Switching from Mac* to Windows PC

Transitioning from a Mac to a PC can be easier than you think. Discover what you need to know to streamline the process.

Considerations for Setting Up Your New PC

  • Switching from Mac to PC may feel daunting, but straightforward steps and tips can help simplify the setup process.

  • Start by creating a Microsoft account; then associate it with your Windows log-in for more secure access and to gain automatic setup of integrated products and services.

  • You have many options for transferring data from your Mac to your new PC. Review your options before finding a method that you’re familiar with. Also consider backing up your files using a cloud-based service.

  • Many of the keyboard shortcuts used in macOS are similar in Windows, with only a difference in the modifier key used.

  • Enjoy the versatility of your new PC, with access to a range of new capabilities, applications, and games.



Why Switch from Mac to PC?

Selecting the best device for you is not just about choosing a Mac or a PC. You want a device that fits your life and offers the features and flexibility that best support how you intend to use your computer.

PC home laptops have a few considerable advantages over Mac offerings.

  • Variety: PCs offer the flexibility and configurability needed to support a wide range of uses with multiple form factor options and out-of-the box, integrated capabilities and features.
  • Cost: Thanks to more competition and more options, PC home laptop prices are generally far lower than their Mac equivalents.
  • Versatility: From daily work applications to gaming and content creation, PCs allow you to easily transition from work to play on the same device.

If you’re still deciding on which device to go with, check out our article on choosing between a PC or Mac for additional comparison information.

Once you have made the decision to switch from Mac to PC and are ready to start using your new computer, you’ll need to know how to set up your system and begin transferring your data and files. We’ve pulled together the most common activities and steps to help simplify the process.

Apple ID, Meet Microsoft Account

Although not absolutely required in most circumstances, a Microsoft account can help you get the most out of Windows and your PC, enabling more secure access and a host of convenient features.

You may already have a Microsoft account from a previous PC, from a former Outlook.com account, or even from your Xbox. If you don’t have one or want to set up a new account, create the account early in the transition process. Associating your Microsoft account with your Windows log-in automatically sets up access to integrated products and services such as OneDrive, the Microsoft Store, Teams, and Skype. If you’re interested, you can also set up quick and easy access to optional services like Microsoft 365 or Xbox Game Pass.

And no, you don’t really need to say good-bye to Apple ID. Many of Apple’s iCloud-based services can be accessed from Windows via the web or select built-in apps.

Transferring Files from Mac to Windows PC

Although Macs and Windows PCs use different file systems, most file types are cross-compatible between operating systems. It’s just a matter of moving the data to your new PC, and there are several ways to do it.1

Where to Put Your Files on Windows PC

Like macOS, a Windows user account offers default folders such as Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos. While optional, using these folders helps keep your data organized, accessible, and safe, since most backup and online syncing services protect these folders by default.

The Windows File Explorer sidebar includes shortcuts to these folders, and you can always navigate directly to them via your account’s user folder at C:\Users\[user]\. As you copy files to your new PC, you can move documents, MP3s, and images to their appropriate folders.

Transfer Files Using an External Drive

An external storage device (external hard drive or USB flash drive) can be used to copy data between your Mac and your new PC.

For the broadest compatibility, you can format that drive with the exFAT file system, which both macOS and Windows can write to.

Before you format an external storage device, first back up any data on the device. If it’s not a brand-new drive, formatting it erases all existing files. Once that’s done, you can format the drive to exFAT in macOS or Windows.

Using Mac:

  1. Launch the Disk Utility application and select the external drive as the source.
  2. Choose Erase from the list of icons near the top of the window.
  3. Name the drive as desired, use the Format drop-down menu to select exFAT, and click Erase.
  4. Once the process is complete, the drive is mounted in Finder.
  5. Use Finder to drag and drop files and data from your Mac to the external drive.
  6. Connect the drive to your PC and launch File Explorer to access the drive.
  7. You can now drag or copy your files from the external drive to your PC.

Using Windows:

  1. Connect the drive to your PC and launch the Start Menu.
  2. Type “Create and Format Hard Disk Partitions.”
  3. Choose the matching result to launch the Windows Disk Management utility.
  4. Find your external drive listed in the lower half of the window.
  5. Right-click on its primary partition and choose Format.
  6. From the File System drop-down menu, select exFAT.
  7. If desired, add a name for the drive in the Volume Label field and click OK.
  8. Click OK on the pop-up window to confirm again and start the disk formatting process.
  9. Once the process is complete, connect the drive to your Mac.
  10. Use Finder to drag and drop files and data from your Mac to the external drive.
  11. Connect the drive to your PC and launch File Explorer to access the drive.
  12. You can now drag or copy your files from the external drive to your PC.

Note: Depending on the size of your external storage device, you may not be able to fit all your data onto the external drive at once. In this case, delete data from the external drive after it has been copied to your PC to clear space, and repeat the process as necessary.

Transfer Files Using a Cloud Service2

You can use a cloud service if you don’t have many large files like videos. This option works best if you have an internet connection with fast upload speeds. Online file synchronization services such as OneDrive, Dropbox, or even iCloud can sync your data from your Mac to your new PC.

  1. Make sure that the service is configured to sync the desired folders.
  2. Check that the syncing process is up to date.
  3. Then install the corresponding app on your new PC.
  4. Once you sign in to your account, sync all the files over to the PC.

Transfer Files Using a Local Network

If both your Mac and your PC are on the same local network, you can use a network transfer to copy data between the two systems.

Starting on your Mac:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Sharing and check the box for File Sharing.
  2. In the Shared Folders section, click the plus icon.
  3. Add the folders that you want to copy.
  4. Repeat this process to add as many folders as desired.
  5. Make note of your Mac’s network address, which starts with smb://.
  6. Click Options to verify that the checkbox next to your username is checked. This step enables network transfers via the SMB protocol.

And now from your Windows PC:

  1. Click the Start button, and type “Run.”
  2. Select the Run command to open the utility. In the text box, type two backslashes followed by your Mac’s network address.
    Example: For network address smb://, enter \\ (note the change to the backslashes).
  3. Hit Enter to attempt the connection.
  4. When you’re asked for a username and password, select More Choices > Use a Different Account.
  5. Enter your Mac account username and password and click OK. Your Mac username is the name of your Home folder in Finder.
  6. Once the shared folders window pops up, drag your data from the Mac to the PC.

Note: The transfer speed can vary depending on your network and the connection strength of each device. To help ensure superior performance, use wired Ethernet or the latest compatible Wi-Fi version. For Wi-Fi networks, position both PC and Mac devices close to the Wi-Fi router.

How to Transfer Microsoft Office Files from Mac to Windows PC

If you use Microsoft Office for Mac, all your documents, worksheets, and presentations are already compatible with Office for Windows. However, if you have files in Apple’s iWork format (Pages, Numbers, Keynote), you must convert those files to an Office-compatible format. You can convert files easily on your Mac or the web via iCloud.

How to Convert iWork Files to Microsoft Office Files

To view your iWork Pages, Numbers, and Keynote files in Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, you need to convert them.

On your Mac:

  1. Open your files in the corresponding iWork app and select File > Export To.
  2. Select the applicable Office format (for example, Pages to Word). You may also select a compatible format such as plain text, EPUB, or PDF.
  3. Once they’re converted, copy the files over to your PC as described previously.

Or from iCloud:

  1. If your documents are on iCloud, you can convert your iWork files over the internet.
  2. Log in to your account at iCloud.com and select the iWork apps.
  3. Select the desired file to open it.
  4. Click the wrench icon in the toolbar at the top of the document.
  5. Select Download a Copy and the option to convert the file to the applicable Office format.

How to Transfer Bookmarks from Mac to Windows PC

Depending on the browser you use, transferring bookmarks is quick and easy. You can instantly sync your bookmarks to your PC from browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Edge by installing the same browser on your PC that you use on your Mac, then signing in to the same account on both.

If you use Safari on your Mac, you can manually export bookmarks to an HTML file that can be imported by almost any other browser.

  1. Launch Safari on your Mac and select File > Export Bookmarks.
  2. In the pop-up window, choose a save location for your exported bookmarks, then click Save.
  3. Copy this HTML file to your PC using one of the file transfer methods.
  4. Follow the instructions for your preferred web browser on how to import bookmarks.

How to Transfer Email from Mac to Windows PC

There’s no transition to worry about if you’re already using a web-based email service such as Outlook.com or Gmail. Simply log in to your account via your preferred browser in Windows.

The transition is still easy with the Apple Mail app with a POP account or IMAP account. The built-in Windows Mail app can handle the same accounts. Check with your email account provider for the appropriate settings and server addresses. For common web services such as Yahoo Mail or even iCloud, the Windows Mail app can automatically configure your account with just your email address and password.

How to Transfer Music from Mac to Windows PC

All your favorite music streaming services2—Spotify, Pandora, TIDAL, and many more—are available on Windows. If you have a collection of locally saved music files, you can play them with Microsoft’s Media Player. You can also add your files to OneDrive and access your music from other PCs, the web, and your Xbox console.

And if you’re an Apple Music or iTunes user, you can stick with the fully supported iTunes for Windows. You can even copy an entire iTunes library to Windows.

How to Transfer iTunes Library from Mac to Windows PC

In recent versions of macOS, the music portion of iTunes now exists in a separate Music app. Whether you use iTunes or the Music app, the steps for copying the library to iTunes for Windows are nearly identical. By default, your iTunes music is stored in the Music subfolder of your User folder, and it’s best to consolidate your music files here before moving the library.

Starting from your Mac:

  1. Launch iTunes or the Music app and select File > Library > Organize Library.
  2. Check the box for Consolidate Files and click OK.
  3. Wait for the consolidation process to complete. It may take a while depending on your library’s size and location.
  4. Use Finder to navigate to User > Music.
  5. Copy the folder to your PC using one of the data transfer methods described earlier.

Once the files are on your PC:

  1. Download and install the latest version of iTunes to your PC.
  2. Quit the app immediately after installing it.
  3. Find the transferred iTunes folder and paste it into your user folder’s Music folder.
  4. Click OK to approve any overwritten data.
    Note: Completely replace the empty iTunes library with the copy of your Mac’s iTunes library.
  5. Navigate to the iTunes app on your PC again.
  6. Hold down the Shift key on your keyboard while opening the app.
  7. Wait for a window to appear asking you to Choose iTunes Library.
  8. Click the Choose Library button and navigate back to your user folder’s Music folder.
  9. Inside the iTunes folder, select the iTunes Library.itl file and click Open.
  10. You can now access your complete music library on iTunes for Windows.

How to Transfer Photos and Videos from Mac to Windows PC

The built-in Windows Photos app on your new PC allows you to organize, edit, and view your precious photos and videos easily. In general, you can copy a photo library of saved images directly to your PC and import them into the Windows Photos app. However, if you’re using Apple’s Photos app for Mac, you need to export your images first.

Once they’re imported, you’re free to browse all of your photos and videos, make basic edits, set up slideshows, or enable the People feature to automatically group photos.

Starting from your Mac:

  1. Launch the Photos app.
  2. Select the photos or albums you want to copy.
  3. To copy everything, select Library from the left sidebar and press the keyboard shortcut Command + A.
  4. With your photos and videos selected (outlined in blue), select File > Export.
  5. Choose whether to Export Unmodified Originals (unedited images only) or Export (#) Items (includes your edits).

If you select Export (#) Items, you can choose the file format and quality level of your exported photos. You can also opt to change their size; include keywords, location, and other metadata; and keep your desired naming and subfolder organizational scheme. To minimize file size, choose JPEG as your Photo Kind. To preserve maximum quality, PNG or TIFF is the way to go. Also make sure that the Size option is set to Full Size, unless you want your images resized.

  1. Select any export options, then click Export.
  2. Set an output directory and click Export again to start the process.
  3. It may take a while depending on the number of photos and your Mac’s performance.
  4. Copy the files from your Mac to your PC using your preferred data transfer method.

On your PC:

  1. Copy the files to your Pictures folder and then launch the Windows Photos app.
  2. Click the Import button in the toolbar at the top of the window.
  3. Select your user folder’s Pictures folder (or any other directory to which you added photos).
  4. The app scans the designated folder and displays any detected image files and videos.
  5. Use the Select drop-down menu to choose All Items and then click Import.

How to Back Up Your Files with Windows PC

Windows 11 uses OneDrive, a service like iCloud Drive, to back up your most important folders automatically and more securely to the cloud. OneDrive ensures a proper backup in the event of data loss, and it provides the option to access your PC’s data from anywhere via the web.

Once you’ve moved all your Mac data to your PC, you can protect your data with a backup.

  1. Open the Settings app and head to Accounts > Windows Backup > OneDrive Folder Settings > Manage Sync Settings.
  2. Choose the folders you want to back up (Desktop, Pictures, Documents).
  3. Click Start Backup.

After the initial backup, all the files in these folders, and other files in your OneDrive folder, are synced to the cloud. OneDrive automatically backs up synced files. You can then recover your data from OneDrive if there’s an issue in the future. You can also access these files via OneDrive on the Web.

Be sure to keep an eye on your data usage. OneDrive can back up 5 GB of data with a free account, which is generally more than enough for your most essential documents. You can choose to upgrade to a Microsoft 365 subscription for up to 1 TB of storage to back up all your data.

Windows PC Keyboard Shortcuts

Many of the keyboard shortcuts used in macOS are similar in Windows, but with one important difference: the modifier key. Instead of Command (⌘), Windows shortcuts typically use the Control (Ctrl) or Windows keys. For example, to save your document in Microsoft Word for Mac, the shortcut is Command + S; in Word for Windows, the shortcut is Control + S.

To learn about some of the most useful shortcuts for your Windows computer, check out our Windows PC keyboard shortcuts article.

Software Compatibility and Windows Alternatives2

Many of the most popular macOS apps are also compatible with Windows. Even when an app is truly exclusive to Mac, the files can often be easily converted to a Windows-based alternative.

Here’s a list of common macOS apps and some suggested Windows-compatible alternatives.2 Note that these suggestions include just some of the many available options. The Windows ecosystem supports thousands of applications, which means you have alternatives for virtually any app or workflow.

New Possibilities by Choosing to Go PC

Making the switch from Mac to PC was once an arduous process. Now more Microsoft and third-party app versions for Mac are available, reducing the need for converting your files. The cloud and faster data connections also make it much easier to transfer those files between systems. Ideally, you will find your transition to PC opens a world of new possibilities.