Last modified 9 years ago Last modified on 10/07/08 15:01:29

Mac Notes

Switching from Windows

If you read only one article, read this one: I've Switched from Windows, Now What? by Terrie Miller 06/25/2002. It's a little bit old, but it covers Right-Clicking, Keyboard Commands, Alt-Tab, and so on. Note that on the MacBook, the arrow keys are not labelled Home/PgUp/PgDn/End?, but they function the same as the examples in the article. If you need more commands, the are Mac keyboard shortcuts from Apple and Jacob Rus' detailed Mac OS X System Key Bindings list.


  • To right-click, put two fingers on the touchpad and click, or Ctrl-click. Does not work with all apps.
  • Use Fn-Backspace to forward delete on a MacBook keyboard.
  • Menu items may change with Alt, for example "About this Mac" switches to "System Profiler"
  • To see wireless network speed, use Utilities->Network Utility
  • To mount NFS from a Linux server, see MacNfs
  • It is not possible to 'maximize' windows in MacOS



This is meant to be a neutral description of differences between Macs and typical Windows computers. LaptopNotes offers another useful comparison, between laptop and desktop computers.

Hardware Tradeoffs

  • Apple offers fewer models than other vendors. This means stable drivers, but you are less likely to get the latest hardware. Additionally Apple models are not the most basic, so you can find cheaper PCs (though usually with fewer features or much heavier in the case of laptops).
  • Apple controls what hardware goes into a Mac, while Dell, HP, Toshiba etc. must coordinate with Microsoft to get plug-and-play drivers working. This in turn means things like sleep and hibernate work better on Macs than on some Windows laptops.

Software Tradeoffs

  • If you want to run MacOS, you have to use Apple hardware. On the other hand, you can run Windows on Intel-based Macs.
  • Apple bundles a third-party applications such as Java which must be installed separately on Windows, but it is difficult to replace or update Apple's version.
  • Apple can unilaterally implement new software features, which brings great functionality at the price of incompatibility. For example, in MacOS 10.6 Leopard, Apple added filesystem features which make backups much easier (see Ars Technica's "Time Machine Internals").

Running Windows

There are several ways to run Windows on a Intel-based Mac. All three require a separate copy of Windows (Macs are eligible for OemWindows or the Microsoft Campus Agreement).

More comparisons at MacVirtualization.

Free Apple BootCamp Requires rebooting. Includes drivers for Apple hardware.
$40 (UBookstore) VMWare Fusion Most popular virtualization software. Can use Apple BootCamp partition or a disk image. Supports Windows, Linux, Solaris, etc.
$55 (UWare) Parallels Uses disk images. Has additional Mac-only features
Free VirtualBox Open Source, bought by Sun in February 2008