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Grow Your Business Technology

How-to Guide: Switching From a PC to a Mac

image for fizkes / Getty Images
fizkes / Getty Images

If you're considering a switch from a Windows computer to a Mac, this starter FAQ guide will answer some of your initial questions so you can make an informed choice. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to outfitting your business with computers, but having all the facts is imperative.

There is a common misconception that Macs are categorically more expensive than Windows PCs. Macs are very expensive, and there isn't a lot of variety in terms of build; basically, Apple doesn't make low-end or midrange machines, only high-end devices, which is why you can't find a new Mac for $700. However, there are high-end PCs that are just as expensive as most Macs and even more expensive than entry-level Macs, so it's not entirely fair to say that Macs are always more expensive than PCs.

Before you make a switch from Windows to Mac, you should get a realistic idea of what the price difference will be. If you currently use a low-end PC, the price difference will be substantial, but if you're using a luxury PC now, the difference may be negligible. 

It's hard to answer this question because there are so many OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and builds for Windows PCs. Most people who feel that Macs last far longer than PCs have transitioned from using low-end PCs to using Macs, which are high-end devices by default. In that case, it's unsurprising that the high-end device would last longer.

Comparing the longevity of a PC with a similarly high-end build to a Mac, you may well find less of a difference in lifespan. If your primary reason for switching to Mac is increased lifespan, you might be just as well off buying a better PC instead of transitioning from Windows to Mac.

Yes. One of the best advances in technology is the ability to use the same programs on different types of devices. The entire Microsoft Office suite is available on Macs, and if you have an Office 365 business account, you should be able to transfer your information seamlessly. If you're not using Office Online, you can still transition, but before you make the switch, you should reach out to your Microsoft rep (or in-house IT pro) for guidance. 

Business owners and individuals switch from Windows to Mac for all sorts of reasons. Some people choose Macs because they are better suited to creative work, while others feel they convey a luxe image to potential clients. Many people prefer Macs because they're easy to update and maintain. Another huge factor is that everything from the chassis to the user interface is beautifully designed on a Mac, whereas many PCs focus on utility and economy over aesthetics.

Any software you use that's not accessed purely online (i.e., software that is downloaded on your machine's hard drive) should be researched for compatibility. Mainstream software is usually compatible with both PC and Mac machines, but there are some niche industry and legacy software programs that only run on Windows. If you use any software that is highly industry-specific or that you adopted years ago, check its compatibility before you even consider a switch to Mac.

If you use any business apps, you should also make sure those are available on Macs. The best way to do that is by checking the Apple App Store. The App Store works the same way as Google Play or any other app marketplace, so just do a quick search to make sure whatever apps you need are available for Mac. If an app you use isn't available on Apple devices but you still have compelling reasons to make the switch, do some research for a replacement app. Lots of business apps are available on Macs; you can check out some of our favorites here

Once you've decided to transition from Windows to Mac, you need to organize and prep for the switch.

The first thing you should do is prepare for the learning curve associated with switching operating systems. If you are transitioning a full staff from PC to Mac, you should begin the transition process long before you set up your shiny new Macs.

Flood your employees with reminders about the upcoming change, and make sure you have buy-in from the most important players before you start the transition. You should also assemble an easily digestible packet of resources for employees who are nervous about the upcoming changes and lend extra support to those who are most anxious about the learning curve. It's also vital to remind your team that a learning curve is just that – a temporary state that occurs during transition – and that once it's complete, they will find plenty to love about their new Macs.

Chances are you have a lot of data on your old machine. Transferring data from a PC to a Mac isn't complicated, but it does require Windows Migration Assistant. These step-by-step instructions make transferring all your files simple. Once you've transferred all your basics over, you can get to work downloading all the software you'll need to get work done.  

One of the most common complaints PC users have when they switch to Macs is that none of their favorite keyboard shortcuts work. The good news is Macs have many of the same keyboard shortcuts as PCs; you just access them differently because of the keyboard setup.

This printable chart (it's a JPEG) is handy to keep nearby when you're first making the switch.

For a comprehensive list of more advanced Mac keyboard shortcuts, check out Apple's guide.

If you've used a Mac keyboard before, you've probably noticed some differences in the keys, but the trackpad (or mouse if you have a desktop) is a little different too. Mac desktops and laptops don't have a right and left button on the mouse/trackpad, but you can still do the equivalent of right-clicking on a Mac's mouse. To right-click, hold down the Command key while clicking on the mouse. If you're using a laptop, you can just tap the trackpad with two fingers instead of one to produce a right-click effect. 

Finder is a great way to get to know your new Mac. The Finder icon is accessible from your main desktop dock (the bar of icons at the bottom of the screen), and it looks like this: 

Credit: Apple

You can use Finder to organize your documents, photos, and files and to locate things when you misplace them. Within Finder, you can change the view of your files and move items to your iCloud Drive or to AirDrop. 

To quickly search for something on your computer without opening the Finder app, you can use the Spotlight tool in the upper right corner of your screen. It looks like this:   

Credit: Apple

All you do is type and search, just like you would with Cortana or an online search engine, but you can delve deeper if you want. Finder has a lot of features most people don't know about, including the ability to build Boolean searches and save them for future use. In addition to its search tools, you can use Finder to change your view on files and documents, and to access shortcuts to AirDrop and iCloud. For a briefing on everything you can do with Finder, check out Apple's comprehensive guide

Before you shell out money for Apple-compatible licenses of Microsoft Office, you may want to check out the programs that come preloaded on every Mac machine. Safari is for surfing the web, though you can also download Chrome or another third-party browser.

Numbers is Apple's version of Excel, but it's not as powerful as Microsoft's spreadsheet software. Excel power users probably won't be satisfied with Numbers because it's not as robust (don't even think about doing data analysis or using it in tandem with Python or R), but if your primary Excel use is for basic budget and revenue tracking, Numbers should suffice. Pages is Apple's version of Word, which is totally serviceable and can be exported to a word doc format (or PDF), and Keynote is Apple's version of PowerPoint, which is clunky at first but a good program overall. 

All in all, switching from a PC to a Mac isn't difficult. It just takes a little time, know-how and patience. 

Mona Bushnell

Mona Bushnell is a New York City-based staff writer for business.com and Business News Daily. She has a Bachelor of Arts in writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College and previously worked as an IT technician, copywriter, software administrator, scheduling manager, and editorial writer. Mona began freelance writing full time in 2014 and joined Business News Daily in 2017. She covers business technology and reviews CRM systems.