

Good luck! You are entering into a fun journey! There might be a bump or two along the way.....

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(NT) store your stuff on on a NAS
by whirty / June 19, 2011 4:53 AM PDT
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Switching to Mac
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / May 27, 2011 9:25 AM PDT

if you currently have a home network, you can transfer data from the PC to the Mac relatively easily.
You could also use a large capacity thumbdrive to move the stuff.

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Captain Destructo ?
by Ferretkeeper / June 17, 2011 5:38 PM PDT
In reply to: Switching to Mac

DESTROY!! ??? the PC. Are you mad? If Bernie B. is cash poor he could sell it after wiping the drive, but the best option would be to keep it as a standby in case there is any problem with the MAC.

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Perfectly sane, thanks for asking
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 17, 2011 11:48 PM PDT
In reply to: Captain Destructo ?

by destroy, I was referring to the process of destroying the data that is on the PC hard drive.

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Use of old PC
by Radar.1 / June 18, 2011 1:15 PM PDT
In reply to: Captain Destructo ?

I use a Dell from 1999 as a file server. My son set it up for me as I know nothing about Apache and Samba. The fact that the CPU is much slower than current machines does not bother me

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Mac & PC
by jda225 / June 20, 2011 12:03 AM PDT
In reply to: Captain Destructo ?

Good Advice, no great advice..

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too glib
by Hats and Cats / June 17, 2011 5:59 PM PDT
In reply to: Switching to Mac

This post neglects all sorts of complications that can arise.

-- Opening Word and Excel files in Pages and Numbers frequently results in incompatibilities, even for simple files.
-- MS Access is not supported on Mac.
-- iPhoto does not support layers or PSD files.

Please make sure to research not only the types of files you have on your PC but also the processes you use them in. Yes, Pages supports Word documents. But the Word documents are edited as Pages documents and to regenerate them you need to export as Word. Simply pressing Cmd-S (to save) will save the Pages document.

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Visio, printers, Explorer
by deckm00 / June 17, 2011 10:53 PM PDT
In reply to: too glib

One thing I found that Microsoft also doesn't offer is Visio for OS/X. Since our company uses it plus some other specialized non-Mac programs the workaround is to run XP using Parallels Desktop. It's kind of a pain though and not for the faint of heart.

Also with regard to printers if your devices do not have Mac drivers then your only hope is that if the device does have a Postscript interpreter you can use a generic Postscript driver. Otherwise you're out of luck.

If you're like me and grew up using File Manager you probably won't like Apple's Finder utility very much. There is a nice alternative from RAGE called Macintosh Explorer which walks and talks very much like Windows Explorer.

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I don't recall mentioning Pages and Numbers,
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 17, 2011 11:44 PM PDT
In reply to: too glib

I did mention MS Office though and suggested that documents created in MS Office for Windows could be opened in MS Office for Mac.
True, MS stopped producing Access for Mac back in the 80's, but the average user does not use Access so much.
iPhoto does not support layers or PSD files. True again, but there is nothing native in Windows that will deal with them either. The Mac version of Photoshop is available.

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right! you did indeed mention Office
by Hats and Cats / June 18, 2011 7:11 AM PDT

Right, you did indeed mention Office. And yes, to do layers or work with PSD files you need additional software on both the PC and the Mac.

My general advice about Mac vs. PC is that PC's are cheaper to buy but quiete expensive in maintenance. Update, reboot, update, reboot. And don't just install the antivirus that TimeWarnerCable proffers. It's not very good. Of course, with the arrival of Mac malware the battle is joined...

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by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 18, 2011 10:25 AM PDT

fortunately, a little common sense will also rule the day.

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Hope you have a good experence with Apple
by swamprat / June 18, 2011 4:03 AM PDT
In reply to: Switching to Mac

Hope you have a good experience with
Apple. Just remember as of today apple announced their Iphone
will have disabling software to stop recording of copyright
material. Not that i advocate improperly recording anything but
just who is this company to decide if you are or are not allowed to
do something. If they slip this in an Iphone don't think they
are above doing it to your apple. Sincerely, good luck
and I hope I am wrong.

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No they didn't
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 18, 2011 5:27 AM PDT

what the applied for was a patent that will allow an outside signal to disable the camera on the iPhone.

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PC to Mac
by rexob / June 18, 2011 3:23 PM PDT
In reply to: Switching to Mac

Many thanks
In the end I had no trouble at all in transferring the things by putting each one on a stick and plugging it into
the Mac. I am really begging to enjoy the Mac. I was going to create a dual platform using Bootcamp, but have now decided to stick with Mac platform.
Thanks for the help

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not everything..
by feduchin / June 18, 2011 7:09 PM PDT
In reply to: Switching to Mac

I use Quicken Personal Plus, optimised by Reckon Limited (t/as Quicken Australia) for Australian use together with the ATO etc. There is no Mac version as I found a few years ago when I bought an iBook; the iBook also didn't recognise my printer, a fairly common type only a couple of years old.
Frankly the accounting system was quite important to me having used it+upgrades since 1992, and the printer was also something I didn't want to get rid of at that time. Additionally I LIKE using the right mouse button, even though Mac users constantly say how 'unnecessary' it is. I find it a useful IBM compatible function which I continually use.
So out went the slooow iBook; and frankly I use a current version ThinkPad (12.5") which is small, light, fast and powerful.
Finally, I did use Macs in a company I worked with 2002-03, with which I also used Photoshop, and frankly found the Macs in no way extraordinary, especially as I still use Photoshop on my Lenovo.
No impressed.

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The Mac has no "Right Mouse Button"??
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 18, 2011 10:27 PM PDT
In reply to: not everything..


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video can be a issue
by gmba / June 19, 2011 4:58 AM PDT
In reply to: Switching to Mac

With any OS change video can still be a big issue and i believe was part of the question.

Many of the issues that existed were things like quicktime 2.5 (old by todays standards)
it worked differently on a PC vs. MAC. [Note: at them time there were also larger architectural
differences in hardware that don't really exist today]. One of the bigger issues even with the same
file was loss of audio between PC & MAC. I have also run into timing issues on new files where video/audio/clock
time are not in sync. i have also run into issues that sometime in the middle of the video the sound or video is lost so you may not want to assume that if the video file starts up that it is good to be used. The complexity of moving video grows based on time, type of file, versions and how good the software that created the video was.
I am not saying if it is the PCs, Mac, Codec, or video files' fault because i did not care enough to find out.
The issue is also not necessary one way. Going from MAC to PC could also cause you issues.

Video is a complex beast. The number of codecs that have existed thru the years seems vast
and there can be different versions of them. An extention of .AVI or MPG does not mean
that it is the same type of file as another. Inside the file it can provide data on the specific
type of encoding that was used for that file. So testing one AVI file does not mean another
with the same extenstion will necessary work also. Testing all the videos on the new system might be
necessary after the transfer. There are some codecs that are only supported by one vendor.
This may make it necesary to remember how you (or someone else) created the video. Old ATI cards
(rage3 cards aiow) installed some special codecs and playing the video files on systems with out the drivers for that video card were not possible (1997 timeframe). If you used video editing software, it may have put it
in a fomat that is not undestood by everything.

There are some codecs (what interprets your video files) that MACs do not support, and a couple that you need to buy an upgrade to quicktime to play (or did in the past with OS X 10.4).

Using a freeware video player like FFmpeg or VLC ( may be necessary.
Please note that you often can not run this(VLC) application as root/admin [however, it
can be difficult to determine that unless you start it from a terminal. Double clicking on the icon, just makes
it exit if you are logged in with admin privs.]

I should point out that the issues on compantbiltity of video above have been trying to be addressed.
and that how long you have had the files is important. If the video does not play on the new system
you may need to convert it to a different type before moving it to the new system. I think that vlc
provides a converter(but can have issues even if it can play the file) and Divx (fee based) does provides one but may put it into a special format. I assume If you were encoding
your video there would be many different recommendations/analysis on the post portable video
format. Doing a search on the issue might be good. I would think that mpeg2 (if available as an option)
may be the best option at this time.

if you have a network, something like a NAS is a excelent way to move stuff and orginize it at the sametime.
After it is copied there, copy it to your new system and leave it on the NAS as a backup in case you have a system failure.

Although, I personally have never tried it, using a x86 based MAC and running bootcamp may give you the best of both worlds. Your computer is just a tool. Getting rid of your old tools, just because you got new ones does not always make sense. [Opps, am i standing in your way on your upgrade decision Happy ] using the right tool for the job you want to accomplish is good advice, the right tool maybe a PC, MAC or other.

Summary is that you should test your videos files on the new system before you get rid of the old one. The problem is bigger than just moving the data.

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Mac to PC
by trustgod95 / June 19, 2011 11:52 PM PDT
In reply to: Switching to Mac

What if you have to profiles on your pc and both have differen t email address?

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Easy for most things, nearly impossible for a few

I'm going to assume that you are going to purchase a new Mac, and won't be running any sort of emulator to run Windows on it.

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Transferring files
by GlassDeviant / May 27, 2011 10:12 AM PDT

If you can physically move the files from a PC drive to a mac drive, you can access them. I have an eSATA drive that I can access via Mac or PC, or you can even install the drive right in your Mac and copy all the files (FAT32 format, but likely not NTFS) directly at full SATA bus speed.

Common files like MS-Office documents and PDFs can be read straight up by the "local" version of the app or any number of conversion scripts or programs.

>Wolfmont> It is incorrect to claim that "only Framemaker can open FrameMaker files". There are any number of utilities and scripts that can make such files accessible across platforms. Please do your research before passing on such misguided misinformation.

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Excuse me?
by Wolfmont / May 27, 2011 12:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Transferring files


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I'm just replying to you.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / May 27, 2011 12:53 PM PDT
In reply to: Excuse me?

If I wanted to open a Framemaker file, why not Framemaker?

It's over at and I see an 800 number for more questions.

Support had gone away but it looks to be back.

Yes I see they want a clean break from Windows but for this we would bend the rule and look at VMWare Fusion.

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Sure Adobe supports Adobe users... sort of
by Wolfmont / May 27, 2011 2:12 PM PDT

I have multiple Adobe products, and in my experience, Adobe support has been sketchy at best, especially for Mac versions. Adobe and Apple have been miffed at one another for over a year concerning Apple's changes to OS X that prevented Adobe's old PDF printer drivers from working any longer. Things got smoothed out, although you still can't install PDF printer drivers in the newer versions of OS X (at least as far as I know), but if you go and hang out on the Adobe support forums, you'll see the frustration that Mac users in particular experience when they go there for support.

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This is really easy, I do it daily

The easiest way is to copy your folders to an external hard drive, connect it to your Mac (via USB usually) and drag and drop the folders onto the main disk. ie. Open a Finder window and choose the folder with the name you gave it when you registered your Mac. This will appear in the left panel directly below "Desktop".

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Switching to Mac

I considered doing this a few years ago; was told by a salesman of Mac products that my data files would not be a problem, but my programs would. When I figured out the cost of replacing my favorite programs, I changed my mind and went back to a PC.

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Update your Mac info...
by EJ the DJ / June 17, 2011 3:58 PM PDT
In reply to: Switching to Mac

You may want to consider your change-over now. Much has happened in a few years. There is nothing in the programs and apps that come loaded on the Mac that I'd not prefer to the PC apps, so there's not much extra to buy to get you set up.

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I'm switching to a Mac?!?

I won't try to guess what apps you're running, instead I'll offer a more general advise path to take, and perhaps a more useful one. Sit down at your PC and ask, "What applications am I running, that I use regularly, that might have data I need to back up or transfer?" Make a list of everything you do on your pc, all the games and applications, then hop on the internet, and start asking questions, like, "How to transfer 'program x' files from pc to mac". This will enable you to search for and discover all the potential problems you're likely to encounter before you make the switch. It can also prove to be instrumental in deciding even IF you want to switch, as if there is one particular app that you simply MUST have, and no Mac version or solution exists, then that could give you the information you need before you make a grievous error.
Good luck.

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