Mac Migration Assistant Can Move Windows PC Data

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Switch to Mac -  Migration Assistant Can Move Your PC Data to Your Mac

OS X El Capitan Migration Assistant
You can use the Migration Assistant to move files from your PC to your Mac. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Now that you've switched to a Mac as your new computing platform, you may wonder how you're going to move all your stuff from your Windows PC to the Mac. Well, you're in luck; making the move to the Mac doesn't require tossing out all of your Windows data and files. For the most part, all of your Windows user data, including documents, pictures, music, and videos, can make the journey to the Mac without too much trouble.

Your Windows applications, however, will have to stay behind. They depend on a Windows operating system, and won't run directly on a Mac. But don't worry; if there's an application that you just can't live without or that doesn't have a Mac equivalent, there are ways to run a Windows environment on a Mac. You'll need to either dual-boot your Mac between Windows and OS X, or run third-party virtual machine software, such as:

Parallels Desktop for Mac

VMWare Fusion

Oracle VM VirtualBox

For now, let's focus on moving your user data to your new Mac, so you can get back to work or have a bit of fun.

Using the Apple Retail Store to Transfer Data

There are various options for transferring Windows data, depending on the version of OS X that came with your Mac. The easiest method is to have an Apple retail store move your Windows data for you. If you purchase your Mac at an Apple retail store, and you happen to show up with your PC, store staff will move the data for you, as part of the Mac setup process. Of course, for this method to work, you need to plan ahead. You must have your Windows machine with you when you buy a Mac, and you must be willing to wait. Depending on how busy the store is, the wait could be as little as an hour, or as long as a day or more.

You can speed things up by calling ahead and making an appointment to purchase a Mac. Be sure to mention that you also want to transfer your data from your Windows machine. Apple store staff will set up a time, and give you an estimate of how long the process will take.

Using the Mac's Migration Assistant

If you're not good at planning ahead, or hanging around an Apple retail store doesn't appeal to you, there are a couple of do-it-yourself options for migrating your PC data to your Mac.

OS X includes a Migration Assistant that was originally designed to make it easier to upgrade from one Mac model to another. You connect two Macs using a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable or a network connection and then use the Migration Assistant to copy user data, applications, and system settings to the new Mac.

With the advent of OS X Lion (10.7.x), the Migration Assistant gained the ability to copy user data from PCs running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. With subsequent versions of OS X were released, the Migration Assistant picked up the ability to work with Windows 8 and later. The Migration Assistant can copy your Windows user accounts although it cannot copy your passwords, so be sure you know your user account password before you make the transfer. The Migration Assistant can also copy your documents, as well as emails, contacts, and calendars from Microsoft Outlook (2003 and later), Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail.

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Switch to Mac - Using the Migration Assistant

Migration Assistant running on a Windows PC.
The passcode displayed should match the one on your Mac. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The OS X  Migration Assistant requires that the Mac and the PC be connected to the same local network. You don't need to worry about setting up any type of file sharing on either computer; they just need to be on the same network.

The transfer process involves running a copy of the Migration Assistant on your Mac and a copy on your PC. Since you'll be working with two different computers, and two applications that have the same name, we'll preface each step in this guide to using the Migration Assistant with either PC or Mac, to make it clear which application the instructions refer to.

Installing the OS X Migration Assistant

Your Mac includes the main Migration Assistant application, but you'll also need to install a helper application on your Windows PC. You can download the Windows Migration Assistant from Apple's web site at:

Windows Migration Assistant

Using the OS X  Migration Assistant

PC:

  1. Before proceeding with the migration process, turn off the automatic Windows Update. There's a remote possibility that if the Windows Update starts installing new packages, the Migration Assistant will be interrupted, and won't be able to complete the process.
  2. Once you download it to your PC, launch the Windows Migration Assistant installer and follow the onscreen instructions to complete the installation.
  3. When the installation is complete, the Migration Assistant will auto-start.
  4. When the Migration Assistant launches on your PC, click through the welcome screen, until you're asked to start the Migration Assistant on your Mac.

Mac:

  1. Launch the Migration Assistant, which is located at /Applications/Utilities, or from the Go menu, select Utilities.
  2. The Migration Assistant may ask you to enter the name and password of a user with an administrator account. Click Continue, enter an admin name and password, and click OK.
  3. The Migration Assistant will display options for the source of information to copy to your Mac. Depending on the specific version of the Migrations Assistant you are using, you should see either an option to select: "From another Mac, PC, Time Machine backup, or other disk," or an option to select "From a Windows PC" make the appropriate selection and click Continue.
  4. The Migration Assistant will display additional source options. Select "From another Mac or PC," and click Continue.
  5. In order for the Migration Assistant to continue, it must close any other applications that are running on your Mac. Click Continue to close any open apps and proceed with the migration process.
  6. The Migration Assistant will scan your local network for any PC or Mac that is running the Migration Assistant application. Your PC's icon and name should display in the Migration Assistant window. When it does, click Continue.
  7. The display will now show you a multi-digit passcode. Write this number down, and take it to your PC.

PC:

  1. The Migration Assistant will display a passcode. It should match the one that was shown on your Mac. If the passcode matches, click Continue, and then return to your Mac.

Mac:

  1. The Migration Assistant will display a list of items you can migrate to your Mac. The list will include the PC's currently logged-in user account, and all associated data, such as Music, Pictures, Movies, Desktop items, Downloads, Documents, Contacts, Bookmarks, and User Settings. The Migration Assistant can also copy additional files, such as shared files, logs, and other files and documents it finds on your PC.
  2. Select the items you wish to copy, and click Continue.

PC & Mac:

  1. Both Migration Assistants will display the ongoing progress of the copy operation. Once the copying process is complete, you can quit the Migration Assistant application on both machines.

The Migration Assistant can only copy the user data of the account that is currently logged in on the PC. If there are multiple user accounts that you wish to copy to your Mac, you'll need to log out of your PC, login with the next account, and then repeat the migration process.

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