Windows users: How to switch from Windows to macOS without dying in the attempt

mac OS to windows
mac OS desktop

Today we are going to explain how to switch from Windows 10 to macOS without dying in the attempt, an article in which we are going to try to give you all the tips to make this migration easier. Some of us have only used Windows in our entire lives, so when we jump to macOS we can be a bit lost from minute 1. There are many things that change and are done differently, and others that do not work too well.

I’ve been testing macOS myself for the first time, and the experience migrating my data from Windows couldn’t have been worse. Therefore, in this article based on experience, I will first tell you all the changes that you are going to have to get used to , and then I will explain how to keep your data.

Therefore, this article is aimed at two types of user. First, it is aimed at those who are making the switch from Windows to macOS, and need some advice to land more smoothly on Apple’s operating system. And then, it is also aimed at those users who are thinking about making the change, and want to know what is going to be different.

As you can see, the target audience is those first-time users who come to this site. But as we always say here, if you think we have missed something or want to add a tip or advice from your own experience, we invite you to do so in the comments section. Thus, users who read the article can also benefit from the knowledge of our teach readers.

Differences in interface

macOS user Interface vs windows
macOS user Interface

The macOS interface is noticeably different from that of Windows , and more similar to that of some GNU / Linux distributions. The central element of this interface is the Dock , that bottom bar where you can place shortcuts to the applications you use the most, and where you will see all those that you have open or recently opened.

Therefore, we could say that the Windows taskbar is divided into two in macOS . On the one hand, in the Dock you will see all those applications that you have open, while the time information, some settings and various menus are in the top bar.

The start menu does not exist, and in macOS what you have is the Launchpad . When you click on it, the entire screen is covered with a menu in which you can see all the programs you have installed to access them. You can also use the search engine by typing directly to locate some that you want. Also, if you press and hold the Launchpad rocket icon, a small list of your applications and programs will open.

But to open the Launchpad you will not have any type of Windows button, and in macOS you will have to resort to other methods. For example, you can press F4, on its icon in the Dock or go to the keyboard configuration in the system preferences, and in the Quick functions section create a shortcut to launch the Launchad. If you’re using a Macbook, you can place three fingers on the top right of the trackpad, put your thumb on the bottom left, and slide your thumb as if towards the fingers.

The Apple icon in the upper left corner of the screen will be your best friend when taking your first steps. Clicking on this icon will open a window with the most important options, such as About this Mac that will give you all the details about your device. It will tell you the specifications of the device, the serial number and even how much free storage it has. You will also see access to system preferences or the app store, as well as shutdown options.

The Preferences System are like the menu of Windows Setup . Inside, you can access all the options to configure your Mac, both the hardware or the network options as well as the appearance and customization options. As you can see, everything is divided into many more sections than the Windows configuration. If you are not clear, at the top right you have a search engine to find specific options.

The Finder is the File Explorer , and its shortcut will also be found in the Dock. Here, it must be said that both are quite similar, with a left column where to put favorites and some shortcuts, and above configuration for different display modes. If anything, there is a little less freedom than in Windows as it is not so easy to explore the interior of your hard drive.

The window controls are switched sides and order . Instead of the top right you will have them at the top left, from left to right the order will be to close the window, minimize it or maximize it. If you leave the mouse pointer over the maximize button, options will appear to put them in full screen or adjust them to one of the sides of the screen.

Adjusting the windows to one of the sides of the screen is like when in Windows you press the Windows button and one of the directional arrows at the same time. The active window snaps to one side, and you can immediately choose which other window or application to put on the other half of the screen.

MacOS also has a search tool called Spotlight , which is similar to the Windows search button. Here, you can start typing something, and the search engine will show you a list of all file types or applications whose name matches what you type. Suggestion results from the Internet, iTunes, or the App Store will also be displayed.

There are two other aspects that you will need to take into account. The first is the notification column, which is on the right of the screen as in Windows, although the button to open it is on the top bar. However, in this column there are not only notifications, you also have the Today panel that shows important daily information from compatible apps prepared to show it, such as the quotes in the comment.

And the voice assistant, as in Windows, also has a dedicated button. In macOS you have it at the top right, and the functions are similar to those of Cortana, except that Siri may have some better interactions by getting along with the entire compatible ecosystem of Apple products.

MacOS is simpler than Windows

macOS Interface difference windows
macOS Interface

If there is one thing you should be prepared for if you make the leap from Windows to macOS, it is for a radical change in the approach to the operating system. MacOS is much simpler than Windows , trying to give you all the facilities so that you do not have to complicate yourself too much, and that everything that you are going to use regularly is nearby.

This philosophy of simplicity includes some ingenious solutions. For example, when you maximize an application it will be seen in full screen and without the controls on the top bar that are usually found in Windows . This means that at first you can end up without knowing too much how to exit that full screen with an application, although it is so easy than moving the mouse pointer to the top left and waiting a second for the controls to be shown to you.

Also, and since I mentioned the full screen mode, if you hover the mouse over the green button on the top left and press Option , the green full screen button will become a maximize button holding the top bar.

Windows gives you a lot more control over the operating system , making all the options always visible even if with that a bit of aesthetics is sacrificed. Meanwhile, with macOS more preference is given to this aesthetic, and although this can make everything a little more confusing when you go from Windows, you end up getting used to it.

Sometimes, at least from the point of view of someone coming from Windows, you may find that the simplicity of macOS works against them. For example, in the Finder you cannot enter the hard disk by default, and you will have to use the shortcut Command (⌘) + Shift (⇧) + C to do so. And if you are not convinced that many folders are hidden and you want to risk seeing everything, press Command (⌘) + Shift (⇧) + Period (.) . Although good, you can always pull Spotlight to find specific files.

In short, macOS seeks ease for users with less knowledge, and tries not to confuse them with more advanced options than those strictly necessary, while Windows also thinks of advanced users, not being afraid to show all the options. It is a similar sensation to when you go from Android to iOS, with an Android with many more options and a simpler and more functional iOS.

Here, everything is a matter of personal taste . If you are used to the simplicity of macOS, it is very possible that if you try Windows you will end up hating it for all the options you see on the screen, while if you do the reverse it will happen the other way around. I can’t say that one philosophy seems better to me than another, both are valid, so it all depends more on the type of use you give the operating system.

One ID to dominate them all

macOS Account
macOS Account

Apple has a closed ecosystem, with many brand devices that communicate with each other in such a way that in some way loyalty to their products is rewarded. For example, if you have a Mac and an iPhone, both will always have data synchronized in their native applications such as photos, files, and you can even manage your mobile from your computer. These are things that if you have a Mac but an Android, you won’t even be able to do in your dreams.

All this is centralized through your Apple ID , which is the same that you will use on all your devices. This ID is also the one your iCloud account is linked to. It is like the Google account you have for Android or Outlook for Windows, only that the Apple ID will be useful for all your phones, tablets and computers. It is the advantage of having such a complete ecosystem of products.

In the system preferences you will have an option called Apple ID , and precisely in it you will be able to manage everything related. For example, you will have a list of the apps linked to iCloud and that synchronize their data through this cloud.

Here, you have to make a difference, and that is that one thing is your Apple ID and another is your profile in macOS , which in turn can be linked to an Apple ID. However, it is not necessary or recommended that the password be the same either. In Windows this is exactly the same, but I wanted to leave the clarification done just in case.

Get used to the mouse and trackpad

Where the hell has the right-click menu gone? This is a question that many of us have asked ourselves when moving from Windows to macOS, both when using the mouse and with the Macbook trackpad. You have two ways to use the Windows right click equivalent gesture on macOS. The first is to activate it in the System Preferences , within the Trackpad or Mouse sections , where in passing you are told what movement or gesture to perform.

But there is another more instantaneous one, which is to hold down the Control key while clicking on a file. By doing this, the left click will become a right click, and you will access the options in the context menu.

With the trackpad, you can also slide two fingers sideways to move laterally. Meanwhile, sliding three fingers on the trackpad will navigate between desktops , so that if you move them horizontally you will navigate between them, and if you move them up you will enter the desktop view.

On the Magic Mouse, you only have to swipe one finger for directional scrolling , then two swipe for scrolling between desk spaces. These settings can also be changed in the system preferences.

Switch from Windows to macOS: You have to get used to keyboard shortcuts

Beyond the operating system interface, you will find another of the main changes on the keyboard. It is one of those changes that is going to test your muscle memory and all those automatisms that you had in your hands when using the operating system, since there are some things that change a lot, and you will need some time to internalize them.

For starters, the Command or Command key on the Mac is the equivalent of Windows Control, and it is the one you will use for quick shortcuts such as copy or paste as in Windows. This key is located in another physical place on the keyboard, where the Windows key normally is on a PC, so it may take a little time to adjust.

There is an Option key that is a modifier, which for example makes Command + V the shortcut for move instead of copy. In those effects, it would be similar to the Alt key on the Windows PC. The difference is that the key also modifies other things, and if you hold down Option while clicking on an app or shortcut, the function it offers you may change.

The macOS Control key has a different function than Windows , and it is a context key. It is common to see that some apps use it to offer shortcuts, such as pressing Control + Tab to switch between tabs in the browser. You can also press Control + Keys to switch between desktops, something for which in Windows you need to add the Windows key. Or if you hold down Control when, for example, in a window you point the pointer at the full screen button, this button becomes maximize.

To finish this little mention of the keys, here are the main and most essential keyboard shortcuts to start taking control of macOS. They are not all, far from it, but neither do I want to put a hundred shortcuts in this article, these 10 are worth to you to start:

  • Command (⌘) + C : Copy
  • Command (⌘) + V : Paste
  • Command (⌘) + Option + V : Move (cut)
  • Command (⌘) + Z : Undo
  • Command (⌘) + A : Select all
  • Command (⌘) + Tab : Change app or window
  • Command (⌘) + M : Minimize app or window
  • Command (⌘) + Q : Close an app
  • Command (⌘) + W : Close a window or tab
  • Shift + Command (⌘) + 3 : Screenshot

At this point of the shortcuts, it should be noted that macOS offers the possibility of redefining or creating keyboard shortcuts in a much simpler and more advanced way than in Windows. This gives advanced users the ability to create custom shortcuts for the functions that they use the most, and thus be able to speed up processes in a way that is easy for them. Not by memorizing a specific shortcut, but by changing it or creating one that best suits them.

Transfer data from PC to Mac with Migration Assistant

It is difficult to switch from Windows to macOS for windows users that they find hard to transfer files between different devices. Apple has created a tool called Migration Assistant, which in theory is used to easily transfer your data from a Windows 10 PC to a Mac, both files and contacts and others. And I say in theory, because after trying it for hours I have not managed to make it work for me at any time, although you have the option there. You will be able to use this assistant in two ways.

The first way to use this wizard is during the initial setup of your new Mac. On the one hand, you have to enter this website and download the appropriate Windows version for your computer. If the installation fails, try downloading Bonjour first in Windows, which is how I can do it.

Once you install it, you have to run the wizard with the PC connected to the same network as the Mac you are configuring. When you run it, take it to the screen where you are looking for a Mac to connect.

Now, during the initial macOS setup process, you’ll go to a screen where you can choose the option to transfer data from a Windows PC . This is the process for which you will need to be using the wizard also on the computer.

In theory, when your Windows PC has the wizard running on the same network, you can see it in the macOS process. You select your PC in this process, you click Continue , and you should be able to start transferring the files you want from one device to another. However, as I said, it has not worked for me.

You can also run the migration wizard at any other time from macOS already configured by searching for its application in Launchpad . The process will log out of macOS and start looking for your Windows computer where, being on the same WiFi, the wizard is also running.

There are also other methods to migrate your files

If the above method fails, there are many other things you can try to migrate your data from Windows to macOS. To synchronize photos, contacts, calendars, emails, tasks or bookmarks from the browser, the simplest thing is to install iCloud for Windows on your PC and perform the migration from its settings.

This is the easiest method because you will have iCloud synchronized directly on the Mac, so you can carry all your files through the cloud. With photos and multimedia files you should be careful, because the free version of iCloud only offers 5 GB , so using this method you may have to buy more space . In any case, you can use it for Outlook contacts and so on.

To simply transfer files, you can also use the reverse path, install the cloud that you use directly on macOS so that you can use it to synchronize your data. All you have to do is search for that cloud service in the App Store, install it and identify yourself to be able to download all the files you have on it to your Mac.

And another method without going through the clouds is to connect to your home network from macOS , since if you have created a local network from the Finder you will be able to find the devices connected to it. Obviously, you can also use rudimentary methods such as USBs , although remembering that on some MacBook you can only use USB type C connectors, so you will need an adapter or a unit with this type of output.

Switch from Windows to macOS: Find your favorite apps on Mac

The last step in this process will be to search for your favorite applications and programs on Mac , with their versions of macOS. In general, the vast majority of applications and services always have a version of macOS, so it is very possible that you can continue using the usual tools.

But there may be specific tools that are not available , and in this case you will only have to look for alternatives that do the same. Here, you will have to do some research on your part. It is also possible that the opposite happens, that you find tools or programs that you fall in love with in macOS, and then discover that they are not directly available in Windows.

On the other hand, you have three methods of installing applications on macOS. They are the same as in Windows, but there are things like file extensions that change names.

  • Install the app package : It’s like installing an .exe application on Windows, but on macOS they are .pkg applications . The process is also usually the one that opens a window in which you have to go giving the next button to configure the installation.
  • Install from the App Store : Your Mac has an application store, and in fact, it is a much more careful store than Windows. The behavior is similar to that of the Microsoft Store, being able to search for applications to install them directly without further complications.
  • Install from disk images : Your macOS will also be able to mount disk images that use the .dmg extension. When you do this, a process will appear to install the tool that is in it.

Meanwhile, to uninstall applications there are two methods. The first is much simpler than anything in Windows, and is to go to the Finder, enter the applications folder, and move the one you do not want to use to the recycle folder. As simple as that. There are some that, as in Windows, also include uninstallers.

In this article we have focused on the native experience of macOS, but if we mention the uninstallation methods, it should be noted that there are third-party apps that greatly improve the experience and allow you to uninstall applications by choosing the content you want to delete, such as the essential AppCleaner and other similar ones.

Changing operating systems is always difficult

In short, and based on my personal experience, switching the operating system is always difficult. Especially if you change to another that has a totally different philosophy. Apple has given macOS a very strong personality, and one that is different from Windows in many ways, and hence you will surely need some time to adapt, although this may also depend on your own experience. Basically switch Windows to macOS is the first choice for users to migrate OS.

If you’ve ever used GNU / Linux distributions, macOS will be incredibly familiar to you. When I tried it for the first time I couldn’t help but remember the GNOME environment and others like it, which have drawn so much from macOS. So, as a person who has fiddled with Linux from time to time, the jump to macOS isn’t that violent.

However, as you have already read in the article, if you have been at Microsoft your whole life there will be several things that you have to adapt to. And here everything will depend on the patience you give it. If you adapt well, you will discover things that macOS does better than Windows, and you may find that jumping back to Microsoft is different. But if you happen to not see the things you like most about Windows on your Mac, then it will cost you more to adapt.

In this aspect, everything already depends on the personal preferences of each one. In any case, today the least you have to worry about is migrating data , because there are plenty of methods to do it. As an example, when I raised this article I thought more about talking about the experience of bringing data from a PC to a Mac, but in the end, when I started testing macOS I realized that this is the least when it comes to doing the change.

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