Moving Files to New iMac; Advice Needed

Discussion in 'macOS' started by kirbyrun, May 23, 2016.

  1. kirbyrun macrumors member

    Jul 26, 2009
    I’m getting ready to replace my 2011 iMac with a new one. Lately, the iMac has been showing its age with lots of spinning beachballs and general slowdowns.

    When I switch over to the new machine, I want to clear out as much cruft as possible by NOT merely using Migration Assistant to copy the 2011 hard drive over to the new system. Heck, the 2011 iMac was originally copied from a 2006 iMac — God knows what ancient code is lurking in some abandoned plist, waiting to wreak havoc! :)

    So, my plan is to start fresh with the new iMac, re-download all of my apps, reset (gulp) all of my preferences…

    However, there are some things I need to copy over wholesale from the old iMac.
    1. Documents folder
    2. iTunes library
    3. Photos library
    4. Mail (from
    For #1, I can just drag and drop across the network. But what is the best way to move 2-4 over? It’s been five years since I switched machines, and all I did back then was tell Migration Assistant to copy everything.

    Would love any advice/thoughts/heckling.

    Thanks, all!
  2. Bruno09 macrumors 68020

    Aug 24, 2013
    Far from here

    what I would do :

    1. on the old iMac, export to the desktop : Safari (or whatever browser) bookmarks, Contacts, and Calendar archives (*)
    2. clone the old iMac disk to and an external USB drive (use Disk Utility or Carbon Copy Cloner free demo)
    3. connect the USB drive to the new iMac
    4. copy the content of the Documents folder to the Documents folder, copy the iTunes folder to the Music folder, copy the Photos Library to the Pictures folder, import bookmarks, Contacts and Calendar from the apps.

    If would not transfer any data across the network.

    As for Mail, you don't need to transfer anything if you are using IMAP accounts.
    If you use POP accounts and/or local folders, you can import mailboxes from Mail.
    All the Mail stuff is in ~/Library/Mail.

    (*) not necessary if you use iCloud for these.
  3. kirbyrun thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 26, 2009
    Ah, that seems pretty comprehensive! Thanks!

    Any reason not to skip the CCC and USB drive and just connect the Macs via Target Disk Mode?
  4. Bruno09 macrumors 68020

    Aug 24, 2013
    Far from here
    Target disk mode only works through Firewire or Thunderbolt.

    You would need a Thunderbolt cable to use the Target mode with a new iMac.

    (Migration assistant works with Ethernet, Target mode do not).

    Plus, I prefer to be on the safe side while transferring data, thus I prefer to use a USB clone : if something went wrong during the operation, the old iMac will still remain untouched.
  5. Fishrrman macrumors P6


    Feb 20, 2009
    OP wrote:
    "However, there are some things I need to copy over wholesale from the old iMac.
    Documents folder
    iTunes library
    Photos library
    Mail (from"

    You can do a "manual migration", but it's slightly more involved than you might think.

    You CANNOT just "copy over" the sub-folders (in your old home folder) named "Documents", "Mail", "Movies", "Music", "Pictures", etc.
    The reason is that these are "more than" simple folders -- I believe they're called "symbolic links" and would involve specialized work to do so.

    HOWEVER --
    You CAN copy the contents of these folders from the old sub-folder to the new sub-folder in your new home folder.
    That is to say, you can open up the "Pictures" folder, select everything inside, and then copy that into the "Pictures" folder in your new account on the new Mac.
    (You would want to replace existing folders such as "iTunes").

    I think Mail would be an exception.
    What I would suggest you do is to get your NEW configured, and then import your Mail from your OLD home folder (using itself). This will probably require some re-arranging once you get all the old emails "moved over".

    More advice:
    I've done "manual migrations" like this myself. It's more work, but certainly do-able if you give it a little thought.

    One thing I would suggest:
    DON'T try doing this from a Time Machine backup. I write this as someone who has never used TM, ever, so I can't advise as to what the outcome will be.
    I would suggest that you either
    - do a "finder copy" of your old home folder to an external drive,
    - create a "cloned backup" of the old drive to an external drive using either CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper.

    This will make it EASY to just plug the external drive into the new Mac, mount it in the finder, and proceed from there.

    IF YOU DO THIS (external drive), you need to mount the drive in the finder, then do a "get info" on it and (at the bottom of the get info box) check the box to "ignore ownership on this volume". That will solve any "permissions problems" you might have!

    Is that enough heckling..?
  6. kirbyrun thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 26, 2009
    Perfect amount of heckling. :) Thanks so much! That all makes a lot of sense.
  7. kirbyrun thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 26, 2009
    Ah, one thing I forgot to ask about, if anyone has any wisdom to offer... Currently using iCloud Photo Library. When I copy my Photos library from the old iMac to the new one, is there a way to keep it from re-uploading everything to iCloud and potentially duplicating everything in iCloud?

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