New Macs for old

Between September 2005 and July 2011 I was a regular contributor to MacFormat in the UK.

Whereas I’m posting the published articles for my MacWarehouse writing, with the MacFormat ones I’ve decided to post the text as submitted, including any comments that I included for design. I am, however, allowing myself a few small edits for clarity.

The particular one is my eleventh column, written in July 2006. This is presented purely as a historical record as much, if not all, of the information contained in it may well have changed in the meantime.

New Macs for old

So you succumbed, maybe the promise of much faster performance finally convinced you replace your old G4 with an Intel Mac mini or iMac or being able to run Windows applications at full speed interested you. What happens next, how do you get all your old data or programs over from your previous computer to your bright, shiny, new Mac?

To begin with, if you are upgrading from an older Mac running that runs Mac OS X 10.1 and supports FireWire Target Disk Mode the Migration Assistant that runs as part of the set-up of your new Mac is a good start. However it is just that, a start, and does not do a perfect job plus you may need to upgrade the firmware on your old Mac before you can use it.

Migration Assistant transfers over your user account, network settings, applications folder plus any other folders or contents of drives that you specify. There are a number of things that don’t get transferred; specifically printer lists will only transfer over if you choose to migrate both Network Settings and either Applications or Files & Folders. If you choose to migrate just Network Settings the printer list will not come over. iSync settings and any Bluetooth device pairings will need to be set-up all over again. If you have already configured an account on your new Mac you can’t transfer any other accounts that are protected by FileVault and a whole bunch of other settings such as Energy Saver, Software Update, Security, Classic and Input Menu will all need to be set-up again on the new Mac.

A well behaved Mac application should not have any major problems in being migrated as it will only store it’s files in the locations that Migration Assistant will transfer them over from. However if the application stores bits of itself in a number of different locations on your Mac it will have problems when being migrated and will need to be reinstalled. You will also have to reactivate a number of applications, as they will recognise that they are being run on a different computer and will need reactivation as a means of preventing unauthorised copying. In some cases you may need to call the software developer to reactivate the program after a migration so make sure that you deactivate the application, if you can, prior to moving it. Similarly any music that you have purchased from the iTunes music store can be authorised to be used on just five computers so make sure that you deauthorise your computer in iTunes as well.

For most Macs over a couple of years old using the Migration Assistant will likely not be the best approach. It is akin to getting somebody in to move house for you; they will move all of your clutter along with the things that you actually want to keep. Getting a new Mac is a very good excuse for having a spring clean. By all means copy all of your files over but don’t simply migrate applications blindly. Now is a good time to install a fresh copy, and make sure that it is a version that is fully compatible with your new Mac. If you have any Classic applications or any that don’t run in Rosetta you will need to either upgrade them to the latest version or find something else that does the same job. You may well find that there are a lot of applications that you don’t even need and so there is no reason to clutter up your Mac with them or to pay for an upgrade. Just installing the applications that you really need will also mean that you will not have the remains of those that you ditched long ago scattered liberally across your drive whereas Migration Assistant will unhelpfully bring them along for the ride.

Whilst you could use Migration Assistant to move all of your documents over, or set-up a simple network between the two computers, getting a new Mac is also a good excuse to have a tidy-up of all your files. Make sure that you know where everything is and save a copy of to CD or DVD. Even if you do have a regular backup schedule, which everybody should have, it is always a good practice to make an archive copy every now and then. You then need to make sure that you set-up a backup schedule for your new Mac as soon as possible.

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