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One way to ease migration to a new Mac System
So you've bought a new Mac, but your old Mac is up-to-date with the latest software updates from Apple. Or you're doing a fresh install from your older install disk to a new drive, and plan on migrating from your old drive. Chances are your new Mac may NOT have all the current Mac software updates on it. Certainly your fresh install won't. Here's how to do migration sanely.

When asked if you are going to migrate your stuff from another Mac or partition, say no, and proceed to enter your user information -- make sure that your shortname is the same as on your other Mac or existing install. When you finish that, create a temporary account via System Preferences » Accounts.

Next run Software Update to bring the new Mac or install up to date. Run it again until it says there are no more updates, as some updates rely on others being installed before they will be available. Then log out of your account and into the temporary one. Now you are ready to migrate your original user and applications, and stuff from your old Mac or drive. Migration Assistant is located in /Applications » Utilities. Take the family out to dinner or a movie while your files are copied to the new Mac.

The reasons that you should do things this way, is to 1) make sure that your new Mac doesn't have older system stuff that may be confused by newer things in your existing world, 2) to allow you to move your user account over the new user account on the new Mac, and 3) it may take a couple of hours to migrate, so this is a free moment for family time.

When you're finished, there will be a Deleted Users folder in the Users directory containing the first account you created when you booted your new Mac or fresh install -- this can safely be deleted. You can also remove the temporary account in the Accounts preference pane.

[robg adds: I'm sure there are other successful migration strategies. Personally, I'm brutal about it: with each major release of OS X, or new hardware in the house, I start over. Format the drive, install OS X, and then manually add things back in. It's not that I don't trust Migration Assistant, but rather that this method forces me to do some serious housecleaning each time I upgrade.]
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I agree with robg
Authored by: designr on Aug 30, '07 09:32:39AM

Having been a Mac consultant for 15 years (20+ year Mac user), I never trust the system Apple installs on a disk at the factory - they mass image the disks, and not always well. Once, I even got a box with a blank disk (and the CPU laying loose on the mother board - I had to plug it in myself). Way too often, the mass formated disk becomes unreadable 2 or 3 months later because the original "format" missed a bunch of bad blocks. I always low level format (zero all data) a disk and lay on a clean system. Sometimes the installer CDs or DVD are unreadable. It's better to get those replaced NOW rather than try to get new one's in a year when you or your client REALLY needs them.

I prefer to manually migrate my own stuff for the same reasons as Robg. For my clients (who don't like change), the Migration Assistant works best if I only migrate the Home directory - nothing else, no network settings, no applications, no nothing! I can't emphasize that more. Try it, you'll see bad mojo.

Also, the Migration Assistant does not like more than 1 source drive. If you hang a bootable Firewire drive on one of the two machines, Migration Assistant almost always hangs. Try it, you'll see bad mojo.

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I agree with robg
Authored by: Deut3221 on Aug 31, '07 12:43:53PM

Right on! I agree too.

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One way to ease migration to a new Mac
Authored by: ducasi on Aug 30, '07 09:48:15AM

What's the point of creating an account that's about to get deleted?

Set up your new Mac with a temporary account to begin with, and when you're ready do the migration to pull everything you want over from the old Mac.

Once you've got your old account on your new machine you can delete the temporary account, though I'd keep it around just in case my normal one breaks.

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No need for pre-existing account(s)
Authored by: designr on Aug 30, '07 09:51:42AM

By the way, the Migration Assistant does NOT need an account on the target to migrate a user and their Home folder.

Just make one temporary admin account, upgrade the new box to the max (after reformatting). Then the Migration Assistant will migrate the chosen account(s), (Home, NetInfo, passwords and all) to the target. No muss, no fuss.

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No need for pre-existing account(s)
Authored by: Marc Wolfgram on Aug 30, '07 10:13:46PM

You miss the point that the old system will probably have NEWER software on it than the new system, especially with a fresh install as you recommend. In this case, migration will indeed yield the "bad mojo" you've experienced. The tip presented ensures that the new system is at the some or higher version than the one you are migrating from. With that assured, migrating the whole world is quite a sane thing.

The steps are then:
-- Create the user's account as the first account (UID 501).
-- Perform all SSW updates.
-- Repair permissions (forgot that in the tip above... it's not news)
-- Create temp account (UID 502)
-- From temp account migrate old system (old UID 501 user replaces new UID 501 user).

Perhaps the concept of maintaining the original UID is a bit anal, but the results are clean, and my experience with Migration Assistant has generally been excellent, including a Pismo to MacBook Pro, and last week, a G5 iMac to another MacBook Pro, which was flawless.

A fatal migration was a 10.4.10 system over a fresh 10.4.3 install... which is why I noodled out this solution.

-- Marc

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Watch for UID problems
Authored by: jecwobble on Aug 30, '07 12:06:55PM

Migration Assistant does not take into account the original UIDs, either. It appears to work alphabetically on the user's short name.

I was UID 500 on an old Mac, but my daughter became 500 after the migration because her name starts with an "A" and mine with a "J". Generally no big deal for most folks, but I have three computers at home and access them all remotely. When I mounted the new Mac from another existing Mac, I could read and write to my daughter's home folder on the new Mac, but not my own.

Just another reason to consider manual migration over Migration Assistant.

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Watch for UID problems
Authored by: twisted on Aug 30, '07 06:05:15PM

nonesense! the Unique User ID (UID) is given out when the user registers! it's not like it's going to chown EVERYTHING when a new user is added... she just happened to have an account made before you did, and that's why her UID is lower :) btw u could always manually change it...

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Watch for UID problems
Authored by: jecwobble on Nov 04, '07 08:54:52PM

No, that wasn't possible. The only account created at first was mine. There were no other user accounts on the machine until I used Migration Assistant.

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One way to ease migration to a new Mac
Authored by: baltwo on Aug 30, '07 02:53:42PM
Also, see "A Basic Guide for Migrating to Intel-Macs" at:

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One way to ease migration to a new Mac
Authored by: TC!! on May 31, '11 02:18:29AM

I know this is an old article but it came up when I was searching for advice on setting up a new mac without using migration assistant.

Just wanted to point out the article being referenced has moved here:

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Migration assistant worked fine for me
Authored by: hamarkus on Aug 30, '07 03:13:34PM

I've used the migration assistant twice in the last two years. Worked fine for 99.999% of all things. The first migration missed out some folders in Mail, I had manually export and import. The second migration (migrating the already once migrated system) went without any hitch. I only had to reset some menubar icons (and re-install and re-enter passwords for the usual suspects).

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I don't trust Migration Assistant
Authored by: zoopiedoop on Sep 01, '07 12:36:05AM

Used it when I got my new MacBook, thinking 'if Apple says it works, it's the thing to do'. Nope. Mac was extremely unstable, crashing several times daily. Ended up wiping it clean and reinstalling everything, then manually copying necessary preferences, etc. Has been stable since.

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One way to ease migration to a new Mac
Authored by: Ed Bolton on Sep 03, '07 02:29:58PM

Dummy question: How do you migrate an account manually. I know files/folders need to be moved, but which ones? Any other tricks or gotchas?

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Manual migration
Authored by: Oh!Micron on Sep 22, '07 04:35:38AM
I haven't done it yet, but I'm going to try the advice given by baltwo above, i.e., use the guide at Two reasons:

1, I can't use Migration Assistant anyway (though I tried). My old laptop (a G4 PowerBook) has a nonstandard drive setup with the Users folder in a different place, and Migration Assistant on my new MacBook Pro is unable to find my user on that old machine, so it can't proceed.

2. To judge from comments here and elsewhere (and in that Apple Support discussion), using Migration Assistant would probably leave me with problems anyway, since my old machine has a Power PC processor and my new one has an Intel Core 2 Duo.

As long as you can make a backup to start with and connect your machines with FireWire, you should be able to manually copy things according to the Basic Guide at the link given above.


--John Branch

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