Q. I have been a dedicated PC user since the mid-1980s and have only used Windows-based computers, but I am now contemplating a switch to Apple and have concerns. Will my external backup drives be accessed smoothly once connected to a Mac? I don’t use the cloud because I don’t want my stuff out there and don’t want any additional storage expenses. How do I transfer my desktop items, Google bookmarks, etc.? Will I still be able to use Chrome?
A. Switching computer platforms is much easier than it used to be, thanks to programs that help you copy over your data, applications that have both Windows and Mac versions and file formats like .JPG photos that can be easily opened on most desktop and mobile systems. Although getting comfortable with the Mac user interface after decades of Windows may take some time, the most labor-intensive part of the process for many people is just transferring personal data from one computer to another.
If your external backup drive is formatted with exFAT or another file system the Mac can read, you may able to copy backed-up data from it to the Mac. If the Mac cannot read the format of the Windows backup drive, you may just want to start fresh by transferring the data you want to move from the Windows machine itself to the Mac, and then setting up a new backup system there.
Apple’s Mac operating system includes its own backup program called Time Machine, and if you intend to use it, you may want to invest in a new external drive that you can dedicate to the software. You do need to format the backup drive to work with Time Machine.
As for moving your data from the Windows PC in the first place, Apple’s site offers a free, illustrated step-by-step guide to transferring your documents, pictures, music, videos and other files to a Mac. A welcome guide and a page of tips for newly arrived Windows users can also be found on the Apple site. Although you are prompted to set up an Apple ID account to use the Mac App Store and some of Apple’s services like iMessage and FaceTime, you do not have to use iCloud to store files online or pay a monthly fee.
Programs written for Windows do not naturally run on the Mac, so you need to find Mac-compatible versions or replacements for applications you regularly use. Google makes versions of its Chrome browser for Apple’s Mac and iOS operating systems, so you can download and install the software on the new computer. Exporting your bookmarks from the Windows version and importing them to the Mac version is one way to move them. If you sign into Chrome with a Google account, you can also just sync all your browser data automatically between devices.