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Switching from a PC to a Mac: practical tips

This post follows up a post in April (gosh, really?) on switching my main PC to a Mac. A few people got in touch to say they were considering doing the same thing, so I hope I can offer some tips to help the transition be pain-free as possible.

Before switching, of course, all of my main programs and files were housed on my PC, where I worked most of the time. So I knew that finding a way to get all of those onto an entirely different computer AND operating system would probably not be quick and easy.

Not only that, but a small but highly significant proportion of my main programs were Windows-only programs, such as MemoQ and my bilingual digital dictionaries (although one of the CAT tools I use, Swordfish II, is cross platform).

My solution to this was Parallels 6, which enables you to run your Windows OS within your Mac OS as a ‘virtual machine’ without having to reboot into Windows. My Windows programs would run right alongside my Mac applications – simple.

I used Parallels Desktop 6 ‘Switch to Mac edition’, which comes with a high-speed USB transfer cable which you connect from your old PC to your new Mac, quite literally transferring the Windows OS, files and programs across.

Sound too good to be true? It did take a long time, and I had a couple of hiccups along the way (not associated with Parallels itself), but overall the process was surprisingly simple if you follow instructions carefully.

Philippa’s tips:

• Remember to back-up your files before doing anything!

• Allow plenty of time for the switch. Preferably over a weekend, rather than during the week when you’re likely to have deadlines looming.  The process is not overly complex but that doesn’t mean you can do it in your lunch hour.

• Turn off any overzealous anti-virus programs if you find there is something preventing the transfer from starting. It took a lot of fiddling around before I realised that TrendMicro had created a firewall that blocked the transfer.

• File synchronising software: Careful! I should have known to temporarily disable SugarSync altogether because, doing its job, it started to create two copies of everything on both computers. I felt safer temporarily upgrading my account while the transfer was taking place and sorting it out later. Better that than interrupting and risking data loss.

• Ensure your Mac has plenty of RAM. Mine has 8 GB. Ensure you grant the Windows ‘virtual machine’ more than 1 GB of this, otherwise it will run extreeeemely slowly.

• Fine-tune your virtual machine settings within Parallels according to your needs – e.g. choose which operating system will run faster, and configure back-up behaviour if you use Time Machine (which can get very confused if it thinks it needs to back-up two ‘different’ machines!).

• To make life easier as you’re switching, use as many cross platform tools as you can. For example, LastPass + Xmarks premium to help you keep track of all your website passwords on your old and your new computer, while Evernote, Firefox and Thunderbird helped make the day-to-day transition seamless for me. Once the machine was up and running by Monday, I just got on with work.

• You can certainly run your Office suite in your virtual machine, but it’s probably simpler in the long run just to buy Microsoft Office for Mac, as you may not want to have your Windows virtual machine open all the time. I have found the Office for Mac 2011 edition easy to use and fully compatible with Windows versions of Office. The only programs I still run in Windows are now MemoQ and my dictionaries. The rest are in Mac.

• Use ‘coherence’ mode in Parallels (usually only possible if your machine has enough RAM). Parallels has video tutorials to explain the difference between the different ‘modes’ available for running your two operating systems side by side, but I’ve found ‘coherence’ the most streamlined way of working. I’m barely aware that I’m running two different operating systems.

Does anyone have any more tips they can add?икониПравославни иконииконописikoniсвети георги

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User Responses

16 Responses and Counting...

  1. Val

    July 22, 2011

    Great, Philippa! I’m hoping to prepare a post on how to make the most of Parallels and Macs as translators…. but no time so far :( Thanks for the post!

  2. philippa

    July 22, 2011

    Sounds like a great idea Val – I look forward to reading it some day!

  3. Ana

    July 22, 2011

    I’d recommend installing Windows 7 64 bits only if your Mac has 8GB RAM. Windows gets very slow. The 32 version works well with 4GB. In fact, it’s perfect for us.

  4. philippa

    July 22, 2011

    Hadn’t thought of that, thanks Ana. I’m running W7 64-bit but I have 8GB of RAM.

  5. Torsten

    July 22, 2011

    You must not forget that you still need Office (Word) for Windows if you want to use memoQ, at least for doc files etc. An alternative to Evernote might be to use a social bookmarking service such as Delicious or diigo.

    I still use my virtual machine (Parallels) for TranslationOffice 3000). Any Mac or web alternative for this kind of software? I have tried several solutions, but I did not find anything satisfying my needs.

  6. Tomasz

    July 22, 2011

    Really helpful as I am considering this :)

  7. Manuel Souto Pico

    July 22, 2011

    Ensure that your future Apple keyboard allows for the key combinations that you need to press with the CAT tools you use, or that your CAT tool lets you record a macro as a turn-around. Otherwise you might need to plug a PC keyboard to your Mac!

  8. Korean translation

    July 22, 2011

    Thanks for sharing this! I wonder how much of RAM you allocated for using the virtual machine? Whole 8G or less? Thanks in advance!

  9. philippa

    July 22, 2011

    I allocated 2GB – have to leave some for the Mac!

  10. EP

    July 22, 2011

    I can’t claim to be very knowledgeable about the Mac (Apple) world, but I can certainly recommend the iPad – yes, for translating. I borrowed one from a friend for a few hours recently and I didn’t want to give it back!

  11. certified translation

    July 22, 2011

    8G of RAM for Mac seems to be a lot, I use 4G and it is running like amazingly fast on OSX machine. I switched from PC to Mac 8 years ago, never looked back. Translators doing translation job, usually don’t like to be bothered with technical issues Windows has.

  12. Chinese Translator

    July 22, 2011

    Congratulations on your move. I’ve been using Mac for 6 years now, and never had any problems. Now, they even more compatible with Microsoft software, so personally I do not use the Parallels frequently. However, I am still waiting for SDL Trados to produce version for Mac.

  13. Alina

    July 22, 2011

    I’m still using a PC – I suppose old habits die hard. I tried a MAC once and seemed difficult (but that’s probably because it was something new that I was not used to). It seems that everyone is finding it a lot better that the PC, so one of my resolutions for 2012 is to get a MAC.

    And thanks to your posts, the transition will be a lot easier. Thank you.

  14. Andrea

    July 22, 2011

    Thank you for this post. This is really helpful.

  15. I have been use VMware Fusion to run windows on my mac. But I got fed up to allocate resource to both windows and mac os so I decide to get a server from which I run windows. It makes it really easier even when you have a laptop with less memory. Of course you’ll need an internet connection.

  16. Mohammad

    July 22, 2011

    Hi Philippa,

    Thanks for the share. I personally have my Windows 8 on a separate drive and it works like a charm!

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