Figuring Out Whether Your PC Hardware Will Work with a Mac

If you’d like to use your PC’s current printer, scanner, or fax machine with your new Mac, you may not have to buy anything extra, or you may need an adapter. The key is to check with the manufacturer. Apple has a handy Web site with links to major printer manufacturers’ support pages. In addition, you may be able to use your PC’s external or internal hard drive with your Mac.

Keep these points in mind:

  • If your PC printer is relatively new and connects with USB, Ethernet, or WiFi, it will probably work with your Mac. Macs come with many drivers for current devices installed, though it never hurts to check for updated drivers at the printer manufacturer’s Web site.

  • Older printers with a parallel port require a USB–to–parallel port adapter. The chances of these printers working are a bit more iffy.

  • All-in-one units generally work, but some features, like receiving faxes to your hard drive, may not work with the Mac. (Get an Apple USB modem if your all-in-one’s fax feature won’t play Mac.)

  • Scanners are pretty much the same story as printers and fax machines. Recent USB and FireWire scanners should be fine. Older SCSI devices need a pricey SCSI-to-FireWire adapter and still may not work. Check with the manufacturer.

  • USB and FireWire external hard drives should work fine, even if they’ve been formatted for your PC. Just plug them into the appropriate Mac port and a drive icon will appear on the desktop, which you can then click to access your files. The same goes for USB flash drives.

  • Because new drives have so much more capacity than those from even a couple of years ago, reusing internal hard drives may not be worth the bother. If you do have an internal drive you’d like to use in your new Mac, you can also buy hard drive enclosures that let you install your PC’s internal hard drive and then plug it into your Mac via USB 2.0 or FireWire.

PC cards, also known as PCMCIA cards, are about the size of credit cards, though a bit thicker, and are designed to plug into special slots on PCs, primarily laptops. The good news is that many of the capabilities that PC cards were typically used for, such as adding Ethernet, are built into Macs or can be added in other ways, such as with the Apple USB modem.

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