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This page provides a brief description of two options for setting up a new Apple Mac computer. Read through this entire page to get a full understanding of the entire process and available options.

Should You Migrate?

When you are setting up a new Apple Mac computer, you have the option of bringing all your files, programs, and settings into the new computer from your old Apple Mac computer.

Here are some points to examine when considering whether or not to migrate your old computer system to a new one.

  • YES — If your old computer has been working well, and it isn’t extremely old, then the automated copy and migrate feature should work fine. It is especially useful if you rely on many different specialty software programs that you don’t want to install again.
    • In this scenario, you would follow the instructions to migrate your old computer system to the new one.
  • NO — If your old computer had corrupt files, viruses, old software you don’t need, and/or system conflicts causing slow operation, you probably should not use the migration feature and instead let your new computer purchase be a fresh start. It’s a good opportunity to reassess your needs and make an inventory of what software is required for your daily work.
    • In this scenario, you would selectively copy your files to an external hard drive, and then copy them to your new computer. This would include files in your Documents, Desktop, and Download folders. In addition to basic documents, you may have photos, music, and/or videos you want to copy over.

Read below to learn more about the difference between a system backup using Apple Time Machine software and the synchronization of data performed by Apple iCloud services.

What About Photos, Contacts, Notes, and Calendar Items?

Apple computers and devices use iCloud to synchronize some common information. When using iCloud, when you take a photo on your iPhone, it will show up in the Photos app on your computer. When you add a contact on your computer, it shows up on your iPhone. Other information like notes and calendar items also gets synchronized with iCloud.

So, if you are using iCloud to synchronize your data, even if you don’t use the migration feature with a new computer, your other data will be brought in from iCloud.

Some computers are configured to use iCloud to automatically synchronized files located on the Desktop and in the Documents folder. If you have used this feature, your files from those locations will appear after synchronizing.

What About Music?

Increasingly, people are using subscription-based music services. For these, you need do nothing to enjoy your music on a new device. However, if you have purchased music or imported music from a CD collection, those songs will be in the Music folder on your old computer and will need to be copied to the new computer. In this way, when iTunes first runs, it will discover your current music collection and playlists.

MUSIC MATCH — Apple offers a service called Music Match. For a cost of about $25 per year, Apple will synchronize and store your entire music collection in their cloud. You can download the songs or stream them to any device that supports iTunes. If you subscribe to Music Match, then on your new computer, when you login your entire music collection will appear. Initially the songs will be listed as playable with streaming. You have the choice to download them locally for offline listening and burning to CDs or other media. [Learn More About Music Match]

Planning for Future Migrations

Ideally, you would want to purchase a new Apple Mac computer and use the full migration so that all your files, software, and settings would appear on the new computer. Typically, in about an hour, everything you need would be on the new computer and you could get back to work. The only noticeable difference would be a faster more competent computer with more storage and a newer operating system. This is the ideal transition when purchasing a new Mac. However, as explained at the top of this document, there are some situations where you would not want to migrate everything to a new computer.

To facilitate future computer purchases, keep your computer as minimalist and simplified as possible. Avoid buying software and utilities that duplicate features and functions already included in the computer. For example, do not install a special dark mode utility program if the built-in Apple dark mode will work sufficiently for your needs. There are dozens of programs people buy or install that just aren’t necessary. Simplifying your computer and files helps with future computer purchases and migrations.

What About Time Machine Backup?

Apple has backup software called Time Machine. You can use a complete Time Machine backup to restore all of your programs, settings, and files to a new computer. Or, if your current computer crashes, you can recover files or the entire computer from the backup. In other words, you can migrate your computer data back to the computer as a data recovery and system recovery option.

When you purchase a new computer, you can either copy from the old computer, or you can use the Time Machine backup from the old computer to migrate to the new computer.

What To Do With My Old Computer?

Assuming it is functioning okay, your old computer is worth much more to you than anyone else. Your old computer has all of your files on it, and the software you’ve been using. Some of the old software you use may not work on the newer computer.

As a trade-in or item to be sold on eBay, your old computer can only be sold for a minimal price — the value of an erased used computer with a fresh operating system installed.

With a new computer or new phone, it’s a good idea to keep your old equipment for a while as you become accustomed to your new device. The old device can serve as a backup alternative you can use if your new device is having trouble.

I already setup my new computer without migrating. What now?

If you have already setup your new computer, you can still use the Migration Assistant if you decide to migrate from your old computer. [Learn More]

There can be some really big challenges when migrating an old computer to a new computer that is already setup. You may end up with TWO similar user accounts which creates some duplication.

Here are some steps to consider if you really want to migrate from your old computer. This should ONLY be considered if you are not too far into setting up the new computer.

  1. COPY FILES — For any files you’ve put on your new computer in your user account, copy those to an external drive. Hopefully there won’t be much there since you just recently setup the computer.
  2. TEMP USER — Create a new user account called Temp User with Administrative rights. This is done by going to the Apple Menu (top left of your computer screen) > System Preferences > Users & Groups > click lock in lower left corner and enter your computer login password > Press the + symbol under the column of usernames, and create the new user account with administrative rights.
  3. DELETE OLD USER — Login as Temp User on the new computer and delete the user account you initially setup for your new computer.
  4. MIGRATE — In the Temp User account on the new computer, go to Applications > Utilities > Migration Assistant and follow the instructions.
  5. DELETE TEMP USER — When the migration has completed, login using your own user account and delete the temp user account. This is done by going to the Apple Menu (top left of your computer screen) > System Preferences > Users & Groups > click lock in lower left corner and enter your computer login password > Select the Temp User account in the column and press the – symbol under the column of usernames to remove it.

The reason for these five steps is to ensure that your computer ends up with only one user account that has all of your migrated information.