AAM: Switching Macs

by Aaron Wright Nov 06, 2006

There’s nothing more annoying than being over-joyed at having a new computer in the household, only to have to transfer all the stuff you want from your old computer to the new one - especially when you don’t want everything on your old machine. Another selling point for Macs is that it’s so easy to transfer information, including programs and documents, from one Mac to another using the Migration tool built into OS X, of course this does require you to purchase a Firewire cable to connect both the Macs together.

Stephencolon, a regular for AAM now, has recently acquired a PowerBook G4 which he says is much more of a beast compared to his iMac G4. What’s a guy to do? Well, he simply wants to transfer all the files and folders he’s after to his new machine with as little hassle as possible. Unfortunately the migration tool built into OS X doesn’t allow you to transfer information via a network, for some unknown reason, and as he doesn’t own a Firewire cord to connect both Macs together, he’s out of options. Now without trying to spend any money stephencolon wants to know how he can easily transfer information from one Mac to another. The answer? Haye321.

Thanks very much Stephencolon and Haye321 for your question and answer for this weeks AAM.

Remember to check out our Ask Matters forums if you’ve got a question you’d like answered.

Until next week folks…

Question of the week

Switching Macs

Question by: Stephencolon

Recently I was given a Powermac G4 (running Tiger).  It’s an awesome computer, even with its age—it’s got way better specs than the iMac G4 that I currently have. The only problem is that all of my files and apps and everything that is my digital life is on my iMac.  Is there any way to move everything from the old mac to the new one in one pass, preferably something that I could start at night then have done in the morning without any interaction in the middle. I don’t own a firewire cord, but I do have the two macs networked.

Thanks in advance,

Answer by: Haye321

What I did with my Mac Book Pro when it had problems and I got a new one is I networked them and made the files on the original Mac accesible from the newer Mac Book Pro. Then I would drag and drop the files I wanted onto my new Mac Book Pro. Or if you dont mind spending $30 dollars then you can buy the firewire cable which will last forever and is significantly faster (I think) than doing my suggestion, and you would be able to use it again if you ever bought another Mac. Another upside to buying the firewire cable is that you get to let it run over night and you dont have to worry about selecting which files you want and potentially forgetting about any files. A downside to my suggestion is that it will take forever (especially the more files you are transfering at one time. And while I tell you this remember that it took a very long time running on a top of the line Mac Book Pro and thats not what you would be using.

View Switching Macs

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  • For the love of your preferred devine entity, go downtown and pick up a short run of FireWire. Or, since your personal need for an external drive has just exploded (you’re not telling me you’re lugging a Powerbook around with no full backup at home), pick up an external HD that comes with a FW cord.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Nov 06, 2006 Posts: 371
  • Regardless of the connection method, Firewire, Network or other, my best advice (after many years of answering this question):

    1) Don’t copy everything at once.  Break the copy into logical sets of data, this folder, that folder and then other folders.  This way if there is a copy failure you know the scope of the failure rather than all or nothing.  *This is less true when using Apple Migration via Firewire but very important in all other cases.

    2) Don’t try to make the new machine an exact replica of the old.  Copy only what you need when you need it.  That way you will get maximum value of the new machine rather than copying forward software and data related problems from the old machine.  Maximize this opportunity for a clean start.

    3) If the new Mac comes with a newer version of the OS, embrace it and learn the new features it has to offer.  Don’t assume you need all the add-ons you grew accustom to with the previous OS version.

    4) Install each add-on software using the original installers and updates rather than trying to drag them from the old machine to the new one.

    These simple guides have severed me and those I’ve advised quite well over many transitions.  conversely I can assure you that I have helped many people recover from trouble that would not have happened if these principles had been followed.

    strick had this to say on Nov 06, 2006 Posts: 2
  • Migration Assistant is probably THE single most awesome tool in OS X in terms of delivering on promise.  Granted, most of us probably don’t use it that often, but when you need it, it’s very impressive.  Vista definitely needs to implement something just like this, if they haven’t already.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Nov 06, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • Good quality Firewire cables are $3 at my local computer store (thick cables, gold-plated connectors, never had a single bit of trouble with them). It would be nice if Migration Assistant worked over a network, but on the generation of machines described in the article Firewire would be much faster than Ethernet (probably less true on newer machines with gigabit-speed networking).

    MarkSF had this to say on Nov 06, 2006 Posts: 14
  • I recently migrated my wife’s iMac to a new system via External HD. So just copy everything to HD (=Bad Beaver Advice), mayby back that up to a different partition on that same HD just for feeling reassured. Now wipe the computer clean, partition it, install. Take only the needed files. (= Strick advice). Strick is absolutely right, that’s the way to do it. You now have an archive and a clean computer.

    WAWA had this to say on Nov 07, 2006 Posts: 89
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