So you bought a new Mac… now what? It’s time to get it set up and ready to rock. For the most part, everything you need is ready to go. But there are a few things you should make sure to do before you start using your Mac on a regular basis.
While all of these tasks are optional, we recommend going through all of them to make sure that you get the most out of your new computer. We’ll start with the basics, and assume this is your very first Mac.
If you’re replacing an older Mac, you’ll probably want to restore your Time Machine backup and carry on as you were.
One of the strangest things about Macs is Apple’s “natural scrolling” feature. In most cases, the scroll bar follows your fingers on the trackpad or the scroll wheel on your mouse. With natural scrolling, it’s the opposite: the page follows your scrolling. It’s the exact opposite of what you’d expect. It mimics scrolling on a smartphone, but can feel strange on a computer.
If you want to change this, go to the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen, then click System Preferences and Trackpad. In the Scroll & Zoom section, deselect “Scroll direction: natural” to stop this on a Macbook. In the System Preferences pane, select Mouse and deselect the option to make sure your scroll wheel behaves how you want it to.
Now that we have that set up, we can go into the nuts and bolts of getting everything else ready.
You’ll probably be asked to do this when you first fire up your Mac, but it doesn’t hurt to double-check. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen, and then click App Store. In the Updates section of the window that appears, you’ll see a badge with a number if there are any updates you haven’t run yet.
Why should you run an update right away? If you’re behind a version of macOS, you won’t be getting all of the best features it has to offer. Security patches, bug fixes, and other small updates come packaged with system updates too. It’s best to run those updates as soon as you see them.
If you want to do those things automatically, go to the Apple menu, then select System Preferences and App Store. Select the types of updates you want automatically downloaded and installed.
Set Up Backups
You need to backup your computer. It might seem like a hassle, and you might think you don’t have anything replaceable on it, but trust me. Even if you just bought a new computer and loaded some music onto it, doing all of that again is a pain after your solid-state drive fails.
If you’re using your Mac to store work documents, photos, or anything else important, you’ll want to be doubly sure to get backups running.
Your Mac comes with a simple backup solution called Time Machine, which will suffice for most users. There are plenty of local backup options, and at least as many cloud backup providers. I’ve been using CrashPlan for many years, and I give it my wholehearted recommendation. It’s easy to set up, and you won’t have to touch it for years unless you need to recover old files.
You should also consider backing up in at least two places… just in case!
Configure Your Trackpad
If you’re on a Macbook, you’ll want to make sure your trackpad is behaving how you want it to. There are a lot of different options you can enable, so we’ll take a quick look at them here. The basics are in the Trackpad > Point & Click window of System Preferences.
Here, you can enable Force Click if you have a newer Mac, adjust how you right-click (tap with two fingers or tap in a bottom corner) and change the force it takes to click and the tracking speed of your cursor.
Most of the options are fairly self-explanatory, and if they’re not, the accompanying videos will make it clear what you’re adjusting. The Scroll & Zoom and More Gestures panes give you many more options for how you can interact with your trackpad. These can save you time, and even desktop iMacs and Mac Pros benefit from the addition of touch input.
Customize these options, and you’ll be better able to interact with various types of files and images directly from your trackpad. These can be very useful for making complicated processes much faster.
Set Up Security
Whether you’ve had a lock screen and password in the past or not, you should definitely set one up now. If someone nabs your Mac off of a table at a cafe, or you leave it in an airplane pocket, you don’t want to give whoever finds it free access to everything on your computer.
Fortunately, adding a password to your computer is really easy. Even a desktop should be password protected.
Go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy, and select “Require password 5 minutes after sleep or screen saver begins.” You can change the number of minutes if you want a bit more or less time. After that, you’ll need to enter your user password (which you set when you first opened the computer) to unlock your Mac.
While you’re in the Security & Privacy screen, click on the Firewall tab and make sure that your firewall is activated, too.
Sync Your iPhone or iPad
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you’re going to want to sync it sooner rather than later, just to make sure it’s all set up for when you want to use it. For the most part, it’s as simple as plugging in your device to your computer and opening iTunes. You may have to enter your passcode to allow the sync.
Once your device shows up in iTunes, click the icon in the top bar. Click “This computer” under “Automatically Back Up” to back up your phone to your new Mac. Now hit Sync down below. Your phone will back up, and any other files that you’ve told iTunes to sync will be transferred.
If you want your device to sync wirelessly, leave it connected and select Sync with this iPhone (or iPad) over Wi-Fi lower down in the iTunes window.
Add Internet Accounts
This is an optional step, and whether you take it depends on how synced you want your Mac and your various online accounts to be. If you want to see your Google Calendar in the Calendar app, or your LinkedIn contacts in the Contacts app, you’ll need to add those accounts to macOS.
To do that, go to System Preferences > internet Accounts. Click on the type of account you’d like to add, enter your credentials, and click Next. The dialog boxes will walk you through the process. This is always something you can change later, so don’t worry about it too much now.
Download Essential Apps
Now that you have all of that out of the way, it’s time to get to the fun part: downloading apps! The Mac App Store is a great place to start. Hit the Apple menu, then select App Store and start searching for your favorite apps. We recommend these important must-install apps, but everyone has their own preferences.
Grab a few games (though probably not from the App Store), some productivity tools, your preferred music-listening service, and an antivirus. You’ll have a good idea of the apps you need, and now that your Mac is ready to rock, you can go out and get them.
For a big list of essential Mac apps for a range of uses, check out our big list of recommended Mac software.
What Else Do You Need to Do?
Once you’ve gone through these eight steps, your new Mac will be ready to go. It’s been customized to your liking, is backing up your files, is secure, and has some fresh software to get you started. That should be everything you need for day-to-day use. And if you need more than that, you probably already know where to find it.
If you’re coming from Windows, you might find our Mac for Windows users guide handy too.
What else do you need to get your Mac ready? Are there any apps or settings you recommend? Share your tips and questions in the comments below!