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Moving Files from a PC to a Mac

written by: John Lister•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 2/26/2009

In the first of a three-part series on switching from Windows to a Mac, we explore which files are worth taking with you, the logistics of transferring them to your new machine, and what to do about your favourite Windows applications.

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    Which Files Should You Move?

    The good news is that Macs can read, store and recognize PC files. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to access the information in a file without the appropriate program, but it does mean you can transfer files across and read them in the Mac operating system.

    You will need to decide which files to transfer across to your new machine. I wrote a full article on this ( which you may found useful. In short, you will likely find that document files, internet bookmarks and e-mails are the files you will most likely want to bring with you.

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    How to Move Files

    I detailed some of the ways of physically moving files from PCs to PCs in a previous article ( ). Many of these points apply to PC-to-Mac transfers.

    Using a network connection to transfer files from a PC to a Mac is possible through the following method. It does require some expertise/confidence with networking, so if you don’t understand these instructions it may be easier to try another technique.

    • Enable sharing in Windows Explorer for the folder or folders containing your files
    • Find your IP address through typing ‘ipconfig’ into the command line (Start > Run > cmd.exe)
    • Go to the Computer Name tab under System Properties (right click My Computer and choose Properties), then make a note of your workgroup and computer names
    • Once the two computers are connected, open the Finder icon on the Mac screen and select Go then Connect to Server
    • Type in smb:// followed by the IP address from your PC
    • On the following screen, type in the workgroup name and any username/password you use to access Windows
    • You should now be able to find your shared folder in the resulting pull-down menu. When you select it, your shared folder will appear on your Mac desktop.

    Most other methods described in my previous article should work fine. You should be able to read discs and USB devices on your Mac.

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    File Compatibilities

    Many files will work straight away on your Mac. For example, most image, audio and video files will open in the appropriate program on your Mac. However, Windows Media files will only work from an adaptor program such as the free Flip4Mac. (There are a range of paid versions available, but the free player is downloadable from,

    If you have many documents created in Microsoft Office, there are several options. If you have Apple’s iWork suite, you should be able to open Office files. Another option is to buy the Mac edition of Microsoft Office. You should also find Office files work in most free open source office software on the Mac such as OpenOffice, though conversion may not always be perfect.

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    Running Windows programs

    You will usually find there is a close Mac equivalent to most programs you regularly use in Windows. Where there’s no alternative and you find you genuinely need to run the Windows program, you can use either Apple’s free BootCamp software or a commercial program such as Parallels to run a copy of Windows on the Mac. BootCamp runs Windows separately, meaning you’ll need to restart your machine each time, while Parallels runs Windows (and your Windows program) within the Mac operating system itself.