The days of Apple suggesting people switch from Windows to Mac have long since passed but Apple is the only manufacturer making gains in the desktop and laptop computer marketplace. In other words, new Mac users are everywhere.

The great news is that Apple makes it easy if you’re making the switch. In fact, it’s Migration Assistant tool makes it possible to copy data across from any Windows PC – even if you want to keep using the PC alongside the Mac.

So what gets transferred across? Amongst other things, the list includes Internet settings (including mail messages), calendar info, browser bookmarks, iTunes content, image files, and everything in your home folders (i.e. Documents/My Documents).

An entirely new user account is created on the Mac to contain the data.

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How to migrate Windows files to a Mac: Migrating data

Prepare the Windows PC by logging into the account from which you want to migrate data. Then visit http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1557 and install the Windows Migration Assistant. This is the Windows component that accepts incoming connections from the Mac.

Start the app once installed but don’t yet click the Continue button. Instead, open Migration Assistant on your Mac, which you’ll find in the Utilities folder of the Applications list within Finder. Clicking Continue within its program window mean all other apps will quit, so ensure you’ve saved any open files.

In the large Migration Assistant window that appears, click From a Windows PC, then click the Continue button. Immediately move over to the Windows PC and click Continue on the Migration Assistant there.

Back on the Mac, the Windows PC will now be identified (note the joke – Windows PCs are shown as icons complete with a blue screen of death!). Select your PC in the list, and click Continue. You’ll be asked to confirm that a code is the same on both machines. Assuming it is, click Continue on the Windows machine.

Now you can leave the Windows PC alone. You’ll be asked on the Mac what you want to import from it. Click Continue when you’ve made your choices.

Transfer will take several minutes or perhaps longer if there’s a lot of data to copy across, and a progress display will be shown on both the Windows PC and the Mac. The Windows PC will show exactly what’s being copied across at that moment.

Eventually you’ll be told migration is complete, in which case you can click the Quit button within the Assistant window on both the Windows and Mac computers.          

How to migrate Windows files to a Mac: Accessing newly imported data

Click the new account to log into it and you’ll be prompted to create a new password. Confusingly, this appears as a Reset Password prompt, and after typing the new password you must click the Reset Password button.

Following this a new account will be setup from scratch, including iCloud configuration, except it will contain the imported data, which you’ll find in your home folder. To access this, open a Finder window, type Shift+Cmd+G, and type ~, before hitting Enter.

To access the data from an existing user account, log into that account. Open a Finder window, type Shift+Cmd+G, and type /Users, before hitting Enter. Then look through the new user account folder. You won’t be able to access certain folders but copying them to your own account will convert them to your ownership, giving you full read/write access.