Santa brought you a brand-new Mac for Christmas? Gizmag's got you covered as we run through a few of the basics to get you started.

Set it up

Thankfully, this part shouldn't take up too much of your leisure time, as a new Mac is very easy to set up. Just enter your details after powering on, and create an Apple ID if you don't have one already.

The Apple ID is used to purchase songs from the iTunes Store, log into iCloud, or make a reservation at an Apple Retail Store (plus more).

Your first stop when first booting up should be Software Update. This will ensure your system gets the latest firmware and essential software upgrades.

Apps, lots of apps

Apps aren't only for iOS nowadays, and if you head to the Mac App Store, you can download apps for your new Mac, including games, productivity apps and the basics, like Twitter.

If you don't like your software library to be totally curated by Apple, resources like Open Source Mac are useful in getting your hands-on open-source software alternatives.

Get gaming

Mac users have traditionally been left on the outer when it comes to gaming, but things have come along rather nicely in recent years. To be clear, a Mac running OS X still cannot even begin to approach a custom Windows rig for gaming purposes. However, with Steam, a larger number games are now available to Mac users than ever before.

If you prefer older titles, GOG is one resource that will allow you to purchase classic games available for Mac OS X. Just be ready to say goodbye to any pretense of being sociable during the holidays.

Run Windows

Although the software availability on Mac has improved, you might still find yourself needing to run some Windows-only applications (or games). There are a couple of different ways to get that software running on your Mac, so lets take a look.


If you wish to run Windows on a Mac without restarting your computer, the least invasive and safest method is to make use of a virtual machine, such as
VMware Fusion or other alternatives, such as
Virtualbox. Keep in mind you'll need a licensed copy of Windows to complete the installation.

Boot Camp

Boot Camp is arguably easier to get your head around than virtualization. Essentially, the Boot Camp software, which is included with your Mac, installs Windows natively, allowing you to choose between which operating system you wish to run when you power on your Mac.

It's probably best left to Apple's own boffins to describe the process in full. Visit Apple's own Boot Camp page for further details.

Control your Mac from afar

Just because you can't be next to your new pride-and-joy, doesn't mean you can't access its files, run its software, and generally get things done – provided you have another Mac or iOS device.

The process works by using your second device to access your Mac desktop, and though it's a little clumsy and slow (even old games are a disaster, and there's no audio support), for file accessing and document editing, it's a handy tool.

Apple does have remote desktop software in the latest versions of OSX, and there are numerous third party options including iTeleport, which allows control Mac, Windows and Linux machines from an iOS device.

Look after your purchase

One of the advantages of a Mac is you don't need to defrag it, or do stuff like fix system registries (shudder). That said, Macs can still do with a helping hand every now and then to ensure things keep running smoothly.

There are a lot of options out there, but one which won't take your money and yet is about as powerful and flexible as can be is Onyx. Using Onyx, you can fix permissions, reset the cache, and change all kinds of options – just be sure to read the help documentation first, as it's a rather powerful piece of software.

So that's a look at some of the basics. If you have any other useful tips for the Mac novice we'd love to hear them in the comments below. As you dig deeper into your new acquisition, the Apple support community can also be a useful resource for getting questions answered.

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