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Switchers Guide: Move your files from PC to Mac

If you've been using a Windows PC but now want to move to a Mac, you likely have files—documents, PDFs, photos, music, and videos—that you want to bring with you. If you’ve had that PC for a while, that could mean you have many, many gigabytes of stuff to move. These days, most common file-types will work just fine on the Mac, without any need for conversion or special software. (One notable exception: If you have music and/or video in Microsoft’s Windows Media formats, get Flip4Mac [ ] so you can play them in OS X’s QuickTime.) The trick is getting those files from one hard drive to another.

Use an external Hard Drive

Apple’s support site suggests several different methods for transferring files from a PC to a Mac. My personal recommendation is to use an external USB hard drive: Connect the drive to the PC, drag your data onto it, then disconnect it, attach it to your Mac, and drag the data onto the Mac’s hard drive using the Finder (OS X’s equivalent to Windows’ Explorer). (Your Home folder, which appears in the left-hand pane of the Finder and is equivalent to My Documents, is a good place to copy your personal files—it’s got folders for Documents, Movies, Music, and Pictures.)

If you don’t already have an external drive, there’s no better time to buy one: They’re cheap, and you’ll probably want one to use with Time Machine, OS X’s built-in backup tool. For data-transfer purposes, make sure the drive is formatted using Windows’ FAT32 file system, so both your Windows PC and your Mac can read and write to it; after you’re done copying files over, use OS X’s Disk Utility to reformat the drive as Apple’s HFS+ so you can use it with Time Machine.

if you want to transfer your files directly to a virual version of Windows, consider using the transfer utilities that come with virtualization software.

Move your E-mail

Getting your old e-mail from your PC onto your Mac is easy if you’ve been using a POP3 or IMAP account that leaves messages on the server: Just launch Mail on your Mac (it’s the postage-stamp icon in the Dock). The first time you do so, it’ll walk you through the process of adding your account and it will then download your mail.

If you haven’t been using an e-mail account that stores your messages on a server, but stores them on your computer instead, transferring them to a new machine is trickier. Where and how those e-mails are stored depends largely on which e-mail client you use. Mail can import messages in the mbox format (via the Import Mailboxes in Mail command found in the File menu). If your old e-mail client can export in that format, you can make the transfer that way. Otherwise, my best advice is to Google the name of your WIndows e-mail client and transfer e-mail and see what you find.

If you’re willing to invest $40 in simplifying the moving-to-the-Mac process, consider Detto Technologies’ Move2Mac ( ). This migration utility not only transfers your files (via network or external drive, moving items from Windows’ My Documents to OS X’s equivalent folders), but it also moves your Outlook e-mail and address book, browser favorites, even your wallpaper

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