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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

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

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

The time has come to replace your Mac. Once you’ve decided on a new model, forked over the cash, and unboxed your expensive new toy, it’s time to get down to business and transfer your data.

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

Apple Will Migrate Your Data for Free

If you don’t want to transfer your data yourself, an Apple employee can do it for you. You just have to bring your old Mac with you when you buy its replacement. Apple used to charge $99 for this service, but now, it’s free to anyone who purchases a new Mac.

For MacBook and Mac mini models, this makes a lot of sense. If you have an old iMac or Mac Pro, though, you might be better off transferring your data at home.

Your Options

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

  1. Mac-to-Mac, over the local network (or a local wireless connection between machines).
  2. Mac-to-Mac using Target Disk Mode and a cable.
  3. Restore from a Time Machine backup stored on an external drive.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to use the first option. If both machines run macOS Sierra or later, then you can transfer wirelessly via a local Wi-Fi connection. This connection is made directly between the machines, and thus, doesn’t require that both machines be connected to the same network.

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

About This Mac Overview for a 2012 MacBook Pro.

Not sure which version of macOS or OS X your Mac is running? Click the Apple logo in the top-left corner of the screen, and then select About This Mac. You should see the name and version number of the current operating system listed on the Overview tab.

Option 1: Mac-to-Mac via the Network

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