Perhaps you’re getting a new Mac over the holidays. Whether it’s a sleek MacBook or MacBook Pro, an iMac, or perhaps a powerful new iMac Pro, we’d like to start off the relationship with your new Mac on the right foot. To do that, we suggest following our checklist of the first five things you should do with any new (or just new to you) Mac.
1) Follow Apple’s Instructions for Initial Setup
Setting up a new Mac is simple — that’s the way Macs have been since the first one shipped back in 1984, and they’re still a piece of cake to set up. Here’s what you’ll want to do:
Step 1 – Check for an Internet connection
Your Mac needs to be somewhere that has either a Wi-Fi network or another connection to the Internet, as it uses that connection to complete some of the setup steps. If the network requires a password — as it should — be sure to have the password ready.
Step 2 – Plug in only the essential devices
If your Mac has an external keyboard and trackpad or mouse, turn them on (if they’re Bluetooth) or plug them into your Mac. When using an external display (for example, on a Mac Pro or Mac mini), plug it in and turn it on, but do not connect any other peripherals. Be sure to plug in your Mac, too!
Step 3 – Turn on your Mac
Some MacBooks automatically turn on when you connect them to power or open the screen. On other Macs, press the power button to start up. On iMacs and Mac minis, the power button is on the back lower left side of the computer. Some MacBooks have a power button on the upper right side of the keyboard. Most Macs acknowledge powering up with a startup tone, but the new MacBook Pros do not.
Step 4 – Follow the Setup Assistant
The Setup Assistant is a series of screens that your Mac displays as soon as it has booted. You’ll be asked for setup details, like your location (country) and your Apple ID. If you’ve ever used iTunes or have an iPhone or iPad, you have an Apple ID and should use that Apple ID during setup. If not, you’ll be given the opportunity to create one.
In addition, you’ll be asked if you wish to turn on FileVault (which encrypts data on your internal drive), iCloud Keychain (which shares stored passwords and credit card information between devices), and Find My Mac. The latter is important if the Mac is ever stolen or lost, so definitely turn it on. Our recommendation is to let Setup Assistant turn on all of these vital security services.
Finally, you’re asked to create the name and password of your computer account. That information is used to log into your Mac, change some settings, and install software.
Step 5 – Check for Software Updates
At this point, your new Mac is almost ready to go, with the desktop fully visible, the Finder menu bar at the top of the screen, and the Dock at the bottom. This is a good time to click the App Store icon in the Dock, click the Updates button at the top of the App Store window, and then check for software updates. Install them, and then you’ve got one more easy thing to do…
Step 6 – Connect Printers and Other Peripherals
Remember how we made a point in step 2 to not connect any other peripherals? You can go ahead and do that now. Attach your external disk drives (see Step 4 – Set Up Backups, below), printers, microphones, speakers, USB hubs, and anything else you have acquired to make your Mac unique.
2) Use Migration Assistant to Move Data From Your Old Mac or PC to the New Mac
The thought of moving all of the data you’ve accumulated over the years from an older computer to your new Mac can be daunting, which is why Apple created Migration Assistant. It’s an app that lets you transfer data quickly between two computers using a wired or wireless network or a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable, from a Time Machine backup, or from a startup drive mounted on your new Mac. A Rocket Yard article written earlier this year has all the details on how to use this very useful utility.
3) Set Up iCloud and Associated Apps
iCloud is Apple’s cloud solution for storing information that can be used on all of your Apple devices, not just your Mac. Make a change in any iCloud-enabled apps on your iPhone or iPad, and they’re replicated on your Mac. The opposite is true as well. Setting up iCloud on a Mac is fast and easy:
Step 1 – Turn On iCloud
Launch System Preferences from the Dock or the Apple menu on your Mac. Click iCloud, then enter your Apple ID and password. From the scrolling list on the right side of the the iCloud window, check the boxes for the services you wish to use. These include iCloud Drive, Photos, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Safari bookmarks and settings, Notes, Siri, Keychain, Back to My Mac and Find My Mac.
One thing you may not know about iCloud is that just turning it on gives you 5GB of free iCloud storage. More space can be purchased starting at 50GB for $0.99 per month, 200GB for $2.99 per month, or a spacious 2TB of space for $9.99 per month. To do so, click the Manage button located at the bottom of the iCloud window.
Step 2 – Enable iCloud Photo Library, My Photo Stream, and iCloud Photo Sharing
Next to Photos in the list of iCloud services there’s a button marked “Options”. Click this, and a dialog appears with three checkboxes:
For each of the Photos sharing options, there’s a short description of what the option does. For example, in the screenshot above I have enabled iCloud Photo Library so that my entire photo and video library is stored “in the cloud” and can be accessed from my iPhone, iPad, other Macs, or on the iCloud.com website. For those who choose not to store all of their photos and videos in iCloud, My Photo Stream lets you import imagery from devices that aren’t using iCloud Photo Library. And iCloud Photo Sharing allows you to create albums that you can easily share with other people.
Step 3 – Enable Automatic Downloads in iTunes
Do you listen to a lot of music or watch movies or TV shows from the iTunes Store? Automatic downloads make it easy to purchase music, movies, or TV shows on other devices and have them automatically loaded on your Mac. To do this, launch iTunes from the Dock or Applications folder, then select Preferences from the iTunes menu. Click on the Downloads button to view your options for automatic downloads (see screenshot below):
4) Set Up Backups
This is the one thing we highly recommend before you do any useful work with your new Mac. Don’t wait — do this at the time you’re first setting up that Mac and you’ll always have an up-to-date backup ready to go.
If you’ve ordered a new Mac and you’re waiting for it to arrive, or if you’re pretty sure Santa is going to bring you one, there’s another thing you should order in the interim — an external drive for Time Machine backups. MacSales.com is the perfect place to find plenty of external drives that are fast, have the capacity you need, and are reasonably priced.
Your backup drive should have a capacity of two to three times the capacity of the drive in your Mac, and you should also consider portability when you’re making the determination of what drive to buy. Let’s take a couple of examples. First, a reader of The Rocket Yard picks up a new 21.5-inch iMac with Retina display and a 1TB Fusion Drive installed. Since it’s a desktop Mac, he decides not to get a portable drive, and since he’s planning on keeping it for a while, he wants a capacity of 3TB to handle the many backups that Time Machine will make. For this user, an OWC 3.0TB Mercury Elite Pro mini (see image below) is a wise choice. It has the capacity he needs, it’s bus-powered so it doesn’t clutter his desk with a power supply, and it even matches the color of the iMac!
Our next reader is on the go, so she’s asked Santa for a 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. She wants a small and light portable drive to back up the 512GB SSD in the MacBook Pro, and she wants a drive that’s incredibly fast. Our choice for this reader is the OWC Envoy Pro EX with 1TB of speedy SSD storage. It’s also bus-powered, fits in the palm of her hand, and it weighs just 3.4 ounces.
5) Check Out the Mac App Store to find Useful Apps and Utilities
Mac users have a great store to visit to purchase apps, games and utilities — the Mac App Store. Built into macOS, it’s a place to browse for apps, buy them (or download them for free), and have them automatically installed on the computer. Even better, the Mac App Store also watches for updates to the apps that are installed so keeping up to date is a snap.
Getting a new Mac is a great time to consider deleting or replacing outdated or underused apps. For example, do you really need to install Microsoft Office on your Mac? Perhaps using Apple’s free iWork Suite (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) would be an adequate replacement, and it works fine with files sent from users of Office.
At this point, you’re ready to enjoy your new Mac…after one more short step. Launch Safari, navigate to blog.macsales.com, and be sure to set up a bookmark for a fast return visit to the Rocket Yard!