Thinking of making the leap from a Windows PC to the Mac? Already switched from PC to Mac but feeling a little lost and confused - wondering, perhaps, how to find your way around the new setup, or how to find replacements for your favourite apps and features? You've come to the right place.
In our giant migration guide we answer the big questions facing those brave (and in our opinion sensible) souls swapping from the Windows to the macOS platform. If you have any unanswered questions add them in the comments and we'll be sure to address them in a future update.
This year, as in previous years, Apple's share of the traditional computing marketplace has increased. No doubt this is because the introduction of the new MacBook Pro 2016 TouchBar range has introduced a whole new generation of switchers to the Mac platform. So what better time for a bang-up-to-date guide to switching from Windows to Mac? Read next: A PC users' guide to using a Mac
Installation & updates
Which version of macOS or Mac OS X should I install?
Therefore, the latest version of OS X is best for most users and performance/compatibility on older Macs is very good - Yosemite/El Capitan will install on Macs that are five or even more years old, for example. Following the OS X Mavericks release in 2013, each release of OS X has been entirely free of charge and can be downloaded via the App Store.
How do I update my Mac system?
The equivalent of Windows Update is found by clicking the Apple menu at the top left of the desktop, clicking App Store, and then clicking the Updates tab. This will update OS X itself, system components like iTunes, and any apps you installed via the App Store. Other apps have their own update routines - usually there's an option in the Preferences dialog box to automatically check for updates, while apps like Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud install background apps that inform you when updates are available.
Macs are updated by clicking the Updates icon within the App Store - and this is true even for major operating system updates
How do I install or reinstall macOS?
See the section above discussing OS X Recovery. Alternatively, if your Mac is still bootable you can use the Mac App Store to download the latest version of OS X for reinstallation over the existing installation without losing data. Just search for the name of the version of OS X you're using (that is, Yosemite or El Capitan), and click the Download link alongside it. If you're running an older version of OS X that lack the App Store you will need to use Software Update instead, which you'll find it on the Apple menu.
Alternatively, if your Mac is old enough you can use the installation DVD-ROM that came with the computer - just insert it, then reboot and hold down D before the Apple logo appears. However, since Mac OS X 10.7 Lion in 2011, OS X has only been made available via download - even if you've bought a new Mac. It's also possible to create an installation USB stick.
How do I activate the macOS operating system, enter its product key (aka serial number), or check that it's legitimately licensed?
There's no need for any of this. Apple includes macOS free with every Mac and, since 2013, both major and minor updates have also been free for any Mac that's compatible. Therefore, the idea of a Mac running an illegitimate copy of macOS doesn't really make sense (at least outside of the Hackintosh scene).
Where do I find the serial or registration number/key required to install macOS?
There isn't one. Apple (mostly) eschews serial numbers across its entire product range and apps install without any such nonsense.
How do I dual-boot Windows or Linux on my Mac?
The BootCamp installation wizard lets you install Windows 8/10 on Macs, and you'll find it in the Utilities folder of the Applications list (note that Windows 7 is no longer officially supported). Just follow the instructions. Installing Linux is not officially supported but can be achieved via apps like rEFIt.
I'm tired of macOS. Can I just wipe it and install Windows? Modern Macs are just another PC… Right?
Although Macs nowadays use Intel CPUs and are similar to a PC, they're sufficiently different to mean you can't simply insert a Windows DVD/USB stick and install it over the existing macOS operating system.
The main issue is the unique Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) used by Macs that controls booting. In order to use a non-macOS operating system this needs to be configured by the Boot Camp Assistant app that's built into macOS. Boot Camp Assistant will also create a USB stick full of the necessary Windows drivers, and repartition the disk to make space for Windows.
Once you've installed Windows using Boot Camp Assistant you can then delete the macOS partition if you wish - although we'd advise leaving it there.
Next: Beginner's guide to the Mac!