Tech Talk #48 – April 1, 2017

Switching from Windows to Mac or Mac to Windows


You’re finally ready.


After years of hearing from your friends about all the ways MacOS and Apple hardware is better than Windows or PC hardware, you’re ready to make the switch from PC to Mac.


Or, maybe after watching as Apple focused on iPads and iPhones while letting their entire iMac and MacBook Pro lines miss out on the latest hardware, you started thinking about Windows. Then Apple finally refreshed the MacBoofk Pro line but made you buy dongles for most of your peripherals, and they’re still underpowered compared to Windows laptops. Now you’re ready to switch from Mac to PC


Whichever Operating System (OS) you’re moving to, here are some tips:


It’s different here – Things like closing application windows, finding your files, installing applications, and where to find your applications are quite different on each platform. Before you spend any money, it’s worth your time to visit an Apple or Windows retailer and do the normal things you do to find out if the difference is a big deal to you. Ask questions if you can’t figure something out. Check out the sizes, materials used, and features included or left out. Look at specs and pricing, too. Then spend some more time with your potential new operating system and see if you think it’s still a good fit.


It’s the same here – Files, whether they’re music pictures, documents, or spreadsheets, are just files. 90% of everything can open on either platform. The other 10% are files saved in programs that have no digital equivalent on the other side. Normally this is only a problem with OS-included apps like Pages, Numbers, and Microsoft Works. You can still use those files, but you’ll need to use the original program to export them to a universal file type before you make your move.


It’s going to take some time – Moving your files between platforms can take a long time, depending on how many files you have. Even if you’re using a cloud storage program like iCloud, it will take some time to synchronize your vast music and or photo collection. You’ll also need to figure out how to do things in new and exciting ways. Like right-clicking. If you’re going from Mac to PC you’ll think “I can do that?” Or, if you’re going from PC to Mac, “Hey, what happened to my right-click?” You’ll figure it all out eventually, don’t worry.


It’s not going to take that long – Use iCloud to sync your documents, movies, web browser bookmarks, images, contacts, and calendar, either way, PC > Mac or Mac > PC.


The keyboard is different – Yes, yes it is. Naturally, there’s no Windows key on Mac keyboard, and Windows keyboards don’t have Command keys. There are keyboard equivalents of either OS’s shortcuts (copy and paste, anyone?) it’s all just part of the learning curve.


The mouse is different too – You’ll either have buttons now, or you’ll be able to use gestures on your mouse. Either way, you’ll get used to it. Or you can just get a mouse that matches your previous neighborhood.


The web is the same – Websites look the same, web-based email like Gmail, Yahoo! and the rest, look the same and you still get to them using a browser. You can take your bookmarks and favorites with you to your new OS. The major OS-independent browsers; Firefox, Chrome, and Opera are available for both platforms. Safari is available for Windows, but it seems that Apple doesn’t care about the Safari for Windows very much these days. Neither Internet Explorer nor Edge is available for Macs.


What about Office? –  If you have a Microsoft Office 365 subscription; it includes both Mac and PC versions, no re-purchasing necessary. Other cross-platform office suites include Open Office and Libre Office. These guys are free and extremely compatible with Microsoft Office’s standard file formats.


Peripherals – Printers, scanners, USB hubs, USB fans, trackballs, and anything USB connected should work without any problems.


USB drives and external hard drives – Generally speaking, to share an external or USB drive between Mac and PC, you need to format it as FAT32. FAT32 isn’t a very common formatting in either the PC or Mac worlds; PCs prefer to use NTFS and Macs like HFS+. So make sure you format as FAT32 before you start copying files to move to your new computer.


Best of both worlds? – Yes, Virginia. You can run Windows on your Mac, and you can run MacOS on your PC hardware. It can get pretty tricky, but there are lots of guides out there if you want to jump in.


The nuclear option – And hey, look. As long as you didn’t give away your old computer and/or it’s not a pile of useless junk, you can always go back.



Do you have a computer or technology question? Greg Cunningham has been providing Tehachapi with on-site PC and network services since 2007. Email Greg at   

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