Advice for Mac user moving to PC-only environment?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips, Advice and Discussion (archive)' started by JonGraves, Apr 22, 2004.

  1. JonGraves macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2003
    Seattle WA, USA
    I have been a Mac user exclusively since the late 80s but am about to move to a company who only uses and supports PCs for all their intranet stuff etc (they are paying me more!).

    They will give me a PC laptop and/or PC desktop but It is going to be tough going from power user to neophyte! There is a lot of help around for PC to Mac switchers (and dog forbid Mac to PC switchers) but how can a Mac user stay sane, happy and productive in a PC-centric environment? Without getting too embroiled in how ugly and stupid Winblows is, does anyone have any practical suggestions?

    I guess I should get MacLink+ on the Mac side and Thursby's Macdrive 5 on the PC side but any other practical advice would be welcome.


    Quicksilver PowerMac G4.
    Trusty old Pismo.
    12" PowerBook G4/1.33GHz w. 80GB HD on order.
    Waiting for PM G5 RevB!
  2. kenkooler macrumors regular

    Jan 2, 2002
    Mexico City
    Buy one of those USB flash drives, they are incredibly useful if you have to move your information from a PC to a Mac, and to backup important files.
  3. JOD8FY macrumors 6502a


    Mar 22, 2004
    United States
    Not too much advise other than make sure you have a lot of patience. :D

    One thing that you'll probably miss is the beautiful sight of OSX. There was a thread on here a couple of weeks ago about how to make your pc look virtually like a mac. I can't remember what is was though, sorry. Does anyone remember this thread or know how to do it?

    Good luck (you'll need it),
  4. chv400 macrumors 6502

    Dec 16, 2003
    Houston, TX
    Make sure your apple stuff always works and get nifty gadgets to make them jelous and convert some of them to the mac side.
    it's worth a try...
  5. musicpyrite macrumors 68000


    Jan 6, 2004
    Cape Cod

    Fight the Man! ;)
  6. Mav451 macrumors 68000


    Jul 1, 2003
    Well the very, very first step is to change your attitude.

    There is no way you'll get work done at your new job if you are still tossing around "Winblows". If you can open your mind, while I understand this is hard for some Mac owners, you have to try. (ironic I am telling you, essentially, to think different).

    Aside from this, I guess visually, you can skin your interface so you can "tolerate" windows. StyleXP or Windowsblinds will do the trick, and places like or can get you started.

    That's it for now. Change your attitude and some skinning should improve your experience (while the first is monumentally more important than the second). The more close-minded you are...the less you will be able to work in your new environment. Well, good luck with your new job :)

    ok...didn't read that the first time. This means you may have to try harder than other Mac users who still use both PC and Mac. If you have not even touched a PC in a while, you need to understand that things have considerably changed from 3.1 to 95, and from 98 to 2000 to XP. Take your time.
  7. law guy macrumors 6502a

    law guy

    Jan 17, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
  8. Danrose1977 macrumors regular


    I'm supprised nobody has suggested sabotage yet....

    If they are running NT machines I recomend inserting subliminal messages, change their boot.ini to read:

    [boot loader]
    [operating systems]
    multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINNT="!Switch to Apple!" /fastdetect

    BTW: I'm only joking! Don't mess around with their boot ini unless you know what you are doing!!!
  9. AnotherMortal macrumors regular

    Jan 14, 2003
    Mac in Windows Only

    There was a thread several weeks back (maybe more than a month) where a user got in trouble for bringing their Mac to work. Personally, I'd speak with your direct supervisor and get their permission(or have them act as an intermediary) to use you Mac at work. Some things can only be done on the PC, and thats fine, but other things are just better on a Mac. Like email. Has anyone got infected recently by Netsky on their Mac?

    Just be polite and take it easy. Windows doesn't suck *that* bad. :)
  10. 1macker1 macrumors 65816


    Oct 9, 2003
    A Higher Level
    The PC environment isn't that bad. As long as you avoid some of the bullcrap 3rd party software. That's what makes the PC environment such a bad experience.
  11. g30ffr3y macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2002
    buffalo ny

    style xp has a built in theme called panther... it gives you the aqua wallpaper, changes the start button to an apple... skins your window... etc... i used it on my gf's dell because i couldnt stand the sight of xp...

    her new emac is scheduled to ship 4/28... i wont have to touch that UI : )
  12. MattG macrumors 68040


    May 27, 2003
    Asheville, NC
    Are you still going to be able to use your Mac in this environment? If so, I would strongly recommend getting Thursby Dave 5. I bought this and it has made my life infinitely easier working in a Windows environment. It allows me to easily share files and printers connected to my Mac, as well as connecting to files/printers on the Windows network.
  13. rueyeet macrumors 65816


    Jun 10, 2003
    The iDisk utility for Windows might help too, if you use .Mac.

    You didn't say what you'd be doing, but if it's basic office productivity type stuff, there's really not a whole lot of functional difference (we'll leave aside usability and aesthetics for now). Using a Windows machine every day at work and a Mac at home has given me a good idea of the little differences that you're likely to stumble on.

    • The somewhat misnamed Start menu is like the Apple menu in OS X; it's where you log out or shut down, and it has the system settings (Control Panel, under Settings).
    • Open a program via Start menu or by double-clicking a desktop icon.
    • Be aware that closing an application's last window also quits the application (not that this makes a whole bunch of difference except time to relaunch).
    • Application settings aren't uniformly under an application menu or the Edit menu, they can be found in different places from app to app (try the Edit, View, and Tools menus).
    • Windows Explorer (not to be confused with Internet Explorer) is the equivalent of the Finder. You can get spatial, one-folder-to-a-window, Classic Mac type navigation by double-clicking My Computer. Or, for an interface similar to iTunes (left panel folders, right panel contents) or a little like OS X Column View, right-click My Computer and choose Explore instead of Open.
    • Drives will always show up as available whether or not anything's in them, or whether they're connected. There's no mounting/unmounting as such, though you can connect/disconnect a network drive, or start/stop an attached USB drive.
    There are some good things about the Windows interface (to me anyway):

    • You can resize a window from any edge (but must still move it from the title bar).
    • That middle window control button toggles between two distinct and consistent states: Maximize always makes the window full-screen, and Restore always puts the window back at the size you had it (not whatever size the app thinks it should be).

    Consider looking at one of the Switcher guides anyway; you can actually extrapolate Windows differences from their translation to Mac concepts. Hope this helps!
  14. Gemini macrumors newbie

    Apr 23, 2004
    I am a future switcher. Right now, I have two Windows machines. I've had at least one for about eight years. I've been trying to streamline my experience with Windows for about half that time. Here I'll offer advice for someone coming to it from a better OS, as well as general Windows tips. If you've never touched a Windows box before, then this will all be Greek to you, and you should come back after you've poked around XP for a few hours. Switching won't be easy, I imagine, and it might feel like you've been demoted to garbage detail or something, but here's my tips for a smooth transition.

    1. Do NOT use that garbage that gives you a top-of-the-screen menu bar and a dock looking thing at the bottom. The menu bar is difficult to configure and it devours precious system resources, and it isn’t as good as the Mac OS one since there’s still a one-pixel barrier between it and the top of the screen. The dock thing is even worse about eating CPU cycles, and there's no replacement for system tray icons on it.

    2. Windows XP tweaking. I won't go into registry hacks or anything like that here, but there are some things you must know.

    - Indexing Service: go into the search box and disable this monstrous system hog. Get rid of that annoying damned dog while you're at it.

    - msconfig: Type 'msconfig', without the quotes of course, into the run box, click the Startup tab, and you can get rid of any **** that might be running in the system tray in startup.

    - GUI effects: Or, how to turn them off. The fades and slides that menus and buttons do here look cool for about 10 minutes to a former 98 user. Then they start to get annoying. They can be turned off in System properties, which you can get to by right clicking on My Computer and hitting properties. Then click the advanced tab and look for the visual effects options.

    Might want to skip this next bit if you're a completely new PC user. If not, then install TweakUI, a free XP 'Powertoy' from Microsoft. Powertoy means this is a cool thing we made, and you can use it, but don't come crying to us when you break your machine. The other powertoys that don't suck are Open Command Window Here, Image Resizer, and the Power Calculator. I'm also told the Virtual Desktop one is decent, but I have no need for that. Install the ones you'll use.

    In TweakUI, poke around and see what you'd like to change. I recommend General - Focus, and making it where other apps like AIM can't steal focus from what you're looking at. Most of the other settings are user preference. I always customize the places bar (the thing with My Computer, Desktop, etc in open and save dialogues) to be a static set of folders and locations so I can get where I need to go quickly. I also always use this to change "My Music", "My Pictures", etc, to just Music, Pictures, etc. Of course they're mine, they're on my damned computer!

    3. The best non-included apps. I don’t exactly know what you need, so this’ll be an exhaustive list. Your company will probably provide a version Office and Norton Antivirus to you. Office obviously has a decent word processor and Outlook isn’t a bad mail client. Norton is, well, Norton. The de-facto standard. If they don’t give you Office, get OpenOffice and use webmail. If they don’t give you Norton, use webmail religiously, don’t download any dodgy ****, and pray you don’t get a virus anyway.

    Avant Browser - better than Safari in my opinion, though they both have strengths and weaknesses. Avant is basically a new frontend for the IE rendering engine, so badly designed pages won't look wacky under it like they might under Mozilla or something else. It's got plenty of options, though the most jarring for someone used to Safari is the lack of multiple instances. Just tabs here. Of course, it has popup blocking. The UI here is completely customizable, including skins. It's fairly stable and very fast. (Faster than IE by a mile.) It can also stay open in your system tray so the browser doesn't have to load each time you go to use it. It's free, too.

    AIM 4.8 and AIM+ - as a heavy AIM user, I hate the bloated, ad-filled newer AIM clients. AIM 4.8 has less features than newer versions, but it's nice and fast, and AIM+ streamlines it even more with cloning, logging, and UI tweaks. It does transparency, but it mostly comes off as a gimmick to me. If you use an old version like that you may have trouble with more advanced AIM features like direct connections and file transfers, but the compromise is worth it to me.

    iTunes PC/Quicktime - duh.

    BSPlayer - A good, fast, skinnable video player.

    VLC - You already know about this player, probably. It's good on the PC too.

    FTP - I always seem to move between CuteFTP and FlashFXP. XP has built in, sucktacular FTP support. Avoid it.

    Ad-aware - Being a Windows machine comes with the liability of getting spyware, which is **** that gets in through various places and causes additional pop-ups, crappy 404 replacement pages, and general system decay. Ad-aware removes it. Scan often, you pick this **** up just browsing the web. Ad-aware scanning is basically like your PC taking a shower.

    Daemon Tools – Creates up to 4 virtual optical drives, and can be used to mount image files. I thought you might want to know the Windows equivalent of this since OS X does it natively.

    4. Tips in using Windows.

    Save often: This OS crashes. It can crash a lot. Don’t let yourself get screwed over by it.

    Internet Explorer: When those BS “Would you like to install this application from Blahblahblah Software?” dialogue boxes appear, 99% of the time, you want to say no.

    Alt-tab: This is your friend. In OS X, it’s used for switching between running programs. Here, it’s used for switching between both programs and documents that are on the taskbar.

    Windows key + R: Just about anything is a few keystrokes away with this. Solitaire? Type sol. Calculator? calc. Word? winword. Excel? excel. Another useful 'command': iexplore <insertURLhere> will open a URL in IE. 'telnet <address>' does the same for telnet windows. 'cmd' will open a DOS window, and all DOS commands will run from the run box, though they don't pause so you can see the results. The run box will run any shortcut you place in the Windows directory, too.

    Windows key + E: Windows Explorer
    Windows key + S: Search
    Windows key + M: Minimize all/show desktop
    Windows key + break: System properties.

    Screen real estate: Apple has the right idea in not letting apps use the entire screen unless it's completely necessary, like games or something like iMovie, and you can still get at the area on the sides of the dock if you need something off your desktop. Windows apps like to run maximized. Don't let them do it, and don't get used to this. It's much easier to use the OS when you can get at your desktop at all times, or the app that's inactive behind . Adobe apps are the worst in this respect, because they hang onto the floating toolbars from the Mac world and just fill the screen with dead gray space. Worthless, I say. Worthless!

    File types: When you install new apps, they often can steal your file type associations away, and change icons on files. In any folder, hit Tools, then Folder Options. The file types tab can be used to reign in control over what opens you files. You can also change basic file associations by right clicking on the file type you’re concerned with hitting Open With – Choose Program, and once you’re in there select the proper program and check that “Always use this program” box.

    - Desktop icons: Get more stuff on your desktop by clicking "Customize Desktop" under the Desktop tab in Display properties. My Computer should be there, no questions asked.
  15. Gemini macrumors newbie

    Apr 23, 2004
    [Hit the character limit there, apparently. Here's volume two.]

    - Office: The toolbars in all office apps are completely customizable by right clicking on them and hitting Customize. If you’re like me you don’t really need bull**** like “Insert Hyperlink” in the toolbar for your word processor, and you can get rid of it.

    - System restore: I hate System Restore. If you attempt to use it to get rid of some BS software you installed or to get your computer back into a semi-working state, it sometimes works. Most of the time it just completely ****s over your registry and device driver settings. It also uses 12% of your hard drive space by default. Leave it if it makes you feel better, but if space is an issue, turn it down or off.

    - Higher resolutions: If you run your screen above 1024 x 768, default Windows icon and font sizes can start to be less than adequate. Sizes of many UI elements can be tweaked by hitting the Advanced button under the Appearance tab in display properties. If you need all around bigger, head to the Settings tab, hit Advanced, and crank the DPI up to 120. This requires a reboot, you have been warned.

    - You can turn off the delete confirmation dialogue in the Recycle Bin properties.

    - The start menu is customizable by right clicking on it and hitting properties.

    - Reboot your Windows machine daily.

    5. Basic troubleshooting

    - Program freezes, but won’t quit: Kill the process in Task Manager, which can be accessed by right clicking on the taskbar or from Ctrl Alt Delete. The task manager can also be used to view how much various apps are using your CPU and RAM.

    - Something is happening that isn’t supposed to happen, something isn’t happening that is supposed to happen, or a combination of the two: reboot. Usually fixes the problem.

    I think that about covers everything. If I think of anything else, I’ll follow up with another post. If anyone has any questions, I’ll be watching this thread, you can PM me, or you can get me on AIM, and if I’m not busy I’ll try to answer them.
  16. Flynnstone macrumors 65816


    Feb 25, 2003
    Cold beer land
    Treat it like a tool, not part of your life.
    If it doesn't work proper, its someone elses problem -> the IT department.
  17. JonGraves thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2003
    Seattle WA, USA
    Thanks for all the thoughtful advice and encouragement (particularly Gemini, rueyeet, and law guy).

    I work in Biomedical Research so most of the work I do is either accessing/searching databases (often proprietary), ordering supplies (again proprietary front end), collaborative communication (Outlook), writing (Word), and presenting (Creative Suite/PowerPoint). As I understand it, they will give me a PC laptop and/or desktop that is completely preconfigured. I don't think I am really supposed to deviate too far from their standard install (although reskinning will be essential).

    I guess I am pretty much resigned to using the PC in work for most of the proprietary database and collaborative stuff. I am hoping I can use my Powerbook for some of the other things and that I can exchange information between them. Using Outlook (clutter and bloat) is going to be a big shock! Although I imagine we will be pretty securely firewalled, I am also concerned about spyware/worm exposure.

    Flynnstone: I think you are right, I am just used to feeling really comfortable when I am immersed in work on the Mac. I sometimes use the metaphor of feeling like I am in a comfortable room in my own house. In comparison, Windows feels like a night in a cheap motel! I am also definitely more of a "fight the man" person than an "adjust your attitude" sort of person!


    My 12" PowerBook is on the plane with everyone elses!
  18. Horrortaxi macrumors 68020


    Jul 6, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Just today I found myself in this position. I was given a new Dell at work and I suspect that when the new "Hardware Policy" comes out next week that we'll be banned from connecting our laptops to the network. This computer is useless. I don't have admin access so I can't install anything. I can't change anything. I can't DO anything but open Outlook, Explorer, and Office. I can't print because I don't have permission to install a print driver. It is hell.

    So here are my 2 ideas for coping with the PC world: Knoppix and a thumb drive.
  19. JonGraves thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2003
    Seattle WA, USA
    Cross-platform iPod use?

    Rather than a USB memory thingy, I would rather use my Mac formatted iPod on the PC. Sounds like Xplay2 will do that:

  20. Krizoitz macrumors 65816


    Apr 26, 2003
    Tokyo, Japan
    Instant Messaging

    If you are at all going to need instant messaging capabilites while running your PC, I'd check out Trilian its a chat client that works with MSN, Yahoo, AIM, etc is skinable (thankfully the default one is hideous).

    Also see if a Mac with VirtualPC would be sufficient for your needs, its worth a shot.
  21. Gemini macrumors newbie

    Apr 23, 2004
    Mac formatted iPods don't read on PCs, but PC formatted ones read on Macs.
  22. 3-22 macrumors regular

    Nov 19, 2002
    Oh, it's not too bad. Just consider the PC the rusty 'ol pickup truck for getting the job done. You will appreciate coming home to your "sporty" Mac. :p

    Hopefully, they use XP. It's not too bad, the biggest problem is the ugly factor and UI inconsistencies. The ugly factor you can get used to or look at 3rd party products, the inconsistencies you just get used to in time. Being a new job, I wouldn't recommend going and adding hacks and stuff to make it look like OS X. You'll just tick the IT admins off right from the start probably, and they can make your life miserable. Besides while there are somethings that can make it look OS X like, it ain't OS X no matter when you do. As for learning curve you'll pick it up quickly. Most people on these boards will probably freak out on this claim, but they really aren't all that different when you get down to it. They have been borrowing from each for so many years... What you will miss is a lot of the refinement on OS X and cool features (expose, etc.). Many times I find myself hitting the key for Expose at work only to have Windows do nothing.

    For moving data back and forth get yourself a nice USB 2.0 - 256MB or 128MB thumb drive. ~$30-$60 They are great...

    As a side note, don't go in there whining about Mac vs PC. Once you win them over though you can start converting them... :D
  23. JonGraves thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2003
    Seattle WA, USA
    Cross platform iPods

    Hi Gemini,
    Mac formatted iPods read on PCs via Xplay 2:

    "There's more than one way to use your iPod with Windows. XPlay 2 gives you the drop-and-go convenience of integration with Explorer, the ability to use Mac-formatted iPods with your Windows PC, and even automatic WMA-to-MP3 conversion (requires any Windows Media Player-compatible MP3 creation pack)."

  24. Flynnstone macrumors 65816


    Feb 25, 2003
    Cold beer land
    The Mac is like a BMW (like), classy, refined, rugged ...

    The PC is like the rusty 'ol Pickup, but dressed like the new Chev SST. Look great on the outside, got big block with lots of power, but the rest of the drive train is like that rust old truck.
    Carefully take a lot from A to B and you'll be ok, but pin it and your problems start. Hit the throttle to hard and you break the driveshaft, then you'll need to install Norton NewDriveShaft. :D

    (I'm not sure how Gates figures this will go 100 MPH and get 1000 MPG?)
  25. zamyatin macrumors regular

    Jul 15, 2003
    Open Source Apps

    In my experience, using Windows can be made much more bearable by using plenty of open source apps. Because, really, you spend more time in the applications than you do in the OS and its file management tools. So, if you can, try to use some of the following apps. (And perhaps recommend to your IT people that they investigate wider deployment within your company.)

    - OpenOffice to replace MS Office (

    - Mozilla Firefox to replace IE (

    - a Jabber IM app to replace MSN Messenger (

    - Mozilla Thunderbird to replace MS Outlook (

    - jEdit for text editing (

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