Moving Production Computers from Mac to PC


Well-known member
First off I'd like to state that I am not looking for opinions on what platform is better for doing Prepress work. I feel that this debate has been beat to death and can be skewed from either side to make it appear that one platform is better than the other.

What I am looking for is if anyone has had real life experience moving their Prepress computer systems from Macs to PCs.

I work for a large Publishing/Printing company and our Prepress systems have been Mac based since 1989. We are currently using about 90 Macs in our different Prepress groups. Throughout the years we have become very proficient with scripting and other processes but now our IT is pushing us to switch all of these systems over to PC's. I know this can be done but I also know how much work went into getting us to where we are at today and what we are capable of doing.

If you have made the transition from a Mac driven Prepress to a PC driven Prepress I'd like to hear about it. Both good and bad. Some of the things I'd like to hear about is how did you handle the transition, were you really better off moving to PC's, how did you handle color management, did production suffer because of the transition, did you find there are now things you can't do because you moved to PC's and had to turn around and bring a few Macs back into the flow.

Once again I want to stress that this thread is not supposed to be about which platform is better than the other. If the thread starts turning that way I will ask the powers that be to either lock the thread of delete it completely.


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Does IT want to flip the switch to do the change over or would it be possible to perhaps switch out say 5-10 stations out of the 90 and gain some experience before doing a complete switch?

gordon p

Lukas Engqvist

Well-known member
I'd second Gordo on that. The question is if the IT is pushing will they back you upp and retrain all the staff that need training.
PC is such a wide term, much wider than Mac. There are many variants of windows. Who will administrate the machines? The IT or those that were Mac users? You may have issues with work paths... it need not be a problem but may be.

If you are working with special characters, it is more cumbersome to find what is not directlty accessible via the keyboard.

ICC profiles usually work ok, provided you have a good set of hardware and enough user rights.
Are all the PC's going to be identically configured? Ram, graphics, monitor, network drives?
Will the workstations be managed centrally? Will you have server based font management software? Have you got new site licences for all your fonts? Some fonts get renamed over the divide due to sloppy coding. Are they opentype? Do you have PC versions of essential pluggins?

There will be a training period, and you will need to support your skilled workers so you don't loose them in the switch. You will have alot of frustration to handle. I tried switching some of my work to windows, since certain software ceased to run on mac, even though I am highly motivated I found it testing my patience (little diferences and the constant loading of updates and security issues).

Even if you move most of your stuff to PC, do keep one or two macs for backward compatibility, and in case you get a customer/partner job that requires a Mac.

Mark H

Well-known member
I can't speak to the quality of the software between the two operating systems as I have only used PC for prepress work. My big concern, however, is in training all those people in the base differences between a Mac and a PC. There is a HUGE learning curve when moving from one to the other. Shortcuts that are known by heart for years will no longer, scripts/macros will have to be rewritten (if they can be), their whole world will be thrown upside down in the matter of a day and productivity will drop to near zero.

Can the change be made? Yes, but it takes detailed planning, preparation, and patience from everyone - owners, management AND users (and maybe customers too!).

Mark H


Well-known member
My question is why? Why even consider the change? There is no advantage to moving from one to the other and if the operators all know the software on the Mac, it will be a huge change for them to move to a PC. Like other's have pointed out... it will be all the short cuts and such that will drive them nuts. Again, I just have to ask myself why? No advantage and only pain to be endured.


Well-known member
My question is why? Why even consider the change? There is no advantage to moving from one to the other and if the operators all know the software on the Mac, it will be a huge change for them to move to a PC. Like other's have pointed out... it will be all the short cuts and such that will drive them nuts. Again, I just have to ask myself why? No advantage and only pain to be endured.

I'm not picking on you WiseGuy, I'm just using your post as an example. Please remember I am looking for some real life experiences in doing a switch over like this. Trust me, I am just as frustrated and have asked myself "Why?" a million times. If I had to guess I'd say it is because of money but I don't know that for sure.

To answer some of the questions so far I would certainly hope that this would be a transitional changeover and not a straight changeover.

Who is going to administer the machines has not been determined yet. Currently we take care of the administration of the Macs which includes, settings, setting up computer images, etc.

Are all of the PC's going to be identical. I'd like to say yes, but with the amount of equipment we have now I don't know if this is going to happen. It would depend on if the money is available or not.

Will we have server based font management, and other font questions. This is one area I feel pretty confident about. We own the entire Adobe Font Library and we are using Extensis UTS v2 for our font management. We've been doing this since 2005.

I was involved heavily in our transition from Mac OS9 and a Quark based Prepress to Max OSX and all Adobe CS programs in 2004 so I know all too well what a major changeover can do to a company and its employees. This changeover also included management of the computers. I worked several 60 to 70 hour weeks, barely slept, lost what remaining hair I had and was just a joy to be around.


Well-known member
The MACs are production machines just like a press or CTP device. IT wouldn't be allowed to make the decision about what CTP device the company used, however, because IT works with computers they somehow think they are the ones who should determine what equipment prepress should use.
Make sure that IT takes responsibility for all PC support. They will break it - they should fix it.



Well-known member
I've been involved in helping customers out with doing this and got the impression that it was a lot of trouble for little or no gain. Your mileage may vary, in these cases the change was driven by corporate, to try and reduce support costs and standardize equipment. The choice wasn't made by the users or management in graphics department.

Make sure that your IT department is prepared to handle supporting how a designer works compared to how a general user works. If this is a cost driven decision, make sure that the powers that be have figured the increased support cost into the equation. Generally in a larger company the design department handles their own Mac support because they have to. When they switch to PCs the IT department now has to support on many more machines than they used to, and moving a designer over to PCs doesn't mean that their support requirements now match those of a general PC user. Designers need more storage space, more RAM, more connectivity, and better hardware than your normal word processing user. If IT doesn't have a plan in place to support design department requirements on Windows you're in for a big headache.

If someone in the design department is comfortable handling IT related issues on Windows it will help, but you may need to work out some territorial issues. No kidding, at one place I ended up having to argue with an IT worker that the graphics department needed to be able to load and unload fonts. His solution was "just replace it with Arial" and this was for an ad that they had sold to a client of theirs, not something internal. So departmental attitude in IT will go a long ways towards making this a success or failure.

You mentioned that you have a lot of automation in place, but didn't mention the type. If that automation is AppleScript or Automator based make sure it's possible to do the equivalent with Javascript or a Windows specific scripting language before proceeding. Usually a workaround can be found, but that isn't always the case.

The learning curve is going to be a problem for a while, and the change will definitely slow things down for a few months at least. It's hard to judge whether production speed got better with time as they adjusted, since there were some other factors involved. It definitely didn't help employee morale, though.

Are your fonts OpenType based or Postscript or TrueType? If your dealing with OpenType you'll be fine from a font standpoint, which is the usual issue with this type of switch. If you're on PS or TrueType make sure to plan on some extra time when opening any legacy jobs to deal with type reflow.

The color management side of things should be OK. I've seen a few more issues with Windows drivers and calibration software--compared to the Mac side--but nothing too bad. If you have input over what gets purchased and can make sure that drivers are available it shouldn't be a problem.

If you use any specific plug-ins on the Mac side make sure to check to see if they are available in Windows and factor the cross-grade cost into the equation if your license isn't cross-platform.

Good Luck


Well-known member
Am I to assume that your MACs are getting old, and need of replacement? I'm sure that there would be initial savings on the hardware end (by going PC) if that were the case, but as others have already stated, operator resistance would be of the highest order.

Also - I don't have a clue as to what type of work you do, i.e. if it is all internally generated, but every pre-press department I have ever worked in has BOTH platforms running side by side... not sure how you get away with having only one platform anyway. Just asking.

William Campbell

Well-known member
I've not necessarily been involved in a large-scale transition from one to the other, but I've had both sitting on my desk over 15 years, both used daily to perform prepress. If we were 10 years ago I'd say you have a major headache ahead of you, but nowadays, using a PC versus a Mac, once you leave the OS and are in any of the major programs, is nearly identical. Particularly Adobe products. The difference now is so little between platforms that it doesn't matter much. Use whichever you prefer, or, as in your case, are forced to use. I doubt the change in platforms (once the transition passes) will slow you down any.

You didn't indicate your workflow, which I assume is another factor. For me, I've always preferred controlling my workflow (Agfa) from a PC (no, not starting that war you spoke of). Different things have always felt better on one platform or another. Acrobat is zippier on a PC to me, but I still favor Mac for Photoshop. It just "feels" better for some reason. Regardless, I don't take sides, and I use both platforms for all programs and essentially they all work the same, like I said -- nowadays. But before, yeah, there was a big difference and Mac easily had the edge when it came to graphics-specific applications. Not so today. The playing field is far more level.

Not long ago we moved our Preps dongles over to PC from our Macs. That was a nice switch actually, since I'm a fan of right-click for context (Preps opens info on right-click, very handy). However, there are a few annoying Windows-specific bugs in Preps, but for the most part the zippiness outweighs the disadvantages. That was one transition that I feel turned out to be for the better.

Your biggest challenge is fonts. OpenType helps immensely since the new multi-format can move between platforms with ease and at last the suitcase idea of marrying fonts in families is dead (one of my pet peeves about a Mac versus PC which always kept them separate, as OpenType does today).

About how to manage fonts, I take the simple approach: on a Mac, I drag fonts into the user font folder, and occasionally I use Fontbook. Windows, I add a shortcut to the "send to" folder under User, and that appears in the right-click fly-out. Select the font files and click "Send to... Windows fonts." Then I clean up afterward. By now there must be some form of font management for both platforms that works decent. Me, I have used all sorts of them in the past but in the long run found simplicity was the better option for me. No extra gadgets.

I hope that helps. If you have other specific questions about how to do things on PC the same as Mac, you can always send me a private message or email I'm always willing to help between things. Good luck.
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New member
I have not moved a complete department from one platform to another but I have been forced to work on files designed on one platform and prepped on another and I can tell you it was issue after issue.

A majority of print jobs are designed on the mac platform. I work for a very large printer and I would say 90% of jobs are provided from the Mac platform.

Mac designers will want write backs of their files in the version and platform they provided.

Fonts will be one of the bigger headaches, even though fonts are named the same on both platforms, swapping mac fonts for PC fonts due to platform will cause reflow issues.


Registered Users
From working in a small shop with both platforms and the people working here before I started and the clients we have locally a switch of that magnitude will SUCK. IT doesn't understand the basics of the workflow or the ins and outs of production. They want what they can control and make their lives easier. If they want to change something have them switch to Linux for themselves. OS X works just fine with Samba and file sharing that way.
Even with the OTF fonts and the same applications switching between platforms causes problems, even in Photoshop.


Well-known member
I wonder if the savings is worth it.

I am not sure if you will be able to upgrade from a mac version of the Creative Suite to a Windows version so you might have to pay extra money for full versions, even if you are doing volume licensing.

Some fonts just don't work on both platforms.

Does IT understand that a comparable PC is just about the same price as a PowerMac, don't let them buy you an $800 PC and expect it to work as good as even an iMac. I had this done to me, they bought me a dell slimline optiplex from the business unit - HUGE MISTAKE - tons of waiting for the screen to redraw, anything with onboard graphics is gonna suck bigtime. Go to hp or dells website and do a build of a pc to mac specs, see how much it is - you can also get volume pricing for Macs, just like pc.

And finally, why does IT get to dictate what types of computers prepress uses, maybe IT should adjust what they have to better support the probably larger pool of users using the macs. Probably cheaper and less obtrusive.

The IT people where i used to work were totally against having macs. And the only reason was they didn't know how to support them, seems that it might be cheaper to train the IT guys to support the macs than change some 90 Macs and piss off a lot of Mac users. You can guarantee that you will loose employees if you do this. You will also build animosity towards the IT guys, your Mac people will seek revenge.

Your entire shop is setup and running perfectly with the macs, why change, the headache and problems outweigh the possible cost savings.


Well-known member
Fonts and Images

Fonts and Images

Your two biggest problems will be fonts and images. Unless you were using all opentype fonts you will have lots of font problems, reflow, etc.
The next problem you will have is images and files without extensions. The mac doesn't need extensions but PCs do! You won't be able to tell the difference between a word file and a Quark file. Or a tiff file or jpg etc.
Another problem will be networking. If you are using a server your connection will drop time after time. We use freeping in the background to keep pinging the server. It helps but still drops.
I would start with Windows 7 64bit. Don't go backwards.
If your prayer life was poor before, it will get a lot better!!

William Campbell

Well-known member
Though I could see doing this transition, in reading some of the other posts I'd have to agree -- why only one platform? I would think you'd have PCs already, set up side by side with your Macs. We've done it this way for years simply to ensure work is performed using the platform, fonts, and version of application software that perfectly matches the same the designer used in originating the files. Sure, things are a lot better now in respect to moving between platforms and software versions, but why take any extra chances? The best bet is to serve your clients as best you can by matching their platform/fonts/software.


Well-known member
The next problem you will have is images and files without extensions. The mac doesn't need extensions but PCs do! You won't be able to tell the difference between a word file and a Quark file. Or a tiff file or jpg etc.

I deal with this stuff everyday, our archive was assembled onto a pc then the DVDs were burned from there, i can't tell if i have a Freehand EPS or an Illustrator EPS, sometimes the files decide to become executible unix files which do nothing.


Well-known member
When working for Schawk an IT guy told me that there was a corporate mandate to staff a production shop with a specific ratio of IT help vs. number of workstations. For mac it was 1 to 20 machines, and for windows it was 1 to 5 machines. Why? The answer was printing in general (lasers, etc.). For some reason printing from Windows machines required more tech support when there was a problem. We ran windows-only apps under Parallels (esko) which worked perfectly, and only required an upgrade on macs to 8gb of ram, giving you the best of both worlds on one machine. Under SL people have reported running W7-64 with fast benchmarks using the latest Parallels. From what I have read while enjoying the hobby of hackintosh (mac os on pcs) most young people prefer to do their "work" on the mac side, and "play" on the windows side due to the unanimous support for gaming under windows.


Well-known member
Hardware cost vs. real world cost

Hardware cost vs. real world cost

I've worked in large institutions before where they were ruled by the all mighty dollar. Thats part of the reason I'm now independent. When the dollar rules everything people get "green vision", and see the immediate costs of things, and sometimes not the real world cost. If you consider the PC hardware then yes, it will cost less than the Apple hardware. If you now consider repurchasing licensing for all the software you have, and the speciality software (RIPS, color management, etc...) then the "real world" cost may outweigh the hardware savings. Another issue to look at is lifespan of the hardware and software combination. If you switch to XP based machines, you will be forced to upgrade software (and potentially hardware) in a couple of years because Microsoft is killing off XP as an install option in October of this year, and it reaches end of life (software death) next year. While a Mac will function fine after 5 or 8 years, a PC will definitely not. Its a issue of operating system design, and Windows uses an inferior file system for disk storage, and over the years it will become corrupt, no matter how much you try to prevent it. (I'm not saying that as a hater, but as plain fact. OS X uses ext2 journaled FS, NTFS is inferior). If you go with Windows 7, then some of the software may not work correctly yet.

No one is trying to say stick with the Mac, but if you were only changing 5 machines over, that wouldn't be an issue, but with close to 100, thats a major issue, one your IT department may not realize. Remember, they're not print professionals, and don't understand the entire pre-press workflow. If they break it, they probably won't know how to fix it either. I would propose they consider not switching over the machines that interact with your imagesetters, CTP, CTF, or other critical pre-press equipment. I still keep around a G5 that runs my RIP because 10.6 no longer supports AppleTalk.

One last issue is pre-press your employees... are they going to accept this change?


This can be done. On the system side, it can be no big deal.

This can be done. On the system side, it can be no big deal.

I have moved clients from Mac to PC. I currently work with and support both platforms. And I've even moved one back to Macs -- not for performance reasons, but for political ones. In simplistic terms, it should be no big deal. Truly, though, the Devil is in the details. Depending on what you have now and where you want to get with your system upgrade it could be an easy transition or an incredibly hard one.

1) What kind of Mac systems do you have now? If you're running (close to) state-of-the-art Macs and the latest operating systems, any performance upgrades will be minimal. If you're running old Motorola-chipped machines -- which have been effectively obsoleted by OSX 10.6, which has one of my current clients making the move you're considering today -- you're going to be amazed at the performance improvements.

2) What kind of software are you using? If you're still running Adobe Creative Suite 2 or 3 because you're running ancient systems, and you're making the jump up to CS5 with the new gear, you're going to have a steep learning curve because you're not only dealing with a system upgrade but you're also doing a BIG production software upgrade. Count on your longtime users to translate the steeper learning curve of the new production software into complaints on switching platforms, aggravating the resistance to the total process.

3) What kind of mission-critical peripherals -- scanners, imagesetters/platemakers, proofers, etc. are tied to the systems? Are you going to be upgrading those as well? Or are you going to stick with the current gear you've got and figure out how to make it work? Is the front-end system upgrade being driven by needs to make a back-end upgrade to these mission-critical peripherals? As mentioned above, the more equipment you upgrade besides the computer transition, the more likely it is that issues with changing from Mac to PC will be further muddied by upgrades from associated equipment.

4) Who's on your staff? Are they old-timers closely tied to their Macs? Or is it a relatively young/new staff that isn't as tied to your current production systems. While the hardware transition is easy to make, the human factor can be insignificantly small or oppressively large. The more time your staff has been tied to the current production system, the more rancorous the protest will be to make the transition from Mac to PC.

5) How is the transition going to be made? Will it roll out in stages, or will it be done all at once? Will any training/coaching be provided to the staff, or will they leave the old setup on Friday and find the new one the next Monday and be told to deal with it?

6) What systems do your outside contractors/clients/vendors use? Are they driving your change from Macs to PCs? Or are they clueless that you're about to make such a major transition in how you produce your work? Are you so self-contained that this isn't an issue, or are your client base/outside contractors/preferred vendors vital to your workflow?

7) How are your archives organized, and how vital are they to your current job performance? Are you working with common formats that move easily between platforms (e.g. OpenType fonts, current or recent versions of working files and standard image formats) or are they proprietary formats that are closely tied to your Mac platform (like PostScript/Apple TrueType fonts, old PageMaker and QuarkXPress 3.0 page layout files and PICT graphics)?

These questions just scratch the surface of what may (or may not) be involved with your transition from Macs to PCs. From the information you've given us, it'd be hard for anyone -- me included -- to accurately roadmap the changes you're planning to make. This can be very easy or incredibly difficult. You need to work with someone who you're discussing these issues with in detail rather than ask for a blanket answer on a forum and go from there.

If you don't have someone experienced you're working with, you can contact me at my personal email address (jrhmobile at yahoo dot com) and we can talk about this in some detail and I'll be happy to point out some of the issues you might face. I'm sure others here can offer you the same support. But Anyone -- including Me -- who'd offer you a blanket answer based on the information we have in this forum would likely be giving you the wrong one.

Randy Hagan

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