New Mac = No Problem


4-Step Computer Security Upgrade

Learn to encrypt your files, secure your computer when using public Wi-Fi, enable two-factor authentication, and use good passwords.

Despite all appearances, I am not employed by Apple, I just happen to love their products. They just work better, although they tend to be more expensive. I just got a new Mac, and setting it up was as easy as . . . Apple.

For the most part, this is relevant to solo or small practices who do not have a dedicated, or any, IT guy/gal. Setting up a new computer, and transferring all your files can seem like a daunting task. Unless, of course, you have a Mac.

When you fire up your new computer, it asks if you want to transfer your old files onto your new computer. You can create a carbon copy of your old computer by pushing your mouse 2-3 times. You can choose what transfers over: applications, files, preferences, etc. It is easy and it works very well. The fact that we use Dropbox (cloud storage) makes it even better. I also have a MobileMe account, so my dock, bookmarks, mail, and all other preferences sync up with all my other computers.

There are, however, a few downsides. One, you cannot pick certain applications to transfer over. You get to keep all the ones you use, along with various versions of Pong, TurboTax, and other relatively useless junk that sits on your hard drive. Do not pretend that once your new computer is up and running you will take the time to delete old things. Two, the transfer takes time, usually 4-6 hours. The best practice is to do it when you are leaving for the night, and everything should be perfect in the morning.

The fact it is so easy should make Macs more attractive to solos. Solos do not have access to an IT department, nor they have time to fix problems on their own. If you can afford it, cough up the extra dough, and save yourself time and headaches.

(photo: SeenyaRita)


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  • Troy Pickard

    Randall, I must disagree with your assertion that a Mac makes it less-daunting for a solo transferring to a new computer. I just bought a new Lenovo y550p, and the transfer was easy as pie.

    First, if you’re a solo, you’d better have backed-up your firm’s files – I recommend the Iomega eGo external hard drive. Once you’ve backed your files up onto such a drive, it is quite easy to simply put them onto your new computer.

    As for programs, let’s face it: one of the best parts of having a new computer is that it is NOT cluttered with all of the junk that you’ve let onto your old one over the last two or three years. Imagine buying a new car and, with the push of a button, all the junk and dust and detritus that was in your old car is suddenly all over your new one! Instead, switching to a new computer is the perfect time to evaluate which programs you really use, and deliberately transferring only those.

    Additionally, for all of us ScanSnap users who now have Adobe Acrobat, the Mac push-button method doesn’t work at all. Acrobat won’t let your program be active on two different computers at once. You first have to deactivate it on your old computer.

    The point is, whether you have a PC or a Mac, the process of effectively switching over to a new computer isn’t any different. Macs do have the unique “clone” feature that you describe, but its shortcomings outweigh its advantages.

  • I did not have to deactivate from my old Mac the copy of Acrobat that came with my scansnap when I transferred everything over to my new mac about 4 months ago.

    Personally, I don’t keep junk software on my computer (or in my car, for that matter). The thought of buying a new computer and having to transfer programs one by one, or worse yet go find and download all the updates, useful shareware, and widgets I rely on to run my practice would be a nightmare. Also, because the harddrive on the new computer is inevitably going to be bigger than the old one, who cares if you transfer over some junk you never use?

    I don’t know how difficult it is to get everything installed on a new PC, but I agree with Randall that switching from an old Mac to a new one was seamless. I was up and running in about 90 minutes.

  • Troy Pickard

    Of course, there’s also the chance that, amongst all that “junk” for which your new hard drive has plenty of space, you’ll also transfer over viruses, spyware, or other malware…

  • It’s a Mac, Troy. Malware is virtually nonexistent.

  • Randall Ryder

    @ Troy – I did not clarify this in my post, but the Mac Assistant did not transfer my client files, Dropbox did. We backup our client files on approximately 6 different hard drives, and I completely agree that backups are an absolute must.

    Transferring junk is annoying, but you do not have to transfer junk. You choose what you want to transfer. If you want a blank slate, you can do that too. I guess I’m not sure how the option of cloning is a bad thing.

  • Troy Pickard

    @Randall – I’ve never used Dropbox personally, but it looks like it’s available for PC as well as Mac. So, if you’re saying that Dropbox makes transitioning to a new computer, that sounds reasonable to me. But, is using Dropbox any easier on a Mac? What about the Mac makes the process easier than on a PC?

  • Greta

    I’ve used Macs in a law firm, and I’ve owned Macs personally. They’re great. But at my current firm, I’m sort of the home base, and I have to be able to send and receive files from clients, witnesses, experts and others — and I have to be able to open them. My boss has a Mac, and we constantly have trouble with him not being able to open files; so, I find myself opening, resaving and resending documents to him. A lot. So I won’t have anything except a PC. It does everything I need it to do.

    When I got a new one last year, I also used Dropbox to load my document files onto the computer. It worked like a dream.

  • What kind of files are you having trouble with? I use a Windows PC, and Randall uses a Mac, and I don’t think we have ever had a problem, even though we work with the same files all the time.

  • Ralph Perez

    I just picked up a 13′ Macbook Pro and It’s great. I haven’t made a full switch to Mac as I use a PC in my home office and in my bankruptcy practice. WordPerfect and BKPro have yet to offer Mac OS X versions of their software. I use VMWare Fusion and the transition from Mac to PC is seamless. I workshift out of my office, Starbucks, airports and wherever else I can find a chair and a table and DropBox makes it easy. I’m new to the Lawyerist but I’m enjoying what you have to offer so far.

  • Randall Ryder

    @Troy – Sam uses Dropbox on a PC, and I use it on my Mac, and it works great on both systems (actually, my iPhone too). I think transitioning is easier on a Mac, because if you choose to, you can transfer all of your programs and files. Like I said, you can end up with all your old junk. But, if you quickly want a carbon copy (or a slightly different version), it is easy to do.

    @Greta – I have had issues with that in the past. For the most part, it was because people use different versions of MS Word, or a PC was not using up-to-date software. To be more clear, it was always someone with a PC that could not read a file, it was never me and my Mac. In addition, it was only some PC’s…which is usually a software issue on their end.

  • Greta

    The boss is running Office 2007 on his Mac (as I am on my PC), but he can’t open Word or PowerPoint files with the “x” suffix. Actually, we have to save Word doc files as rtf so he can open them. It’s very frustrating to continually get emails that say “can’t open” — no matter where their origin. Very.Frustrating.

  • That is definitely not a Mac problem. It could be a software problem, but it could be a problem with your Windows PC as easily as it could be a problem with his Mac.

  • @greta There is a plug-in for Office that will allow you to open .docx files on older versions of Office, including office for mac. You can find it at

    I save all my Word files as .rtf anyway. Seems to cause fewer problems.

    Also, if you receive documents from windows users with a .dat extension, you can often crack them open with a little freeware program called TNEF’s Enough. Just google it.

  • Greta

    As I said, we get documents sent by clients, other attorneys, experts, and so on, so I don’t control what format they come in. I can open virtually anything on my PC, but the boss is unable to on his Mac and sends them to me to open. Boss and I are running the same version of Office — 2007. I’m not bashing Macs — I think they’re great. Before the boss changed to a Mac we didn’t have this issue. That’s all I’m saying. If you don’t get files from outside the firm, then there’s no problem. I’m in a batting cage waiting for the next ball to come flying at me, and this just adds to the number.

  • Greta, I think it’s time to send your boss to the Apple Store Genius Bar with some sample files, if you haven’t already. We get documents from all over, as well, and Randall has never had a problem opening them on his Mac.

  • Greta Kirkland

    You’re probably right, but why should he when he has me to just fix it.

  • John Dorst

    Thank you Randall for pointing out one of the major differences between the Mac platform and PCs.

    For those of you who haven’t delved into the differences between how the Mac and PC OSs work, one big difference is that the Mac doesn’t have a Registry and that the System software cannot be modified by installed software. Typically there is no uninstaller program to run that tries to remove registry entries and dll files strewn throughout the Windows folder (I say strewn only because where a software installer puts the dll files looks totally random to most users including me). With a Mac, you can simply drag the program from the Applications folder into the trash and you’re done. (Installing software is usually just as simple – drag the application to the Applications folder and you’re done.) If you want you can find the preferences pane and delete that, too. In rare instances there are startup files that need to be found and deleted – but that is the rare exception. Drag an application to the recycle bin and empty it with a PC and see what mayhem ensues the next time you boot. On a PC, you run the installer program which usually works. But some are better built that others and many leave files behind. Remember those older uninstaller programs that would ask you if you wanted to delete a .dll file? If you delete, it could render another unnamed piece of software unworkable. That’s helpful! Fortunately that practice seems to have ceased.

    The virus argument is essentially moot as there are no known viruses “in the wild” that affect Macs. There are a few Trojans, but if you don’t download software from peer-to-peer sites or install weird software required to view specific files from a website you’re in the clear. Not to say that this will always be the case, but at this point in time…. (fingers crossed). Now, a Mac could have several PC viruses unknowingly, but that why should a Mac user be concerned.

    And, Greta – at my office we are a PC shop. I get contacted regularly by other PC users who can’t open files. If you’re the tech person and the others don’t want to know any more than they must to perform basic operations on their computer, you will continue to be called upon for this service (as am I). So it’s irrelevant what operating system, some people will have trouble with aspects of it including opening certain file types, and won’t be bothered to find out how themselves. I understand your frustration that the new Mac has amplified this issue, but with a bit of work the Mac can be setup to open just about any file type. On a new PC without installing the right software the files would still not open. It’s really the laziness of the user that is the problem here. The genius bar is a good suggestion.

    Do have a questions for you, Greta. On the one hand you say “Mac’s are great” but then “I’m in a batting cage….” What’s the batting cage a reference to? I’d guess it’s baseball’s opening day of the 201 season, but that wasn’t until 2 days after you posted. Just curious.

    Thanks for reading.