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Mac Terms to Know When Providing Mac Support

Mac users are a skeptical bunch. Rightly so—for a long time, Mac was seen as an also-ran in the personal computing market. As many businesses settled on Windows PCs and servers, Mac users often felt left out when dealing with their IT admins.

But as Mac adoption increases, MSPs need to learn how to provide their customers with outstanding Mac IT support, and also need to build credibility. And that starts with speaking their customers’ language.

If you’re used to working on Windows boxes and servers, some of the Mac IT support terms can make you feel like a stranger in a strange land. But they’re a lot easier to pick up than you think.

To that end, I’ve put together a quick glossary of terms to introduce you to some of the key concepts in the Mac universe. Skim this before you go to your next pitch meeting, and you’ll be able to build your Mac support credibility with the decision-makers sitting around the table.

Mac terms you should know

ACN: This refers to the Apple Consultants Network. Many IT professionals who work on Mac computers join the ACN and refer to themselves as ACNs. (If you’re looking to join, you may have to wait a bit; applications are on hold right now:

ACSP, ACTC, ACMT: These acronyms represent certifications for providing Mac support. ACSP stands for “Apple Certified Support Professional” and certifies the tech for Mac workstations. ACTC stands for “Apple Certified Technical Coordinator” and certifies the tech to provide Mac server support (this certification is discontinued, much like Mac Servers as a concept). ACMT stands for “Apple Certified Macintosh Technician” and certifies the tech for hardware repair.

iOS: This is the operating system for Apple’s mobile products, including the iPhone and iPad.

Mac: Short for Macintosh, a computer made by Apple, the company. Most people just say “Mac” rather than saying the full name.

MAC: Either a cosmetics line or a network property. When writing to end-users or potential customers, make sure to avoid writing “Mac” in all caps, unless you want to sell makeup!

OS X: What the operating system for Mac used to be called in versions 10.11 and older. (Remember, the X is a Roman numeral. Same as the iPhone X. Don’t say “ecks,” say “ten.”)

macOS High Sierra: This is the latest Mac operating system, version 10.13.

tvOS: The operating system for AppleTV.

watchOS: The operating system for Apple Watch.

Apple products and features you might want to know

Airport: This refers to Apple’s line of Wi-Fi access points. (Possibly now EOL.)

AppleCare: Apple’s service that provides technical support and warranties on Apple devices. AppleCare can be upgraded from the standard support length to a lengthier AppleCare protection plan.

App store: You’re probably familiar with this one, but this houses the applications approved by Apple for its users. The app store works on mobile devices, laptops, and desktops.

Boot Camp: Built into Mac desktops and laptops, Boot Camp lets you dual-boot Windows by installing it onto a partition of the hard drive.

Command Key (CMD or ⌘)Remember this key when you’re giving instructions to users, as it often performs the same function as CTRL on a Windows PC. For example, CTRL + Z on Windows will undo an action; it’s CMD + Z on the Mac.

Console: The console app allows you to monitor logs on a Mac.

Finder: This is the graphical interface that allows users to navigate files and directories. In other words, it’s Apple’s version of Windows Explorer.

Force Quit: This command allows users to close an unresponsive application. It saves a few clicks compared to the Windows workflow that requires users to open task manager first to kill an unresponsive program. You can Force Quit an application with the keys Command + Option + Esc.

HomePod: Apple’s entry into the home assistant/smart speaker market. It has really good sound quality for all but the most discerning audiophile… and Siri.

iWork: Apple’s version of business and office applications (not to be confused with Microsoft Office, which can be purchased for the Mac). It includes Pages (word processing), Numbers (spreadsheets), and Keynote (presentations).

iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro: These are three different models of Mac desktops. The iMac is the all-in-one desktop. The Mac Mini is a small box (around 7 inches) that can hook into your own display, keyboard, and mouse. The Mac Pro is a high-end computer that offers additional power to users.

iPhone, iPad: OK. You probably know these! But just in case you don’t, the iPhone is Apple’s smartphone and the iPad is their tablet. Remember: These run on iOS, not OS X.

Keychain: This is the password management system in Mac. If a system has multiple users, each user will have a separate Keychain.

MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro: These are three different models of Mac laptops.

Parallels: A licensed application for the Mac, this allows you to run Microsoft Windows and related apps in a virtual machine. Parallels provides an alternative to Boot Camp, which uses a separate disk partition to dual-boot Windows and macOS. It’s also worth noting that Parallels allows you to run Windows and Linux OSs simultaneously inside the Mac, unlike Boot Camp, which requires a reboot and the macOS goes away entirely.

Safari: A web browser that comes as standard on Mac devices. Safari is a WebKit-based browser (similar to Google Chrome).

Spotlight: This built-in search engine can be really helpful when you’re working on an end user’s Mac desktop or laptop. Simply press CMD + Space to pull up the search box.

Target Disk Mode: This allows you to turn one Mac into an external hard drive for another, making it easy to transfer files to a different machine.

Terminal: Similar to the Windows Command Prompt, this lets you issue text-based commands to a machine. macOS is a variant of UNIX, so many of the commands are similar to other *nix systems.

Thunderbolt: A port on the Mac that allows you to connect other peripheral devices. Thunderbolt has some serious speed advantages over USB and also eats up far less CPU.

Time Capsule: Airports with network attached storage that act as a repository for Time Machine backups.

Time Machine: This backup software is built directly into macOS and is used primarily for full disk restores. Often, business customers will need a heavier-duty backup solution than just Time Machine. I may be biased, but I recommend SolarWinds Backup, which gives you a business-grade hybrid cloud solution that backs up full systems quickly and efficiently. Having a business-grade backup solution will allow you to provide additional safeguards for data and applications on top of the standard Mac security features.

VMware Fusion: A licensed application for the Mac, this allows you to run Microsoft Windows and related apps in a virtual machine. This gives you an alternative to Boot Camp, which uses a separate disk partition to dual-boot Windows and macOS.

VPP (Volume Purchase Program): Allows companies and educational institutions to purchase apps in the App Store in quantity for their users’ devices.

Win more business by speaking the right language

At the end of the day, Mac users are skeptical because they’re passionate (and so am I). They absolutely love their Macs and have, over the years, learned the ins and outs of their systems often better than Windows-focused IT people have. However, even if you’re used to running a Windows environment, knowing the terms and lingo can go a long way toward reassuring Mac users, and, of course, winning new Mac business.

This list isn’t exhaustive by any means. There’s always more to learn—whether for Mac, Windows, or Linux. However, keep this list handy before you go to a pitch meeting or work on a laptop, and you’ll be surprised at how easily you can build your credibility in front of your prospects.


Brian Best is Apple Strategist for SolarWinds MSP.


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