How to Switch from Windows to Mac in a Day

Master your new Mac in one day
Master your new Mac in one day

If you’re a Windows user looking for a new computer and have a budget of $1,000 – $3,000, you’re probably considering a Mac. Here’s how it goes:

At a recent PC-to-Mac convert’s request, I put together this guide of Mac how-to’s, tips, and tricks for everyday productivity.

About Me

I’m a WordPress-savvy, software- and hardware-repairing, optimization-obsessed, and fun-loving guy from Oklahoma (originally from Wisconsin). I owned an iPad 1 for a couple years before getting my first iMac. I too was a PC power user who became a Mac beginner.

After consulting some of my Mac friends, doing a bunch of research, calling AppleCare often, and just putting my determined computer guru skills to good use, I became a very proficient Mac user. And I want to share some quality tips with you.

Show Me the Money

Apple makes great products. Apple is also great at extracting sizable amounts of cash from millions of people, sometimes all at once (computers) and sometimes little by little (downloads and accessories). Some of the things I’ll mention cost money. You need to be prepared to pay for stuff so here’s a money-saving tip…

Apple doesn’t know what a “sale” is… Everything is full price… Unless you think to buy discounted Apple gift cards!

My favorite discounted gift card website is Gift Card Granny. They have an inventory of discounted iTunes gift cards and discounted Apple Store gift cards, sortable by discount percentage, seller type (I always uncheck eBay Auctions), and more.

Basically, you buy a $100 iTunes gift card for $95, add that gift card certificate code to your Mac App Store or iTunes account (they’re the same thing) and then you make your app purchase. NOTE: Apple Store gift cards cannot be used in the Mac App Store / iTunes stores, and vice-versa.

Great Value

Clean iMac desk
iMacs are pretty, inside and out

As stated above, we’ll be spending some money, but you should be happy about it because we’re considering what’s of greatest value within a budget, not what’s least expensive.

A Mac is a work machine, but it’s also beautiful. I justified paying more than 3x the cost of a new Windows PC by telling myself how much more productive I would be not having to wait for “Not Responding” messages, reinstalling or clean-upgrading the Windows OS every 1-2 years, and dealing with random issues, virus warnings (even false positives), and other headaches of owning a Windows PC. I have spent quite a bit of money and haven’t regretted any of it.

Getting Started with your New Mac

Going from PC to Mac can be a shock to your system, even for techie people, but reading the links and tips here will get you up and running before the end of your first day with your new Mac.

Apple Support

If you didn’t purchase the AppleCare Protection Plan for Mac (which I did and would recommend you do too), you get phone support for the first 90 days and a 1 year limited hardware warranty. If you didn’t buy AppleCare at the time of purchase, you can buy it anytime before your 1 year warranty runs out.

I say all that to tell you that anytime you have the phone support (90 days to 3 years), you can call Apple for support if you want someone to hold your hand through some of the info below or just want to talk some ideas out with them. FYI: like any support call center, there’s potential for hold times, inadequate/wrong support information, and there are advanced support technicians that you can be escalated to if you think you’re not getting the information you’re looking for.

Premium Apple Apps have a different support warranty. Apps like Final Cut Pro, Aperture, and Logic Pro come with a 90 day premium/specialized support line. So don’t buy the apps until you have time to learn them (i.e. time to call with questions). Unfortunately, this support is for answering advanced questions, not getting hand-holding “show me how” help.

Learn the Lingo

The Mac Desktop - Finder Face
The Mac Desktop (with the Finder face as the background)

Windows and Mac have their own terms. Here are some common words, acronyms, and phrases to learn right away:

Windows keyboards (e.g. Logitech brand) can be used on Macs, in which case:

Hard drive formats are important to know about:

Windows Fonts are located in the folder %windir%/fonts (used to install and uninstall). Mac comes with the Font Book app for installing and managing fonts. It’s important to know that each OS comes with its own proprietary fonts. Therefore, if you have some documents that use Windows fonts, they’ll be substituted when opened on your Mac if not already installed. You can get some of the Windows OS fonts on Mac by installing Microsoft Office for Mac (linked to below).

Getting Started and Transferring Files from PC to Mac

Apple looks good
Apple looks good

Now that you know some lingo and understand drive formatting, it’s time for you to make a decision how to move files from the past (full-time Windows) to the future (full-time Mac).

Personally, I have always kept my files on an external hard drive. So I just unplugged the USB hard drive from my PC to my Mac and was up and running. However, there are some files on a PC’s internal hard drive  that you might want. You’ll need to evaluate the software you have installed, whether you’ll have that same software on your Mac too, and where those files are stored in the PC.

Most likely, any external hard drive you purchase will be formatted as NTFS. If you have Paragon installed, that’s not a problem, but if you’ll ONLY be accessing that drive from a Mac from now on, it’s probably best to move your files OFF that drive, reformat the drive as HFS+, then put all those files back ON that drive. Plus, Time Machine only works on HFS+ drives.

Watch/Read these help topics before making a decision how to get started:

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are great for productivity. Below is a list of common Windows and Mac keyboard shortcuts.

And many more Windows to Mac keyboard shortcuts at Also see all Mac keyboard shortcuts.

Two Windows shortcuts that I wish Mac had:

Windows Shortcuts vs Mac Aliases:

Tip: Both Windows shortcuts and Unix symlinks are useless if the original/referenced file or folder is moved or deleted or renamed. However, Mac aliases follow the referenced file/folder if it’s renamed or moved (even if moved to the Trash).

Multi-Touch Gestures

Macbook with Magic Mouse
Macbook with Magic Mouse

The Magic TrackpadMagic Mouse, and Apple laptops all support Multi-Touch gestures.

Gestures can be considered replacements for keyboard shortcuts at times and enable totally new functionality in other ways. Learn gestures from and

Along the same lines (although not a gesture), you can create Hot Corners so you can access applications simply by moving your mouse cursor into one of the 4 screen corners.


The Mac App Store for Macs is like iTunes for iPhones, Google Play for Android devices, or Windows Store for Windows 8. As stated above, iTunes gift cards are the same as Mac App Store gift cards (but NOT Apple Store gift cards). If you add $50 to iTunes and spend $20 on music, you’ll see a $30 balance in the Mac App Store.

Some apps are only available from the App Store; some are downloadable from the web and aren’t available via Mac App Store; and others are available from both in and out of the App Store. In general, for security reasons, you should prefer apps available from the App Store. However, sometimes apps aren’t in the App Store because they do something you want them to do that Apple doesn’t allow in its store. Additionally, Apple polices the App Store but can’t police downloaded apps. This means that app updates come later (after Apple’s review/approval process) than the same app not downloaded via the App Store.

OS X Mountain Lion logo

One caveat to downloading apps outside of the Mac App Store is that they may not be compatible with your operating system version. A guideline (not the rule) is that apps/drivers/plugins made for 10.6 and below likely aren’t compatible with 10.7 and newer OS versions. At the time of this writing, the newest version is OS X 10.8.2. OS X 10.8 is dubbed “Mac O.S. 10 Mountain Lion”.

Following is a list of free and paid apps that you should consider installing, if their usefulness applies to you and if they support your OS version.

About the Mac


Alfred App application launcher
Alfred App application launcher

Management and File Sharing

Mac Management and File Sharing
Dropbox, LogMeIn, LastPass, CrashPlan, CloudApp


Skype for Mac
Skype for Mac


Mac Productivity Software
Mac Productivity Software


Mac Media Apps
Mac Media Apps

Programming, Internet, SFTP, WordPress

Coding on Mac
Coding on Mac


Can Computing Life Get Any Better?

Fun t-shirt: Evolution of the iMac all-in-one desktop computer
Fun t-shirt: Evolution of the iMac all-in-one desktop computer, woman holding a Macbook

Apple has a slew of products and accessories to help you empty your wallet and feel good about it. They all have a learning curve, which hopefully this article cut way down for you, but once you’re up and running, computing life is about as good as it gets.

Personally, the extra simplicity, efficiency, beauty, and performance that I get from my Mac has more than justified the financial and time commitment needed to permanently switch from Windows to Mac.

One last tip…
To help you maximize your computing power and save a few bucks, one alternative to buying Mac-only is to buy additional Mac RAM from Crucial. It’s about 1/4 the price and top quality. You can find out your Mac’s max RAM by viewing the Tech Specs section of the information pages (e.g. iMac Tech Specs).

Please share your questions, suggestions, and tips in the comment area below.

Creative Commons image(s) courtesy of .faramarz, Brendon Burton, Yeray Hernández, Marco Nuñez G., ~ d a n ~, and SambaClub.

Clifford Paulick

Clifford Paulick is @TourKick, doing cool things with WordPress, photography, and videography. He provides web and technology consulting services at and is a Tulsa Realtor.


  1. Timo

    Four years later this guide is still the best one. Got answer to all my problems I had in last days. Only thing I didn’t find on the first place was Control key, it’s named “alt” on my Macbook pro. Have to say I’m very satisfied with Mac, despite the overall negative stand of PC users. I’ve been more than 10 years of Windows user and of course will be continue using Windows. Thank you for this guide!

  2. Elizabeth Hermes

    well even if you have to steal a macbook pro, its so dang worth it. i love iOS after my experience with the iPhones 456 and an iPad air 2 i decided to go full apple everywhere including the tv. So easy to go to pirate bay, get some music and then simply drop into iTunes wow…..loving it. snagged the ms office and installed it and i am good to go. I take my mac book with me everywhere i go. Mostly purchased it for my new business and art and graphics work which i am still learning and haven’t gotten too far with all that yet. But this pc outperforms, outlasts and outages windows and i will never ever go back to hp. ever. nor windows.

  3. Suhas

    Hi Cliff,
    I loved your article… I am on my way to switching to a Mac from Windows. I have never used OSX before and after the plethora of keybord shortcuts that dont work on mac.. I am having second thoughts. One thing I wanted to know was that.. if you install windows via Bootcamp on Mac… do you still get the same battery performace as advertized on the apple website?

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Hi Suhas. That’s a very interesting question. I really don’t know, but I’d expect it to be very similar. For example, if the Mac’s maximum battery life is stated as 10 hours, you’d probably get 8-10 hours whether you used OS X or Windows via Boot Camp. I’d guess battery life is dependent upon processor utilization. For example, if you are running a super-intensive program (whether in OS X or Windows) your battery life may only be 6 hours, but if you just have it on and not doing anything intensive, it may last 10 hours. I hope my reply helps and wish you the best with your new Mac. You won’t regret it!

  4. Mikekozlow

    Great article. You have answered or led me to places to answer almost all of my question. I must admit I bot a MacBook and gave up and sold it at a pretty big loss 4 years ago. After using my iPad quite a bit, and realizing how old and easily infected my 9 year old laptop is, I am ready for a new lap top and think the Mac is the way I want to go. I am very mouse oriented, and among my most necessary programs is Quicken. I see where I can transfer the file to the Mac, do I need a new program? Can I move all of my Oitlook saved emails, (I’m a realtor) to a better email handler?

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Hi Mikekozlow. I’m a Realtor too! 🙂
      Any “big” programs like Quicken or Outlook would need to have their own migration paths (e.g. export from Win, import to Mac). One way might be to create a backup file then import it on Mac.
      If you use GMail exclusively, you could just use instead of Outlook. The downside of Mac “Mail” app or “Outlook” app is that your emails are copied to your local hard drive, which could be less secure and/or take up more hard drive space.
      I wish you the best in your switch!

  5. Kat

    Help! I have been using the iPhone from the beginning. I am going to make an impulsive purchase this week on a new laptop. I’d like a top of the line Mac(I’ve always used PC)… but would like to switch to a Mac. I apologize I’m typing fast and in a hurry but I’m just curious about how I go about finding a top of the one and customizing it as I like. I’d then like to purchase it on Amazon along with a warranty.

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Hi Kat. is the best site I found for price shopping among authorized retailers. If you want to buy in person, Apple Store or Best Buy are options too. I hope that information helps.

  6. scott

    “To move files (not copy and paste), drag the files from one Finder location to another and hold the Cmd key before you let go of the mouse click (i.e. the “drop” part of drag-and-drop). If you don’t hold down Cmd key, it’ll just copy, not move the selected/dragged file(s).”

    This needs some updating – moving a file by dragging it from one location to another works with or without the Cmd key. It’s moved, not copied. To copy files, move them while holding the option key.

  7. Papa

    First day… Where is the undo key (s##t) key on the Mac (excel)?

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Hi. For UNDO, Windows is Ctrl+Z, Mac is Cmd+Z. For REDO, Windows is Ctrl+Y, Mac is either Cmd+Shift+Z or Cmd+Y. It can depend on the app you’re in.

  8. Thomas

    Clifford, FYI under shortcuts, you said, “Cmd+X on Mac (doesn’t work for files on Mac)”. That is b/c you use Command + C and then Command + Option + V to move the file; it’s the equivalent of cut and paste on Windows. FYI might want to update your Shortcuts section.

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Thomas, thanks for the Command + Option + V shortcut. I’ve updated the post.

      1. Thomas

        Glad I could help!

  9. TimG

    My first Mac was a 512k and loved it even though there was no HD. A small way, I miss switching 3.5″ disks every so often. How Macs have changed since the 80’s (how I miss Lode Runner). Sadly with being an engineer and the programs I used at the time were only for PC’s. My Mac was “limited”. And now, December 2013, I have finally fulfilled my dream to return to Apple with a Macbook Pro.

    After my 512k, I started off with DOS, then Windows 3.1, XP and now 7 for my personal computer. And for work, still stuck on a PC. I do have a few iPads, an iPhone and an iTouch along with a few iPods. It was only logical to return to Apple. I must say that this article is a great help to converting from Windows to the Mac world. I have searched the ‘net for such an article. This is a must read for the converts. Thanks for this article!

  10. Dmitriy

    Thank you for the article. Now I’ve finally made up my mind to buy a MacBook, but there’s one more thing I’m now doing on my pc, that’s mp3tag editing, and if you know any apps for Mac worth considering, it’d be great to hear from you. As far as I know, there’s the tagger, but that’s costly, around 30 bucks. Any alternatives? Only the beautiful or optimized ones or a link to a source where I can get a full version for free. Thanks one more time!

    1. Hashmaster9000


      Try this:

  11. Francisco J. Vargas Guadalupe

    This is an excellent article. I had been thinking of switching from Windows to Mac and now this article has convinced me to do so. Thank you for providing such an informative guide.

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Glad to help fund the Apple machine! 😉
      I know they’re expensive, but don’t skimp. Get the one you’ll want to keep for years, and get the support plan.
      If you ever do want to sell or trade-up, this might help:

  12. Rushabh

    I was searching for such guides to help me decide whether or not I should switch to Mac and I can tell, this is the most comprehensive guide I came across. Thanks for that.

    But I have a few questions. I have been using Windows for the past 12-13 years. I mostly use my PC for my business which involves use of MS Office. I can say I am pretty fast with using the keyboard shortcuts in Windows. I hardly use mouse/ trackpad for anything. Almost everything I do is with the keyboard shortcuts.

    Since I was thinking of switching to Mac, I visited an Apple Store to try it out. When I opened Excel 2011, I just couldn’t figure out how to use it!! No keyboard shortcuts worked on it. Plus I happened to notice that there’s no “Backspace” on the keyboard. I must admit everything else looked and felt classy!

    So I am crippled with my buying decision! Is it worth investing in a Mac if its going to be that difficult to use Office apps!

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Hi Rushabh. Glad you liked this post. Without knowing all the shortcut keys you’re referring to, I can tell you two things: 1) Use a Windows keyboard (e.g. Logitech), and 2) MS Office programs retain some of their own shortcut keys (almost non-Mac-ish). So get a Mac, run Bootcamp if you need to, and use a Windows keyboard with your Mac.

  13. Lizelle

    Hi there, wonder if you can help me. I bought a Mac Laptop from one of my friends, he deleted IOS and loaded Windows onto it. I know want to load IOS back onto it as i know it. Can you perhaps tell me hoe to load IOS back on and remoce Windows? Your help will be really appreciatted. Kind regards, Lizelle

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Hi Lizelle. Quick bit of education: iOS is for mobile devices (e.g. iPhone, iPad). OS X is for desktops and laptops (e.g. iMac, MacBook).

      If I’m understanding you correctly, your friend installed Windows onto your Mac. If it was installed via BootCamp, you have a “dual-boot” system, meaning you can boot into either Windows or OS X. I’ll refer you to the BootCamp Documentation:

      If he really did erase the hard drive before installing Windows, you can startup your Mac and immediately hold Cmd+R to get into OS X Recovery Mode, which can re-download/install OS X onto your computer if connected to the Internet:

      Of course, if you have Apple Care, I’d suggest calling them so they can diagnose and advise.

      Hopefully this info helps. Feel free to comment back to let us know how it goes.
      (Disclaimer: No guarantees or warranties ;- )

  14. Gary

    Thanks for this brilliant post. I too hate Windows (it’s akin to fresh steaming cr**). I made a switch to a Mac and am understand the reason for why I paid the extra money. And it’s not just justified in the short run, Macs hold their value much better than PCs.

    About the guide, well its comprehensive and I’ll say complete. Although OS X is no harder to handle than a vacuum cleaner, this guide really gave me a full 101. Thanks again, your guide is extremely thorough and helpful. I got my Mac fully up and running in just 8 hours.

    1. Clifford Paulick


      8 hours is great. Exactly what I was going for! 🙂

  15. Pradeepan

    This is right on really helpful!

    1. Clifford Paulick


      Hi Pradeepan. I appreciate the compliment. Glad it helped. Hope you have a great 2013!

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