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OS X: How to migrate data from another Mac using Mountain Lion and earlier

Use Migration Assistant in OS X Lion or Mountain Lion to transfer important information from one Mac to another. Transferred information includes user accounts, applications, documents, network settings and computer settings.

Important: The steps in this article apply to migrating to OS X Lion or Mountain Lion. For help with migrating to Mavericks, learn OS X: How to migrate data from another Mac using Mavericks instead. If you are migrating from a Windows-based PC to a Mac, use the Windows Migration Assistant.

Migration Assistant and Setup Assistant

The instructions in this article refer to Migration Assistant, but they also apply to migrations performed using the Setup Assistant. Setup Assistant opens the first time you start up your new Mac. It helps you enter your information about your network, and walks you through setting up a user account on your computer. If you don't use Setup Assistant to transfer information when you first setup your new Mac, you can do it later using Migration Assistant as described in this article.

Before you begin the migration

  • If you're using a Mac notebook, make sure its power adapter is connected and plugged in.
  • Use Software Update on both the source and destination computers to confirm that the latest updates are installed.
  • On the source (original) Mac, make sure that you have updated your third-party software before migrating.
  • On the source Mac, open System Preferences, choose Sharing, and make sure you have entered a name in the Computer Name field.
  • To use Ethernet for migration, connect the two computers with a single Ethernet cable; you don't need to connect the computers to a hub, switch, or router. This may be faster than using a wireless connection. For the best experience, attach your source and target Macs to the each other before you begin migrating.
  • If you choose a wireless migration, make sure you are on the best wireless connection available. Use the Signal Strength meter in the upper right corner of your screen to find a location that provides the best signal to your source computer before you start. You may also want to eliminate potential sources of interference as well.

After migration is complete

Choose a connection method

There are several ways to transfer information from one computer to another with Migration Assistant. Select a method to learn how to transfer your data:

Migrating using FireWire or ThunderBolt

Note: If you are migrating from Mac OS X v10.4 to OS X Lion, see the Additional Information section below. Migrating from OS X Tiger v10.4 or earlier to OS X Mountain Lion v10.8 or later using Migration Assistant is not supported; see the Additional Information section below for more information.

  1. Make sure both computers are connected via FireWire or ThunderBolt before starting. If you connect the cables after Migration Assistant is already running, the source computer may not be properly detected.
  2. Restart the source (original) Mac while pressing and holding the "T" key.
  3. Open Migration Assistant (located in /Applications/Utilities/) on the target Mac, then click Continue.
  4. When the target Mac asks you for a migration method, select "From another Mac, PC, Time Machine backup, or other disk", and click Continue.
  5. Type in your admin password when prompted, and click OK.
  6. Select "From a Time Machine backup or other disk".
  7. Select the system that you would like to migrate.
  8. Your target Mac will ask you to select items to migrate.
  9. You can customize your selection by clicking to expand the disclosure triangles.
  10. After you click Continue, the Migration Assistant will begin to transfer files to your new Mac. The amount of time that it takes for migration to complete depends on the amount of data being transferred.

Note: To view documents that were migrated, choose Log Out from the Apple () menu, then login as the migrated user. The migrated documents will be located in the migrated user's home folder.

Wireless (Wi-Fi) or Ethernet migration

  1. Make sure that the source Mac and target Macs are connected to the same network, either wirelessly or via Ethernet. (You can directly connect the two Macs via an Ethernet cable if both are Ethernet capable. To make MacBook Air Ethernet capable, connect using the Apple USB Ethernet Adapter.)
  2. If Migration Assistant isn't running on the target (new) Mac, open Migration Assistant (located in /Applications/Utilities/), then click Continue.
  3. On the target Mac select "From another Mac, PC, Time Machine backup or other disk" 
  4. Type in your admin password when prompted and click OK.

  5. When the target Mac asks you for a migration method, select "From another Mac or PC ", then click Continue.

  6. You will see a screen looking for Other Computers.

  7. On the source Mac, open Migration Assistant (located in /Applications/Utilities/), select "To Another Mac", and select Continue.
    Migration Assistant introductory screen
  8. Type in your admin password when prompted and click OK.
  9. On the Target Mac, close all other applications, then click Continue to start the migration options.
  10. A passcode should appear on the target Mac in the Connect Your Computers screen, as shown below.
  11. On the source Mac, confirm that the password matches and click Continue.
  12. On the source Mac, close all other applications, then click Continue to start the migration options.
  13. The target Mac will prompt you to Select Items to Migrate.
  14. You can customize your selection by clicking to expand the disclosure triangles.
  15. After you click Continue, the Migration Assistant will begin to transfer files to the target Mac. The amount of time that it takes for migration to complete depends on the amount of data being transferred and the speed of the network.

Note: To view documents that were migrated, choose Log Out from the Apple () menu, then login as the migrated user. The migrated documents will be located in the migrated user's home folder.

Time Machine or other disk migration

  1. If Migration Assistant isn't running on the target (new) Mac, open Migration Assistant (located in /Applications/Utilities/), select "From another Mac, PC, Time Machine backup, or other disk" then click Continue.
  2. Connect your external hard drive if necessary.
  3. Type in your admin password when prompted and click OK.

  4.  When the target Mac asks you for a migration method, select "From a Time Machine backup or other disk", then click Continue.
  5. Select the Drive, Time Machine backup, or Time Capsule. If you select Time Capsule you will be prompted to enter the Time Capsule password. After entering the password, select the Time Machine backup.
  6. Close all other applications on the source Mac, then click Continue to start the migration options.
  7. The source Mac will ask you to select items to migrate.
  8. You can customize your selection by clicking to open the disclosure triangles.
  9. After you click Continue, the Migration Assistant will begin to transfer files to the target Mac. The amount of time that it takes for migration to complete depends on the amount of data being transferred and the speed of the network.

Note: To view documents that were migrated, choose Log Out from the Apple () menu, then login as the migrated user. The migrated documents will be located in the migrated user's home folder.

Learn more

Migration from Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger to OS X Lion

Migration from Mac OS X v10.4 computers to OS X Lion over your Wi-Fi or a wired network is not supported. However, if both Macs are equipped with a FireWire port, you can use Target Disk Mode to transfer your data:

  1. Verify that both Macs are equipped with a FireWire port. Note that different model Macs may have different FireWire connectors, which will require an appropriate cable, such as FireWire 400 to FireWire 800.
  2. On the Mac you want to transfer data from, Restart, and immediately hold the T key.
  3. Wait for the FireWire logo to appear on the screen.  If it does not, restart and try again.
  4. Connect both Macs via the FireWire cable.
  5. On the Mac you want to transfer data to, Open the Migration Assistant application.
  6. Select the option "From another Mac, PC, Time Machine backup, or other disk" and click Continue.
  7. Select the option "From a Time Machine backup or other disk" and click Continue.
  8. Select your other Mac's volume, such as "Macintosh HD", from the list, and click Continue

Migration from Mac OS X Tiger v10.4 to OS X Mountain Lion v10.8 or later

Migrating from OS X Tiger v10.4 to OS X Mountain Lion v10.8 or later is not supported and is not expected to complete via Migration Assistant. For upgrades from OS X Tiger or older to OS X Mountain Lion or later, you can make a standard file sharing connection and manually copy your files. Recommended folders to transfer from your Home folder on the old computer to the new computer are:

  • Documents
  • Music
  • Movies
  • Pictures
  • Desktop

Copy these folders and any others you'd like to transfer to the same locations on the new computer. For more information regarding file sharing in OS X, see Mac Basics - File sharingNote: Copying any data files from your user Library folder to the new computer could have unexpected results.

If you experience issues migrating using an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection

Try migrating by using Internet Sharing from your source computer.

  1. Set up a home connection from your source computer.
  2. Choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu, then Sharing from the View menu.
  3. Select Internet Sharing.
  4. Select a network service from the “Share your connection from” menu. Do not choose Wi-Fi for this step.
    Note: You can use built-in FireWire or ThunderBolt for example.  You do not need to be connected to the Internet to transmit data for data migration.
  5. Select Wi-Fi to share your Internet connection from the “To computers using” list.
  6. Click Wi-Fi Options and give your network a name and password.
  7. On your target computer, connect to the Wi-Fi network you created.

Learn what to do if a migrated application does not open or function correctly.

If your source computer has FileVault enabled, you should re-enable FileVault on the target computer after migration.

Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.
Last Modified: Jul 25, 2014
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  • Last Modified: Jul 25, 2014
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