Switching From Windows to Mac

Category: Apple-Mac , Software , Windows

Devoted fans of Macs and PCs have been in heated debate for years, even before those I'm a Mac, I'm a PC commercials ever appeared. Let's set aside the question of which camp is right and focus on the reasons why some people choose a Mac over a PC, and the major differences between the two operating systems, for the benefit of those who are considering a switch from Windows to a Mac...

Switching to Mac

Satisfying A Mac Attack

It's been said that operating systems are like religions, except people feel more strongly about operating systems. But there are several good reasons why a computer user might choose a Mac over a PC. The first and foremost cited by Apple fans is security. Macs are less subject to the endless security threats of viruses, worms, zombies and other forms of malicious code. Some consider this proof of a more secure OS, while others says virus writers are less apt to target Macs because they comprise only five percent of the market. But it really doesn't matter if you are in fact less likely to get zapped by malware, right?

Ease-of-use is another often-cited benefit. The Mac's user-friendliness is apparent in it's bright, inviting, bubble-icon interface. What could be more soothing to a nervous, first-time user than the Mac "Happy Face" icon that appears on start-up? Apple is arguably king of the GUI (graphical user interface), a point which is underscored by Microsoft as each major release of Windows borrows ideas from the Mac interface. Apple also focuses on consistency in the interface, and keeps tighter control over third-party applications so they look, feel and act the same as the ones built into OS X. This makes the learning curve for new programs smaller, since everything works in a predictable way. And you are likely to have a few "wow" moments as you get used to the Mac. It's pretty cool to see your keyboard light up automatically when the room gets dark.

Software installation is also simpler than on a Windows machine. On a PC, programs are installed in various system folders scattered all over the hard drive. On a Mac programs are simply installed into one "Program" folder. This makes uninstalling a no-brainer -- just drag the program's folder to the Trash Can. If you dragged a Windows program's folder into the Recycle Bin to uninstall, your PC would likely throw one major, possibly system crashing, hissy fit. You may find though, that you really don't have to do much software installation. Macs come bundled with many more programs than your typical PC. And as far as peripherals go, (printers, cameras, mp3 players...etc) Macs are known as "True Plug and Play." You can boot up a brand new MacBook, record a video, add a music track and burn it to a CD without adding or configuring anything.

And let's face it... though we hate being shallow, Macs look a lot sexier on top of a desk than your average PC. Mac desktops and MacBook laptops are sleek, colorful and are designed in such a way that there aren't multitudes of cables sticking out from everywhere.

Apples and Oranges: Hardware Differences

Switching to Mac from PCIf you've used a PC for a while, and are about to jump on the Apple bandwagon, there are some differences in the hardware that you should be aware of. First of all, some Macs have their power key on the keyboard, not the system unit. Look for the button with a vertical line inside a circle to power the Macintosh on or off.

Another of the more obvious differences is with the mouse. I used to tease a Mac-loving friend that his computer had a hoof instead of a mouse, because they only have one button. So how do you right-click to get to a short-cut menu? With a Mac you hold the "Control" button and click. Doing the "Control-click" on the Mac's desktop will bring up a contextual menu where you can change the desktop background, arrange icons, create a new folder and do all the things you could do by right-clicking the mouse on a PC's desktop.

On the Mac keyboard, you'll use the Command/Apple key instead of Ctrl, and the Option key instead of Alt. Also, forget any shortcut key commands that you learned in Windows. Apple's website offers a handy reference guide to the shortcut keys that you can use.

The Mac User Interface

In making the transition from Windows to Mac, you will also have to get used to the software interface. Although there are some similarities to Windows, things work a bit differently or have different names on the Mac. For starters, there's no Start button. The Apple menu icon at the top left of the screen is where to look instead.

Macs have the Dock, which acts a lot like the Taskbar in Windows XP. It shows the user which programs are active, and allows the user to switch between applications. You can auto-hide it as well, just like you can with the Taskbar. On a Mac, you won't see a separate menu bar for every active program. Instead you'll see just one menu bar at the top of the screen, and the commands there change as you switch programs.

For finding files and folders, the Mac does not use the Explorer type interface familiar to Windows users. Instead, it has an organizational view called the Finder which allows a user to navigate, name and arrange files and folders in either graphical, text, or browser view. Windows users will find this hard to get used to, because it lacks the split-panel view where the tree of folders appears on the left and the contents of the selected folder appears on the right.

On a Mac, you use the Trash instead of Recycle Bin, but take note that OS X doesn't remove items from the Trash automatically, like Windows does when deleted files reach a certain age or total size. Click and hold on the Trash icon and select "Empty Trash".

Finding Apple Software

Apple software Because Windows is used on over 90 percent of all personal computers, there is a lot of software available for the Windows platform, and Mac users sometimes feel left out when an equivalent version is not available for them. There is still an element of truth to the old saying that Macs are for artists and PCs are for business users. A lot of business applications that you will find in your office simply do not make software for Macs. Your home use however, is another story. Microsoft Office is available for Mac, so you can write letters, balance your budget or crunch numbers to your heart's content.

Macs, though, are pre-eminent when it comes to "artsy-crafty" tasks. OS X offers iLife, which has photo, movie-making and all kinds of multi-media capabilities. And serious designers and artists will tell you that Mac is the only game in town when it comes to high-end graphics software. If you are a serious gamer, take note, there are not as many games written for Macs as there are for PCs, but that's what Playstation is for, right?

Macs come installed with a suite of programs that any PC user will be comfortable with. OS X offers the Safari web browser, but you can also down Internet Explorer or Firefox if you prefer. Basic word processing tasks can be done with Mac's TextEdit, which is similar to Notepad. The built-in email program is called "Mail", and will make you forget all about Outlook Express.

There are a ton of web sites that have downloadable software for Macs. Among the best are Apple's own website and Version Tracker. These days, pretty much any task you want to do on a PC you can do on a Mac. And now that you can run Windows programs on your Mac OS X desktop, or even boot Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac, why worry? Can't we all, Mac and PC fans everywhere, just get along?

Got comments about switching from PC to Mac? Post your thoughts below.

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Most recent comments on "Switching From Windows to Mac"

(See all 30 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

03 Apr 2007

Re: catweasel's comments: If you're too macho to use the "dumbed down interface" on the Mac, navigate to the /Applications/Utilities folder and open up Terminal -- you have your choice of shells. You can also simultaneously run your favorite Linux distros (note the plural) as virtual machines via Parallels.

As for relative cost, you can beat the price of a Mac if you assemble your own 'puter, don't put any value on the time you spend researching, shopping, and assembling it, and use only freeware. For the rest of us, Macs are competitively priced with similarly loaded Wintel boxes of equivalent quality.

Posted by:

John Clark
09 Apr 2007

Re: Chuck Kay's comment: Actually, I think you'd find that, feature for feature, Macs aren't more expensive anymore. You simply get more features with a lower-end Mac. Also, for someone who "...just wants to email, surf the net...", they would be much better off with a Mac due to the much lower security risks. Tip: if you're looking for the cheapest way to get a new(ish) Mac, look at the refurbished models. They're accessed by clicking on the SALE tag about half-way down the main Apple store page, on the right. Those machines are at least a couple hundred less than brand new, but include the same full-year warranty as new. I've almost always bought refurbs, and saved some hefty dough over the years!

Posted by:

eduardo gomez
10 Apr 2007

Bob: Do you know if blind and visually impaired persons are able to find in the Mac what they have now found in the Windows XP environment? Thank you for your answer.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not sure how it compares to Windows, but Mac OS X Tiger has VoiceOver, which offers magnification and spoken English descriptions of what’s happening on screen.

Posted by:

Robert Deloyd
22 Apr 2007

I just bought a MacBook, it hasn't arrived yet. I been using Windows for many years and I have never have had a virus, worm, or Trojan because I keep my systems up to date, have a firewall and anti-virus running, but I've fixed many other computers that were infested with them (they don't read TOURBUS). I've had an Emac G4 that died with a bad logic board, that Apple finally fixed after quietly admitting there was a problem with a bunch of them. My friend's Imac (the one that looked like a lampshade) died with a bad logic board too, and Apple replaced it with a newer model. Another friend who is a Mac Fan boy and swears by them, but when I talk to him his system is almost always giving him problems. My experience with PC hardware has been very good. I have very old machines running and performing well: a Compaq Contura running Win 3.1 at 25MHz and newer laptops running XP as well. I thought I'd give Apple another try cause I like the lightness and size of the MacBook, BUT I also bought Apple Care with it!

Posted by:

Wee Bit Kiwi
11 Jul 2007

I am wanting to move to a Mac from PC laptop but keep putting it off as concerned that it will take me a while to learn how to use it. Also, is it true that PowerPoint files made in Macs have conversion issues when viewed in Windows?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, there is a learning curve. I know some hard-core computer users who tried to switch to Mac and couldn't make the switch. As far as I know, PPT files are portable from Mac to Win.

Posted by:

18 Oct 2007

Great article Bob and I see from the comments above a few people have correct you on a few issues. I have been a die-hard PC user since I was 16 yrs old (back in the 80's). I tried using a MAC back in the early 90's but hated it! Now I own a mac mini AND a mac book laptop and I LOVE them!! They are so much easier to use!! Last night I set up a printer on a home network and my mac found it immediately and with a click on two it was installed! Not so for the PC!! I had to tweak it and use the IP address to install the printer. Not something most people would know how to do. If your debating Vista VS MAC OR if you are just thinking about a MAC let me tell you the are pretty easy to use now AND you can easily install windows XP on the intel MAC's and have the best of both worlds on one machine! Take it from this Network Admin who has had lots of experience on PC's and now owns a Mac Mini running Mac server and a mac book.. Mac's are the way to go!!

Posted by:

Peter Emery
13 Jan 2008

Two points re the article:

1: Macintosh's Text Editor is actually called TextEdit and is vastly more capable than NotePad.

2: The email client in OSX is called Mail, not Email.

Posted by:

Peter Emery
13 Jan 2008

So how do you right-click to get to a short-cut menu? The easiest method is to plug in a 2-button mouse. It will be recognised immediately and left & right-click work just as they do in Windoze.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, but that's not part of the Apple-blessed Macintosh Experience... Macs still ship with the "hoof mouse"...

Posted by:

Curtis Goff
27 Feb 2008

OK, my first pc was a DeskPro 8088 and I'm comfortable with my PC's; but I just purchased a Macbook for my college attending daughter. Right now I still want to keep myself insulated from this new animal. Is there something similar to the files and settings tranfer wizard to get her data easily transfered from her current laptop (XP Pro) to the new one?

EDITOR'S NOTE: You may want to remain unsullied by the Mac, but your daughter will have to learn it and use it daily. I'd let HER figure out how to transfer the data, and in the process, become familiar with the machine.

Posted by:

poppy fogarty
23 Aug 2008

I came to computers late in life. Have been toying with buying a Max OS.5. (leopard). At present use Windows XP.

I have two external hard drives - one Maxtor about 3 years old and a new Western Digital Elements. I also have a Canon scanner 4 years old and an Epson Stylus C65 printer. I also have an Olympus 400 Digital Camera. Does any one know if they would be compatible.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The hard drives would have to be converted into external USB drives to be used on your Mac. Not sure about the scanner, since you didn't give the model number, but the Epson Stylus C65 has no Mac support, from what I've read. The camera should work fine with your Mac.

Posted by:

Rob Morrison
23 Sep 2008

For you two button mouse fans, most Macs now come with the "Mighty Mouse" which has left and right buttons, side buttons, and a scrolling ball which scrolls up and down plus left and right. You can customize what the buttons do (or not do) using the "System Preferences" "Keyboard & Mouse" settings. If you get a MacBook, you can use the old two button mouse from your PC; just plug it into a USB port.
Right click will do the same as Command-click, which is very similar to the Windows right-click.

From a pc / windows user of over 30 years - now a happy Mac owner.

Posted by:

Peter Harris
01 Nov 2008

There are business users of computers (PC) and artistic users (Mac), but there is a third category - scientists and technicians who want to use a computer for data logging and process control. As a former PC and current Mac user I would like to know if anyone is using a Mac for such purposes, or whether I have to keep a separate system

Posted by:

19 Dec 2008

Bought a MacBook Pro 45 days ago.. after my frustration with Windows based PCs over the last 3 years. I had to install Parallels/XP Pro/Office 2007 for MS Exchange and Office. I am a business user. Have been using Windows for 22 years.

Mac Positives

1. Stable machine. Just love the fact that I have not re-booted the machine, even once .. in the last 45 days. Even Windows under parallels has not crashed!! Must be something about MAC's approach to handling peripherals.

2. Connecting with peripherals. The machine automatically (without installing drivers and all the associated crap) recognized and added printers to my list.. WOW. Who woulda thunk of that.

the Big Mac negative (for windows users and for high-volume business users).

1. The Keyboard on Macbook Pro ..well, let me say this as gently as I can.. SUCKS! It is clearly not ready for high-volume, business use. There is no tactile feedback, the keys are in a depressed "well" which means the wrist has to be typing into a depression as opposed to in a raised manner - I started getting carpal tunnel like pain after 2 hours of use. Why are there no single-stroke Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys. Also, the outer edge of the keyboard surface area where one's arm rests is SHARP rather than a chiseled curve. This SHARP edge continuously rubs against the arm and can be very very uncomfortable for long typing sessions..as it starts creating a cut on the wrist. I think in this aspect (with a sexy looking "unibody design") Apple has taken a step backwards.. it is clearly a triumph of style over substance.

Frankly, I love the Mac..the stability, the UI, the apps.. and want to work on it.. but not with such a keyboard .. it is simply painful and unproductive. Give me a Thinkpad Keyboard on a Macbook and I have my NIRVANA machine.

Unfortunately, my loss of productivity on Mac is dramatic due to this one reason and it does not overcome my loss of productivity due to "constant re-booting and crashing windows machine". I have regrettably decided to give my 9 year old the Mac machine and have ordered my new Thinkpad. Hope Mac can do something about this 1 big negative...which I tried to work around for 30 days but just couldnt.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Why not plug your favorite keyboard into the USB slot of the MacBook?

Posted by:

raj furia
03 Sep 2009

how to do it From Windows to Mac
i just wanted to convert my windows desktop to mac pls can u guide me how to do it?

Posted by:

17 Sep 2009

Have a mac book pro now for 6 months, have been a PC user since windows 3.1 was released. I use my laptop very heavily for work.

Advantages: Looks, reliability, no freezing (Only occasionally, and dont require reboot) I love the new two finger tap on the mouse for right click features. The button us useless, one finger tap, and two finger tap does it all right on the pad. Lighted keyboard, magnet power cord (I have had to get many PC laptops repaired by tripping on power cord)

Downfalls: I have been using 17" laptops for a bit, with a number pad and full size keyboard built into the PC laptops.... Well, this dinky little keyboard has caused extreme slow down in data entry and number entry. They took the tiny little keyboard from there smallest mac laptop and placed it up to the bottom of the monitor on my 17" mac pro, with like 6 inches from the edge of the laptop to the beginning of the keyboard! How extremely difficult to type! I guess most mac users either use a mouse and just click all the time, or peck at the keys, they cant really type much. And dont most business users use excel? Dont even try a excel workbook on a mac, the office for mac does not support macros!!!! ??? What? Ummm, most corporations use macros for updating workbooks automatically to cut down on data entry. MAJOR issue. Then there is the fact that I have to do wiring diagrams, the two companies I do work for use Autodesk products..... Not mac supported. And, you cant turn off the touchpad mouse no matter how bad you want to. Ever done a cad on a touchpad? HA HA, or how about working on an excel workbook with a touch pad you cant disable, and your typing, and bam, your 2000 cells away from where you started. Also, their wireless cards suck, and thats being nice. You have to turn it off and on constantly because your connection will get so slow youll think your on dial up. Turn it off, then back on, and your up to speed again for a while. I talked to two different friends that travel like I do from wap to wap all the time and they have the same problem so I know its not just mine.

So, tiny keyboard, no number pad, no way to disable touch pad, and not excel macro compatible........
Otherwise, I love it! Unfortunately it has extremely slowed down my productivity and causes me to do a lot of deleting and retyping. Im 6 months into it, and trying to make it work for me.
But really, carrying a seperate keyboard, mouse, and using boot camp in order to use excel macros and autodesk programs, kind of all defeats all the "nice" parts of switching to a mac and eliminates the portable part of having a laptop.

Did I mention I dont have to reboot once a day anymore? Did I say I didnt have to wait on constant freezing, and no more opening task manager to close unresponsive aps?
Its got its good points, unfortunately, they still have left business users out in the cold a little on productivity.

Posted by:

29 Sep 2009

Awsome i was in a apple store today and i will say apple computers are true genius when it comes to making hardware. making an operating system i beg to differ i have used os x 10.5. i went to college for accounting and you kno windows in the platform for business, so when i decided to take web design an the lab they put me in was all macs i was like woa wtf? funny enough the first comment the profesor had was y did they put us in that room he wanted the lab with the windows machine. ne way 4 3 months 2 weeks i was using a mac an even though i was in college i didnt have a laptop so i was using os x so yea i learned a few things on the platform one thing i did love was it was a really cool lookin interface. but that was as far as it went the mac i was using was buggy it could have been my doing as i will argue 0 out of 10 computer problems are created by the user no matter what ever platform your on.

for me the os x inter face in ugly and just like microsoft apple needs to get an idea and make the whole theme thing be customizable so you can put what u want ( i kno windows xp and vista are customize able, but take into consideration an average user probably wud have problems doin it)well also the apple evviron ment is more of a single task environmetn not for me an i will say this windows - business apple-art not true to be productive u need a brain to be a good designer u need imaginaton not windows or os x they are your tools to work im not a faggy fan boy im just saying if i could make heads or tales of os x i might think to switch i just like windows dosnt give me the problems i hear other people talking about. but its up to each user to choose what they want. and if dell and hp get a clue and start makin better looking hardware i might never switch.

Posted by:

25 Nov 2009

Kev: Just out of curiosity.... Do they teach people how to spell in english at that college you attended?
Either way I have been using OS X for a few weeks and although I have only recently converted from windows, I can already see that much thought (as far as functionality goes) was put into apple's design of the operating system. The smooth transitions, well thought out layout and the stability all lead me to finally see what I hadn't in 13 years of using windows.... Microsoft has been selling me a "Hasty" thrown together system.

Posted by:

26 Oct 2011

I love my PC . No Mac for this kid . Don't want one , never have and never will.

Posted by:

02 Mar 2012

The notice to the right of this text box warns:

YES... spelling, punctuation, grammar and proper use of UPPER/lower case are important! And please limit your remarks to 3-4 paragraphs. If you want to see your comment posted, pay attention to these items.

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in which case, Bob, son, you slipped up when you permitted 'Kev's comment to be posted unreviewed!

Such slips up are ranklin' and could play havoc with your rankin', Bobby.

Please be more careful next time.

Posted by:

15 Mar 2014

Back when I was programming automated n/c machines in the aircraft industry the mac users loved their mac, but they cost more. Sounds like things have evened up.
My concern is my youngest daughter is transferring from our community college over to U of Montana. She wants to switch to Mac. Am I to understand she will have No problems other than user transition. No compatibility problems in classes but will have to purchase Office software for word, excel and power-point presentations, etc. Is there anything you think she needs to be aware of? She specifically mentioned wanting MacBook Air? Thanks for any Info - TW

EDITOR'S NOTE: Aside from the learning curve of switching from PC to Mac, the only other consideration is any PC-based software she uses will need a Mac equivalent. Any web-based apps should work the same.

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