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Copy all files from a Mac to a new one: need advice please

GamingLove

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Hi all,

I need some help please: i'm not used to Mac OS so I don't know how to proceed. I bought a new Mac and I need to have all data and files from the old one to the new one.
I googled and found different solution like using Time Machine, Migration Tool, iCloud, or making an external USB backup, but I'm not quite sure on which one I have to use and which one is the best to be sure that all my documents and files are copied on the new notebook.
The Migration Tool seems easy to use, but I don't understand if my files and documents will be deleted from the old Mac when migration is completed.
Using Time machine looks easy too: if I understand it's simply a backup of documents and files to an external devices.
The iCloud solution seems the most practical: just make a full backup of the old Mac with iCloud+ and then login on the new one to retrive all my documents and files.
As you see I don't really know which one to use.

Could someone please give me some advice please?

Thank you!
 
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Old system administrator's adage: if it's worth backing up, it's worth backing up twice.

You should be using some sort of backup solution periodically just in case. Real system administrators would say to keep one set of backups offsite just in case your hardware is destroyed (act of nature like fire or water), stolen, or fails. So start using Time Machine periodically (it makes a full backup followed by incremental backups). You can use an external USB drive for Time Machine, it doesn't need to be Apple hardware.

I've used Migration Assistant successfully. It does not delete data from the old machine. I suggest you log out of iCloud before you use Migration Assistant. After the data transfer, reboot both systems then check the new system to ensure all your data migrated successfully. Then log into iCloud on the new system. For me, if everything goes well for a couple of weeks, I erase the old system's boot drive and reinstall a clean copy of macOS.

I don't quite trust Time Machine to do a bootable clone because years ago Time Machine would occasionally throw errors while backing up. Today Time Machine seems to be more reliable however that doubt still remains. Time Machine is good for recovering older versions of files though and it's pretty brainless since it'll run automagically.

There's no way I would personally use iCloud for this. My Internet connection is a ghetto DSL line with pretty slow upload speeds and I have too much data anyhow, about 7 TB of media (movies, videos, music, photos, etc.).

The last option also is viable: cloning your old system's boot drive to an external USB drive (using Disk Utility), booting off the new external boot drive successfully then cloning the new external drive to the new system's internal drive. Again, it is best to log out of iCloud before you do this. One advantage of this is now you have bootable snapshot of your old system. I have done this periodically and I typically create a bootable clone of the original version of macOS that shipped with the system right before I upgrade to the subsequent version of macOS.

So I would personally use either Migration Assistant or the external bootable cloned system drive.
 

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Carbon Copy Cloner.
 
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Carbon Copy Cloner.
I own a paid key to CCC, but suggesting that someone pay for unnecessary software isn't a great idea. All he needs is Migration Assistant, which is included in macOS and free.
 
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Carbon Copy Cloner.
I completely forgot about this wonderful utility!

CCC works great for creating bootable clones; the free trial version works fine for this purpose.
 
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I’d use migration assistant unless you modified the OS in some way and want to take that with you. It only copies the user space rather than the whole system, so you don’t have to worry about junk if you installed a random system extension or whathaveyou.
 

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This might be obvious to mac users but... can't you just copy and paste to an external hard drive?
 
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This might be obvious to mac users but... can't you just copy and paste to an external hard drive?
That might work for ordinary directories and files but likely not for hidden ones like the ~/Library directory which holds most of the user configuration data.

One thing copy-and-paste won't do is set up the new user account(s) correctly (like UNIX uid and gid) and ensure the UNIX ownerships and permissions are mirrored properly. I'm not sure if symbolic links will be properly maintained either.

Migration Assistant can move multiple user accounts at the same time and also move applications that aren't stored within the user account.

A full bootable clone made with Carbon Copy Cloner is still a better method since it creates a full snapshot of the old system's boot drive.

The biggest issue with Migration Assistant is that it doesn't copy everything. And that creates a conundrum: you don't know exactly what was excluded.

Carbon Copy Cloner is much like Macrium Reflect. When making a bootable clone it will wipe the target drive clean (after you confirm) and partition the target drive including hidden system volumes as necessary.
 
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I haven’t owned Apple silicon, but I imagine this is at least one situation when you don’t want to use an image.
 

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Just in case this helps the OP make a decision, i'll cover the requirements for various windows backup methods and why you would/would not do the methods
Can someone reply with the Mac software variants if OP picks one, and if the limitations are the same?

1. Full OS clone
Pro: Copies everything, zero end user work
Con: Requires very similar or identical hardware to restore, or you cant access anything
(Special cases like macrium can allow you to access the backups with a file browser or a virtual machine, but you could have multiple 500GB backup for 10GB of photos doing this. Not super practical for a home user, or a one-off file transfer)

2. File copy only
Pro: Faster, can be used on any physical system or a different OS. Can work on external or network storage for easy access on anything, anytime.
Cons: Programs need to be reinstalled to use the files, user needs to know where the files are located.

3. 'Transfer' utilities
Pro: Theoretically gets installed programs as well
Cons: never seems to work, usually ends up a corrupted mess

Bonus option/cloud storage:
Android and windows both let you log in and cloud restore a lot of user settings like iOS does, as well as files stored in their respective cloud options - but you need to pay for that storage of your files.
This pairs well with #2 if the user files are already backed up or locally accessible (like on a NAS), but the concept of paying for storage, uploading it all, and downloading it back again and praying it's all there is just... time money and effort for possibly nothing.


I'll always use method 2, a clean system with a clean OS - restore the files where they belong and install any neccesary apps.

If you're not disposing of the older system immediately, it's not like you'd have problems if you missed something - you'd have access on the old system still, and then copy it
(and keep a list of the locations you kept your files for next time, or if you schedule any automated backups)
 
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I haven’t owned Apple silicon, but I imagine this is at least one situation when you don’t want to use an image.
You are correct, the dual Intel/Apple Silicon boot drive isn't possible.


How-To articles from Macworld are generally pretty well tested.
 

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Oh god this is x86 to M1?
Am i right in thinking that very very little is going to be usable, other than basically document and media files due to to the architecture change?
 
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Oh god this is x86 to M1?
Am i right in thinking that very very little is going to be usable, other than basically document and media files due to to the architecture change?
There's a Universal macOS binary format that allows one application for both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs, a type of "fat" binary that includes both x64 and ARM64 code.

The first time you try to run an x86-only app on an Apple Silicon Mac, you will be prompted if you want to install Rosetta 2.
 
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1. Full OS clone
Pro: Copies everything, zero end user work
Con: Requires very similar or identical hardware to restore, or you cant access anything
That was the point I was trying to make with the Intel to Apple situation. System files are mostly consistent across Intel silicon, but you’ll end up with some legacy “drivers” (extensions) and sometimes apps (like the move from iPhoto to photos).
2. File copy only
Pro: Faster, can be used on any physical system or a different OS. Can work on external or network storage for easy access on anything, anytime.
Cons: Programs need to be reinstalled to use the files, user needs to know where the files are located.
Same, though it’s only three folders on a Mac
3. 'Transfer' utilities
Pro: Theoretically gets installed programs as well
Cons: never seems to work, usually ends up a corrupted mess
IDK, @cvaldes seems to disagree, but I’ve never had issues with migration assistant.
 
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I've used Migration Assistant maybe twice in the twenty continuous years I've owned a Mac. In both situations I was migrating from my home system (a Mac mini) to a notebook Mac which only needed a subset of applications and user data. I only used this utility between two Intel Macs.

What I am skeptical about is building a bootable clone from a Time Machine backup. Hopefully Apple has made Time Machine operations more robust that the early days.

That said, transitioning from an Intel Mac to an Apple Silicon Mac might prompt me to try a Time Machine backup and cross my fingers.
 

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Apple let you download an OS from the cloud (seriously, MS needs to get in on this with a bootable USB that just live-downloads the files) - so time machine backing up the user files (the NAS option) should be ideal regardless of what apple harwdare it ends up restored to or backed up from, yes?
 
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Yes, but the caveat with all of these methods besides a system image is the assumption that you adhere to the file hierarchy. If you start storing stuff outside of your user folder YMMV

@cvaldes , time machine has come a long way, and I use it stored to my server, but I also keep a system image there and user data on backblaze. Haven’t tried a system restore from it in a loooong time, but I imagine it’s similar to migration assistant.
 
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Apple let you download an OS from the cloud (seriously, MS needs to get in on this with a bootable USB that just live-downloads the files) - so time machine backing up the user files (the NAS option) should be ideal regardless of what apple harwdare it ends up restored to or backed up from, yes?
Macs have a recovery partition with a minimal macOS image. This is easier for Apple because it's their hardware and they have a finite and well-known group of hardware configurations they need to support. Moreover support for the current version of macOS only ranges back to about the last seven years of Mac hardware.

As claes mentions I have third party software outside my user directory that might not make it in Migration Assistant move.

@cvaldes , time machine has come a long way, and I use it stored to my server, but I also keep a system image there and user data on backblaze. Haven’t tried a system restore from it in a loooong time, but I imagine it’s similar to migration assistant.
Thank you for your testimony that Time Machine has improved.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

My skepticism about Time Machine's robustness still remains. I do know that Migration Assistant can restore from a Time Machine backup so I suppose Apple has made a commitment to improving this tool.
 
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GamingLove

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Thanks all of you!

Migration Tool seems a good solution and quite easy to use.

But as @cvaldes pointed out

The biggest issue with Migration Assistant is that it doesn't copy everything. And that creates a conundrum: you don't know exactly what was excluded.

which is exactly what I have to avoid. I have to be sure that the new M1 Mac is an "exactly" copy of all what I had on the old one. But maybe i misunderstood @cvaldes point.

I'm sorry...as you can see I'm really not used to MC OS
 
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Processor Intel 3.2 GHz Core i7 (I7-8700B) "Coffee Lake" (6 cores, 12 threads)
Motherboard Apple proprietary
Cooling Apple proprietary
Memory 16GB 2666 MHz DDR4 PC4-21300 SDRAM
Video Card(s) integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 + Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 580 8GB (via Sonnet eGPU)
Storage Apple proprietary 1TB SSD + various external HDDs
Display(s) LG 27UL850W (4K@60Hz)
Case Apple proprietary
Audio Device(s) Apple proprietary
Power Supply Apple proprietary
Mouse Apple Magic Trackpad 2
Keyboard Keychron K1 tenkeyless (Gateron Reds)
Software macOS Monterey 12.6.1
I have to be sure that the new M1 Mac is an "exactly" copy of all what I had on the old one. But maybe i misunderstood @cvaldes point.
Assuming your old Mac has an Intel CPU do the following.

Log out of iCloud then make full backup with Time Machine to external drive.

Plug in Time Machine external drive into new M1 Mac, fire up Migration Assistant on the new Mac and point it to the Time Machine backup. Restore, cross your fingers and reboot. Check to see if there are any differences. Log back into iCloud on new Mac.

Note that you may want to seek out Apple Silicon versions of your third party applications. Legacy x86 binaries will run on your M1 Mac with Rosetta 2 but from a performance perspective, applications compiled for Apple Silicon will exhibit better performance.
 

Mussels

Freshwater Moderator
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Oystralia
System Name Rainbow Sparkles (Power efficient, <350W gaming load)
Processor Ryzen R7 5800x3D (Undervolted, 4.45GHz all core)
Motherboard Asus x570 Gaming-F
Cooling Alphacool Apex UV - Alphacool Eisblock XPX Aurora + EK Quantum ARGB 3090 w/ active backplate
Memory 2x32GB DDR4 3600 Corsair Vengeance RGB @3866 C18-22-22-22-42 TRFC704 (1.4V, SoC 1.175V Hynix MJR)
Video Card(s) Galax RTX 3090 SG 24GB: Underclocked to 1700Mhz 0.737v (375W down to 250W))
Storage 2TB WD SN850 NVME + 1TB Sasmsung 970 Pro NVME + 1TB Intel 6000P NVME USB 3.2
Display(s) Kogan 32" 4K 70Hz + Gigabyte G32QC (1440p 165Hz) + Phillips 328m6fjrmb (1440p 144Hz)
Case Fractal Design R6
Audio Device(s) Logitech G560 | Corsair Void pro RGB |Blue Yeti mic
Power Supply Fractal Ion+ 2 860W (Platinum) (This thing is God-tier. Silent and TINY)
Mouse Logitech G Pro wireless + Steelseries Prisma XL
Keyboard Razer Huntsman TE (custom white and steel keycaps)
VR HMD Oculus Rift S + Quest 2
Software Windows 11 pro x64 (Yes, it's genuinely a good OS) OpenRGB - ditch the branded bloatware!
I have to be sure that the new M1 Mac is an "exactly" copy of all what I had on the old one. But maybe i misunderstood @cvaldes point.
I dont think this is something you can reasonably do
Windows gets away with it easier since everythings cross-compatible, but even on x86 hardware it's not always possible

There will always be something that's different or not copied, unless its going to 100% identical hardware - obvious example, but windows 11 had performance issues with CPU upgrades even if nothing else had changed, and a cloned OS would also have that issue
 
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