If you’ve just bought your first Mac and you’re switching from a Windows PC, congratulations! Welcome to the fold. You’re anxious to use your Mac, but you’ve amassed years of data on that PC. Switching platforms doesn’t mean starting over: You can still use those old files. Apple makes it easy with a free utility called Migration Assistant. Here’s how it works to move files from PC to Mac.
Migration Assistant is a utility Apple includes in the Utilities folder of every Mac. You’ll see it when you first start up your Mac, when your Mac asks you if you want to transfer data over from another Mac, a Time Machine backup, or a PC. Apple makes the app freely available for download for Windows from the Apple web site.
Migration Assistant will help you move files from a PC running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, or Windows 8 operating systems. The Mac and the PC both have to be running Migration Assistant.
Both should be on the same network, in order to find each other. The data migration may take several hours depending on what’s being transferred and what means are used: Wi-Fi is slower, a wired Ethernet connection is faster. But one way or the other, your patience will be rewarded.
What actual data gets transferred will depend on which version of Windows you’re using, and what apps created your data. Bookmarks from Internet Explorer and Firefox will be brought into Safari, for example. iTunes content and image files should make it over as well. System settings will get pulled over. You’ll be able to specify what other files you’d like to bring over, too.
Email, contacts and calendar information are where it gets a bit tricky. The bottom line is that Migration Assistant will pull over your email account information, and if you’re using Microsoft Outlook, it should pull over your email messages, your contacts, and your calendars. Other apps may vary. Apple has posted a detailed chart of what gets migrated over to help you understand.
When you launch Migration Assistant on the Mac, you’ll be asked if you’re transferring data files to or from that Mac. Click From a Windows PC and then press the Continue button.
Launching Migration Assistant on the PC is a one-way trip: It’s only designed to move data files from your PC to a new Mac. After launching it, Migration Assistant for Windows will try to connect to its Mac counterpart; the two will handshake by asking you to verify a six-digit code that should be the same on each computer. Then the transfer can begin.
Migration Assistant on the Mac will then prompt you to specify what data files you’d like to move over to the Mac; you can select any of the files you’d like to see move over, and click Continue. The apps will then move data between machines.
Obviously there are other ways to move files between Macs and PCs. Thumbdrives will work on both machines, so you can manually transfer whatever files you want to use, for example. But Migration Assistant provides an elegant, convenient and absolutely free way of managing the transition to becoming a Mac user, as long as you have the time to use it.
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