Just bought a new MacBook?
MacBook Air or MacBook Pro or M1 Mac? (A present to yourself for being oh so good).
And now you want to move your files, documents, photos, everything from your old Mac. Onto your new one.
Migration Assistant is the way recommended by Apple Inc to transfer files.
Some say it’s better than other transfer methods.
But does that mean it actually transfers everything?
Does Migration Assistant Transfer Everything?
Migration Assistant transfers everything except MacOS itself.
Your transfer files are grouped.
By applications. User files, Other files and folders. And System & Network settings.
You can move individual groups. Only carry over your user files for example. Or shift several groups all the way up to everything.
And that means you have some choice. If limited.
Here’s What You Need to Know …
Migration Assistant Doesn’t Transfer The Operating System?
No. You can move everything else from your old Mac. All except your Mac OS x (operating system).
And if you think about it. If your Mac migration moved Mac OS x from your old machine to your new it likely wouldn’t work.
And you’d have all sorts of issues with a version of the OS x that works fine on your 5 year old Mac. But doesn’t run on your new computer.
On a new machine you use Setup Assistant to build and set up your new Mac. Your new Mac is at that point a fresh virgin install.
Ready for your personal files and setup.
What About Everything Else On My Mac And Migration Assistant?
The Migration Assistant App does a great job of transferring everything outside of the Mac operating system.
And the beauty of using Migration Assistant compared to doing your Mac yourself. Is that the Mac Migration Assistant puts things where they should be.
Your Mac user files moved across to where you expect them to be on your New Mac.
Photos moved from where they were on your old source Mac to where they should be on your new. Your music from your iTunes library on your old computer to the Apple Music App on your new Mac. Calendar entries from old to new.
Migration Assistant works out which applications your new MacOS supports. And which applications no longer run because Apple replaced them. Like iPhoto now replace by Photos.
You get a clear sign the old App won’t run.
The picture of the App appears greyed out with a line through it.
How Does Migration Organize Your File Shift?
Apple’s Migration Assistant sorts your files into sets or groups.
You’ve an application group. User file group, Other files and folders. And your system and network settings.
Open Migration Assistant and inside the software you can put a check mark against a set of files and just migrate those.
That means you’ve some limited choice about what you choose to migrate.
Put a check mark against all the options and migrate it all.
Going Deeper On What Migration Assistant Transfers
Move Your Applications
Open Migration Assistant and put a check mark against your applications. And it’ll go through your Applications folder and move your Apps over.
It finds the parts of your Apps that you would miss if you tried to move the App manually. For example. Find and move a not so obvious library folder with files you might have missed.
As part of the Mac migration, it moves the Apps library folder with its files to where they need to be.
The software moves all your applications.
And that means yes, it’ll move all your Apps. Including the old ones that won’t run. Or Apps you haven’t used for years.
You’ve a choice you can either tidy up what you don’t want moved before you start Migration Assistant. Or uninstall after from your new Mac once migrated across.
Or just fresh install your applications on the new computer. And not use Migration Assistant to move your Apps.
Shift Your User Files
This is the group of files you’re likely to want Migration Assistant to move for you.
It’ll take the entire list of files associated with and under your Apple id. And move them and your user profile info to your new Mac.
That means your files like photos, music, documents, everything.
But again, what if there are files you don’t want moved?
If they are on the old Mac they get carried over.
For most users using Migration Assistant to transfer data like your user profile and files is fine.
Other Files And Folders
Is a catch all. For everything else that doesn’t fit into the other sets of files.
Move System & Network Settings
It’s a boon when you want your new Mac system to recognize and be set up on the networks you use. Migration Assistant takes your system and network settings and shift those system preferences over.
Disadvantages To What Migration Assistant Transfers
And by that, I mean all the old redundant stuff on your Mac.
Old software you no longer use. Bits of software where you only half deleted what you needed to. Old libraries no longer in use.
Because your Mac Migration Assistant will move it all. You’ll get all that rubbish as well.
But really unless you know what you’re looking for and how to tidy it up you might as well just get it all over.
If you’d prefer to bring stuff across as cleanly as possible it’ll take a little bit of preparation. And effort with your older Mac.
This document here on the site will talk you through a clean up before your move with Migration Assistant. Checkout the Non-Techie section.
What Do You Need Before You Can Transfer With Migration Assistant?
You can transfer data Mac to Mac over WIFI. And as long as both the old and the new Mac are on the same WIFI network and can see each other your good to go.
Shifting things this way can be really slow.
It depends on how great your WIFI is. How old and slow your old machine is.
Far better is a direct Mac to Mac connection over Ethernet. With your old source Mac in target disk mode.
Or just as good. Take a backup of your older Mac to an external hard drive or SSD drive. And transfer from a Mac Time Machine backup drive.
A Time Machine backup of your older Mac is a fantastic idea anyway. Especially if one of the reasons you’re upgrading is because of problems with your old Mac.
A Time Machine backup drive based transfer. Puts no strain on your old computer while the move happens.
Does Apple Migration Assistant Copy Or Move Your Files?
The Migration Assistant App copies your files and set up over. It doesn’t move your files or change your old source Mac in anyway. And this means your old Mac stays exactly the same.
What Happens To My Old Mac After Using Migration Assistant?
Nothing. It’s just the same. Apple’s Migration Assistant makes no changes to your old source Mac.
You’re free to decide what to do with your old Mac. Keep it for a while in case you need something from it. Or wipe it and reset it to its factory settings before gifting it. Or selling it.
Does Migration Assistant Wipe My New Mac?
No. Migration Assistant copies your files onto your new Mac and puts them where they should be on your new Mac computer.
The only limited exception to this is where you have a user account on your new Mac that’s the same name as a user account on your old source Mac. You’re then given a choice.
You can choose to overwrite the Mac user name information on your new Mac. With the user name information from your older source Mac.
Which is the option to choose when you know your Mac is new. And you know there’s nothing stored under that user name. And everything you want is on your old Mac.
Or choose have both names both side by side.
Overwriting a user name with the user information and files from your old Mac is fully your choice.
It’s the same with your system and network settings. By using Migration Assistant to copy those across. You’ll replace those settings with the ones from your old Mac.
Now you know that migration assistant will bring across everything from your old Mac, to your new Mac.
Migration Assistant simplifies your life. And makes the switch between Macs as painless as possible.
You can move your files and settings without hassle.
You may think this is best article you’ve ever read… or not. Either way. Why not have a gander at some of the other articles on the site?
About Simon Irons
As an admin I spend my day helping folks with their Mac issues. From the guy at work, through to unofficial 911 support for family and friends. I swear they have me on speed dial.
For fun I like testing out and playing with new stuff. I think Apple make the best products on the planet.
In my spare time I like to fish and play around with boats.