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Making the switch

October 23, 2006

Most of you know how much of a Mac fanboy I am, but until recently we still had one Windoze laptop hanging around our house. That all changed this past weekend, when we upgraded Nora to a new shiny matte black MacBook.

Moving wasn't all fun though. As with all new computers, getting your old data to the new machine is always a concern, and when going from Windows to OS X, thing get a bit stickier. So, I thought I would lay out how I did it for future reference and in case anyone feverishly does a google search like I was doing (with mixed success) last night.

The key data in Nora's case was her address book and email (both managed on the old laptop via Outlook Express) and her bookmarks (previously held in Firefox). The destination for this data was Address Book and for the email and contacts, and Safari for the bookmarks. We'll start from the easiest task and work our way to the more difficult one.

Before you get started you will want to setup a way to transfer the actual data from one machine to the other. You could burn it to a CD, dump it to a USB thumb drive, or just find the new machine on the network and transfer the files that way. I chose the networking option.

This one is a snap. Open Firefox and select Bookmarks > Manage Bookmarks... from the top menu. This opens the Bookmark Manager in a new window. Next, select File > Export (again, from the top menu). Select where you want the exported bookmarks file to be saved and then click OK. The bookmarks are written to a simple HTML document that can be read by any other browser. Now, just transfer that file to your new Mac.

Now, open Safari and select File > Import Bookmarks. It will ask you to locate your bookmarks export file (the one you just transferred from your old machine). Choose select and walla, all you bookmarks appear in Safari's bookmark manager. You can drag and drop them to wherever you want, including the bookmarks bar.

Address Book
This one was just as simple, but took a little longer to figure out. Create a new folder on your Windows desktop (name it contacts). Next, open up the address book and select all of your contacts. Then you can drag and drop the whole group onto the contacts folder you created on the Desktop. Finally, transfer that folder to your Mac.

Open up the Address Book on the Mac, and select File > Import > vCards. In the dialogue that appears, navigate to the folder you just transferred and select all the .vcf files inside. The best way to do this is to click the first entry, then go to the bottom of the list and shift-click the last one, thereby selecting everything in between. Click "Open" to import the contacts.

I'll be honest, this was a bit of a pain, mostly because Outlook Express doesn't support the mbox standard. I found several suggestions, but eventually went with the one found at this OS X hints article. It is a bit laborious (and requires you to download the Mac Office Test Drive), but only took me about 20 minutes for all the mailboxes.

All in all, not too much hassle, and well worth it when you remember you are leaving Windows for good!

More good info can be found at the "How to Move to Mac" page at

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Thom Stark says:


My comment isn't related to this post, but I couldn't find any other way to contact you. I am writing regarding a much earlier post of yours about the XML Video Jukebox player for flash. I am writing a website for a church right now and need exactly what you've produced, but I'd like to customize it to fit my scheme. Would it be possible to get the original .fla from you, or just some instructions on how to do what you've done?


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