Setting up Your New Mac: Beginner’s User Guide


If you’ve been an ardent Windows user, you will find that a Mac is an experience in itself.

But using a Mac for the first time can also be daunting because there are many differences in the UI/UX compared to Windows.

So, here’s a simple guide that will walk you through the basic setup and teach you some common shortcuts to make life simpler:

1. Back up your data

First things first, you need to have a solid data backup plan. 

You can rely on Apple’s built-in solution, Time Machine, to backup your data to an external storage device. This will save you a ton of anguish if you ever delete an important file accidentally.

If you have a massive amount of data to deal with, you can also rely on cloud storage services like iCloud, Dropbox, or Google Drive.

You should also retrieve your data from your old laptop and store it locally or sync it to your iCloud account.

2. Set up your preferred browser

If you’re new to the Apple ecosystem, you may not have used Safari. Safari is the default browser on Apple products, and you can continue using it. But if you prefer a Window’s default Internet Explorer, then you might want to change that. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t an equivalent of IE on Mac. But, there is a workaround that allows you to set up Microsoft internet explorer for iMac, and here’s a quick breakdown:

  1. Simulate Internet Explorer on Mac with Safari by turning on developer tools
  2. Launch Internet Explorer on a virtual machine
  3. If all else fails, use a third-party browser like Google Chrome or Firefox

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3. Create a user account(s)

You can create a user account for yourself or multiple user accounts if you intend to share the Mac with family and friends. It makes sure your data is not visible to other people using the same device, and you can limit controls for guest users.

There are five types of user accounts you can create. 

Admin account

The first user account has to be an admin account. This account can set up new users, change settings and modify existing user accounts. You can have multiple admin accounts. 

Go to System Preferences -> Users & Groups to create new accounts. 

Standard user account

Standard users have access to files in their home folder and change settings that apply to their personal use of the Mac.

Parental controls

You can enable and apply parental controls with Screen Time to limit how children use the Mac and how long they use it.

Sharing only account

This is useful when you want to only share specific files on your Mac. This selective access prevents other users from accessing sensitive data. 

Guest account

If someone needs to use your laptop infrequently or only once, enable the guest account feature. Anyone that then needs to use your computer can log in through the guest account without tampering with your settings or accessing your files. None of their activity is saved once they log out.

4. Learn keyboard shortcuts

Shortcuts can save you a lot of time when completing repetitive tasks, and Mac has some pretty cool ones. 

  • The standard copy-paste is Command + C and Command + V
  • Swipe 3 fingers left to switch between apps
  • Swipe three fingers up to see all your virtual desktops
  • Command + Space Bar to access Spotlight (Mac’s search bar)

There are dozens of keyboard shortcuts for Mac that you can use to make your work seamless.

5. Use the trackpad

The trackpad on a Mac is undoubtedly different and better compared to any other laptop. There is no right or left click button – it works with pressure sensors. 

  • To right-click, you need to use two fingers and ‘click’ the trackpad. 
  • To scroll, use two fingers to swipe up or down.
  • To zoom in or out, pinch with two fingers how you usually would on your smartphone.

You can also use the trackpad to create signatures to sign PDFs!

6. Set up the Dock

Unlike Windows, your desktop doesn’t contain all your app icons. You can add or remove desktop icons if you wanted to, but all your frequently used apps/open apps live on the Dock. 

The Dock allows you to navigate between apps and open them quickly. If you find the Dock annoying, you can also hide it only to appear when you hover around the bottom of the screen.

7. Try Spotlight for search

Spotlight on Mac is easily the best and commonly used feature. Need to search for an app, image, file, doc, or settings? Spotlight has you covered. 

In fact, you can also perform web searches on Spotlight. You can ask for the local weather and forecast, convert currency, or measurements. 

Spotlight is incredibly helpful when you have to look for a file or email that’s buried deep in your folders. 

There you have it! This basic setup will allow you to start using your Mac confidently, and then you can keep learning on the go.

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