Moving photos, files, and mail from Mac to Surface

Feel confident that your photos, files, mail, and more are safely on your new Surface.

Before transferring files from Mac to Surface

You might have photos, mail, and other information that’s already stored in the cloud. You’ll be able to access all those cloud apps and services easily from your Microsoft Surface. For files that aren’t in the cloud, or for files you just want to back up on your Surface, we recommend transferring your content with a USB-based external hard drive (USB 3.0 will be fastest). You’ll want to purchase and/or use an external hard drive that lists compatibility with both Mac and Windows.

How do I know what size external hard drive to buy?

  1. On your Mac, click to open the Apple menu in the top left of the screen.
  2. Select About this Mac.
  3. Click the Storage tab in the window that appears.

We recommend purchasing an external hard drive with more storage than the amount of used storage on Macintosh HD.

Mac harddrive storage screen

A note about Macs with multiple user accounts

The following steps help you move content from a single user account (the one you are currently signed into). If you have more than one user account on your Mac, you’ll likely want to create similar user accounts on your new Microsoft Surface and repeat the steps below to move content from each of the user accounts on your Mac into the respective user account on your Surface.

Learn how to create multiple user accounts on Surface.

Transferring your photos from Mac to Surface

  • Export from Mac

    Exporting photos from Mac

    1. Connect the external hard drive to a USB port on your Mac and a power source (if required).
    2. On your Mac, open Photos.
    3. On the menu bar at the top of your screen, click Edit then Select all.
    4. Click File and choose Export.
    5. In the pop-up window:
      • Set “Subfolder Format” to “Moment Name.”
      • Click the Export button.
    6. Select your external hard drive from the “Devices” section in the left pane.
    7. Click the Export button.
    8. When the transfer is complete, select the icon for your external hard drive on the desktop.
    9. On the menu bar at the top of your screen, click File then Eject.
    10. Disconnect the external hard drive from your Mac.
    Exporting photos on a Mac using Photo
  • Import to Surface

    Importing photos to Surface

    1. Connect the external hard drive to the USB port on your Surface and a power source (if required).
    2. The folder may open automatically. If not, there will be a notification on the right of your screen : “Removable disk: Tap to choose…”. Click the notification and choose Open folder to view files.
    3. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + A to select all folders.
    4. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + C to copy.
    5. In the left pane, select Pictures under “This PC.”
    6. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + V to paste your photo folders.
    7. When the transfer is complete, select This PC from the left pane.
    8. Right-click the icon for your external hard drive, and choose Eject from the menu.
    9. Disconnect the external hard drive from your Surface.
    Exporting photos on a Mac using Photo
  • View photos

    Accessing your photos on Surface

    1. Return to the desktop and open the Start menu.
    2. Click File Explorer, and then, double-click to open the Pictures folder.
    3. Voila – browse your photos!
    Microsoft Surface Book Windows 10 file explorer pictures folder

Transferring documents, downloads, music, and more from Mac to Surface

  • Select files

    How will I find all the files I want to move?

    Here’s the easiest way to find everything you may want to transfer:

    1. Open Finder in the Dock at the bottom of the screen.
    2. On the menu bar at the top of your screen, click Go then Home.
    Go home on a Mac
  • From Mac

    Copying files from Mac

    1. Connect the external hard drive to a USB port on your Mac and a power source (if required).
    2. Click inside the “Home” window with your personal folders.
    3. Use to keyboard shortcut Command + A to select all folders.
    4. Use the keyboard shortcut Command + C to copy.
    5. Select your external hard drive from the “Devices” section in the left pane.
    6. Use the keyboard shortcut Command + V to paste your folders.
    7. When the transfer is complete, select the icon for your external hard drive on the desktop.
    8. On the menu bar at the top of your screen, click File then Eject.
    9. Disconnect the external hard drive from your Mac.
    Copying files from a Mac
  • To Surface

    Copying files to Surface

    1. Connect the external hard drive to the USB port on your Surface and a power source (if required).
    2. The folder may open automatically. If not, there will be a notification on the right side of your screen asking what to do.
    3. Click the notification and choose Open folder to view files.
    4. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + A to select all the files within.
    5. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + C to copy.
    6. In the left pane, select Desktop under “This PC.”
    7. Use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + V to paste your files.
    8. When the transfer is complete, select This PC from the left pane.
    9. Double-click the icon for your external hard drive, and repeat steps 3-7 for the remaining folders on your external hard drive (“Downloads,” “Documents,” “Movies,” “Music,” and “Pictures”).

      Note: you will not need to copy the “Photo Library” folder in “Pictures” if you previously exported your photos during the “Moving your photos” section above.

    10. When you’ve finished copying all your files, click This PC in the left pane, then right-click icon for your external hard drive, and choose Eject from the menu.
    11. Disconnect the external hard drive from your Surface.
    This PC

Will any of my files not work on Surface?

Almost everything you transfer will work within corresponding Windows applications. Photos, music, videos and PDFs will work with built-in applications. Files created within specific applications, like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Adobe Photoshop, will work when you install the corresponding application for Windows.

However, certain files created within Apple’s applications (such as project files for GarageBand or iMovie) won’t work on Surface. Files created within Apple’s iWork applications can each be exported to a corresponding Microsoft Office document format (e.g. Pages to Word, Keynote to PowerPoint, and Numbers to Excel).

Transferring your web favorites from Mac to Surface

Already using Firefox or Chrome?

If you already have a preference for Firefox or Chrome, you can download either browser for Windows and pick up where you left off! Both browsers offer a sign-in to sync favorites:

Using Safari?

No problem! When you use iCloud for Windows, your Safari favorites will be added to Microsoft Edge on your Surface. Open System Preferences on your Mac and make sure iCloud is set up to sync Safari favorites.

Accessing your email, contacts, and calendar

Access is easy. What you’ll do depends on what you use currently: Web apps (like Gmail or iCloud), Mac apps (Apple Mail), or Microsoft Outlook or Entourage.


Select from the dropdown menu:

Last updated: February 12, 2016


If you were using a Mac, you might also have an iPhone. And that probably means you have music in iTunes and photos in iCloud. Don’t worry, you won’t have to leave any of it behind with your new Surface.

Find more support for switching from Mac to Surface

Surface Pro 3 support

For further Surface support or troubleshooting, visit Surface.com/support.

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