Introduction

Hold on, hold on: I know what you're thinking. There goes Thurrott again, goading the all-too-easily-enraged ranks of Mac fanatics into a frothing anti-Windows frenzy. Relax, guys. Yes, you're fun to mess with, with your mock turtleneck sweaters and one-too-many leather hipster iPod cases. And yes, there's a certain schadenfreude-like pleasure in doing so, but believe it or not, there are far more pragmatic reasons to provide a guide of this nature.

First, let's not pretend that many Mac users haven't always had a heavy reliance on Windows and Windows applications. And ever since Apple moved the Mac to the Intel platform, that need has turned into a frenzy, with Mac users now able to choose between both virtual (Parallels Desktop, VMWare Fusion) and physical (Boot Camp) solutions for running Windows applications on their Macs. Increasingly, Mac users are working in Windows and, I feel, understanding the benefits of using Windows instead of Mac OS X. Thanks, Mr. Jobs, for making that happen. No, really.

But as is the case with Apple's deceptive "Switcher" ad campaign, going from Mac OS X to Windows doesn't have to be a one-way street. Indeed, my suspicion is that very few people have actually transitioned completely from Windows to the Mac. I think most of them are using both environments, instead, and picking the one that makes most sense for what they're doing at the time. And as it turns out, moving to Windows from Mac doesn't have to be total and irreversible. Using the aforementioned solutions, Mac users can move back and forth between the OS X and Windows environment. It's the best of both worlds.

Thus this guide. For those people who have impulsively moved to the Mac only to belatedly discover their mistake, for those who have a foot in the Windows world for work reasons or out of choice, and for those--and yes, they're out there--who have simply decided to stop being a trendy lemming and move (back) to the greener fields of Windows, leaving OS X behind for good, I'm here for you. Having used Mac OS X since the first release in 2001, I do feel your pain.

And before anyone tries me in absentia for being some sort of crazed Windows fanatic, I'd like to make two more points. First, while moving data between the Mac and Windows, in either direction, used to be a lot more difficult than it is now, it's still not seamless, and the process needs to be documented. If you do this right, you should be able to replicate your most important data in either environment without much trouble. Second, and this is crucial in my mind, my most strident advice here has nothing to do with switching to Windows per se. Indeed, I think it's almost as crazy to lock your data into Windows applications as it is to do so in Mac OS X. So I'll be offering up a lot of cloud computing solutions--Gmail, Google Calendar, and the like--as the ideal way to make the switch. (I'll also discuss Windows-based alternatives to popular OS X applications of course.) We're heading into a new era here, and if you're already waffling between desktop computing environments, maybe it's time for you to address some deeper, more important issues as well.

Most important, let's have fun with this. I intend for this guide to be useful. But we should all be OK poking fun at ourselves, especially if you're a little too uptight for your own good. I'll start. I'm Paul, and I'm a wine and coffee snob, and an NPR-listening, East Coast liberal. You, the Mac fanatic who is right now furiously trying not to fire off yet another nasty email bomb from your mac.com address, will admit in return that you're a smug, know-it-all so-and-so.

See? It's cathartic.