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BLOG: Migrating to a new Mac without losing all your settings

Adam Turner (via SMH) | June 24, 2013
Copying across hidden folders and preference files can take much of the pain out of upgrading to a new Mac but here's how to avoid that.

Retina MacBook Pro

Copying across hidden folders and preference files takes much of the pain out of upgrading to a new Mac.

The EOFY Fairy delivered two shiny new MacBooks to my house last week, but unfortunately she left me to deal with the hassle of migrating all our data. I know MacOS has built-in migration tools, or you can use Time Machine, but I only wanted to transfer the settings for a few specific applications. A fresh install of MacOS can often do the world of good and I didn't want to copy more than necessary from the old Macs to the new ones. Thankfully there are a few tricks which make this kind of manual migration easier, especially when you're going from Mountain Lion to Mountain Lion rather than upgrading to a new version of MacOS.

When I've previously migrated to a new Mac or upgraded a hard drive, the biggest hassle has been copying across iTunes and Apple Mail. It's not just a case of dragging across your Documents and Music folders, as there are lots of other little files and preferences to think about. Cloud sync can take care of a lot of things, such as your calendars and contacts along with all your browser bookmarks and settings. But if you've got a hefty iTunes media/app library and an overflowing email inbox then it's probably faster to transfer them across rather than download them all again. The same might go for iPhoto, although I don't use it so I didn't need to worry about it.

The first step is to run Software Update on your old Mac to make sure you're running the latest versions of iTunes and Apple Mail. Then spend a little time cleaning up your music library, apps and inbox, making sure everything is in order. Once you're happy, sync your iGadgets to iTunes. Once you unplug your iGadgets, close iTunes and Apple Mail on your old computer and don't open them again until the migration is complete.

Next you should run Software Update on your new Mac to make sure you've got the latest versions of MacOS, iTunes and Apple Mail. Don't open iTunes or Apple Mail on your new Mac yet, wait until after you've migrated all your data and settings across.

Copying across your Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Movies, Music and Pictures folders is easy enough, but to access everything else you'll need to get into your ~/Library/ folder (which lives in your User folder alongside those other folders). Apple now hides the Library folder by default in Mac OS, but you can see it by holding down the Option key as you click the Go option in the Finder. Alternatively you can use the Terminal to make the Library folder visible again, but don't mess around with the Terminal unless you know what you're doing.


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