Manual Migration Specifics

Discussion in 'macOS' started by omr, Jul 27, 2016.

  1. omr, Jul 27, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2016

    omr macrumors member


    Jun 27, 2012
    Las Vegas, NV
    I've searched threads and other sites but I'm still confused as to the specific method of going about a manual migration of data to a clean install of macOS.

    Apple suggests it's possible to simply copy data to an external drive, then copy to the fresh installation, but I've read conflicting instructions regarding whether to copy/drag the top level folder, "documents" for example, while some suggest selecting and copying the contents of such a folder and pasting into the corresponding folder in the new operating system.

    I interpret Apple's instructions to mean the top level folder, but my experience would tell me mac OS would ask if I wanted to replace or merge, etc. the corresponding folder and this could potentially be a huge mess. Potential for that either way I guess ;)

    Perhaps picking and choosing through Migration Assistant, say from a TimeMachine backup, is the safest method?

    Any advice or experience on this would be much appreciated.
  2. Ledgem macrumors 68000


    Jan 18, 2008
    Hawaii, USA
    I guess the big question is what you're really trying to accomplish.

    If you're simply changing out the hard drive, you have three options available to you:

    1) Clone your current hard drive to the new hard drive. People usually use programs like SuperDuper! or CarbonCopyCloner for this purpose. After installing the new hard drive (that has already been cloned to), it'll be as if nothing ever changed. This won't cause any problems because your underlying hardware isn't changing, aside from the hard drive. This will require that you have the proper connectors to access your hard drive as if it were an external drive.

    2) Install OS X to the new SSD and then use Time Machine or Migration Assistant to move all of your settings and data. Some rare programs may demand product keys if you use this method, but otherwise it's pretty effortless and should get you to the same place as in #1.

    3) True manual migration, where you do a clean install and then manually reinstall programs and move your data back. It's the most time-consuming and involves the most effort. This is mostly advisable if there's some problem with your current configuration and/or you want to clear out a lot of old files and "start fresh."
  3. omr thread starter macrumors member


    Jun 27, 2012
    Las Vegas, NV

    Thanks for the reply, but I'm asking specifically about the actual moving of the data during/after a clean install ( #3 ).
    I'm asking for any experience and/or advice copying/pasting or dragging/dropping top level folders vs contents of folders into the corresponding folder on the new installation. And whether this manual migration is still best done with the help of Migration Assistant to move specified data and/or files.

    I'll edit my OP to clarify my questions...
  4. simon lefisch, Jul 28, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2016

    simon lefisch macrumors 6502a

    simon lefisch

    Sep 29, 2014
    You can use the 'cp' or 'rsync' commands.

    'rsync' is good if you want to sync files between devices. I use it to backup my iTunes media to my server and it will only transfer new/updated files (kind of how Time Machine updates it's backups).

    'cp' is great for moving big chunks of data between devices. Unlike 'rsync', it will move all data each time you use it instead of moving only the newly added/updated files. Another good thing about the 'cp' command is that if there are errors copying some files, it will continue to copy all other files in instead of just quitting (like copy/paste or drag n drop).

    If you just want to move data over from one drive to another, I recommend using the 'cp' command in Terminal.

    cp source destination
    If you want to read up on other functions of the 'cp' command, you can use the following link:

    Here is the link for the 'rsync' command:

    That site has helped me a lot with understanding specific Terminal commands.
  5. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Don't use Migration Assistant. If your goal is a "clean install", using Migration Assistant would completely defeat the purpose of the clean install by potentially moving back any troublesome apps/settings... assuming that is why you are doing this.

    You don't want to move things by copying top level folders for the reasons you mentioned. Just go to each folder, like Documents for example, and select the entire contents then just drag it over. That's all there is to it.
  6. Fishrrman, Jul 29, 2016
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2016

    Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009

    My suggestions will be different from others posted above:

    First, use CarbonCopyCloner to create a cloned backup of your existing drive. You want everything "finder-mountable", in "plain old finder format".

    Do your clean install of the OS. Create a new account if that's what you wish to do. Get the OS install fully updated using the App Store or download the combo updater and run it.

    Connect your cloned backup. You want the drive's icon to appear on the desktop, but don't open it yet. Instead, do this:
    a. Click ONE time on it to select it
    b. Type "command-i" to open the get info box
    c. In the bottom right, click on the lock icon and enter your NEW administrative password.
    d. Put a checkmark into the box "ignore ownership on this volume" and close the get info box
    NOTE: You just did the above routine so you won't encounter any permissions problems moving and using the files.

    Open your NEW home folder.
    Open your OLD home folder (on the backup) so that both windows are showing.

    BE AWARE that you CANNOT COPY the sub folders you see when you first open your home folder, such as:

    HOWEVER -- you CAN COPY items that reside INSIDE OF these folders, manually.
    So this is what you need to do.

    I suggest you copy things "a little at a time", particularly from the old Library folder. You are going to have to experiment, and see what works for you, and what doesn't.

    I STRONGLY SUGGEST that you keep a notepad nearby, and make notes to yourself as you go along.

    I've done this before myself, and it can be done, it just requires some thought and careful setting-up.

    Let us know how you make out.

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