I know I can make an easy transfer of everything using time machine, but I'm trying to transfer the minimum necessary to the new computer (applications I currently use, Aperture database, etc.) in order to keep the new machine as clean as possible, and avoid starting out with any legacy problems with permissions, etc.

Clearly, I can copy individual apps and databases to an external drive and then install them on the new machine, but I'm trying to find an easier way.


Have you looked at "Migration Assistant" in the Utilities directory (off Applications)? Note -- I haven't used it myself.

That utility should work over the network (so you don't need an external disk) and I think it gives you control over what gets transfered. It isn't whole disk but, like you want, user data and applications.

Note -- I tend to reinstall applications when moving to a new machine. Although a lot of applications for Mac OS X are self-contained (everything is in that application icon), there are some that install things in odd places on the hard drive and it can be a pain to track all those things down, or even to understand that something is missing (when all you get is a crash or weird error message).

  • Unfortunately, Migration Assistant cannot selectively transfer apps. Its either all or nothing. Its a feature I wish Apple would add. – KeithB Apr 14 '10 at 17:25
  • The Migration Assistant allows SOME control over the transfer but does not allow selective Application transfer. Use Appcleaner on the old machine to delete Apps you're not using and then use the Migration Assistant, it won't transfer apps if they're not there. Migration Assistant instructions here: macs.about.com/od/leopard105/ss/migratevol.htm This is what you can control using Migration Assistant: User Accounts, Applications, Network and Computer Settings, Files, and Volumes. – alimack Apr 20 '10 at 11:37

Thanks for the ideas. I would have voted the response up if I had enough points, even though it wasn't quite right for my needs: I ran into the thing KeithB pointed out - I didn't want to transfer things wholesale. Here's what I did - bunch of steps, but pretty painless, and faster than I thought it would be.

I got my new Macbook last night, linked it to my old one with ethernet, and just used file sharing over that mini-network to copy my data and libraries. My goal was to install fresh versions everything possible. It's all pretty obvious, but I was impressed with how easy it was to get all my data over with almost no "legacy" items that might someday be a corrupting influence on my young MBP.

  • First, I had time machine run a backup on the old machine, just in case
  • I turned off airport on both machines and connected the ethernet cable to both. (This is obvious to most, but don't use wifi unless you have very little data; it's MUCH slower.
  • I enabled file sharing in the target machine, (System Prefs, Sharing) and set permissions to "Read and Write" for "Everyone". (It's important to turn this off after you're done and will be going back to "real" networks, but it's harmless on the two-mac ethernet ecosystem)
  • This allowed me to see the new computer in the left nav panel of the old one, and to drag files into it.
  • On the new computer, I set address book and mail to sync with my google account (in their respective prefs panels)
  • On the new computer, I set mobileme to sync my calendar, keychain, and browser bookmarks (In system prefs, then mobileme)
  • On the old computer, I ran a repair of my aperture photo library just in case, (open aperture while holding option and command,) and then copied the file and pasted it into the pictures folder on the new mac.
  • I installed a clean copy of aperture using my existing license on the new machine, and pointed it to the library I'd just copied.
  • I copied my entire itunes folder, found in the music folder of the old mac, to my new machine's desktop, and then dragged it into iphoto on the new machine, so it could "organize" the files fresh. NOTE - this won't retain playlists or ratings. If you use either much, you may want a more traditional migration for your itunes library.
  • If you have any imovie projects, you can just drag the whole folder into the "Movies" folder on the new computer"
  • I installed MS Office from the original disks on the new machine
  • I copied the contents of my documents folder to the docs folder on the new machine.
  • Just to be safe, I copied my entire user folder (the one that looks like a house) to my backup disk and to my idisk in case I need them later. If you're storage space constrained, consider removing the photo library, imovie projects folder, and itunes folder, since you already copied them before you did this.
  • I didn't have any apps that I still wanted that I couldn't download new, but if you did, you could obviously jsut drag them to the new Applications folder. (I just downloaded new copies of handbrake, logmein, and things, and things synced with my iphone to get my data.)

Not sure this is the best way, but it was easy, took under two hours, and on the off-chance I find something I overlooked and need, I can always get it off time machine or the copies of my user folder on the backup drive or idisk.

All in, it took me about an hour of "doing" and about an hour to transfer the data (I moved about 125GB, mostly pictures and music.)

Hopefully this is of some use to anyone else looking for a highly selective transfer.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.