Meet the Macintosh!
Computer of choice for professionals of all types and creative individuals in general, the combination of first-rate hardware and Apple's MacOS makes other platforms obsolete. No need to worry about viruses or hackers - nothing gets installed without your permission and password. And don't be afraid to customize your Mac to your liking; explore System Preferences (under Apple menu, top-left corner of menubar) and set things up to suit your needs. For example: The first icon under System Prefs - named "General" - has an option to always show scroll bars, which will ensure scroll bars are always available. System Prefs is where you can set your desktop picture (aka wallpaper), set a screen saver, and setup a Time Machine backup drive. These settings are System-wide; in addition, each and every application (program) has its own set of preference settings.

Whether you're new to the Mac or new to computers in general, you're guaranteed to find plenty of additional info in the links below.
It's helpful to learn basic terminology and a grasp of certain metaphors, like the Desktop (where you might keep things you're working on until finished and filed away), the Finder (aka directory, where every file has a name and icon), and the Dock (which contains one-click shortcuts to frequently used apps/files).

Icons play an important part in identifying files and file types, too. There are application icons, document icons, sound and image icons (to name a few), and there are also folder icons used to group/contain and organize them. We highly recommend using Apple's "Mac 101" tutorial link below to become familiar with basic operations, concepts and nomenclature.

Switching from PC to Mac?
Be prepared to ditch some old habits and learn some new tricks. No more registry issues, no more endless scans tying up CPU cycles, no need to fear your inbox, and yes, you can now do simple things in a simple fashion (like dragging a JPEG into an email). In fact, if you can think of an easier way to do almost anything, give it a try - it'll probably work. And don't worry about installing drivers for every device you attach to your Mac; try it first, you may be surprised to learn there really is such a thing as "plug-and-play."

If you bought your Mac at an Apple store, ask them about importing your PC files; they might do it for you - but - they might put your data on iCloud, which may or may not be okay with you. So pay attention and ask questions if you're not sure what having your stuff on iCloud will mean down the road.

Don't be surprised if you have to replace some of your older programs with Mac versions. Most apps are cross-platform these days, but some oldies are not. Fear not, we'll find a solution. Welcome aboard!

I tried several times to install a driver for my [gizmo], why won't it work?
We see a lot of .exe files downloaded on Macs, but these require Microsoft Windows in order to execute and are useless on a Macintosh. Odds are you should have downloaded the Mac version instead. If it's a device driver that came with a printer, scanner, camera, etc., try connecting that gizmo and see if it doesn't work without installing anything; it probably doesn't need any special software. Try it! If you must install a driver for some device, download it from manufacturer's web site and make sure to select driver appropriate to your Operating System (version 10.x) and machine's model identifier.

A few words about software installation...
Installers (generally speaking) do one of three things:
1) They blindly install software regardless of previous installations, which can result in multiple copies.
2) They check for previously installed software and may replace existing files with new ones being installed.
3) They might skip over previously installed existing files, meaning a corrupt file might not be replaced.
It depends entirely on how the install program was written, and there's no way to know what it's doing unless installer was designed to notify you.

Because of this, it is often wise to delete (or uninstall) previous copies of drivers/apps/software before reinstalling same - unless, of course, the installation is an update or upgrade to existing software.

Good installers will have an "Uninstall" option to make removal easier (if necessary), and will check for previous installs to avoid conflicts - but many installers do not offer these functions. In addition, software may already be included in your Operating System making additional installations unnecessary (and possibly problematic).

And finally: Drivers on CDs included with off-the-shelf
devices may already be outdated at time of purchase. Check manufacturer's web site for updates and current drivers that may be newer than what came in the box.

How can I get a disk out of my CD/DVD drive?
Holding the mouse button down during the startup process (from off) should eject all removable media before your desktop appears onscreen. Mini-discs won't make it to the slot, so you might want to see if gravity can help by tipping machine up with drive slot downward. If that doesn't work, there may be other issues and more drastic measures might be required. Bring your machine to the shop and we'll extract whatever may be stuck in it the hard way, if need be. We've saved many an optical drive over the years.

My email settings are correct. Why can't I send/receive email?
If you haven't changed any network/mail settings on your Mac, and email worked yesterday, it's probably not your fault. Your service provider may be offline temporarily; wait awhile, maybe even a day or so, and try again. If you have a notebook, take it to someplace where Wifi is available and try it there. Or, you might try resetting modems and routers by removing power to each for 30 seconds. Messing with network settings is usually a bad idea - these settings must be EXACT. Hopefully you've written them down...

Do I need an anti-virus program?
No. The vast majority of Mac users today have never encountered a real virus. Ever. Anti-virus software will only get in the way, and bad ones can cause trouble. You're free to download and install nasty stuff, but it won't happen without your knowledge and participation. See our Security and Protection page (left) for more.

Of course, if you're running Microsoft Windows on a Mac, all bets are off. Windows on a Mac _does_ open the door to all that PC junk out there, and you must run the same anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-adware utilities that are so critical to keeping Windows running on PCs.

Do I need to run Software Update (AppStore)?
Updates are almost always a good thing; upgrades can be another matter. So, updates yes, upgrades not necessarily. Some upgrades have proven to be quite unpopular, so you might ask around before you take the plunge.

Always make a proper backup prior to applying updates, upgrades, installations, or major changes. Reverting to a backup may be your only option for recovery if something goes wrong.

What does "Disk is almost full" mean?
It means you're about to run out of storage space on your hard drive. If this happens and you ignore the warnings, you'll soon notice your machine running slowly. Applications may quit unexpectedly without room to work, and your computer may eventually refuse to startup.

A certain amount of free space is required for efficient operation (minimum 10-15% of capacity), and a full hard disk can effectively prevent use of maintenance and troubleshooting utilities, especially if FileVault is turned on. You may need to replace your existing drive with a larger one - and if you don't have a backup, now is the time to set one up.

Data transfer options:
These are largely determined by OS version/age and connectivity options. Transferring data from late versions of OSX (on a functional Mac) to a brand-new Macintosh is the easiest; your new machine will walk you thru the process the very first time you start it up, and all you need is an ethernet or FireWire cable. Early OSX versions and older machines may be a little more problematic. You will likely need a Firewire 400 to 800 cable in most cases (also known as Firewire 6-pin to 9-pin) for older Macs, and very early OSX systems may need a tweak or two. Files and applications from OS9 thru 10.5 are long obsolete and will be left behind - These Systems have not been supported since about 2006. If you have critical data that old or older, it's too late to bring it along gracefully, so we'll have to make some special arrangements. Generally speaking, the older the data and OS, the more complicated it becomes to bring it up-to-speed.

First step: Cleanup and prep your old Mac.
Test and verify your old hard drive, make sure it is operational and its data structures and directory are intact by running Disk Utility/First Aid; if errors appear, they should be repaired before attempting to transfer your data. (If you don't know how to do these things, we'll be happy to do the transfer for you.) Now is a good time to clean house, too, and here are a few suggestions:

Startup your old Mac - the one you'll copy from - launch your mail app and delete old emails, junk and spam, then empty trash in your email program. Open your web browser and delete any unused/unwanted bookmarks, clear browser's history, cookies and cache. (Shortcut: See Safari's "Reset" command under Safari menu.)

Next, go thru your hard drive: Remove all that stuff from your desktop by filing things properly inside appropriate folders of the Finder (within your hard drive). Drag unwanted items on the desktop into the trash. If you want to go wading thru your Documents, Applications and other folders, too, clean house as much as you feel comfortable. Just don't trash anything unless you're certain you know what it is and you're sure it should go. (Best to leave any and all Library folders alone, by the way.) Once you're satisfied that you won't lose anything important, empty the trash.

NOTE: If nCity performs data transfer or backup services for you, we do not delete anything without your direct instruction. However, we may have to create a folder containing desktop files for you, and move this into your hard drive for safe keeping. We seldom empty the trash, although we are quite likely to suggest that you do.

Data Migration on first run of a new Mac.
This process assumes that your old machine isn't truly ancient, that the machine is operational, and that your old hard drive is fully functional. If this is not the case, all bets are off until repairs are completed or other arrangements are made. If all is good (and reasonably current), continue Migration process.

The very first time you startup a new Macintosh, importing data is merely one step in machine's initial setup process. Setup screens will walk you thru importing your data from an older Mac (including accounts and network settings) and it couldn't be easier. If you missed this import step, then you have created a new user (login) account during initial setup of the new machine. Your old data may be brought along at any time, but it might be imported into a secondary account (your old account)
, so you will wind up with two login accounts to sort thru. Remember those passwords!

Nested inside your Applications -> Utilities folder is the Migration Assistant app (right). Launching Migration Assistant from your new Mac will initiate the same import process outlined above and take you step-by-step thru importing your old admin account, apps, files and network settings from your old machine to your new Macintosh.

Yes, you can run Windows on a Mac.
There may still be a few situations where some key database or software requires a version of Windows to operate. We can help with the Mac side of your machine, and we can enlist additional assistance for the PC side if necessary, but experience has shown that running Windows on a Mac - while possible - can be costly in terms of time and trouble, not to mention expense. We recommend picking up a cheap PC to run that Windows app and using the Mac for everything else. That said...

Best way (at the moment) for running Windows apps on a Mac may be to
create a "virtual machine" solution using VMWare's Fusion or the Parallels Desktop product. Apple's own Boot Camp (free, included with the MacOS) creates a logical partition on your hard drive that allows you to switch between platforms. These utilities all have one thing in common, and it's a potential deal-killer: You _must_ have a licensed copy of Windows with a valid registration key. Add that expense to virtual machine software and you'll be paying for a cheap PC.

The other major problem with running Windows on a Mac is the fact that Microsoft Windows brings all of its virus and malware vulnerabilities with it. You'll still have to install, update, use and maintain all those anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware programs that are mandatory for Windows users when running Windows on a Mac.

Degrees of separation.
Cross-platform apps (Windows and Mac) may be able to read/write their own file types on a Mac and a PC, but don't count on it. Most apps have two versions - one for Windows, another for Mac - and whether each can import their own files from the other platform version is the question. There's almost always a way, but finding the easiest may require some research. And, there are notable exceptions: Some popular bookkeeping and spreadsheet apps are problematic, and some of these cannot even read their own files from a previous version, let alone import data between platforms. Best to check version upgrade and OS requirements for critical apps you use, and check file import/export options between versions and platforms. This info should be available online at program's web site.

Best choice: Make a clean break.
People who say they only use email and internet should jettison everything Microsoft. Export your docs, photos, addresses, emails and bookmarks to a backup, import these to appropriate Mac applications (which is easier than you may think), and leave everything else behind. There are plenty of apps available for Macintosh to replace whatever software you might currently use, many of which are included with the MacOS.

If you must run a particular program under Windows, consider taking everything else off your old PC, disconnecting it from the internet, and dedicating that machine exclusively to running your critical Windows software. Use your new Mac for everything else. You can always network the PC behind a firewall, if you wish.

For more info:

Passive security and the MacOS:
(By "passive" I mean to exclude encryption and the more severe security tools included in the Mac's OSX.)
Long-time Mac users haven't had to worry much about security issues, so having to deal with login accounts and passwords and such has been something of a problem for them. Apple's OSX has a surprising amount of passive security built in, and almost all security measures are optional and/or automatic, making it easy to ignore security issues entirely - if that suits you. If the machine's admin account was setup without a password, you only need to dismiss dialog boxes requesting one when installing apps and changing settings. And, if automatic login is on (System Prefs > Accounts > Login Options), you'll be able to skip login altogether. But, your login password is only one of many passwords required these days if you're online at all, so avoiding it is kinda silly.

Still, some people seem to be able to go years without installing or updating anything, and forgotten login passwords are an ongoing nightmare here at the shop.

What's in a word?
Password-breaking programs and magic plug-in gizmos that retrieve secret codes, character-by-character, are the stuff of fiction. It only happens in Hollywood. Modern algorithms can encrypt a password right out of existence, and a lost password can effectively stop you in your tracks. No, sorry, we cannot "recover" lost passwords, or "reset" your password to restore access to protected files. If we could, password protection would be worthless, huh. (Had a guy bring his ex-wife's notebook in one day, convinced I could hack into it somehow. He tried bribes, threats, everything he could think of, became furious when I refused to even try. One of the few times I've been thankful for unknown passwords.)

It helps to make a hard copy of all (including rarely-used) passwords - along with email and network settings. Create a text file somewhere on your computer and print it out, or write your passwords down on paper - just be sure to store such personal info in a secure location and remember where it is. And you may need your password if/when your machine winds up here in the shop, too, so record/remember those passwords! Some day you'll be really glad you did.

Is security all that necessary?
Yes..... and no.
You've always had to have passwords for email, discussion groups, online accounts, and now you really should have one for your login accounts, too. If you share your machine with anyone - your spouse, kids, friends, anyone - you should each have your own login account and password; it's easy to setup and will prevent multiple users from getting in each others way.

Passwords exist because there will always be that nasty element among us, and because privacy is a valued commodity. Security and self-defense are basic human rights, and both have become increasingly important over the years. The stakes are high, and security measures have become a necessity of life these days. By the way: The greatest threat to security on a Mac comes from those who may have physical access to your machine - not from over the 'net.

What happens if I lose my password?
Take your best guess: Try upper case, lower case, spaces, no spaces, every possible password and combination you can think of. If you manage to get it right, be sure to write it down somewhere safe.
If it's gone forever, there isn't much we can do except start over from scratch.
So..... don't lose those passwords!

Network options are determined by available ports and protocols, and by OS version on older machines.
Best choice is Wireless (Airport) or Ethernet which allows multiple Macs to share files, printer and internet connection. Cat5 Ethernet cables are readily available, and a quick, small network is easy to setup on modern Macs:
  • Plug ethernet cables between machines (or connect thru router).
  • Start File Sharing on each Mac (if not already set).
  • Look under Network or Sharing in the Finder's sidebar for connected machine(s).
Ethernet and wireless networks:
For a small office network (LAN) of reasonably current Macs, use ethernet cable and/or AirPort to connect machines to a central router or gateway (with modem) in a star configuration. Number of router ports dictates maximum number of hardwired machines. (Some routers include a printer port.) Wireless routers include wireless capabilities for multiple (portable) devices, known as WiFi or AirPort. Early wireless used 802.11b protocol; AirPort Extreme works with 802.11g wireless routers, and current protocols include 802.11n (all are backwards compatible with previous standards).

Simple 2-Mac crossover network:
If a crossover cable is required, modern Macs will automatically detect and adjust as needed, so a normal cable should work. Very old machines may require a crossover cable. Look closely at the illustration (right) and you'll see that all four orange and green wires are reversed compared to standard ethernet (just above). This is a crossover ethernet cable.

Firewire (machine booted in Target Disk Mode):
Connect machines using a Firewire cable. Startup the target machine while holding down the "T" key (Target Disk Mode). It will appear as another hard disk on desktop of host machine.

When all else fails, you may be reduced to this, the oldest networking technique available: Copy files to removable volume, then move said volume to second machine. Rinse and Repeat as necessary.