Walt Mossberg

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Genealogy Software for the Mac

There’s no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I’ve received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability. This week my mailbox contained questions about family-history programs for Apple, protecting all the computers on a Wi-Fi network and transferring iTunes libraries between computers.

If you have a question, send it to me at mossberg@wsj.com, and I may select it to be answered here in Mossberg’s Mailbox.

Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.


Are you aware of any good genealogy or family-history software programs for Apple? I have a Windows genealogy program, but recently switched to the Macintosh, and need a Mac program that can import my Windows data.

The best-known genealogy program for the Mac is Reunion, now in its eighth version. It costs $99 and is from Leister Productions, at www.leisterpro.com. It supports the Gedcom standard for genealogy data and should be able to import the basic information from your Windows program, if that program can export its data in the Gedcom file format.

A German company called OnlyMac Software offers another Mac genealogy program, called MacFamilyTree, at www.onlymac.de/index e.html. It costs $49, is also compliant with the Gedcom standard, and should be able to import the information from your current program. Both Reunion and MacFamilyTree are available in free demo versions you can try before you buy. But I haven’t tested either, so I can’t make a recommendation.

I have a Wi-Fi network at home via a desktop PC where I have Norton AntiVirus software deployed. For a laptop that I never use outside the home, do I also need separate antivirus software, or will the standard Microsoft updates/patches be sufficient?

You should be running antivirus software, and several other types of security software, on every Windows computer on your network. Running security software on one PC on a home network, even the main PC, doesn’t protect the other computers on the network. Left unprotected, they can become infected quickly.

To repeat what I have written many times: every Windows computer that is connected to the Internet, directly or indirectly, should contain an active, updated copy of an antivirus program, a software firewall, an antispyware program, an antispam program and a popup blocker. Obtaining, installing and updating all these programs is a pain in the neck, but it’s necessary.

I have purchased a new computer and would like to know how to transfer my extensive iTunes library to the new computer. Both the PCs are running Windows.

Just move over the song files from the old PC to the new one, using any of the common transfer methods: cables, a network, burned CDs or USB flash drives. If you have an iPod, you can also use inexpensive or free third-party (not Apple or Microsoft) software, like CopyPod, to move the songs from the iPod to the new computer. Or, you can use any leftover space on the iPod’s hard disk to transfer the songs, without special software. Next, download and install a fresh copy of iTunes onto the new PC and import the transferred songs into it, using the “Add Folder to Library” command in the File menu.

If any of your songs were purchased from the iTunes Music Store, you will have to make sure the new PC is authorized to play them. Under Apple’s rules, you can play purchased songs on up to five computers. To authorize the new PC, just click on any of the purchased songs and play it. A dialog box will open asking for your ID and password. After you enter this information, and the first song plays, your computer will be authorized and all your purchased songs should play — as long as your total of authorized PCs and Macs is five or fewer.

If you are getting rid of the old PC, or if you are at the limit of five PCs, you can deauthorize the old one by simply going to the Advanced menu in iTunes and clicking on “Deauthorize this computer.”

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Because of the volume of e-mail I receive, I can’t routinely answer individual questions by e-mail, or consult on individual problems or purchasing decisions. I read all questions I receive and select three each week to answer in the column.

Write to Walter S. Mossberg at mossberg@wsj.com


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