I migrate a mac about once a month, and I have used all the methods below. It is easier to migrate a Mac than a Windows machine by a mile. I use the term "source" for the older machine and "target" for the replacement.
The utilities listed are in order of my preference.
Migration Assistant Migration Assistant a great way to go. I update my laptop every six months and use it every time without any problem.
Be sure to have an extra account set up since you cannot migrate into and replace an existing account. ie, if you had an account on both machines called "schnapple" Migration Assistant will lead you through all the step (which takes awhile) and then fail when you pull the trigger because of the name of your account.
The solution is to do this:
- Setup an account called "temp" on the target machine;
- Save your data in "schnapple" on the target;
- boot into "temp";
- delete the account "schnapple" on the target;
- then run Migration Assistant and you are good to go.
Migration Assistant has some intelligence. If you have a new version of something (OS, framework, software) on the target Mac, it will not overwrite it. If you have a configuration that is not supported on the target, it will not copy it.
You run Migration Assistant on the target machine. You can use Firewire or ethernet to connect to a source machine or any connection form to import from a disc backup of the source.
Duplicate the existing mac You can also use SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner. In this case, you will make a perfect copy of the last Mac then boot into it. Macs are similar enough in architecture that this works most of the time and it is the fastest way to go. The downside is that if your new mac has newer software, it will be overwritten with the older version.
You run these utilities on the source machine. You can put your target machine into Firewire target mode and copy direct to the target or onto an external drive. If you go through an external drive, you will need to run twice: once on the source to make the backup and again on the target to complete the migration.
You can migrate a source mac to a new target with Time Machine. This has problems. Some hidden files and directories are not copied, such as your personal .cpan directory for Perl. Also, Time Machine backups are frequently interrupted. If your last backup was incomplete, it will not use previous files for a complete migration. Not recommended unless it is all you have.
You run Time Machine both from the source to make the backup then from the target to bring in the backup.
No matter which method you choose, programs that use your MAC address as a test of being on one machine may fail. MS Office uses MAC address for copy control, VMWare uses MAC address for each VM, etc.
Best of luck!