Moving Data From The Old Mac To The New


We all know that Apple is one of the companies which (in)famous for their hobby to constantly release mouth-watering products. Those fanboy whose will strength is not that strong would always be tempted to constantly replace their belongings with the latest breeds.

The problem is, when you switch your machine(s), you also have to move your datas along. And as surprisingly as it seems, most people don’t know how to migrate their datas – properly – from the old Mac to the new.

Recently I got an opportunity to switch from my old iBook to a newer MacBook. And as one of those unfortunate soul who feel that they have to do everything on their own, I tried to find my way out of this problem. Here are my findings.

The easy way

The first time you start your Mac, you will have the opportunity to migrate your datas. Take it. This step and the help from the technical assistant at the Apple Store will make your life so much easier.

But just in case you missed the shot, you still can use the help from the Migration Assistant application (Applications->Utilities->Migration Assistant). Just open the app and follow the steps. Basically it will ask you where will you move your datas to/from (moving them to another Mac or getting them from another Mac or disk), then it will also ask how will you transfer your data, either through Firewire cable – which port is missing from the new MacBook, through wireless connection, or LAN.


If you have an external hard drive and Mac OS X 10.5 on both computer, the migration process will also be a snap. Just use the Time Machine (Applications->Time Machine) to back up the datas from the old machine to the external hard drive, and restore the datas using the new Mac.


The Manual Way

But if the easiest method failed, in my case because no matter what I do the old iBook won’t connect to the MacBook, there is still the manual way. Less comfortable, I know, but you have to do what you have to do.

So, beside the obvious – your documents and such (inside your Documents – Movies – Music – Pictures folder), you will want to move your Applications and Libraries folders because there lie all of your unseen datas – user accounts, all kinds of settings, and such. Be careful not to replace your newer apps with the olds as every Mac is preinstalled with loads of ready to use apps.

There are two Library folders. One is under your home folder (~/Library) and the other one is under your Hard Drive folder (/Library).


Please bear in mind that not every application and setting can be moved just by dragging and dropping. You’ll get more incompatibility if you move your datas between different version of Mac OS (Panther to Leopard for example). I found out that it would be better to use synchronization app to ‘back up’ your data to new location.

In my case, I also use external hard drive (a.k.a iPod classic) as a mediator since my old Mac kept its vow of silence and wouldn’t talk to the new. Maybe it’s jealous? :) So the process of moving my data looks like this: iBook –> external hard drive –> MacBook. It was not a smooth process and I only get about 70% right. But it still better than nothing.

Some applications need special attention and you have to actively looking for answer to your problem on the net. For example, you need to press T button when you open iPhoto for the first time in order to enable you to choose the photo library, or to use the ‘Consolidate Library’ command in iTunes for more or less the same goal. Read more about it here. You also have to authorize your new machine to be able to open your iTunes Music Store purchases.

Now my new Mac is mostly up and running (while still waiting for the updates download process to finish and trying to find out the way to fix some minor things). I hope this short rambling could help other unfortunate souls out there.

If you have other tips or stories you want to share about migrating your old Mac to new, use the comments below.

Jeffry Thurana
Jeffry Thurana

Jeffry Thurana is a creative writer living in Indonesia. He helps other writers and freelancers to earn more from their crafts. He's on a quest of learning the art of storytelling, believing that how you tell a story is as important as the story itself. He is also an architect and a designer, and loves traveling and playing classical guitar.

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