How to Transfer or Migrate Files from Windows PC to Mac

If you recently bought a new Mac computer and want to transfer your data and settings from your PC to the Mac, there are a couple of ways to accomplish this task. In this article, I’ll mention the different methods I have used, from the easiest to the most technical.

It’s also worth noting that Apple provides a transfer service in their retail stores for free, which could end up saving you a lot of time. There is no clear guideline on what data they can transfer, but they will do their best to get as much moved over as possible. Set an appointment with the Genius Bar and bring in both of your computers.

Luckily Apple wants to help new Mac users move their data over from a PC and created a program called Migration Assistant to help make the process simple. Let’s start with this method first.

Apple Migration Assistant

This program is installed by default on all Macs running OS X Lion or later. In order for it to copy data from your PC, you will need to install the Windows version of the program on your PC.

First, download the Windows Migration Assistant program. Go ahead and install it and click Yes whenever you get a prompt asking if you want to allow this program to make changes to your computer.

The assistant should load automatically, but if it doesn’t, you can just click on Start and the program should be listed in All Programs or All Apps.

migration assistant start

Click Continue and you’ll get a message saying that you should disable automatic Windows updates. This is to ensure the transfer process doesn’t get interrupted by a sudden restart due to updates. Check out my previous post on how to prevent Windows from restarting after installing updates. Skip down to the Control Panel settings section and follow those instructions.

Click Continue and the migration assistant will tell you to open the same program on your Mac computer.

searching for mac

On your Mac, click on the Applications folder and then scroll down to Utilities. You should see Migration Assistant with the smiley faces.

migration assistant

When it opens, go ahead and click Continue. You may get a message stating the firewall is turned on and that you should turn it off. Follow the instructions to turn off the firewall on your Mac.

Once you do this and click Continue, your Mac will close all applications and restart. It loads a special program on boot and you’ll see a dialog like the one below. Please excuse the bad screenshots since they had to be taken by an external camera.

transfer from pc

Click on From a Windows PC and then click Continue. Make sure your PC and Mac are connected to the same network, otherwise the two computers won’t be able to find each other. It may also be worth turning off the Windows firewall also if you are running into problems.

finding source mac

It took a few minutes, but eventually it did show my Windows PC. Once that shows up, you can click Continue and it will show you a security code. You have to go to the Windows PC and make sure the code is the same.

A couple of troubleshooting tips here. Firstly, when you click Continue here, it might show you the code on the Mac, but the code on the PC may never show up. Instead, it might just keep saying Waiting for Mac to connect. In this case, quit the assistant on the PC and restart it.

Secondly, for some odd reason, on my setup it showed a different code on the PC than the one of the Mac. I clicked Continue on my PC anyway and it worked just fine, but not sure why that happened. It could have been because I restarted the assistant program on the PC. Either way, it worked with the different codes.

Lastly, when you click Continue here, it might flash the code screen for a second and then instantly come back to the screen shown above. If this is the case, then restart the assistant app on the PC and that should fix the problem.

Once you click Continue on the PC, it will tell you that the program is ready to transfer data and that you should choose the data on your Mac.

transfer data

If you go back to your Mac, the code screen should be gone and you should now see a dialog where you can pick the data to transfer.

select data transfer

By default, it selects the common folders like Pictures, Documents, Videos, etc. It also tries to find other potentially useful content like contacts, mail, calendars, and bookmarks. Surprisingly, it also lists out any other hard drives installed on your PC and you can easily copy data from there too. At the bottom, it tells you how much data you selected and how much is available to transfer.

transferring data

Click Continue and the data transfer will begin. You should know that the Mac will create a new user account and import all the data there. It does not modify any settings for your current user account, which is nice. Once completed, you’ll see a Cleaning up message and then a Quit button.

On the Windows side, you’ll see a Finishing Migration message followed by a message indicating that the transfer was completed successfully.

finishing migration

Once you restart your Mac, you’ll see the new user account and you should see all the data transferred located in that user profile. That’s about all there is to it!

It’s also worth noting that Migration Assistant cannot help you transfer any applications from PC to Mac for obvious reasons. Most applications have a PC and Mac version, such as Office and Adobe. If you need to run a Windows only app on your Mac, you can read my previous post on different programs you can use to run Windows on Mac.

Manually Transferring Data

If you want to manually transfer data without Migration Assistant, you can do so, but it requires a bit more work. You have to create a shared folder on your Windows machine and then connect to it from your Mac.

Note that if you have large amounts of data you need to transfer, it might be easier to simply use a portable hard drive, flash drive or network attached storage device.

Going through all the steps to share and connect would make this post too long, but luckily I already wrote a tutorial on connecting to a Windows shared folder from OS X.

In terms of manually getting data like contacts, email, bookmarks, etc, you would have to manually export the items and then import them into the appropriate program on your Mac. If you have any questions, feel free to comment. Enjoy!

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Fix for Cannot Remove or Delete Network Printer in Windows

If you work at an office, you probably have several printers added to your computer that are network printers, i.e. not connected directly to your computer. However, as you move around in the company or printers die out, that list has to be cleaned up every once in a while.

Sometimes when you try to delete a network printer, you may get a message from Windows saying “Cannot delete network printer” and that’s it! Great, so now you have useless printers clogging up your printer list. Luckily, there is a way to remove any network printer from your computer via the registry. Note that you will have to be an Administrator in order to do this.

Before you make any changes, make sure to read my post on backing up the Windows Registry. If you prefer not to mess with the registry, there is another possible solution that I list below that could also fix the problem, so be sure to scroll down.

Remove Network Printers from Windows via Registry Editor

Step 1: Click on Start, Run and then type in regedit and press Enter. This will open the registry editor.

regedit

Step 2: Navigate to the following key in the registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER – Printers – Connections

Here you should now see a list of all network printers with the server name first, then a comma, and then the name of the actual printer.

remove printer from registry

Go ahead and click on the printer in the left menu and press the Delete button or right-click and choose Delete. Unfortunately, that’s not all! You also have to delete the printer from one more location in the registry:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE – SYSTEM – CurrentControlSet – Control – Print – Providers – LanMan Print Services – Servers – Printers

Now under the servers key, you should be able to expand it and see the name of the print server that actually hosts the printer you want to delete. Go ahead and expand the print server key and delete the printer from the list.

cannot delete printer

Now close the registry editor and reboot your computer. The undeletable network printer should now be gone! Note that the method above is just for network printers. If you have a local printer and want to remove it the same way via the registry, you need to go to the following registry keys below:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlPrintEnvironments Windows NT x86 DriversVersion-3

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlPrintPrinters

Clear Printer Queue

It is also a known issue that you will not be able to delete a printer if there is a print job stuck in the printer queue. You can tell if a print job is stuck by going to the C:WindowsSystem32spoolPRINTERS folder and making sure it’s empty.

print queue clear

If not, then you can follow my previous article on forcefully clearing the printer queue in Windows. Once you clear the printer queue, you should be able to delete the printer from your system.

If you need to install the printer back onto your computer, check out my post on how to install a network printer on your home or office network. Enjoy!

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Generate a List of Startup Programs via Command Line or PowerShell

You probably already knew this, but if you want to see a list of all of the startup programs that run when Windows starts, you can simply go to the MSCONFIG tool and click on the Startup tab! Here you can enable or disable startup programs easily. You can read my previous article that explains how to use MSCONFIG in detail.

It’s worth noting that in Windows 8 and Windows 10, the Startup tab has been removed from MSCONFIG and is now included in the Task Manager. You can get to the Task Manager by simply right-clicking on the Start button in Windows 8 or Windows 10 and choosing Task Manager from the list.

task manager windows 10

Knowing which programs run at startup can be very useful for debugging all sorts of performance issues related to your PC. One recommendation I always give is to make a list of all of the startup programs enabled while your computer is running normally. That way, if your computer is running slow later on, you can always go back to MSCONFIG and uncheck anything that wasn’t originally listed.

msconfig windows 7

Also, there are times when technical support may request a list of startup programs in order to diagnose an issue with your computer. Generating a list and emailing them could save you a lot of time and prevent someone from having to connect remotely to your computer, which I never prefer since I don’t trust anyone else having access to my computer.

In addition to the task manager looking a bit nicer and cleaner in Windows 8 and Windows 10, it also forgoes the checkboxes and gives you a column called Startup Impact to help you gauge how that startup item affects the boot time.

windows 10 boot time

You can actually generate a list of all the startup programs in Windows using the command prompt or PowerShell and save the list as a text file or an HTML document. Follow the steps below.

Command Prompt

Step 1: Open the command prompt by going to Start, Run and typing in CMD. If you are unfamiliar with the command prompt, feel free to read my command prompt beginner’s guide first.

command prompt

Step 2: Now type in the following WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) command at the prompt and press Enter.

wmic startup get caption,command

You should now see a list of all the applications along with their paths that run at Windows startup.

cmd startup programs

If you want more information, you can also just type wmic startup and you’ll get a few extra fields like Location, UserSID and User.

Step 3: If you want to export the list out as a text file, type in the following command:

wmic startup get caption,command > c:StartupApps.txt

And if you want to create an HTML file, just type this instead:

wmic startup get caption,command > c:StartupApps.htm

PowerShell

If you prefer to use the more modern and powerful PowerShell, the command below will give you pretty much the same results as the WMI command above.

Get-CimInstance Win32_StartupCommand | Select-Object Name, command, Location, User | Format-List 

powershell startup programs

If you want to send the output of a PowerShell command to a text file, you can simply append the following part to the above command after Format-List.

| Out-File c:scriptstest.txt

Make sure to include the pipe symbol | that is at the very front. I actually prefer the output of PowerShell because the formatting is much easier to view in a text editor.

That’s about it. You should now have a list of startup programs that you can save and reference later. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment. Enjoy!

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How to Speed Up Logging Into Windows

Even with fast hardware and the newest operating system, logging into Windows can become painfully slow if there are a lot of programs that startup when Windows starts up. Note that I am not talking about how long it takes to boot Windows because that is a completely different beast.

I’ve already written previously on speeding up Windows boot times, speeding up Windows 7 and speeding up Windows 8. Just reading those articles will help you speed up Windows guaranteed. One common theme you’ll see in those articles is managing startup items.

As mentioned before, your Windows 8 or Windows 10 machine might be able to boot up in 10 seconds, but once you type in your password to login, it could take more than a minute to get to a fully functional desktop because of startup programs. I’ve already written a detailed article on how to disable startup programs in Windows 7 and higher, which you should read first.

However, there are situations where you simply can’t disable everything. Maybe you working in a corporate environment and are required to have certain programs startup when you login. If you’re a business owner or professional, you might have certain business applications that you want to start up when you login.

In this type of case, you need something different. One interesting solution to this problem is to delay the loading of the startup programs by the few minutes after you login. In this article, I’m going to talk about a program called Startup Delayer, which does exactly that.

Startup Delayer

Once you download and install the program, it will show you a dialog the first time you run the program. Here you have to choose how you want Startup Delayer to behave.

startup delayer behavior

Note that you can change whatever settings you picked here later on in the program settings. The dialog has a slider where the far left means you want your programs to load as fast as possible and you don’t mind your computer running slow or sluggish. There really isn’t any point to using this application if you choose the far left because all the programs loading immediately is what’s happening by default when you log into Windows.

As you move the slider to the right, you’ll see it’s pretty much the same except for the CPU and Disk Idle values. By default, its set to 30%, which means the program will wait till your computer is at least 30% idle before launching the delayed applications you have chosen.

Moving to the far right means your delayed applications will start later, but smoother. You might have to wait a minute or so before the application will launch. Startup Delayer manages all of this and will automatically launch the applications when the desired idle value is reached.

Once you click Save, you’ll get to the main program interface. Here you will see 3 tabs across the top: Startup Applications, Running Tasks and System Services. As the name of the first tab implies, any startup applications that start with Windows will be listed here.

startup delayer gui

The startup items are broken down into three different categories: Delayed, Normal Startup and Disabled. You can simply drag and drop the items to the section you like. To delay an application, just drag it from Normal Startup to Delayed like shown below.

delayed startup items

The first item you drag and drop will be given the first priority when loading. As you add more items, they will be added to the queue. When Startup Delayer loads the programs, it will launch then in the order listed. You can change the order of the items by dragging and dropping the items.

When you select an item, you will see that Automatic Delay is selected and the default values for CPU and DISK idle are listed. You can change the idle values for each application individually if you like also by simply selecting the item and typing in new values.

If you double-click on any of the delayed applications, you can configure the advanced settings. The General tab lets you edit the target in case you want to add any command line parameters to the program.

launch details

On the Delay tab, you can again edit the idle values or choose to do a Manual Delay if you like, but the program developers don’t recommend using manual delays.

delayed program wait

On the Wait tab, you can check a box to ensure that the application has completed loaded before Startup Delayer continues loading other applications. You can also set it so that Startup Delayer will wait until the current program is terminated or a user gives confirmation before launching the next application.

delayed program advanced

On the Advanced tab, you can configure options so that the program launches on certain days only, doesn’t launch if another instance is already running, or launches if an Internet connection is detected. This option can be useful in certain situations. For example, do you really need Skype to launch if there is no Internet connection?

Finally, going back to the main screen, you can click on the green Add New button to add a program that is not already listed. This can be really useful for things like launching a web browser or a MS Office application or any other program that may not automatically startup when logging into Windows.

The Running Tasks lists out all of the current processes running on the system. Again, if something is not listed in the main tab, you can go to Running Tasks, select a process and then click the small round plus button. I would be very careful about adding anything from here to the delayed section because many of the processes listed are Windows processes.

Luckily, they have a filter that lets you hide all the Microsoft processes so that you see only processes created by third-party programs. Just click on the Filter button and then click Hide all created by Microsoft.

hide microsoft processes

The last tab is System Services, which lets you stop, start and disable Windows services, but for the purposes of this article, you should just leave it alone unless you know what you are doing.

Before we get into whether this program actually works well or not, there are a couple of other small items to mention. Firstly, you can click on the Options button at the top right of the main interface to change how the program behaves. I personally haven’t had to mess around with any settings here, but if you want more information during the login process, you can click on the Launch Process tab and select Show always during Startup and check the Show Launch Process Window on Startup.

launch options

By default, the program keeps itself very well hidden and only pops up during the login process if something goes wrong. Otherwise, you won’t even know anything is going on. What’s nice about the program is that it has a plethora of options so you can see more info if you like.

Secondly, you can click on the Tools button to do even more stuff like create startup profiles, view the last launch log, view the last performance graph, create a backup of all your settings, etc.

startup delayer tools

Performance Results

So does this program really work? Well, when I tried it out back in 2008, it didn’t work all that well. Back then, it simply did a manual delay, which didn’t work very well. However, in the ensuing years, the program has gotten a lot more advanced and in my tests on Windows 7, it made a significant difference in the user experience.

Instead of sitting around waiting for the desktop to become clickable or waiting for the Start menu to appear after clicking on it 10 times, Startup Delayer can make everything seem snappy. You obviously have to wait a bit longer for some programs to load up, but I have never once felt I needed one of those startup programs to load immediately after logging in.

It’s also worth noting that the program becomes more useful if you have a larger number of startup items. If you only have a couple of things loading up on startup, it’s probably not going to make a major difference. Let us know if the program helped on your system or not. Enjoy!

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Change or Spoof a MAC Address in Windows or OS X

Every NIC (Network Interface Card) has a unique MAC address (Media Access Control). This applies to all types of network cards, including Ethernet cards and WiFi cards. The MAC Address is a six-byte number or 12-digit hexadecimal number that is used to uniquely identify a host on a network.

An example of a MAC address is 1F-2E-3D-4C-5B-6A and it falls into the Layer 2 networking protocol of the OSI model. In today’s networks, ARP, or Address Resolution Protocol converts a MAC address to a Layer 3 protocol address, such as an IP address. A MAC address can also be called a Physical Address. Read my post on how to find your MAC address if you don’t know it.

mac address

All MAC addresses are hard-coded into a network card and can never be changed. However, you can change or spoof the MAC address in the operating system itself using a few simple tricks.

So why would you want to change your MAC address? Well there are many reasons for this, mostly related to bypassing some kind of MAC address filter set on a modem, router or firewall. Changing the MAC Address can help you bypass certain network restrictions by emulating an unrestricted MAC Address or by spoofing a MAC address that is already authorized.

For example, a WiFi network may allow only authorized computers to connect to the network and filters out computers based on the MAC address. If you can sniff out a legitimate MAC address, you can then spoof your MAC address and gain access to the WiFi network.

Another example is if you have an ISP that allows only a certain number of computers to connect to the Internet from your home. If you have more computers that need to connect, you can spoof the MAC address of an authorized computer and connect from a different computer.

Change Windows MAC Address

You can change the MAC address for the network card in Windows pretty easily following the steps below.

Step 1: Click on Start, then Control Panel, then Network Connections, and right-click on the network connection you want to change the MAC address for and select Properties. It will normally either be Local Area Connection or Wireless Network Connection.

local area connection

If you are using Windows Vista, Windows 7 or higher, you have to go to Control Panel, then Network and Internet, then Network and Sharing Center, and then click on Manage Network Connections or Change adapter settings.

change adpater settings

Then you can right-click on the adapter and choose Properties.

Step 2: On the General or Networking tab, click the Configure button.

configure network adapter

Step 3: Now click on the Advanced tab and click on the Locally Administered Address property or the Network Address property.

locally administered address

By default, the Not Present value is selected. Go ahead and click on the Value radio button and enter in a new MAC address. The MAC address is a combination of 6 pairs of numbers and characters, i.e. 40-A2-D9-82-9F-F2. You should enter the MAC address without the dashes.

mac address change

You can go to the command prompt and type in IPCONFIG /ALL to check that the MAC address has been changed. Go ahead and restart the computer in order for the changes to take effect.

This is the simplest way to change your MAC address in Windows. You can also do so via the registry, but it’s much more technical and probably not required by most people.

Change OS X MAC Address

Changing the MAC address on OS X is definitely not as easy as it is on Windows. Firstly, you have to use Terminal (similar to command prompt in Windows) to actually change the MAC address.

Secondly, you need to manually figure out the technical name of the adapter before you can change the settings. I’ll explain everything below step by step, but it gets a bit complicated at times.

To start, let’s find out the current MAC address for your Mac. You can do this in one of two ways: via System Preferences or via Terminal. Open System Preferences, click on Network and then click on the Advanced button. Make sure to select the appropriate interface first (WiFi, Ethernet, etc) in the listbox on the left.

os x network advanced

Click on the Hardware tab and you will see the first line is MAC Address. I thought you could simply choose Manually from the Configure dropdown, but that doesn’t allow you to edit the MAC address.

network hardware mac

In Terminal, you can get the MAC address by typing in the following command:

ifconfig en0 | grep ether

This will give you the MAC address for the en0 interface. Depending on how many interfaces you have on your computer, you might need to run this command several times adding 1 to the number each time. For example, I ran the following commands below until I reached an interface that didn’t exist.

terminal os x ifconfig

Now you can simply compare the MAC addresses listed here with the one you saw via System Preferences. In my case, my WiFi MAC address of f8:1e:df:d8:9d:8a matches with en1, so that is the interface I have to use for the next commands.

Before we change the MAC address, you can use a useful command in Terminal to generate a random MAC address if you need one.

openssl rand -hex 6 | sed ‘s/(..)/1:/g; s/.$//’

Now that you have a new MAC address, you can change the current one using the following command below. Replace XX with the actual MAC address you want to use.

sudo ifconfig en0 ether xx:xx:xx:xx:xx:xx

In order to do this, you need to be logged in as an Administrator or you have to enable the root account in OS X. By default, root is disabled and it’s better to leave it disabled if you can. Just login as an admin and you should be able to run the command just fine. It will ask you for your password, though, before changing the MAC address.

Also, the address won’t change if you are still connected to a WiFi network. You need to first disconnect from any networks and then run the command. Surprisingly, disconnecting from a wireless network in OS X is not intuitive at all. You have to press and hold the Option key and then click on the WiFi icon to see the disconnect option.

disconnect from wifi os x

So here is a rundown of all the commands I ran in order to get the current MAC address, generate a random one, update the MAC address and then verify to make sure it had actually changed.

mac address change os x

As I mentioned earlier, this is definitely not as straightforward as the process is on Windows, but you should be able to do it if you simply copy and paste the commands above. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment. Enjoy!

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