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So you've picked up a new Mac (or new to you, anyway) and now you want to get all your music, photos, applications, and settings on your new system so it's comfortable, like your old one. This comes up on the iBBS occasionally, and people start asking about how to move their iPhoto library or their iTunes library.  What they may not know is there's an app for that! If you have a brand new Mac, after you turn it on and register, you may see it come up (and maybe you send it away without a second thought). It;s also in the Utilities folder. This program is called Migration Assistant, and it will transfer all your important files and programs automatically to your new Mac.

MA1

This is the first screen – nothing much to do here but hit "Continue." You'll be asked for an administrator login and password (even if you already are logged in as one).

MA2

Here's where you choose your source. You can hook your older Mac up directly (via network cable or firewire cable, if you have a firewire-equipped Mac). My preference is shown here – from an external disk (remember those backups Calvin's always on about – here's one place where you can use them!). You can use a Time Machine backup or a clone disk made with Disk Utility, SuperDuper!, CarbonCopyCloner, or anything else that makes a bootable disk. I like this because it means zero chance of anything happening to your original system, as you aren't even connected to it.

MA3

If you've got more than one eligible source disk hooked up, you'll be asked to choose. If you have no eligible disk connected, you'll be asked to hook one up.

MA4

The Assistant will then look at the source disk and let you know what's available and how much disk space it will take up. (This can take a few minutes.) Note that I don't have enough room to copy my backup disk over my main disk, so I can't continue unless I clear off some space or copy over less info. 

Notice you can copy over just certain users (or no users), certain settings, but no choice on Applications – it's all or none.  If you have applications like iTunes or Adobe Creative Suite that require you to authorize them, I suggest you de-authorize them before migrating and re-authorize them afterwards.  Some of the program use specific hardware items (like the unique hardware address of your ethernet adapter) to create their authorization files, and so won't work on a different machine. 

Once you've selected your items to migrate, click continue. You'll get a progress bar with a sometimes mildly-accurate estimate of the time remaining. Firewire transfers will be faster than ethernet, which are faster than wireless. So depending on how you're connected and how much data you're bringing over, this can take quite some time.

If this week is Part 1, there must be a Part 2…

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  • Calvin

    Jack,

    Just to be clear. In Migration Assistant, I can just check my data and not my applications if I am moving from a PowerPC based computer to an Intel based computer and just load the Intel based apps on the new computer? For the longest time I thought you only got to do this when you first installed the OS. This is a great tip. Actually, you could us it as a super cheapo Clone tool as well.

  • http://www.beckmanjm.com Jack Beckman

    “In Migration Assistant, I can just check my data and not my applications ”

    Yes.

    ” and just load the Intel based apps on the new computer? ”

    I don’t quite get what you mean here. Do you mean loading the Intel version of an app you had on the PPC machine and then using the data? Sure, but if the Intel app is a different version (newer or older) you might have some issues.