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I get a new work MacBook Pro every couple of years. My last one was the MacBook Pro Mid 2012 model and I just got the current MacBook Pro Mid 2014 model. Apple makes it very easy to upgrade from one Mac to another via the Migration Assistant. The great thing about the Migration Assistant is that (by default) it brings over everything from your old Mac and sets up your new Mac exactly like you had your old one. The bad thing about the Migration Assistant is that (by default) it brings over everything from your old Mac and sets up your new Mac exactly like you had your old one. Yes the Migration Assistant is both bad and good. For someone who doesn’t want a lot of hassles they can be up and running on their new Mac in a matter of minutes. However, for someone who has upgraded from Mac to Mac with this method, the chances are they are bringing over a lot of old unnecessary baggage. The Migration Assistant will bring over all of your applications, documents, preferences, settings, etc. If you have been diligent in keeping your Mac tidy then The Migration Assistant can be AWESOME. However, if you’ve installed a lot of things over the years, uninstalled a lot of things over the years and gone from Mac to Mac to Mac, then I’m going to bet that you have lots of old preference files, caches, and other garbage that will just take up unnecessary space on your new Mac.


When I got my MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display back in 2012 I made the decision to start fresh. I had been migrating from Mac to Mac for years. Yep, it was time to setup the new Mac as a “New Mac”. This of course takes more time and effort, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. I installed all the applications that I was “currently” using. It was easy to bring over my documents because I use Dropbox as my documents folder and once I installed the latest Dropbox and sync’d all my files were there. I did copy over all my pictures and my iTunes Library and that was pretty much it. I ended up saving over 200GB of space!

Here’s the method I used to setup my New MacBook Pro 15″ Retina Display Mid 2014:

  1. When the new Mac arrived I immediate made a clone of the old Mac onto an external hard drive using SuperDuper!
  2. I booted up the new Mac and created the exact same User accounts for Mac OS X that I had on the old one.
  3. I ran the Mac App Store to get any software updates that may have been out.
  4. While in the Mac App Store I installed only the Apps that I wanted on the new Mac that I had previously purchased/downloaded.
  5. I installed Adobe Creative Cloud and installed the CC 2014 applications that I wanted
  6. I fired up each Adobe application such as Photoshop and hit Sync/Download Settings to get my settings back.
  7. I installed 1Password for Mac
  8. I installed Dropbox and let it sync all my documents down from the cloud
  9. I plugged in the external drive that contained everything from the old Mac and copied over my Pictures folder and my iTunes Library folder as well as most of the Adobe folder in the ~/Library/Application Support folder. This was key to getting all my Lightroom plugins and settings back
  10. I installed from scratch misc. applications and utilities I use such as ScreenFlow, Mac Bartender, Reflector, SpamSieve, TextExpander, SwitchResX, etc.
  11. Lastly I simply worked on my new Mac the same as I would my old one. If I encountered something that was missing I either reinstalled it on the spot or copied it from the external drive. After a couple of days of normal use I haven’t had to plug in the external drive any more.

The Bottom Line

Apple gives you a very easy way to get up and running on your new Mac via the Migration Assistant. However, I always recommend that if possible (especially if you’ve migrated more than a couple of times in the past) that you give yourself a fresh start. Your Mac will typically run faster and have less problems this way and you’ll only have on it the things you actually use freeing up some of that precious/expensive SSD space. With so many things syncing and downloading from the cloud (Dropbox, iCloud, Creative Cloud, etc.) you won’t have to pull out as many or any DVD installers/backups anymore. I’ve done it twice now and this is how I plan to upgrade to a new Mac each time.


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3 Responses to How I Upgrade To a New Mac

  1. Peter Gamba says:

    Terry – I’ve encountered a massive slowdown in Photoshop, especially when using the third party plug ins. My MAC PRO is not “young” but still good enough I believe. I was thinking of restoring the system back to “new” and then basically following the procedure you outlined here. Would you agree or do you know of a more economical way of cleaning up Photoshop to restore it to it’s old faster ways?

  2. Kristine McCombs says:

    Terry, what did you do with your older Macs? I bought an iMac Jan 2014, and I really miss the mobility of my old MacBook Pro. (RIP MacBook Pro 2009. Reason I got the iMac) Trying to figure out what to do with this iMac to upgrade to the MacBook Pro.


  3. Armin Albarracin says:

    Intersting read.

    Just migrated from an Air to a Pro through Time Machine. Superb!

    Apple saved my day