Here's the story:

  • Company bought me a $599 Mac mini (as of this writing, 2.26GHz/160GB HD/2GB RAM)
  • I have it set up to some extent with software for development
  • Company decides it needs a second Mac for QA
  • I convince company to buy the $799 Mac mini for the second machine (as of this writing, 2.53GHz/320GB HD/4GB RAM), let me have it for development, and let QA have the $599 Mac mini
  • Company does just that, now I have both

So, what's the best way to move from one of these to the other? Just set up everything on the second one and be done with it? Can I transfer things from the first to the second somehow? I'm running Time Machine backups to an external drive on the $599 Mac mini, if that helps. Also both of these will be on the network at the same time, other than renaming one of the machines are there considerations to be had there?

BONUS DIFFICULTY: This new Mac is maybe the third one to ever be on my company's network. And the Mac I have now is probably the second one to ever be on my company's network (and I don't think anyone knows what became of the first one). So while I have it on our Active Directory tree, it was a bit of a beating to get it there because no one (myself included) really has any experience here. Ain't it fun being a developer?

  • Do you need to move your preferences, etc to the other Mac as well? Or just files and programs? Jun 10 '10 at 22:32
  • @musicfreak: not sure really, since I'm new to the Mac and I don't know offhand how many things I've tweaked. I do have this current Mac on the domain so there's at least some settings coming along for the ride if possible
    – Tom Kidd
    Jun 10 '10 at 22:35
  • possible duplicate of How to move my data from my old MacBook Pro to my new one? Jun 11 '10 at 17:57

While I have never personally used it, Migration Assistant, which is installed in /Applications/Utilities, is designed to help you move from one Mac to another.


The easiest way would be to perform a migration through time machine. There should be an option for "Restore System from Time Machine." After that, simply use apple > system preferences > sharing > computer name to rename the machine (which it looks like you already knew).

The real answer here is to contact your system administrator (sorry, my SA side has got the better of me). Depending on how the network and services are set up, there may be other constraints that your system administrators would need to take into account. For instance, the device may need to be registered on the network by it's MAC address, which is one of endless possibilities which could come into play. I'm saying this because it seems that you are doing this within your company.

If dhcp is working correctly, renaming should be the only thing to worry about on the network. That is if there are no additional requirements from the networking dept/system administrators.

Please don't take this as an insult, i'm not sure what your technical knowledge level is, but I have run into many problems before that would have not been an issue if the user would have just involved IT from the beginning.

  • No offense taken, but I need to update the question looks like. The added level of difficulty here is: this is maybe the third Mac that has ever been on our corporate network. And the second Mac ever was the one I'm running now. So to some extent I'm working without a net since our system administrators have very little experience with the Mac.
    – Tom Kidd
    Jun 10 '10 at 22:43
  • Also, this "restore from time machine" thing doesn't throw a wobbly when the new hardware is different from the original hardware?
    – Tom Kidd
    Jun 10 '10 at 22:46
  • 1
    @schnapple Hardware differences won't matter as long as the target computer is the same architecture (Intel) and compatible with the system. (It will be.)
    – ghoppe
    Jun 11 '10 at 17:28

If you are still in possession of both Macs, the easiest way is to connect them via FireWire (or Ethernet) and transfer files using Migration Assistant. If you haven't set up the new Mac yet, when you boot it and start configuring OS X, it'll ask you if you want to transfer files from an old Mac. Connect the Macs via FireWire, select the appropriate option, and your files will be transferred. (You can also connect via Ethernet, or even wireless, if you don't have a FireWire cable handy.) If you have set up the new Mac already, you can reinstall OS X or use the Migration Assistant in /Applications/Utilities to do the transfer.

Migrating via FireWire or Ethernet is much faster than migrating from a Time Machine backup.


As @waiwai933 correctly stated, Apple includes a utility specifically for the purpose of migration of one mac to the other. I have used it successfully many times.

Restore from Time Machine should work too, as these are both Intel Mac Minis, and the difference in hardware is minimal and irrelevant. As long as the OS is compatible on the target computer, hardware differences do not matter.

If you're really paranoid, a good option is to use SuperDuper to copy your first Mac Mini to create a bootable clone on an external hard drive. Plug the hard drive into the second Mac Mini and boot from it to ensure it will work as you expect.


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.

Several alternatives:

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.

Time Machine 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!

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