How to Move Windows PC Data to Your Mac Manually

What to do when the Migration Assistant doesn't work

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Starting with OS X Lion, the Mac has included a Migration Assistant that can work with Windows-based PCs to move user data to the Mac. Unlike the Mac’s Migration Assistant, the Windows-based version can’t move applications from your PC to your Mac. It can move emails, contacts, calendars, and most user files.

Unless your Mac is running Lion (OS X 10.7.x) or later, you won't be able to use the Migration Assistant to transfer information from your PC. You have a few other options for moving your Windows data to your new Mac, however. Even with the Windows Migration Assistant, you may find that a few files you need didn't make the transfer. Either way, knowing how to move your Windows data manually is a good idea.

Use an External Hard Drive, a Flash Drive, or Other Removable Media

If you have an external hard drive that connects to your PC using a USB interface, you can use it as the destination for copying all of the desired documents, music, videos, and other data from your PC.

Once you've copied your files to the external hard drive, disconnect the drive, move it to the Mac, and plug it in using the Mac's USB port. Once you power it on, the external hard drive will show up on the Mac Desktop or in a Finder window. You can then drag and drop the files from the drive to the Mac.

You can substitute a USB flash drive for the external hard drive, provided the flash drive is large enough to hold all your data.

Your Mac can read and write data to most Windows formats, including FAT, FAT32, and exFAT. When it comes to NTFS, the Mac is only able to read data from NTFS-formatted drives; when copying files to your Mac, this shouldn't be an issue. If you need to have your Mac write data to an NTFS drive, you can use a third-party app, such as Paragon NTFS for Mac or Tuxera NTFS for Mac.

CDs and DVDs

You can also use your PC's CD or DVD burner to burn the data to optical media because your Mac can read CDs or DVDs you burn on your PC; again, it's just a matter of dragging and dropping files, from the CDs or DVDs to the Mac. If your Mac doesn't have a CD/DVD optical drive, you can use an external USB-based optical drive. Apple sells one, but you can find them for quite a bit less if you don’t care about not seeing an Apple logo on the drive.

Use a Network Connection

If both your PC and your new Mac connect to the same local network, you can use the network to mount your PC's drive on your Mac's Desktop, and then drag-and-drop the files from one machine to the other.

  1. On your Windows machine, open the Control Panel app by typing its name into the search bar.

    Control Panel in Windows 10
  2. Click Network and Internet.

    Network and Internet in Control Panel
  3. Select Network and Sharing Center.

    Network and Sharing Center in Windows 10 Control Panel
  4. In the left pane, click Change advanced sharing settings.

    Network and Sharing Center in Windows 10 Control Panel
  5. Click the radio buttons next to Turn on network discovery and Turn on file and printer sharing.

    Sharing options in Windows 10
  6. Click Save changes.

    Save Changes
  7. Open a Finder window on the Mac and select Connect to Server from the Finder's Go menu.

    The keyboard shortcut is Command+K.

    Connect to Server in macOS
  8. Click the Browse button.

    Connect to Server window in macOS
  9. If your PC doesn't appear in the Browse window, enter its address in the following format:

    smb://PCname/PCSharename

    The PCname is the name of your PC, and the PCSharename is the name of the shared drive volume on the PC.

    Connect to Server window in macOS
  10. Click Connect As.

    Connect As
  11. Click Connect.

    Connect
  12. Enter the PC's workgroup name, the username that is allowed access to the shared volume, and the password and click Connect.

    Connect
  13. The shared volume should appear. Select the volume or any sub-folder within the volume that you wish to access, which should then appear on your Mac's Desktop. Use the standard drag-and-drop process to copy files and folders from the PC to your Mac.

Cloud-Based Sharing

If your PC is already making use of cloud-based sharing, such as the services provided by DropBox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or even Apple’s iCloud, then you may find accessing your PC’s data easy. Install the Mac version of the cloud service, or in the case of iCloud, installing the Windows version of iCloud on your PC.

Once you've installed the appropriate cloud service, you can download the documents to your Mac just as you've been doing with your PC.

Mail

Depending on your mail provider and the method it uses for storing and delivering your emails, it may be as simple as creating the appropriate account in Mac’s Mail app to have all of your emails become available. If you use a web-based mail system, you should be able to launch the Safari browser and connect to your existing mail system.

  • If you're using an IMAP-based email account, you can create a new IMAP account with the Mail app; you should find all of your emails available right away.
  • If you're using a POP account, you may still be able to retrieve some or all of your emails; it depends on how long your email provider stores messages on its servers. Some mail servers delete emails within days after they're downloaded, and others never delete them at all. The vast majority of mail servers have policies that remove email messages somewhere in between these two extremes.

You can always try setting up your email accounts and seeing if your email messages are available before you worry about transferring them to your new Mac.