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The Complete Guide to Migrating from macOS to Windows 10

Many Mac users are looking to return to Windows, but it’s been years since they clicked a Start menu—or perhaps they’ve never even used a Windows PC before. In fact, the last time many probably used a Windows PC was either Windows XP or even Windows 95. This article dives into the world of migration and shows you the pros, cons, steps and tips to get over on the other side without the pitfalls. Whether that’s backing up files, migrating applications, and even learning the basics of the Windows 10 desktop and terminologies. Beware, this is not a single day task, you probably won’t start using Windows 10 like a pro in a day—not saying you can’t. For some, it will take some time to become comfortable. We show you how.

Migrate Files and Apps from macOS to Windows 10

Microsoft is stepping up its game, both in the operating system and the hardware departments. This makes a Windows PC more attractive than ever. Apple’s polarizing MacBook updates over the past few years and lack of competitive desktop machine offerings are probably helping that, too. The Windows 10 PC has never been better, not only because it’s more affordable, but very powerful. You can get best in class graphics adapters, mega fast CPU’s, gobbles of RAM and tonnes of SSD storage – cheap. At the same time, if you want cheap and basic, options are available. Windows 10 and macOS are surprisingly similar in behavio. Yes, there are differences in how certain parts of the user interface work. But they are both point and click graphical user interfaces at their core.

Moving from Mac to Windows is a two-step process. First, you’ll need to get all the important data and files off of your Mac. Then, you’ll set up your Windows 10 computer, import your data, and familiarize yourself with your new desktop environment. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Set Up Windows 10 on your Mac for a Test Run

Before you go out and buy a new Windows 10 PC or build one, it’s probably best to give it a trial run. Microsoft makes that really easy. From a hardware standpoint, one of the big things that used to separate Windows and Apple computers was the processor. Starting about 10 years ago, Macs began using an Intel x86 CPU. This means your Mac is just like any other PC out there that’s capable of running Windows. If you have enough space on your Mac, I would recommend you download an evaluation copy of Windows 10 Enterprise 90-day trial and give it a spin just to get an initial feel of what Windows is like in 2017. You can install it either in Boot Camp or a virtual machine utility such as VMWare Fusion or even VirtualBox. I prefer Boot Camp, because it takes full advantage of the hardware, while a virtual machine might suffer from performance issues and give you a bad experience. Once you get up and running with installing Windows 10 with Boot Camp on your Mac, you’ll encounter the out of the box experience. For step-by-step instructions for that, see our article How to Setup and Configure a New Windows 10 PC

Migrating Your Personal Files

There are multiple ways to migrate your personal files from macOS to Windows 10. This depends on a combination of factors, whether you plan to convert your Mac into a Windows PC or migrate to an entirely new PC. These options include:

      • Copying your files to an external hard disk. You can also burn to a set of blank DVDs or CDs, but I don’t recommend it for large volumes of files.
      • Set up a network between your Mac and Windows 10 PC then copy them over. For details, see our article How to Network Windows 10 and OS X and Share Files
      • Use a Cloud File Syncing Service such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox or all three.

Back Up Files to Online Storage – OneDrive, Google Backup & Sync or Dropbox

The cloud eliminates a lot of the pain points involved in migration. If you are already using online storage services such as Dropbox, Google Backup and Sync or OneDrive, this reduces a lot of the work. All you need to do is download the native Windows clients then sign in and your files will magically show up. Apple’s iCloud also works on Windows 10, so, if you want to continue using that, you can; but it’s not such a great platform for backing up large volumes of files. For a better alternative, check out our guide for switching from iCloud to services like OneDrive and Google Drive.

Backing Up Local Files to an External Drive

Note: If your drive is not in a supported format such as FAT32 or exFAT, then Windows 10 won’t be able to read the drive. Check out our article on how to prepare an external hard disk for use with macOS and Windows 10. Another point I should note: Time Machine backups are incompatible with Windows 10 if you didn’t know that already. See the maintenance section of this article for more details.
Once you have your external drive set up, open your home folder in the Finder, then copy each folder containing personal files. I recommend you omit the Photos folder with the exception if you keep images there outside of your Photos Library. See the section below about backing up your photo library.

Open your external drive, then create a new folder and label it Backup files. Open the folder, then click Edit > Paste or press Command + V. Depending on how large your data set is, this might take some time.

Back Up Your Photo Library

The Photos app in macOS is notoriously proprietary, and Apple doesn’t want you leaving it behind because it is tightly integrated with other Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad. You can export your photos from it though. Here is how you do it. First, create a new folder and label it Photos in the Backup files folder we created earlier.

Launch the Photos app, choose all your photos in the sidebar. Click Edit > Select all. Click File > Export > Export Unmodified Original for…

Click Export again.

Choose your external drive, open the Backup files folder > Photos then click Export Originals.

You can also back up your Photos to your OneDrive, if you have the space.

Back Up Email, Web Browser and Bookmarks

Apple Mail and Safari don’t have Windows 10 versions, so you’ll have to choose a new email client and web browser. Mozilla Thunderbird and Mozilla Firefox are great choices, but the Windows 10 native applications, Windows Mail and Microsoft Edge, will get you by as well. If you want to bring your inboxes and your bookmarks with you, check out these two articles:

Getting Started with Windows 10

Now that all your data is safe and sound and ready for the big move, it’s time to dig in to Windows 10. Hop on over to Page 2 to get started.

Next – Page 2: Setting Up Windows 10

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