They seem quite different, but it’s easier than you might think for Mac and PC to work on the same network, to use the same programs and to share files
There are three main things you need to sort out to ensure that you can get everything done with the different computers in your home.
First, you need to sort out the software. That means making sure you have the same programs on the different computers – for example, if your work relies on Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet, then it’s probably a good idea to ensure all the computers you’re likely to use have it installed.
While some of the big name products such as Microsoft Office are available for both Mac and Windows, this could be expensive, unless you can persuade your workplace that they really need to pay. There may also be a few Windows programs that aren’t available for Mac, or two versions with niggling incompatibilities.
Fortunately, there are various ways around that. In our article about essential software you can find some tips and solutions, and sometimes it might just be a simple matter of setting some options in the Mac or Windows version of a program to ensure the files are more compatible.
Make a Mac run a Windows program
The second thing you need to think about is what happens in those situations where you can’t find an equivalent program – there might be something that you need to do for which there is no equivalent piece of software on the Mac.
This can often be the case with some gadgets, which only have PC software to update them, or you might have a piece of custom software that’s used in the office and can’t be converted to run on the Mac.
If you have a suitable PC at home, of course you can still use that – if it’s just a matter of updating the software on a mobile phone once a year, it’s probably not too much of a chore to do that using the PC in the spare bedroom. But for something that you use everday, that’s not likely to be a realistic solution.
Thankfully, there are plenty of better ways to solve this problem, using what’s called emulation or virtualisation – essentially making your Mac run a Windows program, so you can carry on doing just about everything you would on a Windows PC.
Of course, since Macs don’t have expansion cards, you can’t use this to make something that relies on one of those work, but these days most devices connect via USB, and with products such as Parallels Desktop, you can plug a USB device into your Mac and have it connect to Windows – we’ve even used it to update the firmware on a smartphone, without any difficulty.
Set up sharing
The third step in ensuring your Windows and Mac computers co-exist without any trouble is setting up sharing. If you have a broadband internet connection at home, it’s easy to connect a Mac alongside your PCs, either by plugging it into an Ethernet socket on your router, or using the built-in wireless to connect to the home network.
Do that, and you’ll have both PCs sharing your internet connection, but what about sharing files between Windows and Mac?
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can do that. First, if you use a USB memory stick, it’s simple to move files from one computer to another – plug a USB disk or memory stick into the Mac, and it’ll show up on the desktop, then you can simply drag and drop files, just as easily as you can in Windows.
If all you’re doing is moving information occasionally, that might be sufficient. And exactly the same is true of CDs and DVDs. Burn a disc on the Mac, and it will automatically be created in a format that any Windows computer will understand, so that’s another way to move or copy information.
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