If you’ve recently bought a new Mac and want to transfer your data and settings from your PC to your Mac, there are several ways to accomplish this task. In this article, I will go over the various methods I have used, from the simplest to the most technical.
It’s also worth noting that Apple provides a free shuttle service in its retail stores, which can save you a lot of time. There are no clear guidelines on what data they can transfer, but they will do their best to transfer as much as possible. Make an appointment with the Genius Bar and bring both of your computers.
Luckily, Apple wants to help new Mac users migrate their data from their PCs and has created a program called Migration Assistant to make the process easier. Let’s start with this method first.
Apple Migration Assistant
This program is installed by default on all Mac computers running OS X Lion or later. In order for it to copy data from your PC, you need to install the Windows version of the program on your PC.
Download Windows Migration Assistant first. Go ahead, install it and click “Yes” whenever you are asked if you want to allow this program to make changes to your computer.
The assistant should load automatically, but if it doesn’t, you can simply click Start and the program should appear in the All Programs or All Applications list.
Click Continue and you will receive a message telling you to turn off automatic Windows updates. This is to ensure that the transfer process is not interrupted by a sudden restart due to updates. Read my previous post on how to prevent Windows from restarting after installing updates Go to your control panel settings and follow these instructions.
Click Continue and Migration Assistant will prompt you to open the same program on your Mac.
On your Mac, click the Applications folder and then scroll down to Utilities. You should see the Emoticon Migration Assistant.
When it opens, click Continue. You may receive a message that the firewall is on and you should turn it off. Follow the instructions to disable firewall on Mac.
Once you do this and click Continue, your Mac will close all applications and restart. When booting, a special program is loaded and you will see a dialog box like the one below. Sorry for the bad screenshots as they were taken with an external camera.
Click “From a Windows PC” and then click “Continue”. Make sure your PC and Mac are connected to the same network, otherwise the two computers won’t be able to find each other. It might also be worth turning off Windows Firewall if you run into problems.
It took a few minutes, but in the end my Windows computer still appeared. Once it appears, you can click Continue and it will show you the security code. You need to go to your Windows computer and make sure the code is the same.
Here are a couple of troubleshooting tips. First, when you click Continue here, it might show you the code on the Mac, but the code on the PC might never show up. Instead, it can simply repeat “Waiting for Mac to connect.” In this case, close the PC Assistant and restart it.
Secondly, for some strange reason, on my installation, it showed different code on PC than on Mac. I clicked Continue anyway on my PC and it worked fine, but not sure why it happened. This could be due to the fact that I restarted the helper program on the PC. It worked with different codes anyway.
Finally, when you click Continue, it may blink on the code screen for a second, then immediately return to the screen shown above. In this case, restart the assistant application on the PC and this should fix the problem.
After you click “Continue” on your PC, it will inform you that the program is ready to transfer data and that you should select data on your Mac.
If you go back to your Mac, the code screen should disappear and you should now see a dialog where you can select the data to transfer.
By default, it selects shared folders like pictures, documents, videos, etc. It also tries to find other potentially useful content like contacts, mail, calendars, and bookmarks. Surprisingly, it also lists any other hard drives installed on your computer and you can easily copy data from there as well. The bottom shows how much data you have selected and how much is available for transfer.
Click “Continue” and the data transfer will begin. You should know that the Mac will create a new user account and import all data there. It doesn’t change any settings for your current account, which is nice. When finished, you will see a cleaning message and then an Exit button.
On the Windows side, you will see a migration complete message followed by a successful migration message.
After restarting your Mac, you will see the new user account and all data transferred in that user profile. That’s all!
It’s also worth noting that Migration Assistant cannot help you transfer any applications from PC to Mac for obvious reasons. Most applications are available for PC and Mac, such as Office and Adobe. If you need to run a Windows-only application on your Mac, you can read my previous post on the various programs you can use to run Windows on a Mac.
Manually transfer data
If you want to manually migrate your data without the Migration Assistant, you can do so, but it takes a little more work. You need to create a shared folder on your Windows computer and then connect to it from your Mac.
Please note that if you have large amounts of data to transfer, it may be easier to just use a portable hard drive, flash drive, or network storage device.
Taking all the steps to share and connect would make this post too long, but luckily I have already written a guide on how to connect to a Windows share from OS X.
In terms of manually retrieving data such as contacts, email, bookmarks, etc., you will have to manually export the items and then import them into the appropriate program on your Mac. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!