Transferring your files from one Mac to another is really easy with Migration Assistant. But what happens when you run into a problem?
The Migration Assistant app has been around for years and is pretty reliable.
But, it can stall, get stuck. Or seem to take forever, in the middle of the transfer process.
And there you are.
Frustrated and wondering if there’s something wrong with your Mac computer. Or is this just how long these transfers take?
Luckily here are some tips that will help you troubleshoot any issues you might be having.
Take a look at the guide below.
Migration Assistant on a Mac can transfer your data from an old Mac. To a newer Mac, like an M1 Mac in several ways.
- Wirelessly over WIFI
- Direct Mac to Mac over Ethernet. By Ethernet cable
- Mac to Mac over USB. Using your Mac’s USB ports and a USB Cable
- From a Time machine backup drive of your older Mac device
You can be wildly successful migrating in each of these ways. But there are just a few areas where you can come unstuck. Or think your Mac is stuck or frozen when it isn’t.
First Things To Check When Your Migrations Assistant Stalls
When you’re on a new Mac. Have you used Apple’s Setup Assistant to build your Mac?
You need to set up your new computer first.
Software update Mac OS x on your new Mac if you’re prompted.
Restart your Mac to the login prompt. And start up Migration Assistant once you’ve logged into your new Mac.
And don’t try to migrate from within Setup Assistant.
Why Mac Migration Assistant Stuck, Frozen Or Taking Forever Over WIFI?
Here’s an example of a common situation sent in by a reader.
It’s for sure annoying that Apple Migration Assistant gives you little to go on while it’s working.
There are a few reasons why a Migration Assistant transfer can seem stuck or stalled. And the good news is that it may not be stuck at all.
Migrating over WIFI can take a long time. WIFI is not a particularly fast way to choose to migrate. Even if you believe your router is a fast router.
All sorts of things affect your WIFI.
Other WIFI networks nearby. Interference from radio waves. The thickness of your house walls. Your WIFI dropping out. Yep, there’s a lot that can affect the speed of your WIFI.
Why Does Mac Migration Take So Long?
Because you’re migrating over WIFI.
Yes, there’s the top WIFI speed in theory. And then there’s what you can achieve in the real world. Which is much, much less.
Plus, the ‘speed’ measure is a bit different over WIFI.
It’s in megabits rather than megabytes. With megabits being 8 times smaller than megabytes. You can see how you might think it’s going to be quicker than it’ll actually take.
Moving your files over WIFI may not be the best route. And this is why using WIFI is the least reliable way to use Migration Assistant.
To find out the fixes for Migration Assistant stuck over WIFI. Jump down to the how to fix WIFI section further down this article.
Migration Assistant Taking Forever Over Ethernet
Here’s a situation that can come up.
Their Migration Assistant should have completed over Ethernet by now. And in this case it’s likely stuck.
Migrating over Ethernet means having an Ethernet cable running between the two Mac’s. And to take advantage of the 1Gb Ethernet ports on your Mac’s you’ll the right standard of cable. And likely an Ethernet adaptor to make the connection between your two Mac’s.
Have you got your older Mac in target disk mode? You’ll need to do that for Migration Assistant to work over Ethernet. Target disk mode tells your older Mac to act like an external drive to your newer Mac.
And spare a thought for your older Intel based Mac. If it’s quite old with slow internal hard drives. You may well be maxing out how fast those hard drives can ship your files out over Ethernet.
Check out this article on the site on how long Migration Assistant should take.
Use it to calculate the amount of disk space you’re using on your old computer. And how long should take to move over via Ethernet.
Then jump down further in this article. And to learn how to fix your Apple Migration Assistant taking forever over Ethernet.
Migration Assistant Stuck On Starting Up Over USB
There are a couple of things happening here. First of all most USB C cables, even the ones Apple ships with their gadgets. Are not the full Thunderbolt 3 or 4 spec of cables you need to use with Migration Assistant.
And to do a direct peer to peer, Mac to Mac shift of your data via Migration Assistant you’ll need the Mac you’re moving from. Your older source Mac in Target Disk Mode. And then you should get some joy migrating over USB.
Reasons Why Mac Migration Assistant Stuck
There are a few reasons why Migration Assistant on your Mac can get stuck. Your WIFI dropping out and not making a good connection.
The wrong Ethernet cable or USB cable. If you see the message ‘looking for source’. It means your new Mac just can’t see where it’s supposed to be reading your files from. It can’t see your old computer for some reason.
If you don’t think it’s a WIFI or cable problem. It could be your old Intel Mac isn’t up to moving our files in real time. And it’s worth running a check of your older Mac and its internal drives.
One of the most reliable ways of migrating with Migration Assistant. And it means you don’t have to rely on your old Mac while the migration happens. Is to use a Mac Time Machine backup.
Most of us should have a backup of our Mac’s anyway. And when you don’t want to get a special cable that you might only use once to move your files. Then getting yourself an external hard drive. Or SSD drive to migrate from. Is a good idea.
As you can carry on using that drive to backup your new Mac once your file shift is over.
A Time Machine backup is a reliable way of switching over your files. And it’ pretty quick to when you use an SSD drive to do it.
How To Fix Mac Migration Assistant Stuck Or Frozen?
How To Fix Migrating Over WIFI
1. Have the two Mac’s you’re migrating to and from as close together as you can. To reduce interference to your WIFI to a minimum. And having your Macs close by your router helps.
2. Make sure your Mac’s are on the same network. And can see each other on the network.
You can check using AirDrop. As long as your older Mac it isn’t too old so your MacOS isn’t compatible with your new Mac’s AirDrop software.
Keep an eye on your WIFI. If the signal drops out then your Migration process will stall.
3. Try turning off your Firewall on your older Mac device. If you’ve strict Firewall settings then your new Mac can’t connect to your old Mac computer.
4. Go onto your old Mac, Open Migration Assistant on your older Mac. And pick ‘To another Mac” then click Continue.
On the next screen you see the message that your old Mac is discoverable by … And you’ll get a name.
Go back to your new Mac and re-launch Migration Assistant. And your old Mac should now show up on the Transfer Information To This Mac screen.
5. When you’ve large internal disk drives on your Mac and so a lot of data to move.
Migrate in batches.
For example, set Migration Assistant to migrate your user account as one migration batch. And then restart Migration Assistant. And migrate your system and network settings as a different migration batch.
Consider not moving your applications at all. You could and maybe should fresh install your Apps on your newer Mac. Download the latest versions from the Apple App store and do fresh installs.
6. Finally, if you’ve a lot to move seriously consider using one of the wired methods. Or shifting your files over from a Time Machine backup. It’s going to be a lot faster than WIFI.
How To Fix Mac Frozen Over Ethernet
When you’re moving your files over Ethernet with Migration Assistant. Here are the things to watch and fix.
1. It’s worth checking on your old Mac that it’s MacOS is the latest version available for that Mac.
2. Be sure to source yourself the right kind of Ethernet cable. You want one that meets the 1GB Ethernet specifications. Keep the length of cable short. Ethernet speed drops the longer the cable is.
3. Get yourself an Ethernet adaptor. No doubt you’ll need one for your older. Or newer type M1 Mac.
4. Put your source Mac into Target Disk Mode. Plug your Ethernet cable into both Macs. And on your older Mac go to System Preferences > Startup Disk. Then click on the Target Disk Mode button.
You may need to click on the lock icon. And put in your Mac’s administration password to restart your old Mac in Target Disk Mode.
You should then see your old Mac come up on your new computer’s desktop as a drive icon. Then open Migration Assistant. Enter in your settings and start your migration.
This Apple document here can also help with disk mode on Mac.
And if your Mac is an Apple silicon Mac this Apple article here can help.
5. If your move still looks stuck. Then plug out and plug back in the cables at each end. This can kick start the migration process. And get it going again.
How To Fix Mac Migration Assistant Stuck Over USB
Take a look at these fixes for unsticking Mac Migration Assistant over USB.
1. Buy yourself a full spec Thunderbolt cable. And an adaptor if you need it for your old Mac. You’ll need a cable of the right spec. Plug your cable into both Mac’s.
2. Check there’s no software update for your Mac OS x. Or Application software. It pays to move your Mac up to the latest versions first.
3. Put your old Mac into Target Disk Mode. Go into System Preferences. Click on Startup Disk. Then choose the Target Disk Mode button. Your old Mac will restart in Target disk mode. And will turn up on your new Mac’s desktop. Then launch Migration Assistant and kick of your migration process.
What’s The Trick To Get Migration Assistant To Actually Work?
There are a few tricks. Ensure both Mac’s can see each other. If that’s over WIFI check they can see each other over WIFI. Then be sure your WIFI is reliable and not cutting out. And you’ll need patience as moving over WIFI is going to be slow.
The trick to moving your files over Ethernet or USB is getting yourself the right spec of cables. And putting your old Mac into Target Disk Mode.
The final and best trick is to migrate from a Mac Time Machine backup of the old Mac. And put that backup onto an SSD drive. That’s the trick for a fast migration with Migration Assistant.
You’ve read some tips on fixing your Migration Assistant getting locked up or at a standstill.
And know how to get it moving over WIFI, Ethernet or USB.
And while there are many different ways that you could go about your file transfer. You’ll find an external hard drive with a Time Machine backup on more reliable.
There are other helpful articles just one click away. While you’re here why not Take a look at the other transfer related posts?
About Paul Gregory
I’ve been a system administrator for various corporates for 15 years. And as admin I’ve helped many with their Mac’s and there many Apple devices.
I’m excited by watching users, armed with a little knowledge take control of their Mac’s and their files. And why not?
When I’m not at work or working on the site I like to chill with few beers. And watch a bit of car racing. From Formula 1 to stock car racing. The competition is my thing.