How to Migrate Files to a New Mac

If you’ve recently purchased a new Mac, you may be wondering how to migrate all of your information from your old Mac to your new one. All you really need is a cable to connect the two Macs together, or an external hard drive with a Time Machine backup of your old Mac.

Prior to using either of these options, it may be a good idea to run Disk Utility and fix any disks on your old Mac that need repaired. To get to Disk Utility, go to Finder>Applications>Utilities>Disk Utility. Once in Disk Utility, select Macintosh HD. To find out if there are issues that need repaired, select Verify Disk. It will report back and issues with your hard drive. If there are any, select Repair Disk. If you are migrating from a Time Machine backup, do the same thing, but select your backup from the Disk Utility Hard Drive list.

From Another Mac:

If you are wanting to copy everything from your old Mac to your new one, and don’t have a Time Machine backup, use this method. You will need either a USB, FireWire 400, or FireWire 800 cable. This may depend on how old your previous Mac is, as not all Macs have the same types of ports. For this How To, I used a FireWire 800 cable to connect my 2010 21.5″ iMac to my 2007 15″ MacBook Pro. Note that both Macs will be unusable throughout the duration of the transfer. If you need to use your old Mac while setting up your new one, scroll down to see how to transfer information from a Time Machine backup

  1. Start up your new Mac and go through the set-up process. Stop when you get to the screen that asks, “Do You Already Own a Mac?”
  2. Select “From another Mac” and click Continue.
  3. It will then ask you to connect the two Macs with a cable. If you are transferring files from a MacBook or MacBook Pro, be sure to plug-in the power adapter.
  4. Restart your old Mac while holding down the “T” key on the keyboard. This will restart the Mac into “Target Disk Mode”.
  5. Once the old Mac has restarted, the screen below should appear. The FireWire symbol should continue to move around the screen.
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  7. Select what information you would like to transfer to the new Mac. For a more detailed look at Users and Settings, click the arrow to the left of those categories. For most users the default options will be fine, but if you don’t want to transfer over all users from the old Mac, this is where you would de-select that user. When ready, click transfer.
  8. Information will then be copied over to your new Mac. This may take over an hour.
  9. Do not disconnect the power of either Mac.

From a Time Machine backup:

This method may be a better option for people who need to use a computer while setting up their new Mac. Be sure that your Time Machine backup has been updated with the most current information from your old Mac.

  1. Start up your new Mac and go through the set-up process. Stop when you get to the screen that asks, “Do You Already Own a Mac?”
  2. Select “From a Time Machine backup” and click Continue.
  3. Connect your external hard drive that contains the Time Machine backup from your old Mac and click Continue.
  4. Select what information you would like to transfer to the new Mac. For a more detailed look at Users and Settings, click the arrow to the left of those categories. For most users the default options will be fine, but if you don’t want to transfer over all users from the old Mac, this is where you would de-select that user. When ready, click transfer.
  5. Information will then be copied over to your new Mac. This may take over an hour.
  6. Do not disconnect the power of the Mac or the external hard drive.

That’s all there is to it. Provided you copied all settings, files, and applications from your old Mac, everything should be located in the same place that it was on your previous Mac.

What Now?

You may want to make sure that software titles have the appropriate serial numbers as to not any violate EULA contracts. For example, Adobe CS5 Design Premium can be installed on two computers for personal use, as long as only one copy is being used at a time. If you would have the software on two computers already and copy it over to your new Mac, you would be violating the EULA contract and could be taken to court. Other software that may have similar EULA contracts include pretty much any software you paid for, such as Office for Mac, iWork, or Final Cut Pro.

Once you have set up your new Mac, I strongly suggest making a new Time Machine backup as soon as you can. Plug in your external hard drive, select Time Machine in System Preferences, click select disk, and choose your external hard drive from the list.

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