Here is a complete walkthrough: migration assistant/ transferring system to new iMac

Discussion in 'iMac' started by eroxx, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    After 5 weeks of waiting, I finally got my 2012 iMac. I was so excited to use it, I put my time machine backup into the computer and expected everything to work perfectly. And. It. did. not.

    Here's what I discovered:
    1) Time machine will only restore the HOME hard drive. I was transferring from a 2012 iMac with a 256 SSD drive and a 2 TB drive. It only transferred the home drive of 256 SSD

    2) itunes library transfer is a BITCH.

    After MUCH consternation and about 10 applecare phone calls, I (think) I figured it out. I hope this is helpful to you!


    1) When you FIRST turn on your new computer, do NOT go to all the way to a desktop. As soon as it asks you if you want to transfer your files, do it. Otherwise, you get VERY bizarre permission errors (look up "fetch permission" and you'll know what I mean) Trust me on this. I had to do a clean install of my new computer. Connect your time machine disc and it will transfer everything over

    2) Once that happens, your computer should look exactly as your old one did

    3) But, what about the extra data (in my case 2TB) that is on your time machine? At this point, I created a new folder in my new computer's home drive called "Eric's 2nd Hard Drive" and I dragged and dropped everything in there (took about 8 hours)

    4) itunes: Here's the "goocher." It's AMAZING that no one at apple care could simply tell me the following fact: Your itunes library will only "sync" if your itunes library is in the EXACT SAME relative location on both computers. IOW, if your itunes library is on an external drive, it needs to stay on an external drive. But, what if you have a brand new 2012 iMac with a 3TB fusion? Here's the solution:

    5) Go into your OLD computer and change the itunes media directory to a folder on an external hard drive (if this is already the case, skip this step). Make sure BOTH boxes are checked in "advanced" (keep itunes folder organized and copy music to this folder). Then, still in your old computer, go to file/library/organize and check consolidate files. This took about 10 hours for me.

    6) On your OLD computer, go into your user/music/itunes folder and copy EVERYTHING.

    7) Disconnect external drive and connect it to new computer. First, replace all of the user/music/itunes folder with the files you just copied. Then launch itunes. It will recognize the library on the external drive, and your itunes should look exactly the same. BUT, you now need to get the files off the external and onto that beautiful fusion :)

    8) So, you go into preferences and change the itunes media library to a folder on your NEW computer's hard drive (I chose users/music/itunes/itunes media). Nothing will be in that folder yet.

    9) Now you have to again go to library/organize files/consolidate. Again, this will take about 10 hours.

    BUT, your itunes library will be preserved!!!
  2. macrumors newbie

    Jan 31, 2013
    This is all VERY helpful, thank you for posting! My new iMac should be arriving next week, and I need to transfer everything from my old rig. My iTunes library is already on an external drive (poor old iMac ran out of space). I'm confused about your step 6 and 7 tho....copy everything on my OLD what? How do I "replace all of the user/music/itunes folder with the files" I just copied? I apologize if this should be simple, but I'm far from being a mac guru. Again, I really appreciate your advice!
  3. macrumors newbie

    Mar 21, 2012
    I'm going from a PC to a Mac and I just backed up all my music, pictures, and documents onto dropbox. I planned on loading it onto my new imac off of dropbox. Will this work? And if so, isnthisnthe best way I can transfer all of my data? I don't want to screw up my new imac.
  4. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    The itunes is probably the part that's the trickiest. And frankly, the most annoying, because EVERY applecare representative I spoke to replied, "Just move your itunes folder and it will work." Even as they said it I knew it wouldn't.

    The issue is the communication between the database (the metadata/playlists/stars/playcounts/etc) and the music files themselves.

    Let's say your current itunes library sits on Location "Y" when you launch itunes, the itunes library file (.itl, usually in users/music/itunes) and the .xml file looks for your music in exactly that location. If you move your music elsewhere, you'll SEE all the songs in your itunes library, but when you try to play something, you'll get an error that it can't find the song.

    So, in order to get the relative locations to match, you need to put the entire library onto an external drive (let's call it location Z). Like I said, you do that by FIRST (on the old computer) setting a new folder for your itunes media files, and then file/library/organize/consolidate. Once it's done, the DATABASE will now look in Location Z.

    Then you take the entire users/music/itunes folder and copy that over to the new computer, and connect Location Z (aka external drive) to the new computer. Now, when you launch itunes on new computer, it will look in location Z, and voilà, your itunes works.

    Now, on new computer you change media folder to a folder you want on new computer (or you can simply keep it in external). Then again you consolidate. Now itunes will look for the music in location Z1, which is wherever you want it on your brand new spanking clean machine :)
  5. macrumors newbie

    Jan 31, 2013
    Thanks again. Looking forward to the migration to my new 27" beauty!
  6. macrumors 65816

    Jun 29, 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    Thank you for posting this! I have a 5 year old iMac, with a new iMac due in on Tuesday. I've been organizing my file and folder structure so it's clean when it comes over from my Time Machine backup. All of my files are on the local drive, so I hope it all goes well. My iTunes library is in the default location, so I hope that means I won't need to jump through hoops.

    I've never heard of anyone having problems transferring data and settings from Time Machine to a new Mac, so I really appreciate this post. I'll read it again before my new Mac arrives (just left China).

    Thanks again!!
  7. thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    Glad this has been helpful -- I've been helped so many times on this forum I thought I'd try and contribute!

    Caveat: I had NO problems with time machine transferring apps/files/settings. My issue was that my itunes library (500 gigs) was NOT on my home drive. If yours is on your home drive, you're smooth sailing!

    To the poster that talked about dropbox and bringing everything over. That should work, but make sure that your entire itunes directory (NOT the song files, the itunes directory under users/music/itunes) is also transferred over. That way, it will be the EXACT same database.
  8. macrumors member

    Mar 23, 2012
    Cambridge UK
    But what if you're copying from a PC?
  9. macrumors newbie

    Mar 21, 2012
    Good point! Thanks.
  10. macrumors regular


    Oct 17, 2012
    When my iMac arrived this week, I spent a good 3 hours trying to get Migration Assistant to work. It wouldn't. It just waited and waited to connect with no success, even though the ethernet cable was fine and connecting via the go menu was fine... >.<

    So I ended up simply connecting to the old iMac via Ethernet and dragging everything over. Was less of a headache. I could understand using Migration Assistant if you're doing a pc - mac transfer or if you have no idea where your preferences for various applications are, but if you do know where everything is stored then it's quicker to just pull them off the old onto the new via the 'Go' - 'Connect to Server' menu imo. :)
  11. macrumors G3

    Apple fanboy

    Feb 21, 2012
    Behind the lens, UK
    Connect it to your iMac using an ethernet cable and use migration assistant.

    Se here

    I recently did this and it worked well for the first user, but I found not everything came over from my daughters account and the wives. Fortunately it was just some documents and pictures which I had backed up on an external in anticipation of any issues. Just connected it and dragged and dropped on the desk top. Simple.
  12. macrumors member

    Mar 23, 2012
    Cambridge UK
    Thanks for info:)

    Just copied my sisters iTunes over from PC to MAC and simply copied the media folder to a USB stick and then imported music from there, worked a treat!

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