Changing from PC to Mac help

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by scottdw92, May 17, 2010.

  1. scottdw92 macrumors newbie

    May 17, 2010
    I have used PCs all my life so am not familiar with Macs. I am going to college next fall and need to buy a laptop. I've played with my friend's iMac and really like it. I'm thinking about buying a MBP for school.

    Anyways, what I'd like to know is what software and extras I'd need to buy. My school is windows based and I'd have a lot of my own files to transfer over. I don't need anything more than the basics, but I'm really clueless as to what I'd need to buy to make the transition smooth. Any help/suggestions would be appreciated. Sorry for my lack of knowledge
  2. McGiord macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2003
    Dark Castle
    Depending on what you are going to study you might need specific software.
    Generally speaking an office suite is needed:
    - MS Office for Mac - Excel macros were not supported i the 2008 version - not sure about the latest versions
    - OpenOffice - free
    - iWork from apple
    Running Windows is also possible:
    - VirtualBox - free virtual machine software,
    - you need a windows license or the OS you want to run
  3. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    I respect your decision to buy a Mac to take to college with you. However, my advice to you - and to anyone else looking to buy any type of computer to take to college - is to contact the college first.

    Some colleges require students to buy a particular laptop. Some require you to be able to run certain software, or run a certain configuration on your machine. Yes, they can do that.

    Then again, many colleges don't really have much of a preference in what you buy. If that's the case, my advice is to get Office for Mac, because you need maximum compatibility with your professors, your departments, and your classmates. I'm sure OpenOffice and iWork are fine products, but they just aren't Office.

    I'd also look into buying Windows and installing it on a Boot Camp partition, then install either Fusion or Parallels to access it in a VM if you ever need to.

    Down the road you might like to pick up an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse to connect to the laptop when you're in your dorm/apartment.
  4. mikeo007 macrumors 65816

    Mar 18, 2010
    Very sound advice. Just wanted to add my experience to the mix: using a mac in a windows exclusive school can be hell. You could run into problems with normal every day things simply because the school doesn't support macs. For example, some schools require a special wireless client to connect to their networks, and they may not have a mac client available. Issues like this aren't common, but they do happen.

    You could run windows using bootcamp of course, but if you're going to be spending all your time in windows anyway, why get a mac?

    Definitely contact the school and see what they have to say. My guess is that there will be no problem as long as you're willing to jump through a few hoops.
  5. JodyK macrumors 6502a


    Jan 29, 2010
    Northern Atlanta suburbs
    No offense to the last two posters BUT he fact is Mac is actually in the majority on the college campus in 2010. This is Apple's future customer base. Once you go Mac you won't go back.

    Yes get a Mac and if your college requires you use Windows (not going to happen BUT let's play pretend) then you can run Windows on your Mac also. You go do so in two different ways. 1. Boot camp ... You choose which way to go when you boot up the laptop ... windows or Mac. 2. In a virtual machine ... I use VMware ... You can run windows and Mac at the same time! you basically have Windows open in a browser like setting. It pretty cool.

    As far as office they are right in that MS Office kinda is the standard but iWork for the Mac is gaining traction.

    Make the leap you will be glad you did.
  6. mikeo007 macrumors 65816

    Mar 18, 2010
    It's cool to voice your opinion, but be careful what you claim. There are still many PC exclusive campuses out there, and even more who will allow you to use OSX but do not officially support it. The bottom line is, PCs are cheaper, much cheaper. A school can outfit a lab with top end PCs for about 1/3 of the price of using Macs. Also, in any program that requires specialized hardware, PCs are used almost exclusively as well.
  7. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    Your post is a bit short-sighted; and I'm certain it doesn't apply to every campus.

    Yes, there are plenty of Macs on both of my colleges' campuses; but that's not the same as saying it's a good idea to get one.

    Both of my colleges had computer labs with several different platforms of computers available; PC, Mac, Unix, etc. We were free to use what we wanted in certain circumstances.

    However, if our textbook came with a CD which had a program on it that was Windows-only, then we had to use a PC. Professors often write their own programs to give you to use (depending on your program). And some campuses literally require you to buy a specific computer; and yes, they can do that. Very often it's more dependent on your program of study than just saying "there are Macs on the campus."
  8. niter macrumors 6502

    Sep 9, 2003
    I say go for it...but I am a Mac user and my campus is certainly Mac friendly. However, Mac or PC I would always contact your University before purchasing either to see what Platform might be required as well as any other necessary specs. It would be wise to contact your department of study as they may hav specific specs and programs you need to use (that will also weigh in the decision).

    Also, do you plan on using One Note? While I would pick Mac over a PC any day and twice on Sunday, that was the one feature I wish I had access to as a student. MacOffice Notebook is NOT OneNote. If you can use other programs that are similar (as I did), no worries there either.
  9. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    Speaking as a (retired) professor, if you get a Mac, be sure to get MS Office. It's not a matter of better-than, it's a matter of making your prof's life easier.

    Yes, it was my job to give equal attention to all student papers that came in electronically, and I did. And in the best of all possible worlds it wouldn't matter what format your paper arrives in. But in the real world, it does -- if I had struggle to convert an incoming paper into something that Word could read, then when I started to grade it I'd have to work to overcome my irritation. Almost always it wouldn't make a difference . . . but sometimes, like students, I'd be pulling a late night to get my grading done, and then small obstacles felt like big ones.

    Don't make your professors work hard to grade your assignments.

    BTW, I much preferred WordPerfect to Word but, as other posters have said, colleges have the right to insist on the standards they want, and my place was Word or nothing. They allowed Macs but the support just wasn't there. I didn't convert until after I retired, because of the hassle.
  10. Penn Jennings macrumors 6502

    Apr 22, 2010
    I would start off with Open Office. You can save your files to Word 97 .DOC file format, and read .DOC files. Most of you issues will be related to Word and excel, in that order. Open Office include Word and Excel compatible applications and it's free. If you find out that it doesn't work for you, spending $140 on MS Office is always an option.
  11. bigdaddyp macrumors regular

    Aug 19, 2008
    I really don't have much to add about using a mac on campus, there is already some good advice given in the thread.
    Here are a few simple things I think you should (imho) have.

    MS Office-Not free, costs 1 arm and 1 leg but worth it.
    Perian-Free plugin helps with media playback.
    VLC- Free program media playback.
    Growl-Free program, provides notifications.
    Transmission- Free program, good bittorent client.
    Insomnia- Free Program, can keep your mac from sleeping even when the lid is closed.

    There is a free utility that monitors the smart status of your hdd and can alert you of a possible failure but I can't remember the name. I will update my post when I remember.

    Learn how macs mount and install it's software and what library pref files are. Its simple but coming from windows it can seem counterintuitive.

    I don't necessarily recommend anitivirus other than to scan files you pass on or forward to Windows users. You ultimately will have to judge if that is necessary.

    You may never have to use them but read up on fixing permissions, resetting pram and smc (I think its called that).

    I hope this helps.

  12. hl450 macrumors member

    May 18, 2010
    I would just buy the machine and take it to school without buying extra softwares(especially MS office)

    Many universities have agreement with software companies so that they provide students free(or reduced price) copies of their software. For example, we get MS office and many of adobe products for free. In face not just these two companies but there are alot more software that can be obtained freely if you are a student.

    Even windows license(in case you are interested in installing via bootcamp) as well.. it only costs us 20 dollars to buy Windows 7 or Vista CD from school book store/computer shop...
  13. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Don't buy either a computer or software without consulting the university first (might be as easy as checking their website). Some schools have special deals on hardware as well as software.

    Regarding the word processor choice, I'm an instructor and get homework submissions in many formats. I've got, Office for Mac 2008, and Pages and use Pages for my handouts (converted to PDF). Depending on the coursework, you might get best results with Office for Windows (either under a virtual machine or just a Windows PC) because they aren't compatible. In particular, equations created on the latest Office for Windows do no display properly in Office for Mac. Also Excel is missing features (such as the solver) if you will be taking courses that need that. I've also had problems with students using Microsoft proprietary fonts (which Word defaults to) which I didn't have on my Mac until the 2008 version. I've also had issues with figures in WMF or PS formats (ironically handles the Windows Metafile format better than Microsoft Office for Mac!)

    I suggest students submit in PDF if they can and have given them a list of fonts to use if they can't. It doesn't help with collaborative work, but PDF format is always readable, tends to look the best (since the format is maintained), and is easy to generate from any source on the Mac.
  14. monokakata macrumors 68000


    May 8, 2008
    Hilo, Hawai'i
    And one more little thing, which has nothing to do with which machine or applications you use.

    When submitting work electronically, be sure to embed your name or some other form of unique ID in the document title. I cannot tell you how many times I got submissions titled "assignment.doc" or variation of that and of course I had to open to see whose work it was, and rename them before saving. A small thing, but your instructors will thank you for it.

    I agree with the other suggestions. At my college, MS Office was something like $12, and any Windows O/S was about $20.
  15. Winni macrumors 68030


    Oct 15, 2008

    Maybe in certain area of the United States Macs have become the majority, but rest assured that this is far from being true in the rest of the world. Apple still does not have more than ten percent of global market share, so let's be realistic.

    "Once you go Mac you won't go back."

    Until you want to play Gears of War or need CAD or business/accounting software. Or you need to program for some large corporation, which widely use COBOL or C# or some other language that exists in a working version for Windows but not for Macs.

    Or simply until you open a Microsoft Office document and realize that it very often loses all its formatting when open in the Mac versions of MS Office or you notice that it contains makros that don't run on the Mac.

    And in the moment that you realize that you still NEED Windows to get a job done, "switching" to the Mac proved itself a stupid idea. Because, let's be honest, if you still need Windows in Boot Camp or a virtual machine, you have not really migrated. You've basically crippled yourself by using an expensive crutch to still run commodity software.

    Macs are beautiful machines and they run Windows - and Linux! - very well. It's just that could get much more bang for a lot less bucks to do that.

    As long as you cannot drop Windows completely, it doesn't make economic sense to buy a Mac. Unless, of course, you want that piece of designer hardware on your lap or desk at all costs.
  16. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    I changed from PC to Mac in 2008 for my personal computer, (and I love my MBP) but most of my work environments since then, including my current one, are Windows based.

    You will love the change, but it is a change, as the actual commands are subtly different and take a little getting used to, or re-learning. The same functions exist, just there are different ways of doing them. There are plenty of Mac switcher lists online - I downloaded one and it sits permanently on my desktop.

    Thus, I'll echo many of the points made here; get Office for Mac, most of the world uses Word and you'll need it. Moreover, as someone who spent over 20 years teaching at third level, I agree entirely with monokakata's post - don't make the life of those who will grade your papers more difficult than they have to be.

    Different colleges have different requirements re computers, and I agree with all of the earlier posters who suggested that you check this out; here, I'm writing from personal experience. Most of the universities I taught in had both, but my most recent academic employer was Windows only. Worse, the software the college used was not compatible with Mac. This was unexpected, and a bit of a bummer, as the college had done a lot of pioneering work in distance learning, and was probably the most technologically advanced in the country, having pioneered this type of learning and the attendant technology. However, and this is an irony, because I have a MBP, I could not teach online from my home, which meant I had to be on campus to teach online, - a round trip of hundreds of miles - whereas most of the students (with their Windows machines) could tune in from their homes.

    Anyway, enjoy college and enjoy your Mac. Good luck.

  17. GGJstudios macrumors Westmere


    May 16, 2008
    Users who need such software wouldn't have converted to Mac, in the first place, if equivalent apps aren't available for Mac OS X.
    Untrue. I'm sharing Office documents (Word, Excel and Powerpoint) daily with users of Office for Windows 2003 and 2007, and have had NO formatting problems from Office 2008.
    A security feature that I greatly appreciate.
    Many have said that Windows runs better on Boot Camp on their Mac than it did on a Windows PC, so I'd hardly say they're "crippled". YMMV

    After being a power-user of Windows since 3.1, I switched completely to Mac over 2 years ago. I've never found anything I could do with Windows that I can't do on a Mac with much less hassle, faster performance, zero malware issues, much more elegant installation/removal of apps, etc.

    Everyone has different needs and I would never suggest that Macs are perfect for everyone or that Windows are perfect for everyone. However, Macs are the best solution for a large number of people, and a very great number of current Windows users could transition to Mac and find a better computing experience, without giving up any meaningful functionality.

    I'm curious: why couldn't you teach online from home? There are plenty of remote desktop and remote presentation apps available for Mac OS X.
  18. Penn Jennings macrumors 6502

    Apr 22, 2010
    Wow, you know, I have to say that I agree. Many of Apples policies are pro Apple and not pro consumer.
  19. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    [I'm curious: why couldn't you teach online from home? There are plenty of remote desktop and remote presentation apps available for Mac OS X.[/QUOTE]

    The college said that their software (which the students had access to) was not compatible with a Mac, and that they had not developed a compatible version, hence I had to use one of the college's offices when teaching/broadcasting. Actually, when I bought the MBP, I was sure that as the college was the most tech literate (and advanced) place I had ever worked in, that it would be no problem and that they would have a version of their software that was Mac compatible. To my surprise, this was not the case. In fact, (errrrr, um, they used Dells....)

    These days, I'm working abroad in a very different environment & job (diplomatic/Govt/international but also very much a Windows world, alas), but expect to return (eventually) to the educational coalface, so any information or pointers on that topic you could suggest would be more than welcome.

    However, and moreover, if I'm to be completely honest, I have to admit that I didn't push it too hard as it gave me a great excuse to get to the capital each week and justify my trip by saying I had to travel there to teach....

  20. mdatwood macrumors 6502a

    Mar 14, 2010
    Denver, CO
    Instead of quoting everyone I'll just give you my IMHO.

    If the school hasn't figured out how to have more than just Windows on their network I would seriously question what school you're attending. Macs may still only be 10% of the market share (and I'm guessing it's much higher in education), but then you also have iPhones, Androids phones, and a plethora of other wireless devices that are not Windows that many if not all students will have. A Windows only school that also has a computer science department is in really bad shape, and again would make me question the school.

    If professors care about formatting AT ALL, they will require all final drafts of papers to be turned in as PDFs. It's the only way to guarantee that you keep your formatting from machine to machine. Even going from one office version to another can and will change the formatting. All Macs come with the ability to save as PDF which is very nice.

    Buy the educational copy of MS Office for mac. The main reason for this is that you can find doc templates for most paper formats you will need (in my case is was the double column ACM/IEEE journal format). Sure, you can recreate them on another system, but that's work not directly related to getting done with the content. I think I bought the Office I have for $29 when they had a Thanksgiving day special. Even without the special it should still be super cheap for students. Check with your school. Also, depending on your program of study you may get additional discounts. All CS majors at my school received 'free' MSDNish accounts from MS. Indoctrinate early they say ;)

    For the times when you have to use Windows get VMware fusion and just install in a VM. Don't worry about bootcamp so much unless you really want to play games.
  21. Tomorrow macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2008
    Always a day away
    So I spend more than 98% of my time using OS X for nearly every task, but because 3-4 times a year I boot into Windows to use a piece of Windows-specific hardware, it was a "stupid idea" to spend my money by "switching" to a Mac?

    Generalize much? :rolleyes:

    I might agree with your statement if I bought a Mac and only used Windows; but a big part of why I bought Mac computers is because I enjoy using the OS and the bundled software. But because still use Boot Camp and Fusion from time to time, I "have not really migrated?" SeriouslY?

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