Note: Please understand that with this question I am in no way suggesting that older generations are in anyway less handy with a computer!

I support my parents Windows XP PC. It's a few years old now and really jammed up - it could do with a wipe and reinstall to give it a new lease of life. They primarily use it to surf, email, make holiday movies and organize photos.

Ideally I'd like to migrate them to my preferred platform - Mac - which I now use constantly. My motivations for this are as follows:

  • They'll have a more productive experience (IMHO)
  • Safari, iMovie and iPhoto will pretty much do everything they need
  • I can support them better on Mac
  • Not so important: I believe I can spend less time supporting them

I have 'switched' other 'IT-illiterate' family members with great success. However, my parents are rightly concerned they they'll get frustrated by the subtle differences between the two platforms. They struggled to get where they are with Windows and I must admit that I have no idea how they'll take to it.

So my question is: Does anyone have any useful experiences of migrating such folk to Mac?

  • "silver surfers," never heard that one before. Cute. – Ryan Jul 22 '09 at 17:14
  • 1
    +1 for silver surfers. At first I thought you were supporting super-heroes, then it dawned on me! – Milner Jul 22 '09 at 18:01
  • ditto +1 for silver surfers – Jason Sundram Jul 23 '09 at 2:41
  • Unfortunately it's not my phrase - Google shows the term 'Silver Surfers' was definitely in use in this context around 1999. Here's a news article in 2000 using it: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/755656.stm – teabot Jul 23 '09 at 17:08

You could try leaving them with a copy of the relevant books from the Missing Manuals series. I helped my parents switch to a Mac a few years ago, and bought them the Tiger and iPhoto books which they've told me have been useful.

This will depend, of course, on whether or not they're the kind of people who would be willing to read documentation of any sort. (I'm not sure my own parents are, which makes me suspect they're only humoring me. ;))


I have migrated my wife's parents to Mac OS X. All they want to do is surf the web (including online banking), read e-mail and play some card games. By Putting all of the necessary icons in the dock, they are perfectly happy. They have often said that the "new computer" is so much easier than the old one.

P.S. Install TeamViewer http://www.teamviewer.com for super easy remote access so you can help them out when necessary

  • Remote access would be great. I used to try and do this with VNC but it was always a little problematic - what with dynamic IPs and such. – teabot Jul 23 '09 at 9:50

If they share documents with others they'll have to learn about file formats and interoperability.

My Dad's Windows computer died a few months back, so I lent him my iBook G4 to use while he waited for a replacement. He shares files (mostly word processing documents) with other people "of a certain age" as part of the work he does for a non-profit in his spare time.

These people come from hugely varying levels of experience with computers, and as a group they just don't get the idea of file formats. Trying to educate everyone and force the team onto a standardized format could be, well, difficult to put it mildly. Some people send files in Word 97-2003 format, some in ODF, some in DOCX, one even in TXT.

When my Dad was using Office 2007 on windows, this was no problem, but the shift to Mac Office mean he had to spend a lot of brain cycles on unreadable files, or files that don't convert perfectly.

After a month he had re-named Apple to "Crapple" and he swore of Macs for life.

  • I'll look into this. I know that they do use office but I think that might purely be to compose and print out their own correspondence. – teabot Jul 23 '09 at 9:49

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