Two Weeks as a PC: Transition Tales from The Lab

Many of you wanted a follow up on my post about converting from Mac to PC. I’ve had my PC for about two weeks now, and I think the “transition” is nearly complete so I’m ready to share my thoughts. Hopefully if you are switching soon, these notes will ease your transition pain!

Setup

This is a true story: I turned on my computer and I used it for about 3 minutes before this happened:

I had a bit of a panic attack and thought to myself:

After that scare thought, things smoothed out. A bit. Configuring my PC was a bit of a headache. There were the usual annoyances of switching computers, of course, like installing software/plugins. Thankfully the transition from Mac to PC versions of software was very easy because of the subscription based model most apps use these days. In the past it would have been a nightmare but most apps, like the Adobe suite, allow you to download PC versions under the same monthly subscription so it wasn’t a big deal. Same with plugins for the most part. One annoying thing I discovered was that I couldn’t install my fonts. Not sure if it’s a Mac vs PC font thing or what, but my font collection just wouldn’t install properly.  Thankfully I have a co-worker on a PC who supplied them for me.

Hard Drives

The biggest issue I ran into was hard drive related. When using a Mac I worked off of “internal” hard drives that sat in a USB dock. Mac formats hard drives as HFS+ and PC formats hard drives with NTFS. That means I couldn’t read my hard drives on the PC. Obviously a massive issue. The solution I found was MacDrive by Mediafour. It’s $49 and if you install it your PC will recognize Mac drives. This worked great, until it didn’t work great anymore. After using my working hard drives with MacDrive for 2 days they started acting very strange. The computer froze up and MacDrive crashed etc.

I ordered two hard drives from Amazon and when they came I formatted them for PC (NTFS) and transferred all my data from the “Mac” hard drives onto them. Then I disable my mac drives and my computer has worked much better. The moral of the story is: get new hard drives to be your working drives but you can use MacDrive to boot up your old Mac formatted drives to get stuff off of them any time you want. This is perfect for me since I have so many projects backed up on externals. Hard drive issues are good to go.

Back Ups

One thing I loved about Mac was Time Machine. It was super easy and worked great for me. PC doesn’t really have a great system for that. So I ended up purchasing Genie Timeline Pro by Genie9. This acts almost identically as Time Machine. I set it to back up a drive overnight and by the morning it was done. I set daily back ups and it updates quickly and reliably. Having Genie Timeline, plus a lot of my stuff synced to Dropbox, gives me a great backup system.

Performance/Tools

When using the Mac formatted drives I had a fair amount of issues and crashes/freezes. Since getting rid of them, and only having NTFS formatted drives, the issues have gone down substantially. There is still the occasional “After Effects is not responding” etc. which didn’t happen much with my Mac. It’s really annoying but I’m thankful for SSDs and fast boot times, meaning I only lose a few minutes. Back in the day a re-boot and opening up all your apps sometimes took like 10-15 minutes, remember that?! Needless to say, however, I have learned to save a bit more frequently. But it’s not that bad.

Another big PC fail I have found so far is that ProRes isn’t supported which sucks a lot. I am looking at some third party options though, I’ll let you know if I find anything! Also, I really miss Quick Look where you could preview images/videos by just hitting space bar. It was great not having to open up say, Photoshop, to preview a .psd. The thumbnails and “quick viewing” in Windows kind of suck but I have found some workarounds. One great tool I have been using is “Seer” which mimics Quick Look. You have to run it every time you re-start Windows, but after you run it you can just click on any thumbnail and hit space bar to get a preview. It doesn’t include all formats, but for most things it’s quite handy.

One tool that has been incredibly useful was recommended by Chad Ashley at GSG. It’s called “XnView.” It’s free, and has become my go to folder browser. It basically takes the functionality of something like Adobe Bridge, and mixes it with a standard file browser. You can quickly navigate your files and thumbnails and if you click on one you get a super fast preview image or playing video. Unlike the Windows default file browser it allows previews of nearly every format imaginable and it’s blazing fast and responsive. It has taken all the things I miss about Mac and basically given them back to me! 🙂

The beauty of PC is that once I open either Chrome or After Effects or C4D I forget I’m in a different OS. Performance in the apps is excellent and I have nothing to complain about! PC has come a long ways since I used it last, 10 years ago!

Octane

About 90% of the reason I upgraded was for GPU based rendering, so I thought I would touch on it briefly. Octane has been an absolute blast and game changer! It took about a day of playing around with to understand the basics and the results have been awesome. Here are a couple renders from the first time I used Octane:

The crazy thing is that these are raw out of C4D. The glows and post effects are all in Octane, which is crazy to me. It’s pretty epic to work with hdri’s, lighting and texturing in near real time. It was pretty liberating to just move stuff around and get almost instant feedback! I will hopefully be putting out some quick tips on Octane shortly so keep your eyes open for those. Here’s another render I did for our NAB sale, again this is raw out of Octane, which would be near impossible with Physical:

In Conclusion

My parting remarks: change sucks, but it’s also good. I miss some things about Mac but with exception to a few hiccups the transition has been pretty easy. I’m still getting used to the new keyboard commands and I regularly use the wrong combinations. That’s to be expected after 10 years of training I have to undo. But overall, the excitement I have over Octane, GPU and a computer that will grow with my needs far outweighs any negatives. I would say if you need to make the jump, don’t be scared. The grass isn’t perfect over here, but it’s definitely greener.

 

    1. Matt Gerard
      Matt Gerard04-26-2017

      Ma

      • Matt Gerard
        Matt Gerard04-26-2017

        Well, that is weird, erased my whole response! Here’s the TL;DR don’t want tp type it all again

        1) Did the same transition as you 5 months ago
        2) Went pretty much about the same.
        3) Got paragon for the mac drive thing
        4) Pretty much all the same apps
        5) Win 10 system font sucks
        6) Miss CMD-D in the file save boxes
        7) Use “Seer” for the quicklook functionality
        8) All doesn’t matter once inside the apps, except for training my pinky to act like a thumb

        • Joren
          Joren04-26-2017

          Yep, that all sounds about right! I’m going to add the “Seer” thing into my post, because I’ve been using that too, but forgot to write about it. Thanks man!!

          • Tyler Scheitlin
            Tyler Scheitlin04-28-2017

            In the settings for “Seer” you can set it to run at login. No more launching it manually!

            • Joren
              Joren04-28-2017

              Awesome, thanks for the tip Tyler!

        • Joe Nicklo
          Joe Nicklo05-01-2017

          I just switched a few weeks ago. I miss CMD+D while in safe dialogue so much!

          I too hate how windows handles fonts.

          The good thing is, My new PC is so much faster than my 5K iMac.

    2. Chris
      Chris04-26-2017

      I did the same thing about a year ago, purely for Octane too. I had a 720ti shoehorned into my cheese grater mac and it was sooooo unstable, probably heat related more than anything. I now have 3 GPUs and it’s a flying machine!

      Thanks for tips on Seer and Genie – quick look is something I miss terribly too 👍

      Keep up the good work, love your site!

    3. Erik
      Erik04-26-2017

      So what’s your choice of codec equal to prores?
      Just turned to pc myself some days ago and was hoping on a work around like ffmbc, otherwise DNxHD, haven’t had time yet to investigate properly. Thanks for sharing!

      • Joren
        Joren04-26-2017

        So far DNxHD seems to be the winner, at least from what I’ve found…

    4. Josef Haas
      Josef Haas04-26-2017

      Okay, I have never felt like I had anything to contribute before so this is my first posting. (But I always learn from folks like you, Andrew (VCP), Nick (GSG), etc..)

      So here goes…

      I set our (wifey is Graphic Design) systems up with software on the C SSD drive, data on a D drive, and for me, assets on an E drive. When any drive goes (they will eventually) they are only taking out a portion of the setup.

      Then I use Acronis to take image backups so I can easily plop a new drive in anytime. The images could also be accessed like they are a drive themselves.

      My wife’s system finally went (more than a dozen years use) so I just plopped her data drive onto an external SATA port into the laptop and she was working in 10 minutes. And I still have the SSD for her new system.

      Backing up is great, but also validate and try recovering sometime. (Like a fire drill.) What used to take days (and it never happens at a convenient time) now takes me hours.

      Also, UPS and whole house generator because we can work from a laptop on the beach while letting our home system do all the heavy lifting. You want to make sure your home doesn’t lose power or you’ll have to return to power things back up again.

      Our systems are our income and so I keep things running/rendering (and automatic).

      Feel free to contact me if I can help with any of this. I’d gladly pay it forward for all the folks like you.

      • Joren
        Joren04-27-2017

        Thanks for the input Josef, good idea on testing your back ups! And wow, you work from the beach?!?! Where do you live, that sounds amazing!

    5. SergeS
      SergeS04-27-2017

      Well, if it’s somehow interesting, here’s my humble opinion.
      Seer is good and sometimes I use it, but since I’m not a Mac user, I do not have a habit of quickly viewing things.
      Instead, I’m used to seeing a thumbnails in Windows Explorer.
      So, I use a third-party application that generates and displays thumbnails of almost all graphic files, including OpenEXR in the Explorer.
      For this I use the MysticThumbs, but there are several similar apps for Windows, including free ones, although I’m not sure about their functionality.
      And as for ProRes, there is also a couple of apps, including the plug-in for AE (search for AEmpeg in aescripts.com).
      There was a cool app for these needs called Miraizon DNxHD and ProRes, but unfortunately, they stopped selling it.

      • Joren
        Joren04-27-2017

        Great tip on that AEmpeg thing, I will have to check that out. Appreciate it! 🙂

    6. Rich
      Rich04-27-2017

      IMO fonts are the biggest issue with switching. You get used to codecs, etc, but it’s astonishing how often I get assets for a project and the fonts won’t work. Whether it’s old formats or what, seems to be a common issue. I got TransType, which helps, but also has it’s issues sometimes.

      • ThisIsAsh
        ThisIsAsh04-27-2017

        Can I ask you how TransType has been? I’m about to switch to PC in a couple of weeks. I have a font library of about 10,000 fonts. At least half are old PostScript fonts… I was going to use TransType to do a mass batch convert. Any thoughts?

      • Eric Peacock
        Eric Peacock04-28-2017

        This isn’t really a transition thing, but font formats have been cross-platform for nearly 20 years, but a lot of folks never “upgraded” their beloved Type 1 formats, which are OS and platform-specific, and also super prone to getting corrupted, causing crashes, etc.

        As a bonus Mac OS continued to support Type 1 even after ditching the “Classic” OS 9 even though the Type 1 format is the cause of so many headaches with hand-offs to others, crashes, you-name-it. You can even open and use the most archaic fonts from the System 7 days today on a Mac OS system.

        I’ve had a hell of a time educating teams of creative folks about font format upgrades or corruption since OpenType became an option in the early aughts, e.g. I could probably have made a fortune fixing corrupted font issues on Windows and Mac OS systems and when doing print work I’ve solved vendor rip issues simply by providing a non-corrupted copy of a font.

        In general all the big nice type foundries have updated their families to OpenType a long time ago — and so should you — starting a long time ago. In cases where you can’t get OT but TrueType is available, then go with that. This transition wasn’t openly communicated well or was even that obvious, e.g. “Helvetica Neue” became “Helvetica Neue LT Std” and would look identical when re-mapped in a software app (unless you had a corrupt version originally).

        Bonus, OpenType upgrades added ligatures, fixes, and more weights in a lot of cases. But… this gets expensive if you hoard a lot of fonts that can’t be billed to client work.

        Also, Microsoft Office has issues with Opentype sometimes (both on Mac/Win), so TrueType is still a good fallback, but that’s probably not going to affect folks in the mograph/video/3D industry that much anyway.

        I’d suggest you isolate/mark any Type 1 format (AKA Postscript) fonts you still have and seek OTF or TT replacements. Then archive/delete the Type 1 versions and get them off your operating system. This stuff matters; I’ve fixed un-bootable computers by cleaning up fonts in the past.

        Watch out for things like TransType; they work, sort-of, but any font modification does tend to mess with ID numbers, metric tables, etc. and usually creates a “bastardized” version of the typeface. Only use it for fonts you can’t get current, up-to-date OT or TT versions of. Otherwise, I guarantee you will have inexplicable font-related crashes or other issues further down the line.

        • Joren
          Joren04-28-2017

          Dang Eric! That’s intense. Great information, I literally knew none of that, so I appreciate your wisdom!

    7. Ryan McCauley
      Ryan McCauley04-27-2017

      Just made the switch a few months ago. As far as codecs go, Cineform is what I’ve been using in place of Prores. A lot less control but it still offers high quality at a file size smaller than DNxHD, works cross platform and can include alpha.

      • Joren
        Joren04-27-2017

        Nice, I haven’t heard of Cineform, I will check it out. Thanks!

        • Andreas Urra
          Andreas Urra04-28-2017

          Hi Joren, GoPro Cineform should come with Adobe Creative Cloud. As for the harddrive filesystem issue (NTFS, HTFS): I format all my disks to ExFAT which can be read and written under Mac and Windows alike.

          Best, Andreas

    8. Paul Dumas
      Paul Dumas04-27-2017

      Joren, are you using any type of anti-virus or malware software?

      • Joren
        Joren04-27-2017

        Just the built in Windows Defender…

      • Joren
        Joren04-28-2017

        Ah of course, good call Paul!

    9. Reto C
      Reto C04-28-2017

      Another GUI with FFMPEG did the trick for me to work with ProRes in Windows:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbJc4CUzyd0

      pretty easy to work with and does the job without to much hustle!
      I think it is also amazing how ProRes is such an industry-standard regarding that it is not available on Windows!?!

    10. Todd VanSlyck
      Todd VanSlyck04-28-2017

      Losing ProRes does suck hard. Looking forward to seeing if you find a solution. I did some homework a couple years ago and abandoned it. Fortunately, I still have my old Mac around to convert to ProRes for any broadcast stuff.
      I work between PC and Mac and format all my drives as ExFat, which allows both systems to read/write with no problems.
      Also, this may sound really weird, but one thing I did right away on my PC was unlock the taskbar and drag it to the top! It makes it feel more like a Mac.

      • Joren
        Joren04-28-2017

        That’s a great idea, moving the taskbar to the top. Thanks for the tip Todd!

    11. FrontButt
      FrontButt04-28-2017

      Moved from Mac to self built PC about six years ago after my cheese grader tower mac gfx card couldn’t be upgraded, very limited / under powered options & expensive. Building my own -best investment! Still have the majority of the same core components.
      Mac decided to concentrate on phones, ipads & accessories, but neglecting the needs of the creative community. ( The new mac towers / a joke).
      There are a few learning curves moving to PC but the flexibility & component availability speaks for itself.
      Enjoy.

    12. chris
      chris04-28-2017

      Another OS X-ish tool I like is Launchy (https://www.launchy.net/). When in OS X, I generally run everything fullscreen and don’t use the system’s icon bar or desktop icons, preferring to start apps using Spotlight. Just command-space, a few letters of the app’s name, and I’m off. Launchy provides this one aspect of Spotlight’s functionality, without Spotlight’s full system search.

    13. Richard
      Richard04-28-2017

      i recently bought a PC but also keeping the Mac around. Recently bought one of these to cut down keyboard clutter and very pleased with it: http://tinyurl.com/lchrbkj

    14. Jake
      Jake04-28-2017

      You all should look into finding a copy of the Maizon ProRes Codec, since it is an industry standard. I can post a link if you would like to p.m. me.

    15. Andrew
      Andrew04-29-2017

      Hi Joren – just wanted to say thanks for your series of posts about switching to PC. I’ve just made the same transition myself and your posts have been full of useful tips. Whilst my PC is functioning fine, I think it will take a little while for me to feel like I work as fast in Windows as I do in OSX, but I’m slowly getting there!

      • Joren
        Joren04-29-2017

        Yeah I hear you, I just feel a little slow on tasks that I used to blaze through. A bit frustrating, but it’s getting better each day!

    16. timdan
      timdan04-29-2017

      I’ve been a Mac guy for 10 years, but most of this year of been in site working with a client on their system (windows) using Redshift and GPU based render farms. Man… So. Freaking. Fast.

      But, I do feel bogged down by the mundain tasks that OSX got right and Windows completely missed. I definitely miss OSX, so these tips (like Seer! Where’s that been my whole life?!?) are a huge help.

      I have a silly question though. Why keyboard do you guys use? I love my Mac keyboard and actually use it on the PC at work, but obviously it doesn’t have all its functionality.

      I dig the chicklet keys and how quiet it is when you type.

      Thoughts?

      • Joren
        Joren04-29-2017

        I’m actually still using my Mac keyboard. I dig it, and it works for me!

    17. Timothy Rice
      Timothy Rice04-30-2017

      Thanks for sharing Joren! I made the transition last summe when the 10 series nvidia cards didn’t work with osx. I still have a few little bugs i’m working out, but I think XnView and Genie will help with that! Thanks again!

    18. Christof
      Christof05-02-2017

      Planing the same switch too (at least for 3d work with octane), so I’m very happy about this thread.
      So sad, that apple always f*cks 3d people….

    19. Yuriy
      Yuriy05-04-2017

      I’m recently switched too – start to testing RedShift for C4D and totally lost in PC world =)

      • Joren
        Joren05-04-2017

        Let me know how Redshift goes for you, it sounds really awesome!!

    20. michel
      michel05-04-2017

      Hello

      Can give you the details of your pc components
      thank you

    21. michel
      michel05-05-2017

      Thx Joren

    22. Roger Harris
      Roger Harris05-11-2017

      Hi Joren,

      Still using that PC after all this time… tut tut! 🙂

      Meanwhile, maybe this is the answer to your Prores problems. Just found it today: http://aescripts.com/aftercodecs/?utm_source=aescripts+%2B+aeplugins&utm_campaign=1df9bb3fea-New_products_05_09_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bcdbf8f8b2-1df9bb3fea-47512657&mc_cid=1df9bb3fea&mc_eid=15c1f7bdf1

      • Joren
        Joren05-11-2017

        I’ll check it out, thanks Roger!!

    23. Mauro Garcia
      Mauro Garcia06-18-2017

      I would like to add to this thread a small tip that helped me a lot with the transition. I grabbed this free little software called SharpKeys to easily remap my CMD and CTRL key to the Mac style. So my muscle memory is feeling thankful 🙂

      • Joren
        Joren06-19-2017

        Great tip, thanks so much!!

    24. Andreas
      Andreas06-24-2017

      Hey,

      thanks for this post – helped me a lot while migrating from MAC to PC for the very same reasons and purposes (3D Worker).

      Here is another secret tip for all German speaking users regarding SCREENSHOTS on a PC:
      http://www.info.hardcopy.de/

      Actually a quite more powerful tool than the natively built-in functions on MAC, because you can define multiple shortcut commands and even several actions after recording that screengrab.

      Cheers,
      a

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