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Switching from PC to Mac

I finally made the switch from PC to Mac. My previous machine was an old Sony Vaio purchased in 2005. It was top of the line then, and actually worked great until about a year ago, when it inevitably began dying a slow, complicated death. The time to finally buy a new computer was fast approaching..

Evolution, not revolution

The decision to switch to Mac/OSX after years of working on PC/Win happened gradually, beginning with a small MacBook I purchased in 2006 for cross-platform/browser testing. At 13.5 inches (or whatever), the screen was too small to work with full-time, but whenever I did use it, it felt like flying an airplane or something. It was just so sleek and fast and cool, much more streamlined and elegant, a real pleasure to use.

Then a few years later, I pick up an iPhone and more recently an iPad. Those devices are also sleek and intuitive, so much so that my 7-year-old daughter has mastered (and claimed) both of them. So despite having used PCs forever, the decision to switch to Mac was easy, more like a natural progression or next step than some sort of a giant change.

Decisions, decisions

At first I had decided on a Mac Pro, but after reading through forums and thinking about it, I realized that I just don’t need that much of a machine. Every now and then I might get crazy with some video editing or 3D rendering, but mostly I would be doing stuff like:

  • Web design: browsers, file editors, file management, backups, email
  • Graphic design: PhotoShop, Illustrator, InDesign, and similar software
  • Music & multimedia: media players, editors, mixing apps, etc.

I also enjoy watching movies, streaming media, and playing games, but I really don’t need a mac tank to do what I do. Even if I worked ten times faster, buying a Mac Pro would have been wasteful. Seriously, I did (just about) everything I needed to do on that old & busted Vaio, so something faster and better yes, but also something that I could really use and get the most out of – something worth the time and money.

My new iMac

After much thought and research, I was pretty much decided on getting an iMac, but not sure of which model or configuration. There are many options/upgrades available, including awesome stuff like two internal drives and a 27-inch monitor. I wanted everything, but my budget was locked at $3,000. So I really spent some time formulating the best possible configuration for my needs. Finally, on Black Friday 2010, I pulled the trigger on a 27″ iMac with the following configuration:

MEMORY 065-9452 8GB 1333MHZ DDR3 SDRAM - 4X2GB

I think this configuration is perfect for my needs. The wide screen and ample memory enabled me to eliminate many devices and really optimize and streamline my office space. Here is a quick photo of the new setup:

[ Photo: iMac in repose ]
iMac – 27in, SSD, 8GB RAM (click for full view)

Amazingly, my old machine completely died literally the day after I had finished transferring all files to the iMac. Now that I’ve had a couple of months to dial it in and really use it, there are a number of things worth mentioning. Let’s start with the good stuff and go from there.

The good stuff

Overall, everything is great. The iMac is much faster and quieter than my old Vaio. As an all-in-one machine, the iMac requires fewer cables and less space. And the display is just beautiful, plenty of space for really setting up shop. Here is a screenshot showing a recent workspace setup:

[ Screenshot: iMac workspace ]
iMac workspace, typical day (click for full view)

As you can see, plenty of space for everything I use during a typical day of web design:

  • Browser(s)
  • Code Editor/FTP
  • PhotoShop
  • Email
  • Music

Plus with 8GB RAM, there’s plenty of memory for running other programs/apps as needed. As a side note, it would be cool to get an app that shows you in real-time how much system resources were in use. But I digress..

Virtual Windows

Switching to a Mac, I knew that I would need new software, but there are few programs that I use that simply aren’t (yet) available for Mac/OSX. A good example is the application used for, which we use for postage for Digging into WordPress. There is no Mac version, but by running a virtual Windows environment using Parallels, I can run the PC software, plus everything/anything else that is Windows-only or that I don’t feel like re-purchasing. There are other virtual-windows apps available online, but Parallels works great for my needs, which includes running Windows XP, Windows 7, and several flavors of Linux. I have to say it, running Windows on Mac is a trip!

Solid State Drive

The one luxury I afforded myself for this machine is the 256GB SSD drive. It serves as the primary drive for the machine, and is where the operating system is installed by default. Running the OS and apps on the SSD makes everything lightning fast. Once again, the machine waits for the user. For example, on my old PC, something was wrong, and it took literally five minutes for a complete boot. And because the shutdowns required equal time, the frequent task of rebooting the computer was utterly hellish. The irony is that I now enjoy a 30-second reboot, but rarely need to do so.

Other good stuff

Before getting into some of the difficulties I’ve experienced, here are a few other awesome things worth mentioning:

  • Security – From what I’ve read, there is much less to worry about security-wise on a Mac. It almost seems too easy.
  • Installing apps – It could not be easier to install new apps, and they seem to install faster than on Windows.
  • FTP/SSH – Transferring files also seems to work better, with fewer interruptions and disconnections.
  • App prices – I am delightfully surprised to see that most Mac apps are a fraction of the cost of Windows alternatives.
  • Zipping/compressing files – I love the way OSX handles compressed files, which are a breeze to zip, unzip, and manage.
  • Password management – One word: 1password. How did I live without this?

There really are too many good things to mention here in this post. If you already own/use a Mac, then you know what I’m talking about. For anyone thinking about switching to a Mac, these are just the highlights of the good things, which far outnumber the following list of annoyances and other issues I’ve personally encountered.

Inevitable “Needs Improvement” category

As with any new machine, there are things that work and things that just don’t. Customizing your machine is a process of using it, fine-tuning preferences, and finding workarounds where necessary. Most issues are easily resolved with a little searching around, but there are some that will just leave you stumped. Here is my working list of such baffling Mac conundrums (in no particular order):

Playing media
Until I discovered VLC, I had a terrible time trying to play all of my different audio & video media formats. VLC works great for most of the non-Windows media I can throw at it, and then I guess there’s virtual Windows for the WMA/WMV stuff. I can play Quicktime on Windows, why can’t I play Windows media on Mac? Further, as great as VLC is, it can’t do one thing that is easily done on Windows: play multiple instances. As far as I can tell, there is NO way to loop multiple instances of video (any format) on a Mac (without virtualizing).
Update 2011/01/21: As mentioned in the comments, Windows Media files are playable in Quicktime (up to 7) with Flip4Mac. Thanks to rick and Louis for the tip!
Time Capsule & Time Machine
As mentioned, my iMac has two internal drives. The 256GB SSD is used for the OS, aps, and settings; and the 1TB SATA drive houses all of my working & archive data. Unfortunately, the built-in backup app, Time Machine, refuses to backup the built-in SATA/data drive. It does a great job at backing up the primary/OSX drive, but after countless hours online and on the phone, there is still no way to include that second internal drive (the one with all my files on it) in Time Machine. The workaround? Manual backup via external drive. Ugh.
Calculating sizes/counts of large folders
Ridiculously long waits to get the properties of large folders. I thought this may be something more specific to something on this machine, but after reading around in the forums, it seems that “Get Info” slowness is a common problem. Hopefully a fix or solution will present itself.
Right-click, new file
The ability to quickly create a new file would be awesome. Windows makes it look so easy, from virtually anywhere. If there is a way to do this, please share with a comment.
No cut?
The closest I have been able to get to Windows’ “cut” command is dragging files to their destination while holding the command button. It works, but it feels sloppy for some reason. Sometimes a new finder window will popup while you are dragging to destination. I would love to be able to “control-x” again!
Update 2011/01/21: Solved! Check out TotalFinder for tabbed Finder browsing, cut/paste, and tons more good stuff. Thanks to v3c, Helen, and Priit for the tip!
Copying/pasting folders
In Windows, when pasting a folder into a directory that contains a folder of the same name, nothing is erased (in either folder). If the two same-named folders contain different files, at least one copy of each file will exist in the resulting folder. In OSX, similarly moving a folder results in a complete replacement: the existing folder is erased and replaced with the moved folder. This behavior probably has its own merits, but it doesn’t seem as flexible when it comes to file management.
And last but not least..
No Blu-Ray! Bummer.
Update 2011/01/21: Transferring files from iPhone/iPad to Mac
I totally did NOT expect something as simple as transferring my iPhone photos to my Mac to be virtually impossible. After 2+ hours trying everything short of jailbreaking my phone, I finally threw in the towel and cracked open Parallels. Virtual WindowsXP let me plug in my iPhone/iPad, transfer my photos, and delete the originals from the device with a few simple clicks. Yes, you can use iPhoto to import the camera-roll photos, but any non-iPhone-origin files will not be imported. Then, after importing with iPhoto, you don’t actually have access to the files themselves until you export them out of iPhoto. What a nightmare. Not only is this is waay too complicated, there is also no way to delete your photos from the phone after the transfer. I honestly hope that I am completely wrong about this, and that there is an easier way to manage iDevice files from a Mac.

And finally, some app-specific issues (because I just can’t help myself):

  • Scanning – can’t scan into PhotoShop CS5 (use Preview instead)
  • Memory Cards – needed to purchase USB card adapter (less than $10)
  • Changing Icons – candybar is the way to go, but refuses to work for the Time Machine icon
  • Can’t Kill It – despite uninstall, Suitcase Fusion Core icon stuck in System Preferences – Solution: right-click, remove icon. Thanks to Rob Smith for the simple solution.

If anyone knows how to fix/resolve/workaround ANY of these issues, please leave a comment. Hopefully, there’ll be some easy/good solutions & tips that can be assembled and fleshed out for a follow-up post. That is the goal.

Final thoughts

I hate to end my fancy “switch-to-Mac” article with a bunch of second-hand annoyances, but really, that’s all they are. The iMac itself is an incredibly powerful, capable, and beautiful machine. It is so much more than a replacement computer – it has improved and elevated my entire working operation. From someone who works constantly on the computer, it’s the best arm & a leg I ever spent. </rimshot>

About the Author
Jeff Starr = Web Developer. Security Specialist. WordPress Buff.
.htaccess made easy: Improve site performance and security.

62 responses to “Switching from PC to Mac”

  1. Jeff Starr 2011/01/20 6:05 pm

    @Glenn: Thanks, that sounds like it may do the trick. I think I gave up before getting that deep into it. For now, I just hid the TM drive icon from the desktop. Looking forward to trying this. Cheers!

    @Milan: Thanks for the feedback. I agree that performance is important, but the difference between working on a Mac vs PC is night and day. For me, it’s all about the experience.

    @franky: Yep, just installed it! Works great – exactly what I was after. Thanks!

    @Vladimir: Nice! Congrats on the new MacBook Pro :) I’m also still figuring out all the shortcuts, and there’s even more weird key combinations spelunking around in Parallels. I’ll keep an eye on Safari – Thanks for the link!

    @Brando: Thanks, will definitely check out Activity Monitor. So far iStat is working great, but I may upgrade to Pro. I also read awhile back about an app that monitors pings/requests with a nice graphical interface. Ring any bells?

    @Timothy: Yes, but it doesn’t work with files or folders in Finder. Or should it..?

    @Jeremy: Exactly – I recently grabbed a demo and tried SuperDuper for my last backup. Looking forward to automating backups – the smart backups seem like the way to go. Excellent feature.

  2. Hey Jeff,

    Mac4Life baby :) So, check out it is a great app to clean out junk files, properly uninstall apps, (including icons) it find everything associated with it. Highly recommend.

    Also, settled on a Mac code editor yet? If not, check out Textmate FTW!



  3. Rob Smith 2011/01/20 6:07 pm

    Hey Jeff,

    As a side note, it would be cool to get an app that shows you in real-time how much system resources were in use. But I digress..

    Menu Meters is awesome for this and unlike istats is free:

    despite uninstall, Suitcase Fusion Core icon stuck in System Preferences

    Did you try dragging the System Preference icon to the trash?

  4. Jeff,

    Flip4Mac ( will also allow WMV and other Windows formats to play.

    For things like the Suitcase issue you can look in the various folders for the leftover bits (check /Library/PreferencePanes and the same folder in your user directory (/Users/{username}/Library/PreferencePanes) but what I like to use is Hazel. Hazel lets you create rules for various things and sits in the background executing them… but it also will detect when you delete an app and alert you to things that that app has placed elsewhere in the system (in LaunchDaemons, etc. Check it out here (no affiliation aside from being a customer):

  5. I switched to Mac some months ago too and I’m glad I did.

    About pet peeves and hints:

    Cmd+space to open up spotlight, very handy.

    Undo is Cmd+Z and Redo is Cmd+shift+z, this makes much more sense than Cmd+Y to me.

    Alt+Shift+cmd is very useful when pasting text, especially in gmail.

    Renaming files with enter felt weird at first, but now I find myself very used to Cmd+Down to enter a folder and Cmd+Up to go to the parent one.

    I also enjoy Cmd+Right and Cmd+Left to go at the end and the beginning of the line.

    Cmd + X works everywhere except for cutting files and folders in the finder, guys. (and this sux)

    I miss the delete button :(

  6. Jeff,

    Welcome to MacLand!

    Try out Alfred. It’s available in the App Store and free. Will change your life. (You can change Spotlight’s shortcut key and replace it with Alfred.)

    Also, for VM, I’ve found that Virtual Box ( is much better for me than Parallels or VMWare’s Fusion. Bonus with it is that you need it for Android or webOS emulators for mobile testing, and it’s free.

    For copy/pasting folders, I’ve opened the target and the source folders side by side and then holding the option key, select and drag the desired files to their target location. Or you can try use Coda or Transmit’s merge functionality ( Also, you can create new files by right-clicking when using Coda’s file window.

  7. Congrats! I made the switch a few years ago to a 17″ macbook pro laptop. Other than a few repairs, it is still going strong. I also run Win7 on Parallels. For my friends and coworkers that consider switching, but complain about the upfront cost, I have them look at the life cycle costs of the software, the fact that there is less down time, and it just works, and they soon realize that macs are indeed cheaper in the end.

    While I do have some reservations, the new app store is pretty cool as well. I am never going back to the PC world.

  8. OMG 27in :P

    I would love one iMac like this. Nowadays I’m with a 13in MacBook.


  9. Real-time monitoring
    Activity Monitor. It’s in the Utility folder of your Applications folder. Check out the other built-in apps too. There are gems among them, and they come pre-installed on every mac, so learn to love them.

    Playing media
    VLC + Flip4Mac = almighty. Maybe Perian if you like Quicktime and want it to open everything like VLC.

    Time Capsule & Time Machine
    That’s weird. I don’t about this specific issue, but you should find a way to use Time Machine. It’s such a super app. It does incremental backup + snapshots + it’s fast. Use it, love it.

    Calculating sizes/counts of large folders
    That’s right. Nothing to help that. Anyway, how is that such an annoyance? By the way, check out DaisyDisk to analyze what files occupy the most space and manage your hard-drive space easily.

    No cut?
    No cut for files. You’ll get used to it. It’s safer when I think back about it.

    Copying/pasting folders
    Like someone said in the comments, if you need specefic behavior, use something like Transmit. By the way, you use Coda I can see. I use TextMate + Transmit. Transmit is a next-gen file-transfert app that you ought to check out.

    No Blu-Ray! Bummer.
    Get a PS3 I guess?

    Changing Icons
    Candybar only changes simple icons. If the app has a custom structure, it won’t work. Then you have to do some advanced maneuver (right-click on app > show package content > go inside Ressources > find the icon, replace with .icns file from Candybar export feature).

    Can’t Kill It
    Right-click on it in the System Prefs.

    You should use the following shortcuts. I use them everyday, and it’s so much powerful that what you may be used to (global shortcut on PC are limited. You usually only use shortcut inside apps).
    cmd+m : Minimize window
    cmd+w : close Window/tab
    cmd+t : open new Tab (essential in Safari, and btw Firefox on the mac? wtf man. Use Safari or Chrome. Firefox sucks on the mac).
    cmd+q : Quit app
    cmd+h : Hide app
    cmd+alt+h : Hide everyapp except the focused one
    cmd+space (it’s ctrl+space by default, but I suggest you change it) : Spotlight : best app launcher (and I’ve tried lots)
    cmd+delete : put file in trashcan
    cmd+shift+delete : empty the trashcan
    cmd+a : select all
    cmd+f (in text apps) : Find text
    cmd+g : next found text
    cmd+p : Print page
    cmd+z : undo
    cmd+shift+z : redo
    cmd+s : save
    cmd+shift+s : save as
    cmd+down : go inside folder / open file
    cmd+up : go outside folder (unix tree structure FTW)
    shift+side : add one letter to selection
    alt+side : add one word to selection
    cmd+side : add one line to selection
    double-click and hold : make a selection word by word
    triple-click and hold : make a selection paragraph by paragraph
    cmd+, : focused app preferences
    cmd+shift+3 : fullscreen screenshot
    cmd+shift+4 : selection screenshot (then space to toggle window/selection mode)
    tab : next item
    shift+tab : previous item
    cmd+tab : fast switch (you can d&d files onto the icons, you can also spam Q to fast-quit many apps)

    The list is extensive but I know and use all of those nearly everyday. It will make you really fast and comfortable.

    Another thing is that the mac is about the community. That’s where you get all the great apps, and that’s where you learn how to use your mac. Websites like FinerThingsInMac make you discover built-in features even after years of use. Some are funny like holding shift to slow all the animations (minimize window for example), some are advanced like holding alt when doing things (in the apple menu or on the dock icons for example), and some are life-changer that will change and improve your workflow forever.

    If you want to see how productive you can be on the mac, check out things like the TextMate screencasts (prepare to be blow away, seriously) or maybe the QuickSilver app screencast (even I don’t use it. It’s too cerebral).

  10. Hi Jeff, congrats for your switch!
    Here’s some tip for you:

    For all your video playback you can avoid installing VLC (which works great, but doesn’t feel really Mac-like) and Microsoft’s plugin by just installing Perian ( ), a preference panel which enables matroska, divx, WMV and many other format playback directly in Quicktime. It also allows quicklook to preview those files. Works like a charm, and it’s free :)

    You should check TotalFinder, it really improves Finder adding tabs and the much-missed Cut&Paste:
    It costs 15$, but it’s worth it.

    I just open iPhoto to sync back my photos from my iPhone. Check if sync is enabled in iTunes.

    TWAIN import is disabled by Adobe’s choice (I still can’t see why). You have to manually download and install a little plugin from Adobe’s website to enable it: – free.

    Hope it helps :)

    @raspo: if you miss delete to trash files, it’s cmd+backspace!

  11. Terje Otto Tobiassen 2011/01/21 4:11 am

    Hi Jeff! I have been subscribing to this site for about a year now and I’m learning something new every single time! -so thank you for this great website and the frequent updates!

    I have been using a mac for about 15 years with a small break of 2 years using a PC for gaming and alike, but soon went back to macs again, furious about all the .dll errors, slow booting etc.

    When it comes to system monitoring there are different widgets, iStat is a widget / application I have used until recently, but I have just switched to Geektool which installs in the pref. pane, where it gives you the ability to put boxes of shell commands right onto your desktop, take a look at these

    I use geektool to open a .bash file for systeminfo and here is the script:

    Hope this helps!

    Regards from Norway

  12. Terje Otto Tobiassen 2011/01/21 4:14 am

    I see that the the comments get cluttered by the bash code (sorry about that),
    And I see that you have to moderate my comment in order for it to display for other users, here is a link to one the systeminfo.bash file I use,

    If it’s not too much hassle you could remove the bad code from my previous comment and include the link I posted here instead


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