I just got a new Mac laptop, and I'm looking to transfer some data from my old Mac to this one. I'd like recommendations on what to transfer and how to do it. (I'm making this a community wiki question, so please add on your own suggestions.) I'm not looking for a direct transfer, but rather a minimal organizational strategy to get old data into a fresh install.

These are the things I think I'll need to transfer:

  • Documents
  • Developer tools & projects
  • Sites folder
  • iTunes library / iPhone/iPad backups & settings
  • Applications
  • Fonts

So, for now the question is how to go about doing this. Does anyone have experience transferring iTunes libraries and iOS device stuff — should I just copy the ~/Music/iTunes folder or is there more involved?

For documents, fonts, applications, and developer stuff, it seems the best strategy is just to transfer the files directly.


Use the Migration Assistant in your /Applications/Utilities folder. It's very good and should get everything. Anything it misses, you'd probably want to copy over manually anyway.

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I have different suggestions depending on your level of "acquaintance" with the system. For instance, if you'd like an App with a GUI and all that, you can try "CarbonCopy" and just make a copy of your home folder, '/Users/yourusername'. On the other hand, if you're more advanced at the console, you can simply use 'tar' and mirror all of your stuff this way. (My personal strategy is this last one: tar everything to an external HD and be done with it.)

On a slightly tangential note, if you use Apple's favorite backup method, "Time Machine", you probably don't need to do anything, other than keeping your backups up-to-date. ;-)

Finally, as far as the Apps are concerned, i'd just re-install them — although, in principle, there's no problem in simply mirroring everything with 'tar' or 'CarbonCopy', for that matter.

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