Migration Assistant Stuck Title Image

The Migration Assistant software from Apple transfers your files from one Mac to another really easily. 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 your file transfer. Luckily here are some tips that will help you troubleshoot any issues you’re 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 a WI FI network
  • Direct Mac to Mac over Ethernet. By using an Ethernet cable
  • Mac to Mac over USB. Using your Mac’s USB ports and a USB cable
  • From an external drive with a Time machine backup of your older Mac computer

You can be wildly successful migrating in each of these ways. But there are just a few areas where you can think your Mac is stuck or frozen when it isn’t.

Reasons Why Mac Migration Assistant Gets Stuck

There are a few reasons why Migration Assistant on your Mac can get stuck.

1. Your WIFI dropping out and not making a good connection.

2. The wrong Ethernet cable or USB cable.

The message ‘looking for source’ means your new Mac can’t see where it needs to read your files from.

If you don’t think it’s a WIFI or cable problem. It could be your older 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.

3. Sign into both Macs with the same Apple id.

First Things To Check When Your Migrations Assistant Stalls

On your new Mac have you used Apple’s Setup Assistant to build your Mac?


Use that software to set up your new computer first. Then, software update Mac OS x on your new Mac if you’re asked to do that. After, restart your Mac to the login prompt. And start up Migration Assistant when you’re logged into your new Mac.

And don’t try to migrate your data inside Setup Assistant.

Mac Migration Assistant Stuck, Frozen Or Taking Forever Over WIFI?

Here’s an example of a common situation sent in by a reader.

What should I do?
I’m in the middle of a Migration Assistant transfer between my old MacBook Air and my brand new MacBook Pro. It’s migrating all my info over my WI FI network. The whole thing has been going 3 hours now. There’s no time estimate or anything.
Just how long is this thing supposed take? Do you think its stuck?

Apple Migration Assistant gives you little to go on while it’s working and it’s annoying for sure.

Your Migration Assistant transfer can seem stuck or stalled for a few reasons. And the good news is that it may not be stuck at all.

Migrating over WIFI can take a long time. Because 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 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 will 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.

How To Fix Migrating Over WIFI

1. Have the two Mac’s you’re migrating to and from physically close.

This reduces interference from your WIFI to a minimum. Having your Macs close to 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 to see if each Mac can see the other. As long as your older Mac it isn’t too old so your MacOS isn’t compatible with your new Mac’s AirDrop software. 

3. Keep an eye on your WIFI.

If the signal drops out then your Migration process will stall.

4. Turn off your Firewall on your older Mac.

If you’ve strict Firewall settings then your new Mac won’t connect to your old Mac computer.

5. Make Sure Your Older Mac Is Discoverable.

Go onto your old Mac, Open Migration Assistant on your older Mac. And pick ‘To another Mac” then click Continue.

Old Mac Migration Assistant To Another Mac

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.

6. Migrate In Batches.

When you’ve large internal disk drives on your Mac and so a lot to data transfer. Migrate in batches.

For example, set Migration Assistant to migrate your user account. Restart Migration Assistant. And migrate your system and network settings.

Consider not moving your applications at all. Forget your applications folder and fresh install your Apps on your newer Mac. Download the latest versions from the Apple App store and fresh install.

7. Use A Mac Backup, GB Ethernet Or USB to Transfer.

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.

Migration Assistant Taking Forever Over Ethernet

Here’s a situation that can come up.

I’m upgrading my MacBook to a new Mac Mini, and I’m not happy.
The Migration Assistant transfer process started off great over Ethernet connection. But it’s been going for last 4 hours and it hasn’t seemed to make any progress. It’s taking forever! What should I do?

Their Migration Assistant should have completed over Ethernet by now. And in this case it is likely a stuck issue.

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 need the right standard of cable. And likely an Ethernet adaptor to make the connection between your two Mac’s.

Have you got your older source Mac in target disk mode? You’ll need your source Mac in target disk mode 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 your data over via Ethernet.

How To Fix Migration Assistant Taking Forever Over Ethernet

When you Migration Assistant data transfer over Ethernet, Here are the things to watch for and fix.

1. Check 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 old. Or newer type 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 the Target Disk Mode button.

You may need to click on the lock icon. And put in your Mac’s administrator account password to restart your Mac in Target Disk Mode.

System Preferences Target Disk Mode

On Mac’s running Monterey, Ventura or later, you’ll find Target Disk Mode in System Settings > General > Startup Disk.

You should then see your old Mac come up on your new computer’s desktop as a drive icon. Then open Migration Assistant in System Preferences. And start your migration.

On newer Mac’s running Ventura, Monterey or later. You’ll find Migration Assistant in System Settings > General > Transfer or Reset.

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.

Migration Assistant Stuck On Starting Up Over USB

Question from a user.

I need to migrate from my old MacBook to my new MacBook Pro.
But I’m not sure why it isn’t working. Both Macs are connected with a USB cable which should be much faster than WIFI. But when I check Migration Assistant, they are still on WIFI. Why?
It’s really bugging me.

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, USB Mac to Mac shift of your data via Migration Assistant. You’ll need the Mac you’re moving from, your older source Mac set to be in Target Disk Mode. And then you should get some joy migrating over USB.

How To Fix Mac Migration Assistant Stuck Over USB

Take a look at these fixes for unsticking Migration Assistant over USB.

1. Buy yourself a full spec Thunderbolt 3 or 4 cable.

And an adaptor if you need it for your older Mac. Plug your cable into both Mac’s.

2. Check there’s no software update for your Mac OS x.

Move your Macs 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.

On Mac’s running Monterey, Ventura or later, you’ll find Target Disk Mode in System Settings > General > Startup Disk.

And your older Mac will turn up on your new Mac’s desktop. Then launch Migration Assistant and kick of your migration process.

What’s The Trick With Windows Migration Assistant?

Windows Migration Assistant must be loaded on your Windows PC. Make sure both the PC and Mac can see each other. If that’s over WIFI check they are on the same WIFI. Then be sure your WIFI is reliable and not cutting out.

Switch off your PC’s firewall or VPN if you are using, so that doesn’t stop your migration.

And you’ll need patience as moving over WIFI is going to be slow.

A better solution is to move your files over Ethernet. So, get the right spec of cables. 1 Gb will do. Here is an Apple document you’ll find useful.

The Most Reliable To Get A Successful Migration With Migration Assistant

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.

In Closing

Now, you’ve read some tips on fixing your Migration Assistant getting locked up, stuck 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 using Migration Assistant with an external hard drive on a Mac with your Time Machine backup on it, the most reliable way to get your transfer done.

There are other helpful articles just one click away.  While you’re here why not take a look at the other transfer related posts?

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