Time Machine, Migration Assistant or a fresh start?

When you purchase a new Mac there are a few options for how you can transfer your old data across to your new computer.

  1. Migration Assistant will allow you to connect your 2 computers together and copy the files from one to the other.
  2. You can make a Time Machine backup of your first computer and then restore it to your new computer.
  3. You can manually copy the files across.

Quick answer – go for Time Machine if you can, use Migration Assistant if you have to, copy them manually as a last resort. Here’s why

#1 Time Machine

If you have access to an external SSD hard disk, Time Machine is the safest bet. It seems to be the method that Apple has put the most effort into.

  1. Speed. It’s certainly the fastest. I used to always use Migration Assistant, but whereas Migration Assistant can take 10-20 hours, even using a direct USB-C connection, Time Machine tends to take just 2-3 hours.
  2. Reliability. I have found that after a Migration Assistant restore there can be issues with some things not working. I’ve never had problems with Time Machine.

To do a Time Machine restore you simply backup your first computer to Time Machine, then eject the backup. Plug the Time Machine backup into you new computer, and start it. The Computer will find the backup and prompt you how to complete the restore.

#2 Migration Assistant

If you do not have access to an external drive, you can connect your 2 Macs directly together usign a USB-C cable, or network cable, and use Migration Assistant. Start Migration Assistant on your old machine, start your new one, and it works in a similar manner to Time Machine.

#3 Copy Manually

Do not do this unless you are having a major problem with your current computer This is hard work. Some apps will not copy across but need to be installed all over again. If you are planning on doing a fresh installation my main advice would be to take your time and check each application as you go. Copy each application across, launch it, and make sure you can access your old documents.

My second piece of advice would be to keep your old hard drive handy in an external hard drive case, so that if there is an application or a document that you forgot to copy across and you need to access it, it is relatively easy to go and retrieve it.


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