If you’ve just bought your first Mac, there are a few steps to take to make sure it’s a great experience.
Congratulations on taking your first steps into Mac ownership! Whether it was a generous gift from a loved one or a great deal you took advantage of, you now have your iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Air, or other Mac hardware in the box.
Now that you have your new computing appliance, here are 20 Things You Need to Try Out on Your New Mac.
1. Learn your ports and hook it up
Familiarizing yourself with your Mac or MacBook is a smart move before you start using it. Make sure to take a look at the ports and documentation that come with the device. On a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, the ports are located on the sides, while the iMac range and Mac mini have them on the rear.
Apple typically uses common ports, such as HDMI for video, USB-A, and USB-C. For desktop Macs, there is also an Ethernet port. Note that the USB-C ports can also be used for Thunderbolt connections, not just USB.
Get to know the ports on your Mac now to save time in the future.
The new 14-inch MacBook Pro and 16-inch MacBook Pro models come with MagSafe, a dedicated power port, or you can use a USB-C port to recharge them.
Taking the time to check the ports available will help you understand what you can connect to your Mac, and how to best arrange the cables in your workspace. It may also be worth investing in an extra dock to expand your port selection.
2. Initial Mac setup
Once you’ve got your Mac or MacBook in place and connected, the next step is setting up the Mac itself. It may seem daunting, but remember it’s a one-time process that you won’t have to go through again until you get a new Mac. Fortunately, Apple made it relatively easy with a guided setup process. You can go through all the elements in one sitting, or skip some parts to complete later.
To begin, turn the Mac on, select your country or region, and enable any accessibility options, if needed. Then, set up your connection to the network, which may require entering a Wi-Fi hotspot password.
Once you can access the network and the Internet, you’ll be asked if you want to transfer data to your new Mac. If you don’t have a previous Mac, the Migration Assistant can help transfer data from a Windows desktop. You can skip this step and do it later.
Mac OS will then guide you through signing in to iCloud and enabling Siri.
3. Set up your Apple ID
If you’re buying a Mac for the first time, chances are you already use an iPhone or iPad. To get started, you’ll need your Apple ID and password. You can connect iCloud during initial setup or through the Apple ID system preference afterwards. If you skipped this step during setup, I recommend doing it as soon as possible to keep your data secure and synced with iCloud.
Connecting iCloud to all your devices allows you to share photos, contacts, calendars, and more without having to physically sync them. Keychain, which stores passwords and sensitive data, and Find My, which can locate and control lost or stolen Macs, require an active Apple ID. If you don’t have one yet, now’s your chance.
4. Back up with Time Machine
Protecting your new Mac setup from data loss is easy and affordable. To get started, you’ll need an external drive that connects via USB-A or USB-C. You can use third-party tools, but macOS’s built-in Time Machine feature is a great way to get a lot of protection.
To set up Time Machine, click the clock-with-counterclockwise-arrow icon in the menu bar, then select “Open Time Machine Preferences”. Alternatively, click the Apple icon in the top left of the menu bar, then go to “System Preferences” and select “Time Machine”. Time Machine is a great way to keep your data safe!
Attach your external drive to your Mac, then click Select Backup Disk. Select the drive, then click Use Disk. For extra privacy, you can also click Encrypt Backups.
Once set up, your Mac will automatically back up your files or any new changes every hour while it is active and connected to the drive. The initial backup may take some time, but afterwards your data will be protected from accidental loss.
It’s also a good idea to consider purchasing AppleCare+ in case something goes wrong with the hardware, as it could help you avoid an expensive repair bill.
5. Get familiar with System Preferences
If you want to make any major changes to your Mac’s settings, you can do so through System Preferences. To access it, click the Apple icon in the menu bar, then select System Preferences. This is the macOS equivalent of the Windows Control Panel.
System Preferences covers a range of topics, such as managing your Apple ID, display settings, macOS functions, network settings, and peripheral and feature controls.
Sometimes, you may not be able to change settings within System Preferences right away. The settings may be locked and require authentication. To unlock them, click the locked padlock in the bottom left of the window, then enter your account password. When you’re done making changes, remember to click the open padlock again to lock the settings.
A minor alteration in Mac OS Ventura is the relocation of System Preferences to System Settings. This change reflects the transition from the traditional tiled icon UI to one more akin to iOS.
6. Multi-Touch gestures on your Mac
If this is your first time owning a Mac, you may be familiar with the Multi-Touch gestures that can quickly trigger certain actions. Apple has spent a lot of time perfecting these gestures to make them intuitive and easy to remember, so make sure to take advantage of their effort. With a Multi-Touch trackpad or Magic Mouse, you can tap, swipe, pinch, or spread one or more fingers to perform useful actions.
For example, you can tap with three fingers to look up a word in the dictionary or open Notification Center by swiping left from the right edge with two fingers. You can also access more settings about these gestures by going to System Preferences, then clicking Trackpad or Mouse. Within these settings, you can turn a gesture off, change the type of gesture, and learn which gestures work with your Mac.
For a full list of gestures, check out Apple’s support page in the description below: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204895.
7. Find the right screen scale for you
If you’re not satisfied with the default screen scaling (aka resolution) of macOS, you can adjust it. Go to System Preferences (click the Apple icon in the top left corner of your screen, then select System Preferences) and click Displays. Under Resolution, select Scaled and try out the different options. I’m currently using Default, but I’m considering More Space.
Additionally, I always turn off two settings. I disable “Automatically adjust brightness” because I want full control over my screen brightness. I also turn off True Tone, which tries to find the true white balance for you. I often find it becoming too yellowed for my liking, especially when I’m editing photos and video on my MacBook Pro.
8. Get familiar with the Menu
The menu is nestled in the upper left corner of your Mac’s screen, giving you easy access to your Mac’s system preferences, the Mac App Store, and apps and documents you’ve recently opened. Additionally, the menu is a great way to restart your Mac and shut it down, should the need arise.
However, the menu also sports a less obvious, but equally useful function: Force Quit. Force quit is particularly helpful for when an app misbehaves and stops working, as it will immediately close the application, allowing you to restart your computer and fix the issue more quickly. It’s worth keeping in mind that if you find yourself in a similar situation, Force Quit can be a lifesaver.
9. Get to know the Menu Bar
The menu bar, a graphical control element that commonly includes drop-down menus, is part of the design of Mac systems.
Unlike Windows and many Linux desktop environments, macOS has a single, global menu bar that changes its content according to the active application.
This menu bar also provides access to a basic app launcher, status menus, the Control Center, and notifications. It is possible to customize various aspects of the menu bar’s appearance and behavior.
By understanding its features, users can make the most of the macOS menu bar, which offers a system menu, a persistent app menu, and a series of status icons.
10. Customize the Dock
The Dock, a bar of icons that sits at the bottom of the Mac’s screen, is an essential part of the Desktop experience. When you first turn on a new Mac, the Dock will be filled with Apple’s own built-in apps, like Safari, Mail, Contacts, Calendars, and Notes, but you can customize it to your liking.
You can tailor your Dock to show only the apps you use most often, and you can add applications, folders, and files you need frequently simply by dragging them and dropping them into the Dock.
You can also change the size of the Dock, remove the “Open” indicators, turn off the bouncing animation, and much more. With a few simple adjustments and some creative rearranging, you can make the Dock your own.
By taking the time to make it just the way you want, you can make sure your Dock is the most important part of your Desktop.
11. Launchpad and the Mac App Store
Most software you’re going to run on your Mac will be accessible from the Launchpad, an icon in the Dock at the bottom of the screen.
You can open the Launchpad by clicking the Launchpad icon or by pinching your thumb and three fingers together.
Once you choose the Launchpad, a full-screen panel will appear, showing installed apps you can run right away. If you need more apps, you could download them from the Internet, but you also have the option of heading to the Mac App Store.
Just like with the App Store for iPhone and iPad, the Mac App Store offers an array of apps you can download and install to your Mac.
Plus, the Mac App Store will manage app updates automatically, and alert you when there are updates available to install. So, you can ensure that you are always running the latest and greatest version of each app.
12. Explore preinstalled apps
You don’t need to download any apps on your first day with macOS as it comes with a variety of built-in apps that can provide you with entertainment, education, creativity and productivity. These range from the creative apps like iMovie and GarageBand to educational tools like Apple Books and Podcasts and productivity tools like Numbers, Pages, and Keynote, which are Apple’s versions of Microsoft Office’s Excel, Word, and Powerpoint.
Additionally, the Mail app allows you to check your email and the Calendar app helps you manage your time and keep track of important dates. Before you can use these apps, however, you’ll need to go through a brief setup process to connect them to any existing online email or calendar services that you may use.
In addition to the apps mentioned earlier, macOS also comes with a variety of other apps to give you access to a variety of media. Music is one of the many apps included in macOS for you to enjoy. You can use the Music app to listen to, download, and buy music, or access your Apple Music subscription. The Music app also allows you to create and customize playlists to organize your music however you’d like.
Managing your photos is easy with Photos. Garageband and iMovie are great for creating music and videos, respectively. All of these are available without needing to go to the Mac App Store; just give them a try!
13. Change Trackpad Settings
The Trackpad is an incredibly powerful tool, with a wide range of options and settings available to adjust and customize. If you’re an experienced Mac user, you may already have some of your favorite settings that you like to use.
I personally prefer to turn off the single finger force click used for looking up something, as well as the tap to click. To access these settings, you’ll need to go to System Preferences -> Trackpad.
Once you’re there, click on the Point and Click tab to adjust the tapping options, the Scroll and Zoom tab to adjust the scrolling behavior, and the More Gestures tab to change those options as well.
Many people find that they’d prefer to turn off the Natural Scrolling feature, which is available on the Scroll and Zoom tab, and this will result in the scrolling direction being changed. Additionally, if you’re looking to customize the touchpad even further, you can also adjust the tracking speed and the double-tap timing to get the most out of your device.
14. Download the correct version of apps
Depending on your computer’s processor, some developers offer different versions of their apps. So, for example, if you head over to download — from a website, not the Mac App Store — On Chrome download page, you’ll notice a note from Google. It asks you whether you have an Intel or M1 Mac, and lists the steps needed to check, if you’re unsure.
It is important to be aware that if you choose to download an app that has been designed for Intel-based devices on your Apple Silicon Mac, it will work using the translation layer known as Rosetta 2, but it won’t be able to perform as well as it would on an Intel-based system.
Furthermore, the app may not be able to take full advantage of the features and capabilities of the Apple Silicon processor, making it difficult to use at its full potential. If you are looking to get the most out of the app, it’s best to opt for the version of the app that is specifically designed for the M1 Mac.
15. Window Management and Force Quit
With your screen becoming cluttered with windows, now is an ideal time to learn how to manage them. The main controls are usually located in the top-left corner, represented by three dots.
The left-most dot, usually red with a smaller dot in the center, closes the window. The amber dot in the middle, which also has a dash symbol, minimizes the window to the Dock.
You can easily manage your windows using these three dots.
The right-hand dot, green and with a plus symbol when you mouse over it, can make the app expand to full-screen mode when clicked. If you mouse-over and wait, some apps can also bring up extra options, such as zooming, repositioning it to the left or right half of the display, or moving it to another display if two screens are connected to the Mac.
You can also double-tap the window’s title bar to make it grow or shrink. Most windows also allow you to resize the window itself using the cursor, by mousing over the sides, bottom, or corners, then clicking and dragging.
If an app hangs and shows the “spinning beachball” on your screen, try closing the window as usual. If that doesn’t work, right-click the icon in the macOS Dock and select Quit. If all else fails, before rebooting the Mac, use the Force Quit option from the Apple icon in the menu bar.
16. Set Up Night Shift
Your new MacBook Pro is equipped with a great feature that can help you get a better night’s sleep. By automatically adjusting the display colors to be warmer at night, the amount of blue light emitted from your laptop is reduced.
This makes it easier for you to use your laptop in the evening, and then drift off to sleep afterward.
To enable this feature, simply go to System Preferences > Displays > Night Shift > Schedule.
Here, you can choose between sunset to sunrise, or set a custom schedule, allowing you to adjust the temperature of the display to your desired level. With this feature, you can enjoy the convenience of your laptop in the evening and still get the proper rest you need.
17. Unleash the true potential of Dictation
Dictation is Apple’s amazing speech-to-text solution: a reliable way to jot down notes or type messages hands-free. It works the same way whether you’re using an iPhone or a Mac. All you have to do is hit the microphone button, start speaking and the words will appear in the text field in real time.
To activate Dictation on a Mac, there are three ways to do it. The first is to press the F5 keyboard button on newer Macs, the second is to click the Edit option in the Menu Bar and then press Start Dictation and the third is to go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Dictation and set your own custom keyboard shortcut to activate it.
Using Dictation on Intel Macs has a 60 second limit, meaning it will interrupt you after one minute and you will have to start it again and resume speaking. This can be a huge hassle, especially for those of us who use it to type long articles.
However, with M1 Macs, the experience is limitless! You can use it for as long as you want, without any interruptions or the need to enable it again and again. This makes Dictation even more powerful and convenient.
18. Set Up Do Not Disturb
When you need to stay focused and get work done efficiently, you don’t want to be constantly interrupted by notifications. To avoid this, you can set up the Do Not Disturb feature on your Mac. To enable it, go to System Preferences -> Notifications.
Once in the Notifications menu, you can set the Do Not Disturb option to activate automatically at pre-defined times, such as when the display is sleeping, the screen is locked, or when you are mirroring to a TV or projector.
In addition, you can also choose to have the Do Not Disturb option turn on and off based on your calendar, or even set it to turn on and off manually. This gives you full control over when notifications are allowed and when you want to stay focused.
19. Searching with Spotlight
If you’ve enabled Siri on your Mac, you’re already well-equipped with a great way to quickly find what you need. However, there are other powerful search capabilities at your fingertips that come pre-installed with macOS.
Spotlight is a search engine built-in to macOS, which you can access simply by clicking the magnifying glass in the menu bar or by using the keyboard shortcut Command-Space to summon it. This will bring up a text bar that you can type your query into.
Spotlight can be used to search for practically anything on your Mac, from text and filenames to locations on Maps, Internet queries, and basic unit conversions. It’s also a great way to quickly access specific system settings like Do Not Disturb.
This can be a real time-saver for power users, as it’s faster to use the keyboard shortcut and type out a name of an application to launch it than it is to use the mouse or trackpad to click its icon.
20. Check for Updates
Last but not least, it is possible that your new Mac operating system may not be the most recent version. Keeping your Mac up to date with the latest macOS version helps you benefit from the latest usability and performance enhancements.
To do this:
- From the Apple Menu in the top-left corner of your screen, select About This Mac.
- On the pop-up window, click the Software Update button. Your Mac will then search for available updates.
- If your Mac is up to date, the pop-up will inform you. Otherwise, you will be able to see the available update. Click Upgrade Now and the process will commence.
Well, those are the 20 things you should do or know about when you first get your Mac. If there are others that you didn’t mention in this article, please let me know by commenting below: What other things should first-time Mac users do or know about?
I’ll be creating more articles about Mac OS Tips and Tricks, so make sure to Like and Follow.