Options Aplenty to Move Data from PCs to Macs

- 2003.02.13 - Tip Jar

Apple is making moves on Windows users.

Its stylish products and TV ads are aimed at home users, and its servers and Unix-based operating system are gaining respect from corporate IT departments.

But users understandably worry whether they will be able to continue to access their stored data or the applications they need when they switch to a different computer platform.

Several products can help make the transition from a PC to a Mac less painful. Detto Technologies' Intellimover has automated the process of moving a user's data from one Windows PC to another. Its new Move2Mac can help to simplify the same process for new Mac-users.

Move2Mac identifies a user's data stored on the old PC, shuttles it across an included cable, and stores it in the appropriate locations on the new Mac.

Along with saved files, it can move browser favourites and even desktop wallpaper. While most files transfer automatically, Quicken financial data and stored email require extra steps, which are spelled out in the documentation. Pricing starts at $90 to transfer data from a single PC.

Moving your data may not be enough, however.

PC Word or Excel documents open without problem in the Mac versions of those applications, but many users have documents stored in more obscure file formats. DataViz offers a pair of products, Conversions Plus for Windows ($105) and MacLink Plus for Mac ($150), that include file viewers and converters for a wide range of word processors, spreadsheets, databases, graphics formats, and more.

The current MacLink Plus runs happily under both the new OS X and the older Mac operating systems. It lets Mac owners work with many otherwise unreadable files, whether created on PCs or older Macs. Files created using classics WordStar, WordPerfect, MacWrite, or dozens of other applications continue to be usable.

Some users may find that they rely on one or two Windows programs that simply don't have Mac equivalents. The Mac version of Microsoft Office doesn't include the Access database program, for example. Many companies rely on custom-written applications that may only run under Windows - or even DOS.

For those times, a Mac can pretend to be a PC.

This sort of magic requires Connectix's Virtual PC (pricing starts at US$129 for the DOS version, varying from $219 to $249 with various versions of Windows). An imaginary PC boots up, reading an imaginary hard drive stored as a file on your Mac. You can install pretty much any PC operating system you choose: DOS, Windows 95 or 98, Windows 2000 or XP, many flavours of Linux, etc., along with the applications of your choice. Your imaginary PC can connect to the Internet or your network, use many USB devices, and print to shared printers.

VPC's new version 6 integrates nicely with Mac OS X. Programs running in Windows appear in the OS X Dock, for example, and it's easy to copy data to the Mac clipboard and paste it into a Windows program.

While the new version is more efficient than ever, it remains slower than running a real PC.

Still, if there are times when only a PC will do, it sure beats having to keep a second computer on your desk.

A Mac may make a stylish fashion statement on your desk. If you're switching from Windows, these three applications can help you get your work done as well. LEM

First published in Business in Vancouver, Issue #694 February 11-17, 2003 High Tech Office column

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Alan Zisman is Mac-using teacher and technology writer based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Many of his articles are available on his website, If you find Alan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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