Mac OS X 10.3, 10.4: Transferring data with Setup Assistant / Migration Assistant FAQ

Learn how some versions of Setup Assistant or Migration Assistant (included with Mac OS X 10.4 or later, in the Utilities folder) can easily transfer data from a previous Mac to a new one. This document applies to Mac OS X 10.4 and computers that ship with Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later, such as Power Mac G5 (June 2004) computers. Setup/Migration Assistant on these computers includes a data migration feature. The data copied by the Assistant is not deleted from your previous Mac.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger tip: In Mac OS X 10.4, Setup Assistant runs after installing Mac OS X 10.4, just as in Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later. After that, Migration Assistant (found in the Utilities folder) can be used to transfer data from a different Mac (or partition that has a previous version of Mac OS X via the "From another volume in this Mac" option). More.

Note: Some software transferred from a PowerPC-based Mac to an Intel-based Mac may need to be updated after the migration.

Find answers to these questions in this document:

Tell me about the Assistant's "transfer data" feature.

Setup Assistant, included with computers that have Mac OS X 10.3.4 or later preinstalled, can transfer data (including account settings and home folders) from a previous Mac (that's using Mac OS X 10.1 or later) to your newer computer. You'll need a FireWire cable to connect the two computers together. The Assistant offers to transfer (or "migrate") data from your older computer when you turn on your new computer for the first time. Make sure the older computer's firmware is up-to-date first.

When is the best time to transfer data to my new computer?

The best time is the first time you start your new computer. Just make sure you have a FireWire cable, and that your older computer's firmware is up-to-date. Don't worry about "cleaning up" files on your previous computer. It doesn't take long to transfer data via FireWire, and chances are your new Mac has more storage space than your old one does.

Can I use the Assistant to copy data to a computer that came with an earlier version of Mac OS X?

No, this version of the Assistant only works with the computer it came with. However, you can copy data from a dizzying array of older computers if they have a FireWire port and Mac OS X 10.1 or later. Make sure the older computer's firmware is up-to-date.

To transfer data to a different computer, you can use something besides the Assistant. For example, you could use .Mac iDisk or Backup, or a network connection such as Ethernet or AirPort. You could even burn files to a CD or DVD on one computer, then copy them from the disc to the other computer.

My Printer List didn't transfer.

Your printer settings might not be transferred when you migrate data with the Assistant. If you use Mac OS X 10.4, see this document. Or, you can easily set them up again.

My iSync settings and Bluetooth pairings aren't configured. Didn't they get transferred?

After copying information with Setup Assistant and logging in, you'll need to pair your Bluetooth devices and configure your iSync device settings again. These settings are not copied from your previous computer.

Some windows that were open on my previous computer appear, but in unexpected locations, or "under" the Dock.

This can sometimes happen if windows were open on your older computer when the data was transferred. This may happen if your new computer is using a different screen resolution than the old computer was.

If this happens, simply drag the window to where you want it. You can also try a larger screen resolution in Displays preferences.

If the window is "under" the Dock and you can't get to it, do this: Choose Dock from the Apple menu, and Turn Hiding Off from the submenu. The Dock disappears. Just click the window's icon to expand it or move it. If you wish, turn Dock Hiding back on.

I'm trying to transfer a FileVault-protected account with Setup Assistant, but it says "File Vault users cannot be transferred to Macs with existing users".

FileVault protects home directories by storing them in an encrypted disk image file. This image file can be migrated from an older Mac to a newer one as long as the newer computer has not yet been migrated to (and has no existing user accounts).

To migrate the account's home directory and account settings at a later time, start up your older Mac and turn off the account's FileVault protection. Then use Setup Assistant to transfer the desired account or data. You can protect the account with FileVault again on your new computer.

Some of my settings didn't get transferred. Specifically, my Energy Saver preferences, Security preferences (including "Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver"), my Software Update "Download important updates in background" preferences, my Classic preferences (such as "Warn before starting Classic"), my iDisk mirror settings, and my Input Menu settings (including additional keyboard layouts and methods).

That's right. Some preferences from your previous Mac aren't transferred. Your new Mac probably has Energy Saver options that your older Mac could only "dream" about, and as for the other settings, you can quickly configure them again in System Preferences or Directory Access. For example, use Energy Saver preferences to configure your sleep and other settings after migrating data with Setup Assistant.

When I try to transfer, my new computer stops responding ("freezes"). I even tried a different FireWire cable.

Don't worry, your new computer is fine. There probably isn't anything wrong with it or with the cable. The firmware on the computer you're copying from just needs to be updated.

If the issue persists and other FireWire devices are connected, try disconnecting the other devices.

I transferred a bunch of data, and it worked like a charm. Now I want to transfer more data from my older computer. Can I?

Sure, just open Setup Assistant (or Migration Assistant in Mac OS X 10.4 or later)! You can transfer anything except FileVault-protected accounts, as discussed above.

After the transfer, I was told I might need to reinstall some applications. I reinstalled them, but they don't work.

You probably also need to update those applications so they're compatible with the version of Mac OS on your new computer, especially if you were using a much older Mac OS version on your previous computer. Typically, a simple patch or update from the application's vendor can resolve common issues. Contact the application's vendor for updates, or for additional information.

After setting up my new Mac's user account(s), I transferred an account from my old Mac that had the same name as one of my new Mac's accounts. All the stuff that was in my newer Mac's (same-named) account is gone!

Don't worry, the information wasn't deleted, just moved. The files in the home folder of your newer Mac's account are in the Deleted Users folder, which is in the Users folder. Tip: If you transfer information the first time Setup Assistant asks you to, you'll avoid this situation.

I've already set up my user account(s). After using Setup Assistant to transfer a same-named account from my earlier Mac, I can't log in. What happened?

This happens if the account passwords on your old and new Mac are different, even if the account name is the same. Use the login password that you used on your older Mac. If you don't remember it, you can reset it.

Can I use Setup Assistant to backup or archive important files to a different disk?

Setup Assistant is designed for migrating files from an older computer to your new one only (or, in Mac OS X 10.4, from Mac OS X on a secondary partition to the Tiger partition). It is not intended to send or sync data to a different computer. But you can explore third-party solutions.

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