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. A little time with links below will have you running like a pro.

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. Ask questions if you're not sure what having your stuff on iCloud will mean down the road, or ask them to put your data on the internal drive instead
(or a secondary drive) if you have any doubt. You can always upload to iCloud later if you want; getting into iCloud is easy, but getting out is not.

Don't be surprised if you have to replace some of your programs with Mac versions. Most apps are cross-platform these days, but some oldies are not, so ask about critical apps, too. 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. You may not need a driver; try connecting that gizmo and see if it doesn't work without installing anything. If you _do_ need a driver for some device, download it from manufacturer's web site and make sure to select driver appropriate to your Mac Operating System.

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 past existing files and only install those that might be missing, which means a corrupt file may not be replaced.
It depends entirely on how installer 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 if trying to solve a problem. Third-party updates usually modify existing software, upgrades may replace the existing driver (and _should_ delete the old one).

Good installers will have an "Uninstall" option to make removal easy, and will check for previous installations 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 get stuck and won't make it to the slot without some coaxing, so you might want to see if gravity can help by tipping machine up with drive slot downward. If these steps don't work, 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 a day or so, and try again. If you have a notebook, take it 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, thereby resetting them. Messing with network settings is usually a bad idea, and if they worked yesterday they should still work if they haven't been changed.

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 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 making 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 startup 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.

Some free space is required for operation (minimum 10-15% of capacity), and a full drive can effectively prevent use of maintenance and troubleshooting utilities, especially if FileVault is 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:
If you purchase a new Mac thru an Apple Store, ask them about transferring your data for you. Was a time when they offered free transfer from Mac or PC, but I think those days are over and they now charge a fee. Doesn't hurt to ask.

Migration options are largely determined by OS version/age and connectivity.
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 cable in most cases. Early OSX versions and older machines may be a little more problematic. Networking may not be an option for some older Macs, and very early Systems will require additional considerations.

Applications from OS9 thru 10.5 are long obsolete and will be left behind in most cases, but text files, audio files and JPEGs are usually good to go. If you have critical data that predates 2006, it might be too late to bring it along gracefully, so we'll have to make some special arrangements. Generally speaking, the older the data/OS, the more complicated it becomes to bring it up-to-speed.

First step: Prepare 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, 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, empty cookies and cache. (Shortcut: See Safari's "Reset" command under Safari menu.)

Optional cleanup: Files on your desktop should be moved to appropriate folders within your drive (Documents folder, Pictures, Music, etc.). Drag unwanted items to the trash if you're certain you know what they are, and get rid of as much debris as you like - this is s good time to clean house. (Best to leave any and all Library folders alone, by the way.) If you're not comfortable deleting stuff, maybe we can provide some guidance. 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. However, we may create a folder to contain desktop files, and move this into your hard drive for safe keeping. We seldom empty the trash, but we are quite likely to suggest that you do so.

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, intermediate steps and/or additional hardware may be necessary to extract your data. If all is good (and reasonably current), continue with 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 skipped this import step, then you have created a new user admin account during initial setup of the new machine, and a second acc't will be created on import - which might complicate things a bit, but it can be sorted out later. Important thing is to know and r
emember those passwords.

Migrating data AFTER first run
Nested inside your Applications -> Utilities folder is the Migration Assistant app (right). Launching Migration Assistant will initiate the 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.

Migration Assistant varies considerably between OS versions it shipped with, so the process is difficult to describe without knowing exact OS version in use. Regardless, it is designed to be as easy as possible and presents instructions for each step along the way, including network or connection options to get started. In some cases, Migration Assistant must be launched on _both_ machines, but usually the Mac on receiving end is in charge of the process.

Data migration is a fairly common service we provide to our clients, and we are equipped to handle transfers from even the oldest of vintage Macs.

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. We strongly 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 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 already be paying for a cheap PC with Windows installed.

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 will 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 both Mac and 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 is the question. There's almost always a way, but finding the easiest may require some research. There are also 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.

The modern version of many apps these days is the online model, where you pay a monthly fee for access to the program on the internet - rather than purchase and install the app onto your computer. This approach may get around compatibility and update issues, as long as you are running the latest OS version and have sufficient internet bandwidth (speed). Before you commit to such an arrangement, we recommend exploring other apps and options that do not depend on internet access.

Best choice: Make a clean break.
People who say they only use email and internet should jettison everything Microsoft and replace MS apps with those from Apple. Export your docs, photos, addresses, emails and bookmarks to a backup, then import these to appropriate Mac applications (which is easier than you may think). 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 and dedicating that machine exclusively to running your critical Windows software. Import your data to your Mac and use the Mac for online ops, communications and everything else.

For more info:

Passive security and the MacOS
("Passive" excludes encryption and the more severe security tools.)
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 hassle. 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 automatic login is on (System Prefs > Users and Groups > Login Options), you'll be able to skip login altogether, which is fine for desktop machines in secure locations - not a good idea on notebooks and portable devices. The other drawback to auto login is that people tend to forget their passwords if not written down somewhere.

What's in a word?
Password-breaking programs and magic plug-in gizmos that retrieve secret codes 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. We cannot "recover" a lost password, or "reset" your password. If we could, password protection would be worthless.

Your login password is used to startup your Mac, install software and make changes. You may have set a separate password for keychain operations (tho it isn't necessary or even helpful).  If encryption is turned on, it might use yet another password (again, unnecessary), then there is your email password, AppleID password, and probably a myriad of online passwords for various accounts and web sites.

It helps to make a hard copy of all passwords - especially those which are rarely used - along with your email, router 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. You will probably need your password if/when your machine winds up here at the shop, too, so record those passwords (please!). 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 are also essential to protect portable devices that might go missing. Notebooks, iPhones, iPads, anything that contains personal data of any kind should be password or fingerprint protected. The new facial recognition approach is, by nature, problematic and may prove to be weak.

NOTE - An obscure legal fact regarding password protection: A password, passcode or passphrase is considered protected information and thus requires a court order to obtain. Fingerprints or facial recognition is not considered "information" and is not protected.

Passwords exist because there will always be that nasty element among us, and because privacy is a valued (if vanishing) 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. Protect yourself.

What happens if I lose my password?
Don't give up, take your best guess: Try upper case, lower case, spaces, no spaces, every possible password and combination you can think of. If you have to, make a list of possibilities and go down the list checking off the ones you've tried. If you find it, be sure to write it down somewhere safe.
Otherwise, there isn't much to 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 Wifi 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 machines.
Ethernet and wireless networks
For a small office network (LAN) of reasonably current Macs, use ethernet cable and/or AirPort (aka Wifi) to connect machines to a central router or gateway in a star configuration. Number of router ports dictates maximum number of hardwired machines. Wireless routers use a variety of protocols depending on age. Oldest is 802.11b, then comes 802.11g, then 802.11n, etc. Most wireless routers are backwards-compatible with previous standards, however there is a catch: The entire network will down shift to lowest protocol in use. In other words, the machine running oldest (slowest) protocol sets the standard for all.

Simple 2-Mac crossover network
If a crossover cable is required - which isn't likely - it can be made from a normal ethernet cable. Macs automatically detect and adjust, but old 10 to 100Base-T machines, including older PCs, may require a crossover cable to enable networking. Look closely at the illustration (right) and you'll see that all four orange and green wires are reversed in a crossover cable, as compared to a normal ethernet cable (above). To make a crossover cable: Cut the RJ-45 connector off at one end, rearrange the wires as shown, and install/crimp a new RJ-45 connector.

Other network options
Two machines may be connected using Firewire, Thunderbolt or Lightning cables (and adapters as necessary). Machine booted in Target Disk Mode will appear as an external drive on the host machine.

When all else fails, you may be reduced to this, the oldest "networking" technique of all: Write files to removable media (flash drive, CD, DVD, etc.), then walk it over to second machine and connect to read/copy files. Simple and quick if an actual network is not required.