$30 to spend - Thunderbolt cable or Thunderbolt/Gigabit ethernet dongle?

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 5, 2010
1,163
465
OK, I don't really just have $30 to spend, but here's the deal: I just bought a new MacBook Pro Retina 13" to replace my MacBook Air 13" (2011) which I'll be giving my daughter. I'll want to transfer my identity/stuff over from my Air to my new rMBP. It's my understanding that the fastest way to do that would be via a Thunderbolt cable. Well, a simple Apple-branded cable costs $30. For that same $30, I could buy a Thunderbolt-to-Gigabit ethernet cable. I know that the former should be faster, but after I've used it once, I'm not sure when I'd ever need to use it again. Whereas, I can imagine a couple of scenarios where having Gigabit ethernet with my MacBook could come in handy.

So what else could I do with a simple Thunderbolt cable? And just how much faster will the transfer speeds with that via using Gigabit ethernet (which will only help me in one direction with one of the laptops, while the other will need to connect wirelessly over 802.11n).
 

micrors4racer

macrumors 6502
Apr 19, 2012
354
0
OK, I don't really just have $30 to spend, but here's the deal: I just bought a new MacBook Pro Retina 13" to replace my MacBook Air 13" (2011) which I'll be giving my daughter. I'll want to transfer my identity/stuff over from my Air to my new rMBP. It's my understanding that the fastest way to do that would be via a Thunderbolt cable. Well, a simple Apple-branded cable costs $30. For that same $30, I could buy a Thunderbolt-to-Gigabit ethernet cable. I know that the former should be faster, but after I've used it once, I'm not sure when I'd ever need to use it again. Whereas, I can imagine a couple of scenarios where having Gigabit ethernet with my MacBook could come in handy.

So what else could I do with a simple Thunderbolt cable? And just how much faster will the transfer speeds with that via using Gigabit ethernet (which will only help me in one direction with one of the laptops, while the other will need to connect wirelessly over 802.11n).
The free option would be to use Airdrop between the two MacBooks. If you want to use gigabit you would need to buy two as neither computer has a gigabit port. Using gigabit on one will not help at all as the other one needs to transfer at wireless speeds.
 

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 5, 2010
1,163
465
The free option would be to use Airdrop between the two MacBooks. If you want to use gigabit you would need to buy two as neither computer has a gigabit port. Using gigabit on one will not help at all as the other one needs to transfer at wireless speeds.
Yeah, I kinda realized that as I was typing my original post. Can you elaborate on Airdrop? Can I establish a direct wireless connection between the two laptops? The Air is a 2011, so the fastest it has is 802.11n.

I am kinda leaning towards keeping things simple and cheap and just using wireless. Worst case, I guess I just have to leave both computer on for a while (the question is: just *how* long?). FWIW, my Air is "only" using about 128GB of disk space, and there may be some stuff on there that I can get rid of or move to my server ahead of time (e.g., photos, which I probably prefer to keep on my central always-on server, anyway).
 

JeffiJers

macrumors 6502a
Sep 12, 2012
552
1
U.S.
Yeah, I kinda realized that as I was typing my original post. Can you elaborate on Airdrop? Can I establish a direct wireless connection between the two laptops? The Air is a 2011, so the fastest it has is 802.11n.

Yeah you can create an ad hoc network between the two computers... I tried it once to send files to my GF. forget the size but was sllllllooooowwwww. Stopped it immediately and loaded the files up on an external HD.

pick up the TB cable.
 

flynz4

macrumors 68040
Aug 9, 2009
3,131
37
Portland, OR
Restore your new computer from your existing Time Machine backup. If you do not have the backup... then spend the $30 toward starting one.

/Jim
 

nateo200

macrumors 68030
Feb 4, 2009
2,857
6
Northern District NY
Using thunderbolt as a network cable is sooooooo fast....especially if you have SSD's in both computers as is the story in your case. Even Gigabit Ethernet is fast. WiFi is anywhere from slow to ok speeds, depends on the conditions obviously.
 

a.coward

macrumors regular
Jun 1, 2010
118
110
Unless you already have an external Ethernet adapter on your Air,
you will have to buy two Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapters. That
brings things up to $60.

Just another thought: If you have an Apple Store nearby, make
an appointment with the Genius Bar. I'm sure they can migrate
your data for you.
 
Last edited:

velocityg4

macrumors 601
Dec 19, 2004
4,975
1,519
Georgia
Restore your new computer from your existing Time Machine backup. If you do not have the backup... then spend the $30 toward starting one.

/Jim
+1

If you care enough about your files to transfer them then you should have a backup. Make the initial backup from the old one and restore on the new one.
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,171
479
Elkton, Maryland
Why not use Migration Assistant when setting the new one up. Both Macs must be plugged in and connected to the same Wi-Fi but in my experience it works pretty well!

:apple: Altemose :apple:
 

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 5, 2010
1,163
465
Thanks for all of the tips everyone. I was close to pulling the trigger on a Thunderbolt cable, but then I decided not to. I just can't think of any other time I'm likely to use it, so to shell out $30 for a cable I'm going to use once just didn't make sense, even if it would make the transfer speedier.

On that note, can someone who's used WiFi for this sort of thing give me an idea as to about how long it took? Obviously, you'll need to give me the specs of your source machine (approx HD space used) for it to be at all meaningful.

At this point, I'm probably going to go with the WiFi approach. I actually did pull the trigger on this Thunderbolt USB 3.0 / gigabit ethernet dongle, so I'm thinking that I'll hook that up into my old MacBook Air. The destination MacBook Pro will be on WiFi, so that will be the bottleneck, but maybe it will still cause things to go a little faster.

I put a new AirPort Extreme (802.11ac) on my Xmas list, so I'm anticipating that my wife may get me that, but it won't do me any good here, since she wants me to transfer everything over and wipe the old Air for my daughter so that it's ready to go for her on Xmas morning. And since I already know about and will be unboxing/using (slightly) the MacBook Pro, I'd prefer to be somewhat surprised to unwrap the AirPort Extreme, anyway.

Oh, for those recommending that I start making a backup now…yes, that's I probably should have done that sooner, but my always-on server is Windows 7 and all of the external drives I own are used for movie storage and formatted as NTFS. I do plan to reformat one of them as HFS+ for backup purposes going forward, but I still have to decide whether to hook it up to the AirPort Extreme that I'm anticipating getting, or to hook it up to my always-on Windows 7 server (assuming it can share an HFS+ formatted drive). It's my understanding that I can't set it up one way and then move it later due to some odd bit of info that gets encrypted along with the backup file.
 

a.coward

macrumors regular
Jun 1, 2010
118
110
If you have external drives formatted as NTFS, why not
install a trial copy of Tuxera NTFS or Paragon NTFS on
your Air? This will allow you to write to the NTFS drive.
OSX will already allow you to read NTFS formatted drives,
so no driver will be required on your new Retina. You can
then use your external drive as a temporary means to transfer
your files over.
 

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 5, 2010
1,163
465
If you have external drives formatted as NTFS, why not install a trial copy of Tuxera NTFS or Paragon NTFS on your Air? This will allow you to write to the NTFS drive. OSX will already allow you to read NTFS formatted drives, so no driver will be required on your new Retina. You can then use your external drive as a temporary means to transfer your files over.
As a matter of fact, I have Paragon NTFS. But I don't think that helps me to create a full TimeMachine backup. I believe what you're describing would just be to backup specific files, right? I'd like to transfer over my configuration settings, etc. I suspect, though, that I could go with a hybrid approach where I used the Mac-to-Mac process to copy over those types of settings, and a USB drive to copy files over. Honestly, though, I'll probably just go with the Mac-to-Mac approach (over WiFi) and just let them sit and take as long as they need. I'll do some cleanup first to get rid of anything I don't really care about.
 

a.coward

macrumors regular
Jun 1, 2010
118
110
As a matter of fact, I have Paragon NTFS. But I don't think that helps me to create a full TimeMachine backup. I believe what you're describing would just be to backup specific files, right? I'd like to transfer over my configuration settings, etc. I suspect, though, that I could go with a hybrid approach where I used the Mac-to-Mac process to copy over those types of settings, and a USB drive to copy files over. Honestly, though, I'll probably just go with the Mac-to-Mac approach (over WiFi) and just let them sit and take as long as they need. I'll do some cleanup first to get rid of anything I don't really care about.
No, I am not talking about manually copying files over usinf the USB
drive. There is a way you can use create a ".sparsebundle" (sort of like
a disk image) on the NTFS formatted drive which, in conjunction with
a pre-installed utility called "tmutil", Time Machine can use for a backup.
Anyway, you can google "sparsebundle" along with Time Machine, USB
and NTFS, and you should get some hits.
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,171
479
Elkton, Maryland
Over an old Wireless-G network my friend had at his home, transferring from a 2007 iMac to a 2013 iMac took a little over 9 hours. However that was moving close to 400 GB over a slow wireless D-Link router that was on its last legs. When they bought a new Retina MBP, they migrated the old 2009 models files over using the new wireless network (AirPort Extreme 5th Gen and Express extending over Ethernet) in under an hour for 250 GBs. It really depends on your existing router setup, and how much stuff is loaded on your MacBook.

:apple: Altemose :apple:
 

cerberusss

macrumors 6502a
Aug 25, 2013
916
355
The Netherlands
all of the external drives I own are used for movie storage and formatted as NTFS
Do yourself a favor: put these reasons/excuses/concerns aside and order a $50 backup drive after reading this post.

Movies can be bought/downloaded again. Your personal data cannot. Unless your name is Linus Torvalds.
 

hipnetic

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 5, 2010
1,163
465
Welp, my brother had an old external 1TB drive that he didn't want anymore (it's a WD RAID-capable model that is pretty large, and he didn't like that it took up so much space and had to be externally powered). So I told him I'd take it off his hands. I was intrigued by the RAID capabilities, thinking that I might use it for our photo storage, since that way it would effectively be keeping those backed up automatically. But, short term, I decided I'd make use of it to make a backup of my Air to then use as the source when setting up my new rMBP. It was already formatted as HFS+.

I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to be able to move the backup file or relocate my hard drive (plugged in via USB to my Air now, but I'd want to plug it into my server later) based on what I was reading, so this backup was probably going to be a throwaway. But just in case, I decided to turn on the encrypted backup option, and I guess that was a mistake. After it seemingly completed the backup (a rather lengthy process by itself), it looked like it was taking forever to encrypt everything. Eventually I gave up, killed it, deleted the file, and started over again (this time without encryption).

Later today I'll attempt to set up the rMBP and point to the backup.

One update on that dongle I bought: I forgot that my Air was just USB 2.0 and this dongle is USB 3.0. It looks like it doesn't recognize it at all (unless maybe I just need to manually install a driver). I haven't really looked into that yet, since I figured that going forward I'd be using it on my USB 3.0 equipped rMBP anyway.
 
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