How to Back Up Your Stuff and Switch to a New Mac

An iMac and a MacBook on a desk.Krisda / Shutterstock.com

The time has come to replace your Mac. Once you have chosen a new model, cashed the total amount and unpacked your new expensive toy, it's time to get to work and transfer your data.

All the tools you need are provided with macOS (give or take a cable or two, or an external drive). And, if you buy a new Mac, Apple will transfer your data for free.

Apple will migrate your data for free

If you do not want to transfer your data yourself, an Apple employee can do it for you. You just need to bring your old Mac with you when you buy its replacement. Apple charged $ 99 for this service, but now, it's free anyone who buys a new Mac.

For MacBook and Mac mini models, it makes a lot of sense. If you have an old iMac or Mac Pro, it may be best to transfer your data home.

Your options

Apple has a tool called Migration Wizard in macOS to help you from both sides of a data transfer. In Migration Assistant, you can transfer data in one of three ways:

Mac to Mac, on the local network (or a local wireless connection between computers).
Mac to Mac using target disk mode and cable.
Restore from a Time Machine backup stored on an external drive.

If you want to use the first option, consider the following points. If both machines run macOS Sierra or later, you can then wirelessly transfer via a local Wi-Fi connection. This connection is established directly between the machines and therefore does not require that the two machines are connected to the same network.

If your Mac is older and only supports OS X El Capitan, you need to make sure both computers are connected to the same network. You can do this over Wi-Fi or, for best results, use an Ethernet cable. The Migration Wizard allows you to transfer data from older Macs running OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or later.

About this overview of Mac for a MacBook Pro 2012.

You do not know which version of MacOS or OS X is running on your Mac? Click the Apple logo in the upper-left corner of the screen, and then select About this Mac. The name and version number of the current operating system should be listed on the Overview tab.

Option 1: Mac to Mac via the network

One of the simplest methods (no cable or external drive required) to transfer the contents of your Mac is to use a network connection.

Despite its simplicity, this is the slowest way to migrate your data to a new Mac. If you have a large amount of data (more than 200 GB) to transfer, schedule it in hours. You might even have to wait overnight.

The macOS migration wizard pane.

One thing that gives you an edge is if you are using a wired network connection. Not only is a wired transfer more reliable, but it is also faster. A "wired" connection means that your computers, new and old, are connected to your router via an Ethernet cable. You do not need an internet connection to make this transfer. So you can even temporarily move your network equipment to speed up the transfer.

Follow these steps to transfer your Mac data to Mac over the network:

On your old Mac, launch Migration Assistant and click "Continue."
Choose "To another Mac" when prompted, and click "Continue."
On your new Mac, launch Migration Assistant and click "Continue."
Choose "From a Mac, from a Time Machine backup or from a startup disk" when prompted, and then click "Continue."
Choose the Mac icon when prompted, then click "Continue."
Write down the security code and check that it matches that of your old Mac (if provided).
Select the information you want to transfer from your old Mac, then click "Continue."

Now, you wait for the transfer to complete. If you transfer to a Mac sharing the same user account, you will be asked to rename or replace the user account on your new Mac. If you choose to replace the account, all the data will be deleted, but as the Mac is new, it should not matter.

Option 2: Mac to Mac via Cable

Target disk mode is a faster method than transferring the contents of your player over the network. If you connect your old Mac directly to the new one with a high-speed cable, you can significantly reduce the transfer time.

Target disk mode works on Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0 or later, Thunderbolt 2 and FireWire. Despite the support of USB 3.0, you must use a Mac 2012 or later if you want to connect via USB Type-A. Your new Mac will need to use a USB Type C connector.

Two Apple Thunderbolt 3 cables.Apple

Here are some things to keep in mind:

You can connect Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 3 or Thunderbolt 3 to USB 3.0 Type-C with a Apple Thunderbolt 3 cable (USB-C).
If you are copying from a Thunderbolt 2 interface, you can use a standard Thunderbolt 2 cable with the Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 Adapter (USB-C).
To copy from a USB Type-A to a USB Type-C, make sure to use a USB 3.0 or later compatible cable (USB 2.0 will not work).
You can not use the USB Type-C cable you use to charge your MacBook.

You need to restart your old Mac in Target disk mode for it to work. When you do this, it installs your old Mac drive on your new Mac, so it appears as an external volume. If you protected your player with FileVault encryption, you must type the password to decrypt it when you mount it.

Follow these steps to transfer data from Mac to Mac by cable:

Connect the transfer cable from your old Mac to your new one.
Turn on your old Mac and hold down the "T" key during startup. If it's already enabled, go to System Preferences> Startup Disk, and then click "Target Disk Mode." Wait until he restarts.
On your new Mac, wait for your old Mac drive to appear. Type your FileVault password, if prompted. If you do not see your old Mac, launch Disk Utility and check the sidebar. Select the volume that appears, click File> Mount, and then type your FileVault password.
With the player mounted, launch Migration Assistant, and then click "Continue."
Choose "From a Mac, from a Time Machine backup or from a startup disk" when prompted, and then click "Continue."
Click on the appropriate boot disk icon.
Select the data you want to transfer to your new Mac, then click "Continue."

You can not bring your old Mac? Make sure you use the correct cable or adapter to connect both computers. For best results with Thunderbolt 2 or 3 connections, use only Apple brand cables.

The transfer time ultimately depends on the cable you are using. Thunderbolt 3 active copper cables are expensive, but offer speeds of up to 40 Gbps (maximum speed of 5 GB per second). Thunderbolt 2 cables provide about half of this power (20 Gbps), while USB 3.1 and 3.0 ports support 10 Gbps and 5 Gbps, respectively.

Once the transfer is complete, eject the disc from your old Mac as any other.

Method 3: From a Time Machine Backup

This last method of data transfer is ideal if you use Time Machine to back up your Mac to an external drive. All you have to do is connect your backup drive to your new Mac and then import your data with Migration Assistant. Make sure you create an updated Time Machine backup on your old Mac before continuing.

The macOS migration wizard.

This method is usually faster than using a network connection, especially if you have a drive that supports USB 3.0 or later.

Follow these steps to transfer your data from a Time Machine backup:

On your new Mac, launch Migration Assistant, and click "Continue."
Choose "From a Mac, from a Time Machine backup or from a startup disk" when prompted, and then click "Continue."
Choose the Time Machine icon when prompted, then click "Continue."
When you see a list of available backups, select one (you will probably want the most recent).
Select the data you want to transfer from your old Mac, then click "Continue."

Do not forget to eject your Time Machine disc safely. If you want to use this drive to back up your new Mac, you will need to set up Time Machine again.

The big data migration

You do not have to use Migration Assistant, but it makes life a lot easier. You can also connect your old Mac to target disk mode and manually copy the files you want to keep. You can also make all of your Mac disk available on the network via System Preferences> Sharing.

Now is the time to decide what to do with your old Mac. You can use it as a Time Machine player networked, wipe your reader and install macOS from scratch, or sell it and recover some of the money you spent on the upgrade.

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