A PC Users Guide to Converting to a Mac

Last Edited: October 31, 2018 | Published: August 11, 2015 by

A PC Users Guide to Converting to a Mac

More and more people have been making the switch to Mac laptops and desktops in recent years from their Windows counterparts.  This is usually due to the widespread adoption of the iPhone and the lack of decent Windows updates over recent years.  Some people are just downright sick of all the viruses and malware found on computers running Windows while others are looking for something is a little easier for them to use.

Whatever the reason, if you are a longtime Windows user, things will seem a bit different when you first make the switch.  Honestly, the operating systems today operating more similarly than they ever have in the past, so the conversion won’t be too much of a shock to you.  However, you do need to be aware of a few of the differences before you make the switch.  That way your new Mac won’t be as confusing to use when you first get it and you can enjoy it much more quickly.

Applications and Your Dock


The first thing longtime PC owners will realize is there is no taskbar on Mac OS X.  Don’t panic.  Instead of the taskbar, you have a dock where you can add shortcuts to all of your most used applications.  To open an application, all you have to do is click on the icon in the dock to open it.  All the applications on your Mac are stored in one convenient place – the Applications folder.  This folder can be found if you double click on the Hard Drive icon on your desktop.  If you want to add applications to your dock, all you have to do is drag the icon from the Applications folder onto your Dock.  To remove apps from your Dock, click the icon and drag it up above the dock and hold it for a few seconds and it will vanish.

Opening and Closing Apps

Yes I know opening and closing apps sounds simple enough.  But I bet you would be surprised how often this trips up long time PC users.  You see, on a PC, to open an app you simply double click its icon in the folder or single click on the shortcut found in your applications list or on your taskbar.  When you are done, all you have to do is click on the “X” to close the application.

On Mac, things are a little different.  To open an app, you need to either single click on the shortcut that has been setup in your Dock or you need to navigate to the Applications folder in your Finder and double click on the icon.  Closing is where things get confusing.  If you hit the “X” button on your application in Mac OS X, it only closes that window.  The application remains running even without any windows open.  If you want to actually close it, you need to navigate to the Finder up in the top left of the screen and click on the application name to quit it.  I can’t tell you how many PC users that switched to Mac I have seen that had every app they had ever installed open because they didn’t know this one small difference.

What Applications Are Available

I’m not going to lie to you, there is far more software created for Windows than any other platform.  That being said, most of the leading software that you most likely use is more than likely available for Mac as well as PC.  Software such as Microsoft Office, Skype, Adobe Creative Suite, and much more are available for both platforms so you won’t have to worry about those.  However, if you use some specialized applications, they might not have a Mac version as well.  This means you either need to hold onto your old PC, run a virtualized version of Windows, or find a different application to use in its place that is compatible with Mac OS X.  In most cases, using one of these three options can help you take care of your software needs easily so you don’t have to worry about living without a particular piece of software simply because you decided to make the switch.

Right Clicking

One of the biggest shocks to most PC users is the lack of a right click button on the trackpad and even the lack of buttons altogether on the mice manufactured by Apple.  Don’t worry, right click is still there and just like the PC you can use it to access very useful contextual menus that help you get work done much faster.  So how do you access it?  It’s quite simple really.  If you are using the trackpad or an older Apple mouse without a second button, all you have to do is hold down the CTRL key while you click to bring up the menus.  However, if you are using one of Apple’s Magic Mice that don’t even have buttons, all you have to do is click on the right side of the Magic Mouse to open the right click menus.  Of course, you could always just buy a regular wireless mouse with two buttons and it will work out of the box for you without you having to do anything extra.

Function Keys

If you have used a PC laptop for any length of time, you have probably already figured out that the function keys do much more today than they used to.  Today you can use them to adjust volume, change the screen brightness, turn off your Wi-Fi, and much more.  It all depends on how your manufacturer has configured them.  In most cases, to use these extra commands you hold down the Fn key and then press the Function key of your choosing.

On a Mac, however, it is a little bit different.  Sure your Function keys can do quite a bit including your volume controls, brightness and much more.  But the need for the Fn key has been reversed.  A Mac doesn’t use the Function keys quite as much as a PC, so instead of pressing the Fn key to use these features, you only have to press the Fn key if you want to use the Function keys as, well, function keys.

Keyboard Shortcuts


Just like a PC, Mac OS X provides a whole host of keyboard shortcuts that allow you to navigate and work in the operating system much more quickly.  Luckily, most of the most common shortcuts are almost identical to those found on a PC, with one small difference.  On a PC you use the CTRL key for all your shortcuts.  On a Mac, you have an extra key known as the Apple key or, more commonly, the Command Key.  Instead of control plus the keystrokes for your shortcut, you use the Command key.  Here is a list of shortcuts that you can use on Mac OS X:

Command-Q: Quit the open application.

Command-Option-Esc: Force quit.

Command-Option-M: Minimize all windows of application to the Dock.

Command-Option-W: Close all windows in the application without quitting.

Command-Tab: Cycle forward through open applications.

Command-Shift-Tab: Cycle backward through open applications.

Command-Shift-F: Search all files.

Command-Shift-A: Search all applications.

Command-Space bar: Open or close Spotlight search field.

Control-A: Move to beginning of line or paragraph.

Control-E: Move to end of line or paragraph.

Command-Option-D: Show or hide the Dock.

Command-F3: Show the desktop.

Force Applications to Close


While Apple likes to say that you won’t ever have problems with your Mac, they can’t guarantee that.  Sometimes applications just quit working.  Just like a PC, dealing with these problems is just part of owning and using a computer.  Now PC users are used to hitting CTRL + ALT + DEL to open the task manager to quick misbehaving apps.  However, that command doesn’t work on a Mac.

If you have application that is frozen and won’t work, click anywhere on your desktop to get back to the Finder.  Then, press OPTION + COMMAND + ESC.  This will bring up your Force Quit window so you can force those troublesome apps to close.

Where’s The Eject Button on My DVD Drive


Another interesting difference between Mac and PC is there is no eject button on the DVD drives.  I don’t really know why there isn’t, but it seems Apple wants you to do it differently.  To eject a CD or DVD, all you have to do is look for the key on your keyboard that looks like an arrow pointing up with a line under it.  Press that and your disc will eject.  Additionally, you can also eject it by right clicking on its icon on your desktop.

Taking Screenshots

Wait, what happened to my PrntScrn button?  That’s right, that button doesn’t exist on a Mac.  So how do you take screenshots?  Apple has included several keyboard shortcuts that allow you to take different types of screenshots.

Command-Shift-3 takes a screenshot of the entire screen and saves it on the desktop.

Command-Shift-4, then selecting an area of the screen, takes a screenshot of the selected area and saves it on the desktop.

Command-Shift-4, then Space Bar, then clicking on a window takes a screenshot of that window and saves it to the desktop.

Now, if you want to get into fancier types of screenshots such as those taken on delay or multiple shots taken one right after the other, you will have to look at additional software for your Mac.

What Is Spotlight


You may have heard the term Spotlight used by Mac users, but what is it and how do you use it?  Think of Spotlight as your one stop shop to finding anything and everything on your computer and beyond.  Using spotlight, you can find folders and files on your computer and you can even use it to perform other types of searches to find out anything you need to know.

Notification Center


While Windows 10 has now implemented its own notification center, Apple has included it with Mac OS X for quite some time now.  Using the notification center, you can quickly see information about things like the weather, stocks, news and even your social media updates.  That’s right, you can integrate Facebook and other social media accounts right into the operating system and receive your updates in your notification center just like you do when using an iPhone.  To access the notification center, simply click on the icon in the upper right corner of the screen.

Viruses and Your Mac

As a longtime PC user, you are probably used to the fact that dealing with viruses and malware is a daily task that must be managed.  However, there aren’t near as many viruses and malware designed for Mac computers.  That could even be one of the reasons that made you switch in the first place.  So does that mean that you shouldn’t have to worry about it at all on your Mac?  Certainly not.  Virus makers have increasingly been targeting Macs as they grow in popularity.  So today there are more viruses and malware out there than there ever has been.  While still only a fraction of what can be found on the PC platform running Windows, they do still exist so you will want to select a virus software for your Mac and be sure you keep it up date.


Mac OS X offers users one of the most advanced and easy to use operating systems ever created.  It is safe and secure and perfect for users who aren’t quite as experienced dealing with the often confusing landscape presented by Windows.  However, for users who are making the switch to a Mac from Windows, there are a few differences.  These differences can mean the conversion is more difficult than it needs to be.  Today we have covered many of these differences.  My hope is that by reading through this list you will be able to make the switch much more seamlessly so you can begin to enjoy everything Mac OS X has to offer without having to worry about getting confused along the way.

Have you recently made the switch to Mac OS X?  How was the change for you?  Did you find it confusing at all?  Let me know in the comments.  I would love to know how your experience was when you made the change.

About the author

Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.

See all posts from Matt Garrett

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