Making the Mac Yours - Switching from Windows to Mac: The Unofficial Guide to Making a Seamless Switch to Mac OS Yosemite (2015)

Switching from Windows to Mac: The Unofficial Guide to Making a Seamless Switch to Mac OS Yosemite (2015)

Part 2: Making the Mac Yours

So now you know the basics; you should be able to work your way around the desktop with ease and use all the basic programs comfortably. But it still doesn’t feel quite…you. It still has all the default settings, colors, gestures, and backgrounds. Sure it’s a cool computer, but now let’s make it feel like your computer.

System Preferences

All of the main settings are accessed in System Preferences which is essentially the Mac equivalent of Control Panel on a Windows computer. So to get started, let’s get to System Preferences by clicking Launchpad, then clicking the System Preferences icon.

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You can also get there by clicking on the Apple in the upper left corner of the menu and clicking System Preferences.

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Once the app opens, you’ll see there are lots of things that you can configure.


Let’s get started with the first option: General. Under General, you can:

· Change the appearance of the main buttons, windows, and menus by selecting either Blue or Graphite.

· Choose the highlight color.

· Change the top menu bar and dock to dark colors. This option works well with dark wallpapers.

· Set scroll bars to display automatically based on mouse or trackpad, only when scrolling, or always on.

· Select the default web browser.

· Here is where you can allow Handoff to work between your Mac and iCloud devices (some older Macs don’t support this feature).

At any time, you can get back to the main System Preferences page, but clicking on either the button with 12 tiny squares. You can also hit the Back button, but if you are several menus in, you may have to hit the Back button several times.

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Desktop & Screen Saver

The Desktop & Screen Saver section will help you change perhaps the most visually noticeable thing on your Mac - the desktop wallpaper. Along the left sidebar you will see several different dropdown options: Apple, iPhoto, and Folders.

At the bottom, you will be able to change the picture every so often, and you can choose how often you’d like a new image to refresh. The images that show up in the right-hand window will be the ones that get scrolled through during refreshes.

To change your desktop wallpaper to one of the great-looking images provided by Apple, or if you just want to browse the available choices, click on the Apple name. A bunch of colorful, high-resolution images will populate the right-hand side, and you can scroll through the list to find something you like. Clicking on an image will change your wallpaper to that particular selection. If you’re a plain Jane and prefer to keep things really simple, you can also select Solid Colors to find an array of potentially yawn-inducing plain wallpapers.

Selecting iPhoto will let you scroll through your photos, allowing you to select a cherished memory as your wallpaper.

The Folders option will let you choose between added folders where more image files might be lying in wait. If you save lots of images to your desktop, you might want to add the Desktop folder here so you can include those images as would-be wallpapers.

Adding and Removing Folders

1. To add new folders and image collections, click on the + button located at the bottom of the left sidebar.

2. When the window comes up, search for the folder that you’d like to add.

3. Once you find the desired folder, click the blue Choose button to confirm the changes.

4. To remove a folder, highlight the folder that you’d like deleted and then click the - button to remove it.

Screen Saver

To set one up, click on the Screen Saver button at the top of the Desktop & Screen Saver window.

The left sidebar will have more options than you probably need when it comes to different ways to display your pictures. Some great ones you will probably like are Shuffling Tiles, Vintage Prints, and Classic.

On the right side you can see a preview of what your screen saver will look like. In this part of the window you can also select a source: National Geographic, Aerial, Cosmos, Nature Patterns, and Choose Folder if you have a particular folder of images you’d like to use. If you’d like to shuffle the order in which images appear, check the box next to Shuffle slide order.

At the very bottom of the window you can choose the length of time before the screen saver starts. You’ll also be able to pick if you’d like to display the clock or not.


There isn’t a lot you can do to the dock and most of these settings are self-explanatory. For the most part the settings just make things a little more…animated. Magnification, for example, makes an app icon larger when you hover your mouse over it.

One option I will point out, however, is the option to automatically hide and show dock; all of these settings are a matter of taste; I personally choose to hide the dock for two reasons: one, it gives you more screen space, and two, it lets you use the dock while you are in a full screen app.

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Mission Control

Mission Control is where you can set different parts of your screen to do different things. What do I mean by that? For example, you can set up a shortcut so that every time you move your mouse to the far upper right corner, your desktop is revealed. You can also set up shortcut keys on your keyboard. Mission Control is really about helping you make simple tasks quick.

Social Networking, Mail, Contacts and Calendars

When you use Twitter, Facebook and other apps, you may be used to just going to a website. On a Mac, you can add them into your computer’s information, so you don’t need to login; this also lets you get notification pop ups when you have new messages, likes, etc.

Adding Accounts

To add accounts, go to System Preferences on your Dock (the gears icon) and select Internet Accounts. From here, you can add accounts that haven’t already been migrated, including iCloud, Exchange, Google, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, AOL, Vimeo and Flickr. Adding accounts here will start populating Yosemite’s native Mail, Contacts, Reminders and Calendar apps, and add options to your Share button.

Note: You can also add accounts within the Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Reminders apps by opening each app and clicking File > Add Account.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Vimeo and Flickr

OS X Yosemite supports deep Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and Vimeo integration. To get started, simply sign in to your account(s) from System Preferences > Internet Accounts. Select Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, or Vimeo, and then enter your username and password. From now on, you’ll be able to use that account with the Share button throughout Yosemite and receive notifications in your Notifications Center.


As the name implies, the Sound menu is where all changes related to sound effects and sound in general can be modified. There are three tabs that you can switch between.

Sound Effects

The Sound Effects tab is where you can select an alert sound from the many different built-in options. By default, the following dropdown menu should be set to Selected sound output device to play the chosen sound effects through your standard speakers.

The next two checkboxes let you turn sound effects on or off for the user interface, and for volume control.

Lastly, you’ll be able to adjust the output volume of your speakers. This will affect the loudness of everything from sound effects to music that’s currently being played through the computer.

Input & Output

The input and output tabs are both very similar. Each will let you change the device for sound input or output (speakers or microphones), as well as adjust sound settings. In the Output tab, you can adjust the slider to move the balance left or right, and in Input, you can change the microphone’s input volume and enable or disable the built-in noise reduction feature in case you frequently use your Mac’s microphone in busy cafes.

Users & Groups

If your Mac is for family use and a couple of people will be using it, then this setting will come in handy.

Along the left sidebar all existing users and groups (if you have any) will be laid out for you. To make a change to an existing user, first you need to choose the “Click the lock” icon and unlock it; unlocking lets you change settings to the user. You will also be asked for your password at this time—this is all a safety measure to ensure that if you accidentally left your computer unintended, someone couldn’t come along and lock you out of your own machine.

Below are a few things you’ll be able to do with each user (depending on the type of user it is admin, guest, child, etc.); some of the settings won’t be available.

· Selecting the Admin user account will let you change the login password, open up the Contacts card and enable parental controls. Clicking the Login Items will allow you to change the applications that start running automatically each time you log in. There has to be at least one admin user.

· Any other created users that you make will have options to enable parental controls, change password, or turn that account into another administrator account that has full control of the Mac.

· By default you will see a Guest user set up. If it’s selected, you can choose to disable the Guest user from being available as a login option. You can also set parental controls and allow guest access to your shared folders. If you do choose to keep the Guest user, keep in mind that there will be no password required, and all information and files created during that session will be deleted upon logging out.

· At the bottom of the left sidebar there is another option, called Login Options. This is where you’ll find different options such as automatic login, show password hints, and show the Sleep, Shut Down, and Restart buttons. You can also display your full name or user name at the top right of the menu bar by checking the box next to Show fast user switching menu and making a selection.

Create New Users

So you know how to manage the primary user, but what about creating additional users? That’s pretty simple. Just follow these steps (and make sure you have already hit that lock button to unlock the option).

1. Click on the + button.

2. From the New dropdown menu, choose from the following options: Administrator, Standard, Managed with Parental Controls, or Sharing Only.

3. Fill in the Full Name and Account Name fields. These don’t have to be real names. Mickey Mouse can have a user name if you want.

4. You can choose to have the new user log in using an existing iCloud account and password, or create a whole new password.

5. If you selected Use iCloud Password, you will be prompted to enter the associated iCloud ID.

6. If you instead choose to opt for a newly-created password, you will be asked to enter it twice to verify it.

7. Once finished, click the blue Create User button. If you chose to use an iCloud ID, you will be asked to enter the password. If you made a new password, you don’t need to do anything else.

Removing Existing Users

Just because you added a user, that doesn’t mean they’re there forever. You can delete them at anytime. But remember, deleting those deletes all the settings they’ve set up—so if you create again, everything will be gone.

1. To remove current users, select the user that you’d like to delete.

2. With that user highlighted, click on the - button.

3. A prompt will appear asking if you are really sure you’d like to remove the user from the computer.

4. You can also choose from one of three radio buttons: save the home folder, leave the home folder alone, or delete the home folder.

5. Once you’ve made a decision, click the blue Delete User button to confirm your choice and make the changes happen.

Creating Groups

If the computer is being used in a place where there are dozens of users (a classroom or library, perhaps), then creating a group would be a good option for you.

1. At the bottom of the left sidebar, click the + button.

2. From the New dropdown menu, select Group

3. In the Full Name field, create and enter a name for your group.

4. Click the blue Create Group button to confirm.

5. The new group will be created, and you will be able to check boxes next to each existing user to designate who will be a part of this group. If you have existing groups, you can also select entire groups to be a part of yet another group.

Parental Controls

If kids are using your computer, then Apple has Parental Controls to help you make sure the kids don’t get into trouble. It’s a pretty powerful app, but it does have a few limits—if you want ultimate protection, then there are also several paid apps like NetNanny ( Parental controls is also good for guests—if you don’t mind if people use your computer, but you only want them to use the Internet and have no access to anything else, then you could set it up like that.

To use Apple’s Parental Controls, first make sure you have created a user account for your child. Next go to System Preferences and Parental Controls.

If the padlock on the lower left corner is locked, then click it to unlock it and type in your password.

You can now set up parental controls for each child users. You can make it as restrictive as you want. The first tab lets you pick what apps they can use. You could block all apps except games, for instance. The next tab lets you control web usage. By default, Apple will try to filter out adult content. If this is a young child, then a better option might be picking the web pages they can access—you could, for instance, block every Internet website except Disney. The next tab is People. This lets you select who they can email and message—you could limit them to only emailing parents and grandparents, for instance. The second to last tab lets you pick time limits. You can pick when they use the computer and for how long. And finally the last tab lets you turn off the camera so they can do video chatting, hide profanity from the dictionary, etc.


Accessibility helps you adjust the computer if you have any kind of impairment or disability. It lets you change things like making the display larger, having a voiceover that describes what’s on your screen, and put captions on videos when available.

To open Accessibility, click System Settings and Accessibility. On the left side of the box that comes up will be all the various things you can change. Clicking on each one will create more options.


Under Display, you can make the screen grayscale, invert colors, decrease the contrast, etc. Zoom allows you to create a zoom effect over smaller areas of the screen when you hit a keyboard shortcut. VoiceOver reads back any text that’s on the screen.


The Media section includes a few different settings for audio and video playback. Click on Descriptions to enable spoken descriptions for videos.

Captions will apply subtitles and captions to videos.


The Sound tab provides options for the hearing disabled. You can choose to set up a visual flash of the screen each time an alert sound is played, and also decide if you’d like to play stereo audio as mono instead.


Keyboard includes settings for Sticky Keys and Slow Keys. Sticky Keys allows certain buttons to remain activated without you having to hold down the key. For example, if you have Sticky Keys turned on and want to copy some text, instead of holding down Command + C at the same time, you could press the Command button first, followed by the C key. When enabled, you’ll hear a lock sound, and anytime you use a modifier key like Command, a large icon will appear in the top right corner of the screen indicating that a Sticky Key combination has been started. Slow Keys increases the amount of time between a button press and activation, so if you press Enter, it will take a little longer to actually process.

Mouse & Trackpad features settings like Mouse Keys, which lets you move the mouse around using the number pad on your keyboard, double-click speed, and the option to ignore the built-in trackpad (on MacBooks) if there is a separate mouse or trackpad connected to the computer.

Switch Control requires you to enter your administrator before making any changes, because it’s a powerful function that allows you to control the computer using one or more switches that you designate. You can also modify other settings like what to do while navigating, determine pointer precision, and change the size for the Switch Control cursor.

The Dictation tab does exactly what it sounds like - it lets you dictate commands and write or edit text using only your voice. To enable dictation, you first need to click on the bottom button that says Open Dictation & Speech Preferences and selecting the On radio button.

Privacy and Security

If your computer is in a place where other people can get to it, or if you are just generally concerned about your privacy being violated, then head on over to Privacy and Security in the System Preferences.

Creating Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are the first line of defense against potential hackers (or smart children!); a strong password is not something like “password”; a strong password has letters, numbers and even symbols in it. It could be something like this: “@mY_MACb00k.”

You can use the Password Assistant to test how strong your password is.

1. When Keychain loads, you will be able to view the entire list of accounts that are already synced to Keychain. If you would like to change the password for an account that already exists, find the account and double click on it. If not, click on the + button at the bottom to add a new account.

2. When the new window comes up, take a look at the bottom. There will be a field for password, and at the right of it will be a small key icon. Click the key icon to open up Password Assistant.

3. From Type you can select Manual (create your own), Memorable, Letters & Numbers, Numbers Only, Random, and FIPS-181 compliant.

4. Suggestions will automatically populate, and you can scroll through several different suggestions by using the dropdown menu.

5. Adjust the length slider to make the password longer or shorter. Any password you create will meet at least the requirements to be considered fair.

6. As you generate a password, the quality indicator will change to show you how safe and complex a given password is.


Another line of defense you can add is a Firewall, which protects you from unwanted connections to potentially malicious software applications, websites, or files.

To enable the firewall that comes with your Mac, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy and select the Firewall tab. Before you can make any changes, click on the lock icon in the bottom left corner and enter your administrator password to continue.

Find My Mac

Just like your iPhone or iPad, Mac comes with a handy feature called “Find My Mac” which lets you find your computer if someone steals it or you just misplace it; you can also wipe its hard drive clean remotely.

To enable Find My Mac, go to System Preferences > iCloud and check the box next to Find My Mac. Your location services must also be turned on, so go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Location Services and make sure Enable Location Services is checked on.

To track your computer, you can log into any computer and visit, enter your iCloud login information, and click on Find My Mac. As long as the Mac is awake and connected to the Internet through Wi-Fi or Ethernet, you will be able to play loud sound, lock it, or completely erase it so your private information is removed.


Apple knows people worry about privacy; they have lots built in to help you control what can (and can’t) be seen.

Internet Privacy

If you’d like to clear your search and browsing history, there are two ways to do it: either by clicking on Safari > Clear History and Website Data or History > Clear History and Website Data. Both can be found on the top menu bar. When the window comes up, you will be able to choose how far back you want the clearing to reach, and once you make a selection, just press the Clear History button to make the changes final.

Cookies allow websites to store data and track certain things, like what other websites you visit during your Internet session, or what kind of products you tend to look at the most. This information is mostly used by advertisers to better target ads for you, but the option is always there if you’d like to disable them. Open up Safari, go to Safari > Preferences, then select the Privacy tab. The cookie options range from allowing all websites to store cookies to blocking all websites. You can also allow cookies only from the most frequently visited websites. If you prefer not to be tracked, check off the box at the bottom that says Ask Websites To Not Track Me. Some websites will not function as you may want them by disabling this feature.

Application Privacy

The other part of privacy is through installed applications. Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy and click the Privacy tab. You can shut Location Services off by checking the box next to Enable Location Services. Browse through the left sidebar and you’ll be able to customize permissions. If you don’t want any apps to access your contacts or calendars, here is where you can block some or all programs from that information.