What Is The Fastest Way To Transfer From One Mac To Another Title Image

Gifted yourself a new Mac?

And you’re keen to get yourself up and running mega fast. But you just have the little wrinkle of getting all your data off your old Mac first.

Or do you need to transfer data fast. Mac to Mac.

Read on to find out the fastest way. To transfer your data from one Mac to another?

What Is The Fastest Way To Transfer Data From One Mac To Another?

The fastest way to transfer data from one Mac to another is over Thunderbolt 3 or 4 cable. Or Gb Ethernet cable.

And use the software Migration Assistant. It’s already part of your Mac OS operating system.

What Limits A Fast Data Transfer From One Mac To Another?

A top speed of 1Gbit per second over Ethernet Mac to Mac. Compared to Thunderbolt 3 or 4 which is up to 10Gbit per sec top speed for disk drives.

Sounds like Thunderbolt 3 or 4 would win hands down.

But the reality is.

The speed of your Mac’s internal drive is the limiting factor. This limits how fast your Migration Assistant data transfer would go.

For example, if you’re transferring from a very old Mac with an internal hard drive. Like a 2010 MacBook Pro. This Mac has a maximum internal hard drive read speed of 45 Mbytes per seconds.

If you’re transferring your files from this old MacBook. The internal hard disk drive would be the limiting factor on your Migration Assistant transfer.

Not the Thunderbolt or Ethernet cable between the old Mac computer and the new Mac.

Even so using a cable connection between an old Mac like this. And your new Mac would be the fastest way to transfer data from one Mac to another.

You’d be looking at around 1 hour 33 minutes. To transfer files from a full 256 Mbyte drive across 1Gbit Ethernet. Or Thunderbolt with Apple Migration Assistant.

Compared to 2 hours 44 minutes at best over WIFI. And it could well take longer.

Mac Drive Icon

New Mac’s Have Internal SSD Drives (Solid State Drives) That Help Fast Transfers

Looking at an M1 Mac. A MacBook Pro 2020 transferring from an Intel i9 MacBook Pro. This new Mac has an SSD drive inside. And you’d be migrating to a newer faster M1 Mac also with an SSD drive.

For these Macs a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 cable would be the fastest way to transfer files.

But even so, you’re still looking at a transfer speed of 190 MB/s to 220 MB/sec. As Migration assistant reads files from your source Mac. Then transfers and writes to the newer Mac.

And this Migration Assistant transfer would take 1 hour 10 minutes over Thunderbolt.

But don’t discount Gb Ethernet for your transfer.


The cost of buying a USB Thunderbolt 3 or 4 cable is not cheap.

And you may already have the right Ethernet cables and adaptors to hand.

The right cables and adaptors are crucial for your transfer.

If you have a 1Gbit spec Ethernet cable. And perhaps an Ethernet adaptor depending on the age of your Macs and the ports they have.

A modern Mac has USB C ports. These Macs support Ethernet connections but you’ll need to get a USB C to Ethernet adaptor.

USB C Icon

One Mac To Another Fast Data Transfer And Cost Considerations

A Thunderbolt 3 cable is cheaper than Thunderbolt 4. And no difference in file transfer speed between the two.

This is because Thunderbolt 4 offers other features.

Go for quality data cables or you’ll find yourself in trouble trying to complete your transfer.

With a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 cable. You may need an adaptor depending on the age of your older Mac.

If you have a Mac with Thunderbolt 2 ports. Then you’ll need a Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter cable to connect old Mac to new. Thunderbolt 2 is backwards compatible as is Thunderbolt 3.

Note you can’t use the USB C cable that comes as default with your Mac. As this USB cable isn’t the right specification of cable you’ll need for a file transfer from one Mac to another.

And factor in the cost of time waiting for a cable plus adaptor – if you need one to be delivered.

But this would be the same if you didn’t have the right GB Ethernet cable to hand.

The Mac you’re transferring from will need to be in Target Disk Mode. For Migration Assistant to transfer files from one Mac to another over cable.

What Is The Fastest Way To Transfer Data To A New Mac?

The fastest way to transfer data to a new Mac is to use Migration Assistant. This app from Apple Inc. is part of your Mac OS x operating system. So, it’s free to use.

And Mac Migration Assistant is designed by Apple to transfer your data to your new Mac.

How you use the Migration Assistant app is key to its speed.

Connect your old Mac to your new Mac with 1Gb Ethernet cable. Or USB C Thunderbolt 3 or 4 cable. Put your old Mac – the source Mac that holds your data into Target Disk Mode and have a fast Mac migration.

Cable is the fastest way to transfer data to a new Mac from a Windows PC. Download Windows Migration Assistant from the Apple App Store. Load it on your Windows PC to transfer information and your data to a new Mac.

Time Machine

What is The Next Fastest Way To Transfer Data To A New Mac

The next fastest way to transfer data if you don’t have the right cables to hand. Is from a Mac Time Machine backup of your old Mac.

Create your backup to an external drive. Either an external hard drive. Or external SSD. An external SSD would be faster.

You may already have a Time Machine backup of your old Mac. If you do then you have all you need to hand.

Then use Migration Assistant on your new Mac. And point Migration Assistant at your Mac Time Machine backup.

The slowest way to transfer data to a new Mac is via WIFI. And transferring data from an iCloud backup.

Because you’re bringing in your files over the Internet and across your WIFI router is not at all fast.

And this is because your iCloud drive being out on the Internet is limited by the speed of the Internet and WIFI.

What Is The Fastest Way To Transfer Data Between Two Macs

The fastest way to transfer data between two Macs is via cable. Connect a cable between the two Macs. Use 1GB Ethernet or Thunderbolt 3 or 4.

If it’s a Mac migration of your data. Then use the Migration Assistant app that’s part of your Mac OS to transfer data. You’ll need to put your source Mac in Target Disk Mode. Do that before you open Migration Assistant to transfer.

If you are looking for a more everyday solution. Because you plan to transfer large files between Macs regularly. You can create a Thunderbolt bridge between the two Macs and use file sharing.

You can share a file, several files. Use a shared folder or share disk.

You’ll need a Thunderbolt 3 or 4 cable. And the 2 Macs. It’s a quick method to set up. Using each Mac’s System Preference setting.

And works out of the box on the latest Mac OS x versions.

This video here shows you how. It’s a 4 minute 51 second video.

Mac Thunderbolt Bridge

Video Credit: SpaceRex

Plus, you’ve always the option of using a flash drive or thumb drive. To copy and paste your file or folder to. It’s a manual way to share a file and transfer data between two Macs. But it can work well for large files that would take too long over WIFI.

In Closing

Now you know the fastest way to get your data from Mac to another Mac.

The migration method you use is key to the overall speed of transfer.

Plus, the speed of the drives on your source Mac, compared to your destination Mac.

While you’re here why not take a look at our other transfer related articles?

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