How to transfer data from a PC to a Macintosh

Learn how to move data (files) from a Windows PC to Macintosh computer. There are many ways to transfer data (files) from a PC to a Mac, including:

  • using the “PC Data Transfer Service” at Apple Retail Stores & Apple Specialists
  • using Move2Mac
  • using a portable hard drive or storage device
  • using a CD or DVD burner
  • using other portable media
  • using a shared file server
  • using email
  • using a .Mac iDisk
  • using a direct Ethernet connection
  • installing the PC’s hard drive in the Mac

PC data transfer from Apple Retail Stores and Apple Specialists (United States only)

Apple Retail Stores offer several levels of data transfer services. For further information on PC Data Transfer services, contact your local Apple Retail Store.

In addition to the Apple Retail Stores, many Apple Specialists, Apple Resellers, and Apple Authorized Service Providers also provide various levels of PC to Macintosh data transfers. To locate an Apple Specialist in your area, use the Find Service website.


Move2Mac is a third-party hardware and software combination that helps move files over to a Macintosh.

Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only, and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.

Portable hard drive or storage device

Portable hard drives that can be used to transfer data from a PC to a Macintosh computer include a FireWire (IEEE 1394, iLink) drives and a USB-based drives or storage devices.

Portable FireWire drives provide the fastest transfer rate, and are widely available. However, unless the PC has a FireWire port, which is not as common on PC computers, you will not be able to use a portable FireWire hard drive.

A portable USB hard drive can be used, but USB transfers can be slow.

Tip: While the faster USB 2.0 standard is available on some PC computers, some Macintosh computers only work with USB 1.1.

CD or DVD burner

Creating a backup disc of the files on your PC is one of the easiest methods you can use to transfer any amount of data. This method provides the added benefit of creating a backup of your data.

Other portable media

Using portable ZIP, Jaz, magnetic optical (MO), or other forms of portable media is similar to burning a CD, and as long as the media device can be used on both the PC and Macintosh computer it provides an excellent method to transfer any amount of data.

Shared file server

A server on a network that can be accessed by both the PC and Macintosh computer is an excellent alternative to burning CDs, or moving portable drives from one computer to another. However, both computers must be able to access the server.


For small amounts of data such as word processing documents, pictures, or small application data files, using email to send them to yourself as an attachment is another option. However, if the data files are over 1 MB in size, or if you do not have a high-speed Internet connection, you should try other methods before using this one. See “Mac OS X Mail: How to Import Email From a Non-Macintosh Computer”.

Some Internet service providers (ISPs) place restrictions on how large email attachments can be, so you may not be able to use this method with large data files, even if you have a fast Internet connection.


If you have a .Mac account, you can use an iDisk to transfer data. Since the iDisk is used through an Internet connection, using this method for large data files without a high-speed internet connection takes a long time. You can also purchase additional .Mac Mail and iDisk storage on a yearly basis, which provides additional data storage flexibility.

Direct ethernet connection

If you have both computers in the same location, you may be able to use an Ethernet cable to connect both computers together and copy files between them. You may need an Ethernet crossover cable depending on which model Macintosh you own. See below the related document “Macintosh: Computers That Require an Ethernet Crossover Cable” to see if you will need an Ethernet crossover cable. This method has the advantage of being fast and being able to transfer any amount of data.

Moving hard drive

While it is possible to move some IDE PC hard drives into some model Macintosh computers, this is not the recommended method of transferring data and it should only be used by experienced computer users who understand how to install and format PC hard drives. It is only possible to read FAT and FAT32 formatted drives in a Macintosh. Do not use NTFS formatted drives in a Macintosh computer.

Mac OS X 10.3 and 10.4 work with local NTFS-formatted volumes. The volume will be read-only.
Additional Information.

Warning: NTFS formatted drives cannot be used in a Macintosh (except as read-only with Mac OS X 10.3 and 10.4 as noted above). If you attempt to use a NTFS formatted disk, upon starting up the Mac OS will prompt you to format the drive. Do not format the drive, doing so will erase the contents of the drive. If you have an NTFS formatted disk, you must use another method to transfer the data from the PC to the Macintosh.

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