Migrating to Mac Mini with smaller drive + external drive

Thrash911

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 14, 2006
288
1
Randers, DK
Hello fellow Maccers,

In the coming months, I will replacing my good old 2012 iMac with the new Mac Mini. I'm currently preparing for this move, mentally and financially.. 😄 I have a concern. In my current machine, I have a 2tb drive (using around 800gb). The new Mac Mini has a 256gb drive. I will be getting additional space with an external drive. I was thinking the 256gb would be enough for OS and apps, and then have all documents, music, pictures and whatever else, on the external drive.

I was planning on migrating over using my Time Machine backup, since that is the easy Apple way. 🙂 But is Time Machine able to deal with this situation somehow? Or will I have to somehow restore things manually?

I hope some of you have had experience with this. Thank you in advance, good people. 🙂
 

MarkC426

macrumors 65816
May 14, 2008
1,148
336
UK
I think it depends on what os is on each mac for starters.
You can use migration assistant to copy documents etc over, but if it’s a much newer os I would probably re-install apps on the mini.
 

Thrash911

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 14, 2006
288
1
Randers, DK
Thanks for your input. :) My current OS is the latest Catalina. And I'm guessing the Mini will have either Catalina or the upcoming Big Sur. So, it sounds like I can just use Migration Assistant. That's nice. Does it have the option to partially restore to another drive?
 

MarkC426

macrumors 65816
May 14, 2008
1,148
336
UK
Take a look here:

From what I remember you can select certain things to copy.
Last migration I did was 10 years ago from PowerPC G5, which worked seamlessly.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors Core
Feb 20, 2009
19,679
6,855
Any Mini you buy today can run Mojave, if you're willing to "do the work to get there".

That said, I don't think time machine is what you're going to want here.
I don't use tm -- have NEVER used it -- but you can't just mount tm "in the finder" and easily select and copy folders or groups of files with it, or can you?

Seems to me the best way to do this would be with an external backup that is "a clone" of your present internal drive.

You'd want to use either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper to create it.
Both are free to download and use for 30 days.

I would wait until the new Mini is there or "a day away" from delivery.
Then... I'd clone the 2012 Mini to the backup.
When the new one arrives, I'd take it out of the box and set it up on the table, but DO NOT PRESS THE POWER ON BUTTON YET.
Now, do a final, "incremental" backup on the cloned backup, which will become the "last moment on the old Mini".
Connect the backup to the NEW Mini.
NOW press the power on button for the first time.
Begin setup.
At the appropriate moment, setup assistant will ask if you want to migrate.
YES, you do.
Point the NEW Mini at the backup and give setup assistant time to digest things.
Now, you need to "go through the checklist".
HERE IS WHERE YOU NEED TO BE CAREFUL.
You'll want your apps and "settings".
BUT... in your user folder, you'll want to UNCHECK items like "movies", "music" and "pictures", so that they get "left behind" during the migration.

The idea is to just move over your apps, and a "bare bones" user account.
This will preserve all your apps and settings, leaving the "large libraries" on the backup.

Now, when done, you will still have all "the other stuff" on the backup.
I would either start to "re-arrange" it, or "selectively copy" things to a NEW external drive which will become your "primary EXTERNAL storage" drive.
If it was me, I'd buy a 2.5" SATA SSD to serve as primary external storage, and use a platter-based HDD to back it up. (The backup you have now could serve that purpose).

Of course, you will have to plot a strategy to now keep TWO drives backed up...!
 
Last edited:

Thrash911

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Sep 14, 2006
288
1
Randers, DK
Thanks both of you. And thanks Fishrrman for the details. :) Yeah, keeping backup of two drives, hmmm.. Perhaps I should "just" shell out some more money, and get a 1 or 2tb internal SSD drive. Easier to migrate, easier to maintain. And more elegant. :)
 

Boyd01

Moderator
Staff member
Feb 21, 2012
4,668
2,127
New Jersey Pine Barrens
It will be a lot easier if you get a big enough internal drive. The internal SSD is also incredibly fast, this is my 2tb internal SSD.

mini-2018.png


I also have a few Samsung T3 external SSD's, and two 2tb Samsung T7's. These are quite fast (twice the speed of my old T3's), but no match for the internal SSD. Here's the 2tb T7

samsung-t7-2tb.png


You can get faster external SSD's, but they get very expensive. Just got my second 2tb T7 for $300. Anyway, I'd agree that it will be difficult to use Time Machine and Migration Assistant to setup a new Mini if the internal SSD isn't big enough for all your files. Probably could be done by only choosing applications and settings in Migration asst, then manually copying everything else to the external SSD. IMO it would be easier to use a Carbon Copy Clone. One strategy might be to get the external SSD now, then setup your 2012 Mini the way you want the 2018 mini to be, with user files on the external drive. That would make it easier to migrate to the new Mini. But, if you can afford it, I think you will be happier with a big SSD in the new Mini.

Keep an eye on the refurbs on Apple's online store, you can find a wide variety of Mini's there for about 15% less than new. They have the same warranty as new and look like new - really happy with mine. But it took me over a month to find the exact model I wanted. You have to check constantly and be patient, a whole bunch will dump there all of a sudden, then they will all be gone a few hours later. Be prepared to buy as soon as you find the one you want.
 

wardie

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2008
430
139
If you know where the space-consuming files are and can excludes them via migration assistant or via a backup program like Carbon Copy Cloner then you should be ok (I use both TM and CCC). The latter, if I remember correctly, will tell you how much space is needed on the target drive in advance given a selection of subset of folders.

Personally I run a two drive set up like you are thinking about fine. A smaller internal SSD plus a bigger external drive for the large media files - photography libraries for Lightroom, videos, music etc. Other document are so small they stay on the main drive. For backups, I use two separate backups - one Time Machine backup (which can backup a both drives to a single backup location), plus two separate CCC clone backups of the boot drive + data drive, runs automatically nightly.
 

watakoola

macrumors regular
Aug 23, 2010
154
102
Australia
My suggestion would be to do a full, clean install on your new Mac mini. Sure, it will take longer but at least you aren't bringing any problems/issues from your old installs.

I've only used a restore once and that was because I needed my Mac up and running in a hurry.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.