How to Move Your Windows Files and Preferences to a Mac

You’re ready to move from your Windows PC to a Mac, but you’ve invested time and energy over the years getting your Windows files and preferences just as you like them. Within certain limits, you can replicate your Windows environment on a new Mac in several ways:

  • Move2Mac software: The $50 Move2Mac program from Detto Technologies does most of the heavy lifting of moving to a Mac from Windows. You create a profile of settings and files that you want to move over from the PC, and let the software take over from there.

    Move2Mac combines software you load on both your Mac and PC with a special cable to connect the two. For pre-Windows XP systems, get the version of Move2Mac with a Mac-USB-to-PC-parallel cable. For an XP machine, get a USB-to-USB cable.

    While the software is smart enough to put files in the right place, Move2Mac can’t do everything. Applications are not ported over from the PC, nor does Move2Mac convert PC files to a Mac format. That’s not a big deal for many major programs, but it can be for some. Check out Detto's Web site for more information.

  • Help from Apple: When you buy a new Mac at the Apple Store, you qualify to have a certified Mac technician, known as a Genius, transfer all your data for free. If you purchased your Mac online or at another retailer, a Genius will still transfer your data, for a fee starting at $50.

    The PC must be running Windows 95 or later, and you need to bring your Windows installation disks, any appropriate cables, and the PC keyboard and mouse. Under this free scenario, you have to configure settings on your own.

  • Burning a disc: Because your Mac can read CDs or DVDs formatted for Windows, you can burn your important files onto a disk and copy them onto your Apple. You may not have to burn all your files onto a disc, but a good place to start is in your My Documents (XP) or Documents (Vista) folders on the Windows machine. These folders may include photos and videos.

  • External hard drives: You can exchange files on external USB or FireWire-based hard drives and USB thumb drives.

    You can even use an iPod as an external drive by setting it up for disk use. Temporarily dump songs off the iPod to create more room (then add the music back later). Visit the Apple Web site for a detailed explanation.

  • Using an existing network: Another way to get files from Windows to a Mac is by using a network. Make sure that file sharing is turned on in Windows and then go to the Network and Sharing Center on a Windows Vista machine to start. Add your Mac to your wired or wireless network (if not already part of it) and exchange files.

  • The KVM switch: If you just bought a Mac but are holding on to your Windows computer for awhile, consider a KVM (keyboard-video-mouse) switch. This device uses USB to let the two machines share the monitor and various peripherals. A Belkin KVM switch with all the necessary cables is roughly $70.

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