Can Migration Assistant Transfer Individual Applications Title Image

You need to transfer one or two applications from your old Mac onto a new one.

You’re happy to clean install your Mac apps.

But there’s one the developer won’t allow you to clean install. Because they say that will break their licensing rules or something like that.


And want to charge you again for an app already paid for. What’s up with that!

So can you migrate?

Can Migration Assistant help you shift one or two applications to your latest Mac?

So, when you need to carry over specific applications. What are your options?

Read on to find out …

Apple Migration Assistant And Transferring Applications

Apple Inc’s Migration Assistant is a standard part of your Mac’s operating system. And is an efficient tool.

Use it for shifting your applications from your old Mac to a new Mac.

Not to be confused with Lenovo Migration Assistant. A software tool that’s Windows PC only and moves user files and settings PC to PC.

In contrast with Windows Migration Assistant. An Apple tool you’d download from the Apple app store to run on a Windows PC.

Windows Migration Assistant allows data migration from a PC to a Mac. It doesn’t migrate applications. As applications on a PC run on PC’s. Not a Mac.

Migration Assistant on a Mac looks at and works with the applications on your source  Mac as a complete group of files. Not as individual applications.

But you want to move just a few Mac apps …

Bear with me here.

Take a few minutes to understand how the Migration Assistant app moves your applications. because it could still be of help to you.

How Does Migration Assistant Organize Shifting Your Applications On Mac?

You can pick the migration method Migration Assistant uses.

You can data migrate over WIFI. Ethernet cable, USB using target disk mode on your older source Mac. Or launch Migration Assistant and migrate from a Time Machine backup.

No matter which way you pick. You’ve a choice whether you move your applications or not.

When you click on the option to move your applications with Migration Assistant.

The migration process intelligently searches through each application transferring its files.

On your old computer it finds each app’s library files and your application settings. The user data associated with that application and preferences.

And it finds those files an application might hide elsewhere and puts them where they should be on the new computer.

And that means there’s a lot to like about how Migration Assistant operates. Because it saves you a lot of work and puts your app’s files where they’re needed.

Your Mac works out if the app will work once the applications moved.

If the application won’t run on your new Mac. Then the app’s icon in the Applications folder shows with a line through it.

Application Shown With Line Through It

This shows that app is incompatible on the new Mac’s operating system.

Double click to start up the application and your Mac shows a message.

That the application needs updating and to contact the developer.

Clicking On A Nulled App

Click on ‘Learn more’ and you’ll be taken to a web page with more information. In this case the page explains that a 32 bit application no longer works on this new Mac.

Ahead of time. It’s best to can get your old Mac up to the latest Mac OS x version it’ll run. And your applications up to the latest releases that will run on that older Mac. That way you stand the best chance of your applications migrating to your new Mac and working.

Then you might find that Migration Assistant is ok to use to transfer all your apps across.

But what if you really want to clean install most of your apps. And only move those individual apps?

Moving A Single Well Behaved Application To A New Mac

‘Well Behaved’. What does that mean?

They are apps that the developer has designed well.

And all the files the application needs and use live in the one place.

You find the app you want to move on your old Mac’s boot drive – it’s also known as the startup disk. On Macintosh HD/Applications/

Click On Macintosh HD Then Applications

Look for your application’s name. You can view the files – called package contents – associated with your application.

Single click on your application. Then right click and pick ‘Show Package Contents’ from the menu that comes up.

Show Application Package Details

You’ll then see a folder called contents. Click inside that and you’ll see a bunch of files associated with your application.

Application Contents Folder

To Move a Well Behaved Application From Your Old Mac

You start the transfer armed with an external hard drive, SSD Drive or stick. Plug in your drive or stick into a USB port on your old computer.

Then open a Finder window on your Mac. Click on your Mac’s startup disk – the Macintosh HD drive. Then click on the folder Applications.

Click On Macintosh HD Then Applications

Look through your list of applications on your previous Mac till you find the app you want to move.

Single click on the application. Then right click and pick copy.

Click On Single Application Right Click Copy

That will copy the application and the package contents associated with your application.

And paste your application onto your external drive or USB stick.

Then plug in your external storage into your new machine. And paste your single application’s folder into the same spot on your new Mac. In your Macintosh HD/Applications folder.

You’ve then moved your application as a complete package. And that should include your preferences and user data set up for that application.

Then you can double click on your Application to it start up.

Assuming the application is compatible with your new Mac’s OS.

If it isn’t then you’ll see it appear in your applications folder with a line through it.

Application Shown With Line Through It

If that happens then you can’t transfer that app. You’ll need a clean installation of your application.

Migrating Large Single Apps To A New Mac

When you’re looking at moving larger more complicated apps from your old Mac. There’s a lot more work involved.

Because your large app has likely shot the files it needs to run all over the place. And if you tried to move that Mac app as a well behaved app. You’ll find it fails to start because there are bits missing.  Library files it complains about and/or your preferences have gone.

But the act of finding the files you need for an app is a challenge.

Because applications can put their files in several places.

Take your application’s preferences file for example. It could live in your Home Folder/Library/Preferences.

Not know where your home folder is?

You can move to it by opening up a Finder window. And looking for the little house icon by your user’s name.  That’s your Home folder.

Can’t find it? Then just adjust your Finder Settings (Mac OS Ventura). In earlier releases it’s called Finder Preferences.

Then click on the Sidebar tab.

Finder Settings Sidebar

Then put a check mark against the little house icon by your user’s name.

Finder Settings Sidebar Home Option

Some applications store your preferences and settings in your Home Folder/Library/Application Support

And even when you look in those folders. It’s not easy to find the file you want by name. Because the name given to the file by your app may not be that obvious.

And there could be lots of files to go through in that folder. Especially, if you’ve installed quite a few apps on your Mac over the years.

And that’s just one example.

Apps may hide key library files inside any number of other folders on your Mac.

And MacOS has no software tool you can use to search for all of an application’s files.

There’s a way to work out which are the files you need to transfer.

On your old Mac make use of another application’s features. And search out the transfer files you need.

Search on the Apple App Store for an application like Delete Apps: Uninstaller.

As it’ll give you a detailed list of what Delete Apps would remove for each app.  With that list you’ve all the files and locations associated with that app.

And then you can manually copy those files onto a backup drive, external drive or USB stick. And paste into the exact same locations on the new Mac.

Use Migration Assistant To Transfer Your Applications Then.. Delete Apps

Another approach is to look at your app migration the other way round.

Use the Migration Assistant app to transfer all your applications.

And let it put your applications where they need to be. With your applications setup. And the user data associated with your app in the right places.

Then use a tool like Delete Apps: Uninstaller to delete the apps you don’t want. And clean off the applications you don’t want.

Although Migration Assistant doesn’t transfer individual apps this way is quick. And when you’ve just a few apps you don’t want on your new Mac. You just tidy them up at the other end.

Can You Transfer Microsoft Office With Migration Assistant?

Microsoft office is a large complex app. And a pretty complex app to migrate yourself.

Use Migration Assistant to move your user account. And your Home Folder with all your Word documents, excel spreadsheets. And Powerpoint slides will move right on over.

Assuming the version of Microsoft Office you have on your old Mac. Is compatible with your new Mac’s MacOS. When you use Migration Assistant to shift all your applications then it’ll come over as well.

At that point if your Microsoft Office version won’t run on the Mac OS x version your new machine is running. Then it’s time pay out for and download the latest version.

Can You Move Your iPad And iPhone Applications With Migration Assistant?

Yes, as long as you have your Apple devices backed up to your old Mac.

You can find out how to backup your iPad and iPhone by clicking on the linked text.

Those backup’s will contain your iPad and iPhone apps and settings.  And when you migrate your user account from your previous Mac to your latest Mac. Then they’ll come across too.

And that means you’ve got your backups on your latest Mac. And if you need to. you can use those backups to restore your Apple devices.

In Closing

Migration Assistant is great. Just not perfect and it can’t transfer only one application for you.

Despite that shortcoming. In this article you received some tips. And they should help you carry over your single app from one Mac computer to another.

Some apps will be easy and straight forward for you to move. For the more complex ones. Make use of application deletion software. It’ll give you the application file location information. Info that’s key for moving your app yourself.

Check out our other articles for more migration tips.

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