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Switching from a MacBook to a Surface? Microsoft has a guide for that

After having poked a little fun at Mac users with its holiday ad last month, it looks like Microsoft is taking a slightly more diplomatic approach to helping users switch over to a Surface Pro 3. The company debuted a new website today aimed at easing the switch from a MacBook to its latest and greatest tablet offering.

The guide, which you can look over here (opens in new tab), serves as a pretty detailed primer for becoming familiar with both the Surface and Windows 8.1 when coming from Apple's way of doing things. Included is a how-to for pretty much anything from simply performing a right click to installing applications and replacing Facetime with Skype.

As a bonus for those who want to dip their toes in both ecosystems, Microsoft has also included a section for using a Surface with an iPhone, iTunes, and iCloud.

If you know someone who is making the switch, the guide below is sure to be infinitely useful as they look to shake off the quirks of OS X.

Source: Microsoft (opens in new tab); via ZDNet

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

91 Comments
  • This may be useful one day if I ever come back to owning a surface, but my MacBook pro is legitimately good! Plus I like the extra 2 inches of screen real estate. If you have an air though, trade that in for a Surface all day! Pro > Air.
  • bought a surface pro 3 i3 yesterday - damn this thing is good! probably my favorite device I've owned (even more than my 830 or One)..
  • How good is it? Tell me a little
  • Say whatever you may about the SP3's specs, however Windows 8.1 Pro is superior in [almost] every way to MacOS.
  • Mhm Surface and Windows all the way
  • Dunno about every way. As a developer, OSX has some really nice features owing to the whole UNIX background. (assuming you aren't doing .NET, which is officially open sourced, or to be). As a consumer OS though, I think I'd agree. I used a Mac at work for seven months and didn't come away too impressed. Its certainly not bad, but I was expecting more based on the hype I'd heard.
  • Agree. The hype that was expressed to me about mac, and all apple products was insane. However its just a hype machine. Windows is infinitely better than osx
  • That would depend entirely on your own preference. OSX does a great job of being your everyday OS, I honestly can't see anything wrong with it or anything that Mac users are missing out on by using Windows.
  • Not really. They are vastly different in their own way. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I went to a gig where the line-up was reordered because one of the acts was using a Windows laptop and it was stuck installing updates. All those using a Mac were okay though. I like my Windows Phone and have considered a Windows laptop, but the Windows experience is still annoying at times.
  • They should have upgraded to win 8.1. It doesn't force updates on you. Mac on the other hand has updates every damn time I start the thing up!
  • Tha has to be a very old excuse, just set updates to "download and let me choose when to install them", and be done with it. Its a function that I remember existing a least since XP (perhaps since W95)...
  • That's their fault... Everyone can change the settings on updates... And you can always press alt-f4 to get then much better shutdown options to bypass updates if there are any... Easy to blame windows... But they were not prepared... Ans to be quite honest... I have not seen an issue in many years where shutting down a windows PC early in the update process hurt it... Just hold down the power button... It will redo it later... Now id you let it actually start the update... Ymmv.. All devices update... I have worked with many people where osx or IOS was updated and something was "not" working afterwards... Always leave production machines in a working state... If it is broke... Dont fix it ans update later when things can be tested... Again... Not a windows or an osx problem.... That act was not prepared and they blamed windows.. Sheep will believe that more than oops... I blew it ans forces the show to be reordered...
  • I switched from a MacBook pro and iPad, and you could not pay me to go back to Apple.
  • I would not go as far to say that the Surface Pro 3 is an adequate replacement for a MacBook Pro, however if you are considering changing from a MacBook Air and an Ipad, the real targets for the SP3, then in my opinion the SP3 is the better pick. I was skeptical of MSFT claims when they advertised, "The tablet that replaces the laptop", well, I have been using it for six months and the SP3 has exceeded my expectations. It's a great and reliable device.
  • Now this is a great move by Microsoft. Educate the masses'! Show them how to transition to MS world. Even foe those that are fully entrenched like this guy:
    WHAT IF APPLE MADE THE SURFACE PRO 3; A APPLE FANS QUEST TO REPLACE HIS LAPTOP
    http://jltechword.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/the-ipad-air-pro-an-apple-fan...
  • Insanely amusing! And so on point.
  • thanks ZuneETune! glad you liked it!
  • I will keep my desktop with 8.1 but I am seriously thinking of ditching my laptop with Win 10 and just using my MacBook Pro 
  • I agree with you, I cannot replace my full 15.6 inch laptop with a Surface Pro. Smaller laptops, yes. I prefer Windows over Mac OS though, and use an Acer Aspire V5.
  • I helped my parents replace their 15" laptop with an SP3, docking station and an external 28" 4k monitor. Now they no longer use their old desktop or laptop and always have their primary system with them whether they're traveling or at home. And if they need extra screen real estate, they just dock it. They're quite happy with change (and they don't like change lol).
  • Sorry for some reason I have a thing about battery life. My air regularly gets 14+ hours. The MOMENT a surface gets even close to that, I'm in. I love everything about them except for what's most important to me in a portable.
  • switching frm macbook to surface? never!
  • Troll or troglodyte?
  • Alright, how much is Apple paying you?
  • Telling an Apple fan to switch to anything is akin to telling someone to switch religions. Logic or reason does not come in to play here.
  • I've only had Apple products for about 7 years. They have stagnated and gone sour. I upgraded my iPhone 5s to a Lumia Icon. My bulky Mac mini htpc was replaced by a smartphone sized zotac pico, and if Ms will offer a 16gb sp I'll be replacing my mbp. Some people get what's best... Not what logo is present.
  • Sorry sissy, but Apple sucks
  • Let's not get carried away here.
  • Lol it's funny you say that when it's one company against all the rest. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I did, and I'll never go back, either :)
  • Surface all the way, MacBook sucks. Outrageous pricing.
  • Its Windows 8.x and I pass. On the ad the fruit is getting free air time on TV.
  • Which means you're one of those stuck in the past windows 7 people. 8.1 destroys 7 in all ways!
  • I just grabbed a sp3 coming from a mb pro...this guide couldn't have come at a better time for me. Thank you.
  • Thank you - good advice and I am definitely going to take MSFT up on this offer. I want one device and my MacBook Pro & iPad is just too much hassle - from the demos in the Microsoft Store I have seen the SurfacePro3 looks like the real deal. Question is whether the i5 or i7 is the optimum device.....
  • Depends on your usage. My idea is to go with i5 which can run everything smoothly and will cost you few hundred dollars less. Considering that you might want to upgrade to sp4 in two years,yes go for i5.
  • I have an i7, and as a college student, I do not regret the decision at all.
  • Same here! Bought the i7 for a little extra power in programming classes. haven't gotten to those classes yet, but I've been using my Surface everyday and it's amazing at anything!
  • IMO, I'd say hit up the i5. It has the perfect balance between power and performance. The i7 is powerful, but it tends to run a little warmer due to the beastly processing power. I have the i5 128gb version, and it's perfect. My friend has the i7 256gb version, and he said he should have went with the i5 version because it runs much less cooler. Hopefully this sheds a little light for you. Magenta is the new Yellow
  • I have the i7 model and like jeddo45 said, it does run warmer. If you are not doing anything resource intensive, save yourself some money and get the i5. Majority people can get away with either an i3 or i5 depending on what you do. Very few people need an i7.
  • The i3 gets hot. I have the sp3 at times its cool but most of the time it gets extremely hot.
  • I have to agree with the above comments. The MacBook Pro is legitimately great piece of hardware and a much better value than a MacBook Air, and this coming from someone who hates Apple. My qualms stem mainly from OSX itself and the lack of buttons on the mousepad. However, I would gladly take a MacBook Pro with Windows 8.1 installed. I think for me too, to get a Surface Pro, I would have to actually need a laptop computer. In the mean time, my 8 inch Windows tablet and Lumia Icon fill the gap my desktop creates.
  • Will you can dual boot windows on it if you have a license. You can ever run Windows 10 preview on a mac Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I have a MacBook pro, a Mac pro (that only runs windows 8.1), a 10" win 8.1 tablet, and an Icon. If sp4 gets a16gb option I'll be replacing my mbp and tablet.
  • The lack of (predefined click) buttons on the mousepad is honestly one of the best features of the hardware!  You two finger click ANYWHERE on the thinkg for a RT click.  You one button click ANYWHERE.  You can click and then use other drags on the trackpad to move around!  I've been tempted to add a Surface Pro 3, but am slightly reluctant after having had an original Surface Pro...the kickstand (then) couldn't compare  the lap-ability of a hinge.  Is this less an issue than it used to be?  
  • I'm someone who has/uses both a MB Pro and a SP3 and I find the guide o be really shallow and gloss over some important things.  For example, telling people to use Skype instead of iMessage and Facetime is making a huge assumption that your friends will all switch for you (in reality this is unlikely).   Also, it talks about the Command key (on a Mac) vs the Control key on Windows and how some simple commands translate, but it doesn't even mention that there is no Windows equivalent for the key pops that allow for the easy typing of foreign language characters (swapping keyboards is MUCH more complex than the keypop solution in OSX). The guide also glosses over the fact that iTunes on Windows isn't nearly as good or smooth as the experience on a Mac and it isn't touch friendly at all.  To be fair, this is totally Apple's fault for not realeasing a Windows 8 version of iTunes (or anything touch friendly), but still it's a fact of life if you move your content to the SP3. I love my SP3 and it's my go-to machine for many things, but there are a few things it doesn't do well.  It doesn't, for example, work well to read Kindle books - the text rendering is far inferior to that of a Mac or even an iPad (or Android tablet).  I don't know if it's a failure of Amazon, or ClearType, or what, but it's not nearly as good (regardless of whether you use the Windows 7 or Windows 8 version of Kindle). That said, the SP hardware is phenomenal, and the Surface Pen /One Note combination is incredibly useful.  I'm not as impressed with the keyboards, but that is a minor thing.  Even with the limitations/issues encountered coming from a Mac, the SP3 experience is still an excellent one and the downsides, few, but still valid, should be few fenough and outweighed by the positives, for anyone making the switch.    
  • To skype keyboards on windows all you have to do is press windows key + spacebar . It does not get any simpler than that
  • Apple solution is still simpler and more straightforward, so yes, it does get simpler than that!
  • Kindle works great on my SP2.... But if that is the only downside then not so bad.
  • The Kindle app and features are ok, but text renderisng is superior on Apple and more readable on devices with similar resolution.  Don't know why, but I wish they would fix it - maybe use Adobe font rendering instead of ClearType (which gets worse when you turn your tablet in a portrait orientation). 
  • To change different languages, press "windows" key + "spacebar" key
  • Yes, but the Apple solution doesn't require keyboard switching so it's simpler and easier to use.
  • So how do you do that ? without changing any options or pressing any keys how do you change in apple?
  • @cgavula Thanks for your honest response.  Having tried both you do have a great perspective. Just one point to your Skype, iMessage point. J One would not necessarily require friends to “switch” ,  Skype is an app on iOS which many people download and use. Friends can continue to use iMessage for their iOS buddies, but simply ADD the iOS version of Skype when talking with their Windows pals! That’s not very disruptive. iOS is app centric, Apple users are quite accustomed to launching apps to do what they want to do. So if they want to talk to a Windows using compadre, launch Skype it is. Tap, Talk. Simple. :-)  
  • Of course! ;)
  • It will be useful for the 2 people who did this mistake...:)
  • A whole lot more then two have switched from apple. Especially given all the problems with updates, hacked icloud, slave labor, broken promises and the i-idiots who call themselves geniuses at the bar in the store. I know several folks who apple screwed over when trying to fix there Macs and ipads in the last three months. All have told apple to pound sand. And one of the nine guys with bent phones (lol more then nine) got a replacement with faulty ram... Then he bent it again.... Then they would not replace it.... Apple are not the gods you believe them to be.
  • I've owned everything Apple makes, and I am gradually switching everything away. They have stagnated and have some burning new since Jobs died. It's really sad... They were the best... Now they are just doing nothing but selling the same device over and over. Slap a glowing Apple on it and it will sell.
  • My missus won't be swayed. She wants a MacBook no question. She wasn't interested in the Surface when we looked today.
  • Do you still have time to divorce her? :)
  • I guess... :¬)
  • I wouldn't joke about something like that. Marriage is far more important than being a fan of computer devices.
  • Son, I am disappoint. My wife knows what's up. She is rocking an SP1. Tried upgrading her to SP3 but she said she likes what she has right now and doesn't want to spend extra money.
  • She's got an iClone so she's in that product zone. I told her I'm not helping her with any IOS problems when she can't work out how to do something.
  • One of those that thinks that Apple can do no wrong? Even when all their products are years outdated.
  • My SP3 i7 is my go to device. When I want to really get down to business, the docking station along with my 23inch monitor I have it connected to with a full size keyboard and mouse just creates an awesome combination. And if I need to move somewhere to continue doing what I do, it's awesome to just undock it and continue what I was doing. Just the overall experience when using this as a desktop replacement, laptop on the go, or tablet when doing simple stuff, is just amazing. Something I cannot get from a MacBook. With a MacBook, it's always a laptop unless I want to try to connect it to extra peripherals like a full size keyboard, mouse, speaker system, monitor, external hard drive, etc. which just isn't as smooth of a transition. The Surface Pro 3 is just in so many ways better than a MacBook in my opinion. Of course if you are just looking for a laptop and a laptop only and wish to use OSX instead of Windows, then go for it. But it is good to see Microsoft offering something like this at all. They should offer more tutorials on how to do things more often.
  • Right now Costco has a fantastic deal on the surface pro 3. --- I5, 128g, Surface Pro Backlit type cover, pen and a subscription to office 365 personal for less than $1100.00 delivered.  Or pick up in store.
  • Of fcpx ran on windows I would dump all my Macs.
  • Got the i7 surface pro 3... Wicked to say the least and have envious colleagues... Lol. Only prob... Sometimes the touch screen doesn't work, but with a pen/mouse its fine
  • I want a SP3 but the prise is still to high for me so it will be the sp2. I have already an 8" win 8.1 tablet and i Love it.
    After i tot my win 8.1 tablet i never used my android tablet and after i tot win8 on my pc i stopped using other systems.
    I also use a WP and I have 2 of them.
    1 ativ s and a Lumia 1020 both with WP 8.1.
    Can't wait till win 10 comes to all my systems.
  • Keep in mind you can only buy the sp2 second hand. Ms stopped selling it as soon as they released the sp3.
  • Here are still shop selling the sp2 new but I am looking for a second hand. Lower price.
  • I switched ok .was nice to have such a fast boot up with the surface pro 3 . Now wont ever go back to apple . My ifag 5 is so slow makes a samsung cheap phone look so fast . New year up ahead time to crush both my iphone 5 and ipad 3 under the car .android and windows phone and the surfase are good enough for me. Happy holidays everyone
  • My wife recently did the switch... Instead of carrying her MB and an Ipad and an iPhone and all the charging cables and everything... She has an iPhone 5 but an older iPad so incomparable cables.... Now she has a SP3 and the iphone. Less cables and less to worry about. and yes you can use it on your lap just fine. Would like her to dump the iPhone next but we have a limited selection of good WP here in Canada on contract and she does not want to buy on eBay....
  • For my current usage, Pro > SP3 > Air > iPad. My 2014 rMBP is currently my only Apple device, and it complements my 1520 and DV8P.
  • because of this now im buying a sp3 lol
  • I'll do apple and windows together.
  • Cuz Apple can't do it all??
  • I sold my surface and kept my now 9-year-old Macbook as a workhorse and grabbed a 7" Toshiba 8.1 Tablet for using as a photography dump when on the road. That Macbook hasn't skipped a beat in almost a decade and still runs iMovie, Aperture and Pixelmator.
  • I have a Dell Poweredge Pentium Pro server like that. Haven't taken it down I years. Works perfectly....
  • Best gadget i have ever met! surface pro 3 is the most advanced device... in any way... the combination of surface+windows 10  will be amazing...
  • So how is the keyboard on the surface pro 3? I only have a touch cover from the surface rt version and while it's a whole lot easier to use than the touch screen keyboard, it wasn't such a mind blowing experience that I'd want to forego a laptop for it for example. So how does a surface pro 3 keyboard measure up to the typing experience on a laptop or ultra book?
  • The Keyboard for the SP3 is really good. It comes very, very close to the full laptop experience in my opinion and I doubt you would be disappointed by it. It is miles and miles better than the touch keyboard.
  • Since you already know and were able to survive with the touch cover, you will absolutely love the SP3 keyboard. The typing experience is actually very good, I use the SP3 for about 90% of what I do on a daily bases, which includes educational reports, lesson plans, basic to medium excel spreadsheets, producing college algebra math worksheets, etc.. You seem to be the type of person that can adapt to change easily, therefore the SP3 with Windows 8.1 is made for people such as yourself. Get it, you'll enjoy it.
  • I got one for my wife to replace her aging air. I think she'll like it. She always complains that I have better stuff than her... Now she can have something I can be jealous of.
  • Here is a odd questio...how come MSisnot selling rheir Surface products in Latin América (Brasil)... Been wanting one for a while now ,would realy like to kick the ipad or any other crapy tablet i own into one aimple surda e pro 3 where evrything would be synced automatically...
  • I have a MacBook Air which I'm quite satisfied with. If, however, Microsoft started their trade-in program I'd be tempted to get a Surface 3. 
  • I have actually found it really easy to make people do the switch, and I don't even try.  I've confirmed 11 switchers from Mac (and I'm sure more unconfirmed) since getting my SP3 in August.  I run my photography business on my SP3 and my clients see how I'm using it to run everything... using a pen, mouse, touch, REAL multitasking, triple snapped touch apps, desktop/modern combined on the same screen at the same time, snap in keyboard, all miracasted to a 1080p 120" projected screen working as a second monitor (NOT mirrored like AirPlay), with music wirelessly streaming to my studio's sound system (either through bluetooth or miracast).  They see all that running together, then we sign contracts with the pen on the SP3, and I even edit a photo or two they ordered using the pen, right infront of their eyes (with the live editing shown on the 120" screen), then take their credit card payment through it, and send them a PDF receipt to their inbox in real time right from Office 2013, with NO WIRES plugged into it whatsoever, and their reactions are like... "What the hell is this thing and why don't I have one?"  Once people see the sheer power of it, it's a super easy sell.  You don't even have to try.  It's pretty funny.  I get some super excited emails from them after they have gone out and bought the SP3.  Honestly, I'd rather they spent that money on MY services, but whatever. 
  • I had iBook like 10 years ago. After that I've only used high-end Windows laptops (Dell and Lenovo Thinkpads). After a long break away from OS X I purchased a MacBook Pro Retina 15" and I must say that it wipes the floor with all Windows laptops. The premium feel, polished UI, gestures on track pad... Everything is just better compared to Windows PCs. I don't know what's wrong with Windows' UI scaling but everything just looks bad with high res screens. To be honest Windows 8.1 looks shite compared to Yosemite. OSX scaling and Retina makes everything beautiful in OS X. There's no way I would change this laptop to Windows PC. The only thing better in Windows is PowerShell. I think it is more intuitive and powerful than Unix Terminal.
  • I don't think I will do that in near future thx Microsoft