You’ve a new Mac. And want to migrate your files from your old Mac.
But you’re stuck at the third screen of migration assistant and think you see the spinning wheel of death. Why is it not working?
To help you get started. And fast.
Here are some tips. And make sure the Apple Migration Assistant app finds your old computer quickly and easily:
What Does Migration Assistant Need To Transfer Information To Your Mac ?
It’s worth taking a quick skip though what Migration Assistant needs. And assumes about your set up.
Because if you’ve gone about your transfer a little back to front, this could be the thing causing your issue.
Take a couple of moments, to read along. And just be sure your set up is ok. Before you jump into the looking for source fixes.
Run Migration Assistant On The Right Mac
You have your two Mac’s.
Your old Mac. Say it’s a MacBook and you’re migrating to a new MacBook Pro. And the MacBook Pro is where you want all your stuff.
This means you run the Migration Assistant app on your new MacBook Pro. The destination Mac computer you want your files and folders on.
Get that round the wrong way. And run Mac Migration Assistant on the wrong Mac. Your old Mac and you’ll get the looking for source error. Forever.
What Does Transfer Information To This Mac Looking For Source Mean?
The source Migration Assistant looks for and is searching for. Is where your data comes from.
Migration Assistant looks for and migrates your files and folders from this source.
And the source could be:
- Your old Mac computer as the source Mac.
- It could be your old Windows PC.
- Your source could be from a Time Machine backup of your old Mac. A backup of your Mac sitting on an external drive.
How Does Migration Assistant Find It’s Source
Source Over WIFI
Both your old Mac and your new Mac must be on the same wireless network and be able to see each other. Otherwise, the Migration Assistant App running on your new Mac won’t ‘see’ your source. Your old Mac computer.
It’s also worth saying right up front that migrating over WIFI is the slowest way to do your migration.
Its notoriously unreliable – WIFI can drop out part way through.
And slow. You’ll feel like you’re growing old waiting for the migration to finish. Most issues with Migration assistant looking for source errors are over WIFI.
You can take a look at this document here on the site. For some real examples on how long Migration Assistant Can Take. And which are the fastest ways to migrate your files.
Source Over Ethernet
You’ll struggle if you don’t have an up to spec Ethernet cable and adaptor. It’s best your Ethernet cables runs direct between your new Mac to your old Mac.
And you’ll need your old Mac booted to Target Disk Mode. You do this before kicking of Migration Assistant on your new Mac.
After you’ve put your old Mac into Target Disk Mode. Look for your old Mac on your new Mac’s desktop BEFORE you open Migration Assistant.
That way you know your new Mac computer can see it’s Migration Assistant source.
Source Over USB
Like over Ethernet. You’ll need an up to spec Thunderbolt cable. Thunderbolt 3 or 4 USB cable. And no doubt an adaptor for the USB port on your old Mac.
Most of the USB cables sold along with your Mac, iPhone or iPad are not up to the right spec.
They’re fine for charging your Mac but not for the type of file transfer you’ll be doing.
Boot your old computer into Target Disk Mode. Be sure your source computer comes up on your new computer’s desktop. Then you know Migration Assistant on your new computer can see its source.
Time Machine Backup Drive As The Source
The easiest way of migrating. And if your backup is sitting on an SSD drive. The quickest way of migrating. You take a full backup of your old Mac to an external drive.
You may already take a regular backup of your old machine. In that case you are well ahead of the game.
Plug your backup drive into your new Mac’s USB port.
Yes, the source in this case is directly attached to your new Mac. And when the external drive comes up on your new Mac’s desktop. Then you know your new Mac can see the source disk drive.
Fixes For Transfer Information To This Mac – Looking For Source
When you get the spinning wheel on that ‘Transfer Information To This Mac’ screen looking for source here’s what to do.
1. Simply Click the Source.
What? I hear you say.
Ok bear with me.
So, you’re on that Migration Assistant screen.
And you’ve fixed your eyes on the spinning circle with the words saying ‘Looking for other sources…’
In the picture above the ‘source’ where the transfer files and folders are. Is right there.
It’s the Old MacBook Pro. All that’s needed is to Click on it and then click on the Continue button.
Don’t wait for the ‘Looking for sources’ wheel to stop spinning. As Migration Assistant will keep on looking for sources forever. As long as your source Mac is there. Click on it and then click Continue.
And if your source is an external drive connected to the new Mac. And that drive has the backup of your old Mac on it.
It’s not that obvious in the documentation. But you just click on it too.
Pick the icon of the drive. That’s the source. Click.
Then click continue.
What If Your Old Mac Never Appears On The Looking For Sources Screen?
2. Check The Old Mac’s Firewall.
It’s possible that you’ve got strict settings on your old Mac’s Firewall.
Go into System Preferences. Security and Privacy. Click on the Firewall tab. And turn the firewall off on your old machine. Just in case it is blocking all incoming connection requests.
3. Check you’ve logged in with the same Apple id.
This is one thing that can trip you up. Check you’ve used the same Apple id on the old Mac and on your new Mac. When you’ve logged in and set up your Apple id.
4. Go To Your Old Mac And Open the Migration Assistant App
Yes, this seems a bit counter intuitive. But Migration Assistant says to do this. And it’s right there on the screen.
‘When transferring from another Mac, open the Migration Assistant app in the Utilities folder of that Mac and select “To another Mac”.
When your old Mac is just not turning up, you’ve opened the Firewall, logged in with the same Apple id. And it’s still not there.
Leave the Migration Assistant screen still up on your new Mac.
Log onto your old Mac. Open up Migration Assistant. Applications > Utilities > Migration Assistant.
Sign in with your administration password.
And Pick ‘To another Mac’
You’ll see another screen come up. It says your old Mac is discoverable as. And the name its discoverable by.
Then on your new Mac’s Migration Assistant screen. Your old Mac will pop up as the source.
Click on your old Mac in your new Mac’s Migration Assistant screen.
Then you can click continue. Problem solved.
5. Migrating Over WIFI?
Migrating over WIFI can be tricky and take a long time, A really long time.
Interference can cause your wireless network to drop out and your new Mac difficulty in finding your source Mac.
Have the Mac’s as close to each other as you can, And close to your router to cut down on interference.
6. Migrating using Ethernet or USB cable.
Whether you’re using Ethernet or USB cable. Both cables have to be up to spec.
1 Gbit Ethernet, or Thunderbolt 3 or 4 cable. And an adaptor for your old Mac.
Plus you must put your old Mac into Target Disk Mode. You do this by going into System Preferences on your old Mac.
Startup Disk. And Click the Target Disk Mode button to restart your old Mac into target disk mode.
Look for your old Mac to come up on your new Mac’s desktop. Go into Migration Assistant and click on your old Mac in the Transfer Information To This Mac screen.
7. Run A MacOS software update on both Mac’s.
It’s worth a try but running old versions of MacOS isn’t often the issue.
Unless, your old Mac computer is not running OS X Lion – 10.7.5 or a later version.
Or your new Mac is not on OS X Mavericks – 10.9.5 or later.
If you happen to be in this situation then take a look at the Apple document here.
But these days your new Mac will be running a much newer MacOS version.
Though it’s worth for sure making sure you’re running the latest version of MacOS on your new Mac. As Setup Assistant doesn’t always ensure this.
You now know how to go about your set up.
And the key fixes to get past that ‘Looking For Source’ trap.
But there are some other transfer related articles we think you may be interested in. So while you’re here why not take a look at them?
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.