First tip for new Mac users - how to move your stuff

Did you get your first Mac this holiday season? Need to know how to migrate your files and settings? Here's your answer.

Are you a longtime PC user who just got a new Mac for Christmas? If so, you may be a long lost cousin of mine – several of my relatives found their first Mac under the tree this year. Virtually all of them promptly called me with questions (the price you pay for having written multiple books on Macs, I suppose). The first question I got from every one of them was: how do I transfer all my stuff from a PC to a Mac?

Getting used to a Mac may be easy, but moving your can seem like a daunting challenge. After all, it isn't just your files that you want to move, you also want to move a lot of settings like your web browser bookmarks, emails, and your music and photo libraries. The good news (which I repeated several times over the weekend) is that you have a variety of options.

First, and probably easiest, is to take your new Mac and your old PC into an Apple store. Apple is very aware that new Mac users need some help switching from Windows. That's why they offer a transfer service in their stores along with introduction and training classes to help you make the switch.

Another option is simply to copy files from your PC to you Mac. You can do this in any number of ways, but the most common are using an external hard drive (copy what you need to the drive then copy it to the Mac) or by using personal file sharing. Macs can share files and printers with Windows with no compatibility issues. So, you can simply switch on file sharing on your PC, connect from your Mac, and copy what you need. When you turn file sharing on your PC, it should appear in every Finder window on your Mac (and when you see the term Finder, think Windows Explorer). If it doesn't Select Connect to Server from the Go menu in the Finder.

While copying files may be the simplest and least expensive option (next to having Mac Genius in an Apple store do it for you), it is also the least complete (you just get your files and no settings). A better option is Belkin's Switch to Mac cable and software. It attaches via USB to both machines and transfers your files, media libraries, and most of your settings. A similar option is Detto Technologies' Move to Mac, which also uses a cable and specialized software to transfer most settings.

I won't lie, you'll probably still have a bit of a learning curve after you make the switch, but Apple has provided a lot of good resources online (at Apple's Switcher 101 and Mac 101 sites) and in their retail stores to help you. That said, it doesn't take all that long to get used to a Mac.

Ryan Faas writes about personal technology for ITworld. Learn more about Faas' published works and training and consulting services at www.ryanfaas.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanfaas.

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