Walt Mossberg

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Books for Switching to Macintosh

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 books for switching from Windows PCs to Macintosh, antispyware program and transferring files from an old computer to a new one.

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.

I am about to switch to the Macintosh after many years using only Windows PCs. Is there a good book to help me with the transition?

In addition to the many books about how to use a Mac in general, there are two that were written specifically to guide Windows users in making the switch to the Mac’s OS X operating system — though in my experience most Windows users can successfully switch without a book.

One book, called “Switching to the Mac,” is by David Pogue. The second, called “Mac OS X for Windows Users: A Switchers’ Guide,” is by David Coursey. Both authors are veteran technology writers. Neither book takes into account the latest Mac operating system, called Tiger, because they were published before Tiger appeared. But either should still be a strong guide to making the switch. The Pogue book is also slated to be updated next month with a new edition that covers Tiger. Mr. Coursey has also just published “The Mac Mini Guidebook,” which, while focused on Apple’s newest low-end model, has a lot of content on switching and covers Tiger as well.

In addition, there is a wealth of material on Apple’s Web site on how to switch from Windows. An entire section of the site, devoted to switching, can be found at www.apple.com/switch. A basic tutorial on the Mac can be found at www.apple.com/support/mac101.

About a week after I downloaded and installed the Google Toolbar, I noticed a strange looking program had knocked it off to the far right of my screen. I’m sure I unknowingly downloaded this piece of spyware and now it takes over my Google searches. Any suggestions on how to excise it?

You need to obtain and run a good antispyware program, and then keep it running all the time. In fact, at first, you may need to run several of them to expunge this particular piece of malicious software and any others you might have accumulated. My current recommendation in this category is Webroot’s Spy Sweeper, but there are other good ones, including Spybot Search and Destroy, Ad-Aware and CounterSpy.

I have an old Dell computer that I acquired in 1998. I would like to purchase the new eMachines PC recommended in your recent article. My problem is that I would have to transfer my files onto the new computer but my Dell only has a floppy drive and a Zip drive, and the eMachines PC lacks these drives. How can I do this?

You can connect the two computers with a cable and automatically transfer your files using software programs specially designed for this task, such as IntelliMover by Detto (www.detto.com) and Alohabob PC Relocator by Eisenworld (www.alohabob.com). These products usually include cables, but you may have to pay extra for a different cable that works with your old PC.

Another option would be to buy an external USB version of the Zip Drive, install it on the new PC, and then transfer your files via Zip disk. Such an external Zip drive can be bought starting at well under $100. See www.iomega.com.

* * *

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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