I have been thinking about moving from Windows to Mac for about a year now, and I’ve finally done it. I wanted to share my experience and some things I’ve learned during the process.
My First Computer
First, a little background to set the stage. I have been using Windows for over 20 years, probably since the release of Windows 3.0. If we went back even further, my first computer was a Sinclair ZX81 when I was just a kid.
Soon after that, I got an Apple IIe, which I loved and which saw me through my teenage years. I have fond memories of trading 5¼-inch floppy discs with friends and playing all the latest games at the time. Games like Castle Wolfenstein, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego and Space Invaders, and of course anything from Beagle Bros. Those were the days.
Then at some point, probably the late 80s or early 90s, I went over to a PC running Windows because everyone was doing it. Since then I have never used anything else until about a year ago when I purchased a MacBook Pro. I needed a computer for some traveling I was doing, and had been inching toward the Mac camp, so bought the MacBook.
Over the past year, I’ve used it mostly for web browsing and non-business related tasks but just recently certain events have required that I be more mobile in my web design business.
Dealing with Synchronizing Two Machines, or Choosing Not To.
I went back and forth about how to synchronize files between the PC and the Mac, and although there are numerous ways to achieve this, I ultimately made the decision to have a single computer that does it all. It just makes more sense.
The Mac has taken some getting used to. I think many people who have been using Windows for years have difficulty making the switch but once you learn the Mac way of doing things, it really isn’t a big deal, and you’ll be better off for doing it.
The Re-emergence of the Mac Era for Me
The decision to move entirely over to a Mac was a long process, but the more I used the MacBook Pro I’d purchased a year ago, the more I started to feel connected to the OS. Everything just works.
I realized that most of the frustration I’d experienced over the years sitting behind a computer was as a result of Windows. Whether it was the numerous annoyances, or the regular crashes and blue screen of death that would invariably occur after some time of running a machine on Windows.
I don’t want to talk down on the OS because it did serve me well over the years, but it seemed clear to me that the change was long overdue.
Making the Switch
Once I had made the decision to move to a Mac, it required a certain amount of planning. Like most people who have used Windows for years, I’d become so accustomed to all the nuances of the OS. You establish your own system of shortcuts and tweaks so that it becomes almost an extension of yourself and how you work on a daily basis.
The Mac has taken some getting used to. I think many people who have been using Windows for years have difficulty making the switch but once you learn the Mac way of doing things, it really isn’t a big deal.
Some Things I Had to Get Used To
There were probably more than this, but I can’t remember them all right now, but these were the biggest challenge for me until I discovered the solutions:
- Cut and Paste: I was dumbstruck when I discovered you couldn’t “Ctrl-X” to cut a file and then paste it somewhere else. I soon discovered a solution for this on the Mac which works great for me. To cut and paste on a Mac, just copy the file as you normally would using Command-C. When you are ready to paste it, hold down the Option key in addition to the Command key then press V. What this does is paste the file, but remove the file from the original location. So it basically moves the file.
- No ‘Home’ and ‘End’ keys: Not a big deal. To go to the end of a line it’s Command-Right Arrow. End of page is Command-Down Arrow. Same concept applies to left and top arrow.
- Copy file path: I liked the ability to just copy the path to a file in Windows. I’d just select the path in the address bar of explorer and that was it. Can’t do that on a Mac. I searched to find numerous solutions to this, from applescripts to an app, but ended up using this method:Just “Get info” on the folder. So right click, or Option left click on the mouse, and select “Get info”, then just copy the path from there.
- Create New Folder Shortcut Key: If I remember correctly, I’d just hit “Shift-Control-N” or something in Windows to create a new folder. On the Mac, it’s Shift-Command-N”. So just get used to the new keystrokes.
The bottom line is that for the most part, whatever you can do on Windows, Mac can do it too natively, and if it can’t there’s likely an app out there that will add the functionality.
There is a process of unlearning the way things were, and re-establishing that comfort level, only now it’s on a Mac.
This video may be useful to learn about the major differences.
The Programs I’m Using and/or Not Using
There are a few apps that I have found indispensable. Here are a few:
- Cinch: Can’t live without this one. It basically provides the same functionality that was introduced in Windows 7 with respect to being able to drag windows to various areas on the screen in order to maximize the window, or position multiple windows side by side. With the release of Lion, there is the ability to now maximize windows to full screen, but Cinch is still needed in my opinion.
- Use Spotlight: I used to use a program called “Launchy” on Windows to make it quick and easy to dive directly to a specific folder on the drive, or launch a program. Interestingly, I’m finding that I have no need for that anymore. I just use the built-in “Spotlight” search on the Mac. Hitting “Command-Space” will bring it up. Just start typing and the contents of your drive which are indexed, will show up. It’s fast and accurate.There are other programs out there that will add additional functionality, but at this point it’s working just fine for me how it is.
- Afloat: Not that Windows had this feature anyway, but there were programs to achieve it. Same goes for Mac. This app will allow you to keep a window above all other windows. I’ve discovered that I need to use this more often than not. There are times when you need to float a window so that even when you click away from it, it still remains on top of other windows. This small program will allow you to do that and a few other cool things.
There are of course a ton of other apps and programs that you will likely use but this post is really more about my experience on changing from Windows to Mac, not necessarily the top 10 Mac apps list.
My experience with Other World Computing was incredible. They have top quality products and their support/sales people are amazingly knowledgeable.
What I Did to Upgrade My MacBook Pro
So, after the transition, which by the way, I networked the Mac to my PC in order to transfer all my files, I realized that the system seemed under powered for my needs.
So I decided to upgrade. I have a MacBook pro, mid 2010 version as of this writing and here’s what I did:
- Upgraded the RAM: The available ram on the machine was 4GB, so I upgraded to 8GB. There are many brands of RAM for the Mac, and I ended up going with Kingston memory from Amazon. It was only $45! No brainer there. As soon as I added the RAM, I could see a huge improvement in speed. The actual upgrade was super easy. Unscrew the back cover, remove old RAM, insert new RAM. Here’s the installation guide from Apple.
- Upgraded the Hard Drive: The next thing I did was to upgrade the factory hard drive, which in this case was a 5400rpm drive to a 480GB SSD drive. Solid State Drives are not cheap, but I just felt the improvement in performance, and boot/program load time was worth it.
I ended up getting the OWC Mercury EXTREME™ Pro 3G SSD. I can’t say enough good things about this company. Up until I had a need for such a thing, I never even knew they existed. My experience with them was amazing. I called their sales dept. as I had numerous questions before making the purchase. The person I spoke to was knowledgeable and took the time to answer all my questions. The fact that he knew the product so well, was such a breath of fresh air. So often you get to talk to a salesperson and ask a question about the product they are selling only to find they don’t know the answer and have to either read a knowledge base article online, which I could have done myself, or refer to some catalog or ask a supervisor. This guy knew his stuff. I was just very impressed and ordered the drive soon after. Installation was so easy. They have instructional videos to show you how it’s done and even have a kit you can buy which has all the tools you need as well as a hard drive enclosure for your old drive. The entire process of changing the drive took about 15 minutes.
I first had to clone my existing hard drive, which took about an hour, and I ended up using Carbon Copy Cloner. Great program by the way to use for daily backups too. A quick tip is to sign up for the e-newsletter from OWC because they offer discounts on products in the email. They send them out every Wednesday from what I can tell and all you do is click one of the products in the email, and it activates the discounted pricing. I saved $20 just doing that.
- Got a New Keyboard: I know I’m a little unconventional here, but I ended up getting this keyboard designed specifically for the Mac, and didn’t use the standard Mac keyboards available. Short version of why that is, is that I had one one time and it had an incredibly powerful smell that seemed to negatively impact my smell senses. I couldn’t bring myself to use it anymore. So I discovered Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 for Mac®. Works great and of all the keyboards I’ve been through, this one is definitely the best. And you don’t have to ever change batteries on it because it uses Solar power. Don’t worry if you have a dark room, it still works.
So, now my MacBook Pro is blazing fast. With 8GB RAM and the 480GB SSD, programs load incredibly fast. There’s a new drive from OWC which is 6G instead of the 3G which I got, but it’s my understanding that the model of MacBook Pro that I have can’t handle the 6G anyway.
I’m loving the Mac, and so pleased that I eventually circled back around to it. Having used it for a week or so now, there are so many small things that happen during regular usage, that makes it clear that the Mac is the perfect representation of how computing should be.
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