How to manage Windows IT to Mac IT migrations with Migration Assistant

Headshot of Andrea Pepper, SimpleMDM writer and MacAdmin
Andrea Pepper|May 26, 2023
General IT Article 2 Background
General IT Article 2 Background

You may have horror stories from attempting a Windows-to-Mac hardware migration. A user (*cough* sales *cough*) comes in requesting a transfer from their current PC over to the newest Mac that was just announced. You go to move their files over to find that issues like failed backups, unsynced cloud-based storage, or corrupted files stand in the way of a successful migration.

But all is not lost. One tool that helps is Migration Assistant for Windows. It's a powerful software utility that allows users to transfer various data, including user accounts, mail, documents, photos, music, videos, and other files.

Let's walk through the steps for a successful enterprise Mac migration.

It starts before the migration.

If you're unfamiliar with Apple device management, you may not realize that a lot of work goes into a successfully deployed endpoint before opening the box. It starts with purchasing your Apple device from the right vendor and syncing it to Apple Business Manager.

1. Purchase your Apple device through Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller

Where you buy that Midnight Black Air is critical. The product must come directly from Apple or an Apple Authorized Reseller to flow effortlessly into your ABM account.

If you have preexisting machines purchased from an unapproved vendor that are newer than 2018, you can still manually enroll them into ABM with some elbow grease.

2. Establish an Apple Business Manager account

Once you establish an ABM account, your Apple Authorized purchases appear in it. From this account, you can manage devices and Apple IDs. You can also integrate your preferred MDM.

3. Auto-enroll your device through your MDM connected to ABM

Once your devices are in ABM and pointing to your MDM, you can make an auto-enrollment configuration in your MDM to give you the most control over your managed devices.

4. Disable VPNs, firewalls, login agents, SSOs, and anything else that could prevent migration

Login agents / single sign-on tools

Keep in mind that for the migration to be successful, you may need to disable any third-party agent or SSO that controls user login.

A migration encountering this type of error may get stuck on the setup page and never move forward.

Screen shot of Migration Assistant's Setting up panel.

Endpoint Protectors

If you installed antivirus software, firewall software, or VPN software, turn it off until you finish transferring content to your Mac.

5. Set up Migration Assistant

Alright, now you can open the box. Now that it's time to transfer, we'll use Migration Assistant to move everything from the initial setup screen. But first, let's dive into how Migration Assistant works.

What is Migration Assistant?

Migration Assistant is an Apple utility made to easily migrate data from a Mac, PC, or Time Machine backup by automating the transfer process.

What is Migration Assistant for Windows?

Migration Assistant for Windows is the Windows application that Apple developed to work alongside their utility. You can download this application and install it on the source PC from which you transfer the data.

You can download the Migration Assistant for Windows for free from Apple, and it's compatible with Windows 7 and later.

Connect devices to a network.

To use Migration Assistant, users must first connect the Windows PC and Mac to the same network wirelessly or directly through a wired connection. Once the two computers are connected, users can launch the Migration Assistant on their Mac and follow the on-screen instructions to begin the transfer process.


A peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection is typically the easiest transfer method. Make sure you choose a reliable network environment with a robust bandwidth and double-check that both the source and destination computers are connected to the same network.


You can also connect an ethernet cable between your devices to create a direct network connection. Keep in mind that you will likely need an ethernet adapter.

6. Migrate data from PC to Mac

Steps on source PC

  • Ensure no applications are running on your PC by going to Task Manager and clicking End task on any applications still running.

  • Open the Migration Assistant for Windows application that you downloaded.


Steps on Mac

  • Open the Migration Assistant application on a Mac with an established user account.

  • Boot up the new machine.

  • Connect to the same Wi-Fi as the source PC.

  • Allow the device to connect to remote management / auto-enroll.

  • Proceed through the setup pages until you see this screen:

Screen shot of Migration Assistant's "How do you want to transfer your information?" panel.
  • Click the option to transfer From a Windows PC.

  • Verify that the passcodes on each device match.


  • Select the information you would like to transfer:

    • User Folder (Keep in mind that when transferring from a PC, you can only transfer one user at a time. If you have multiple users to transfer, you must repeat these steps for each user.)

    • Other Files on C:

  • Set a new user password.

  • Authorize source user password.

  • Allow devices to sit overnight, plugged into a power source, to complete the transfer.


In my experience, total transfer time often takes about half the time of the highest ETA displayed on the screen. For example, here's how this played out with my test migration for this blog post:

  • The longest migration ETA displayed  is 1 hour and 10 minutes on the transfer screen.

  • I guessed the transfer time would be 35 minutes (half of 1 hour and 10 minutes).

  • My actual transfer time was 34 minutes and 25 seconds (per my stopwatch).

Migration best practices

Depending on your setup, you could opt not to transfer specific files if you want to be abundantly cautious to get a successful migration.

For example, suppose all the required work applications are already programmed through an MDM to auto-deploy upon enrollment. In that case, you don't necessarily need to select the option to transfer the existing applications. You could transfer all the folders listed under the user. This approach ensures a clean installation.

Other things you could try unchecking (depending on the transfer) include Settings, Network Options, or Other Files and Documents if the option is present and you're having issues completing your migration successfully.

Screen shot of migration menu where you can select files and documents to omit from migration.

Note: As of macOS 13.0, Migration Assistant on a Mac enrolled in MDM automatically disables the transfer of System & Network Settings to avoid management conflicts.

Troubleshooting tips from Apple

Migration not working? Apple offers some helpful migration troubleshooting tips, like how to use the check disk (chkdsk) utility to discover why your migration fails.


How long does a Windows-to-Mac migration take?

A Windows-to-Mac migration can be anywhere from a few hours to an overnight process. It all depends on the amount of data you're transferring, your transfer method, and the bandwidth of your transfer method and network environment.

How do I transfer data between Windows and Mac?

There are several data migration options available to streamline the transfer process. The Migration Assistant is a useful built-in tool for both Windows and Mac, while cloud-based options, such as iCloud, OneDrive, and Box, offer seamless synchronization and sharing capabilities. Additionally, utilizing shared network drives or folders can facilitate efficient transfers, and mapping a network drive on Mac is easy through the Connect to Server feature.

Does Mac Migration Assistant transfer everything?

Migration Assistant cannot create an exact duplicate from a Windows environment due to compatibility constraints. But a Mac-to-Mac migration can be a full environmental duplication when restoring from a Time Machine backup. Mac Migration Assistant can efficiently transfer data outside of a system restore, including emails, settings, contacts, appointments, tasks, multimedia files, bookmarks, custom preferences, and documents between Windows and Mac. It moves files to their respective Mac apps and requires administrator access on the PC for optimal performance. On macOS Ventura, known Wi-Fi networks also transfer.

For a complete list of all transferable data, please refer to Apple's transfer documentation.

What are the advantages of switching from Windows to Mac?

Switching from Windows to Mac provides benefits that include an intuitive and visually appealing interface, improved security due to Unix-based architecture, frequent updates, enhanced performance, and hardware and software designed under the same roof for better power management and optimizations.

Is Mac easier to use than Windows?

Many users find macOS more user-friendly and intuitive compared to Windows, but it might be challenging at first due to differences in settings and locations. Remember: Ease of use varies between individuals, so it's best to give both operating systems a shot and choose whichever suits your preferences. Just explore, and go with your gut!

Discover the ease of Apple Migration Assistant and simplify your device management experience even further with SimpleMDM. Don't miss out on experiencing seamless device management for your organization — start your 30-day free trial of SimpleMDM today and level up your migration and device management processes!

Headshot of Andrea Pepper, SimpleMDM writer and MacAdmin
Andrea Pepper

Andrea Pepper is an Apple SME MacAdmin with a problematic lack of impulse control around a software update prompt. When not poking at machines, Pepper enjoys being a silly goose in sunny Colorado with her two gigantic fluffer pups.

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