New MacBook Pro: Setup assistant or Migration assistant

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by DSTOFEL, Sep 26, 2016.

  1. DSTOFEL, Sep 26, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2016

    DSTOFEL macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2011
    I have a very nuanced question about how to setup a Mac that I'm hoping someone can help me with.

    I just sold my mid-2012 15 inch Retina MBP to someone and they are wondering the best way to go about transferring their current system (data, apps, etc..) to the new MacBook Pro. Here are the key details...and the "nuance"!

    For the MacBook Pro that I sold them (i.e. The target laptop): I used Internet Recovery to load OS X Mountain Lion back on it (i.e. The original version of OS X that came with the MacBook Pro).

    The current Macbook the person who bought my MBP owns (i.e. The Source laptop): It's a 2009 Macbook (i.e. Not a pro). They have done a time machine backup of it. It's currently on El Capitan

    My question: When they first launch the new 15 inch MBP (i.e. With a fresh install of Mountain Lion): Can they simply use "Setup Assistant" to transfer all of their data, apps, settings, etc... from their Time Machine Backup....even though their Time Machine BU was done using El Capitan? Is it possible to use setup assistant when the source backup (i.e. Done on Time Machine) is on a latter version of OS X than that of the target machine (i.e. The new MBP).

    Or, will they have to use Migration Assistant (i.e. Later) to transfer their data, apps, settings, etc... from their time machine backup. I'm thinking this is the case. Am I correct? If so, I'm assuming these are the steps they would need to follow:
    • Setup the new MBP as a clean installation (i.e. Not using setup assistant to build it from a Time Machine BU), but plan instead to use migration assistant later.
      • Be sure "NOT" to name the new account (i.e. Created in the setup process) the same name as the old account that will be migrated later via Migration assistant.
    • Upgrade the OS X to Sierra on the new MBP before using Migration assistant.
    • Use Migration assistant to transfer all data, apps, settings, etc... from the existing time machine bu of the old machine (i.e. Currently on El Capitan).
    Thanks in advance.
  2. jdasikainen macrumors 6502


    Mar 4, 2016
    Bald Knob Arkansas
    id say upgrade to el cap or seirra first then restore from time mechine backup that would give them thier old install back just the way they left it.
  3. DSTOFEL thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2011
    Thanks for the feedback!
  4. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    No... that won't work. You cannot use either Migration Assistant or Setup Assistant to import from a newer OS than is being run on the Mac. So in your case, you cannot import data from El Capitan to a Mountain Lion install.

    You also do not want to make an account on the Mac then import with Migration Assistant. Each account on a Mac has a UserID. The first account made will be UserID 501. If the UserID of the account to be imported is also 501 (even if a different name), you will have all sorts of permissions issues. You can read about it here. Bottom line is, don't do this.

    What I would do to avoid these issues is use the El Capitan Time Machine backup to restore to the new Mac. This is different than Migration and will bring over the OS and all accounts and data. Do this.... command-option-r boot to recovery (this is different than command-r recovery) and select your wifi. Then you will see a spinning globe while the recovery utility downloads. Once the recovery utility is up, start Disk Utility and go to the erase tab and select the drive it self at the very top of the left column... then select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) in the dropdown and apply that format. Now you have a blank drive. Then quit Disk Util and click restore and point to the El Capitan Time Machine backup as the source. That will bring in El Capitan and all the accounts and data along with it.

    Then restart and everything should be there with El Capitan and all the data. Then update to Sierra if you want.
  5. DSTOFEL thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2011
    Thanks for the detailed information. I kind of suspected there was more to it than what I had listed in my post, but I didn't know exactly what I was missing. This is a great help. I'll pass it along to the person who bought my MBP. I'm just trying to help them out a bit as they are not that savvy with respect to Migration Assistant, Setup Assistant and Time Machine BU's and I'm just trying to help them avoid getting wrapped around the axle on all of this.

    Just to make sure that I'm understanding you correctly: When I sold them my MBP (last night), I handed it over to them with a Fresh installation of Mountain Lion (ie as this is the version of OS X that came with my mid-1012 15 inch when I did the internet recovery to wipe out my SSD and reinstall OS X before giving it to them, this is the version of OS X that loaded). Are you saying they should not even setup the new MBP under Mountain Lion, but instead first turn the MBP on by holding down command-option-r boot to recovery (this is different than command-r recovery) and select your wifi. Then you will see a spinning globe while the recovery utility downloads......then follow the remainder of the process you outlined?

    Thanks again,
  6. Weaselboy Moderator


    Staff Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Yep... precisely. :)
  7. DSTOFEL thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 11, 2011
  8. newforest, Dec 4, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017

    newforest macrumors newbie


    Dec 4, 2017
    Hello, I am bumping this thread largely to thank Weaselboy for this thread in particular, and for several others I have read over a long week or so working with a recently purchased - though used - MacBook Pro.

    I want to note that there is another useful thread on these subjects -

    Which does include a link to an article on the website "pondini" which now seems to have gone defunct, just 6 weeks or so after the posting about it.

    In these two threads I discovered the concept of the UID501 in macOS, and this explained much. I have been wandering all over the web trying to sort out migration/accounts/upgrade issues and I know many people have similar problems, particularly just lately with High Sierra.

    The basic advice of using a Time Machine back-up to re-install the OS of your existing macOS data and user account and all of it's data ... and THEN later upgrading to whatever is your current most desired iteration of macOS ---- that is great advice.

    As is using the Network Recovery route into the recovery utilities - yet another item I read about nowhere else.

    I hope all of this can be written up more succinctly, the way many other recovery options are, to help people. It would draw some page views and sell some ads, that I can tell you. Apple seems to me to set up their instructional framework on migrating to a new machine predicated on one simple thing - your original machine is still working, and right at hand.

    At one point just before I successfully used Time Machine to basically do a 'dirty intall' of Mountain Lion simultaneously with my one, and only one, desired admin account from a quite old MacBook Pro, one of the basic screen menus in the Recovery suite even suggested to just use Migration Assistant instead.

    If the original machine is not accessible for whatever reason, you are back to square one of figuring out things on your own. Following Apple's instructions will quite likely result in most of your data on your new machine, running their newest OS, but trying to do so with the annoying horrors of permissions problems and sign-in requirements as we all increasingly end up in a hybrid cloud/personal ownership software environment.

    And I hear the many comments on the web that Time Machine is not an ideal solution, but that is not all that intuitive - it came from Apple, built into the OS, and it works. I had no reason to doubt that it wouldn't.

    Ultimately, the advice in this thread got me to where I wanted to be.

    Thanks again Weaselboy!
  9. newforest, Dec 4, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2017

    newforest macrumors newbie


    Dec 4, 2017
    And for those of you that enjoy the nitty-gritty blow-by-blow technical fine points, here is my story....

    A month ago, my 2007 MacBook Pro gave the first hint of entering the death spiral. I stopped all life activity that night and immediately ran a complete new Time Capsule using Time Machine. It was successful.

    Unfortunately, I put it on an external hard drive that has shown a little flakiness as I have several 'rugged' drives that look identical. I knew I had another Time Capsule that was about 4 months older that would work if necessary.

    I kept using the '07 MBP trying to get it far more cleaned up and ready to make a compact, easy-to-migrate Time Capsule. I could get an hour out of the machine most days. (I think the heat sink thermal paste on the video card is failing and there is little point in repairs at this point. I got a great ten year run on it and had no complaints).

    But I never quite finished that and eventually the '07 wouldn't boot up, some days. Along the way I discovered a used mid-2012 MBP for sale via consignment at a PC repair shop, the increasingly famous good-ole "Model 101" for a good price with what looked to be very light use by an owner who had purchased it from my local high school (it appeared they had done a very professional sale of the machine, probably via a clean install). The shop had the admin account password and I even discussed the details with the seller. He claimed to have "never" used it and this seemed to be the case, with no email, photos, music, or even any documents of any kind present on the machine.

    So at the shop I changed the admin account password and changed the user name to my user name on my '07 MPB. (That was my first mistake, do not do this).

    I decided before migrating my data from the '07 machine's time capsule, I might as well 'start fresh' with an upgrade to High Sierra, as I had been using Mountain Lion. I don't even remember which OS was on the purchased machine. Along the way I discovered the seller had used the machine enough to wrap an Apple ID into it, and another email address into FaceTime somehow.

    I attempted my first migration. It did not go well. macOS does not like the idea of re-using an exact admin account name. (The UID501, which I have never read about anywhere else). I think I went with the option of creating a new user account to host the migration; perhaps Apple implies/hints that can be temporary, I'm not sure.

    The migration failed part-way through. Probably due to a bad sector on the external HD that had my most current Time Capsule on it. But I couldn't tell for sure as there are many reports of migration failures, perhaps a few more just lately with High Sierra, not sure.

    By this point I was regularly running into issues with calls to the seller's original Apple ID and sometimes his FaceTime account. I decided to try and erase all remaining vestiges of his ownership from my 'new' (5 year old) laptop.

    I Googled up some instructions and discovered that user accounts can be edited in more detail by a certain key-click combination. I won't share it here - you don't want to go down that road - I'm warning you ....

    I changed the "shortname" on the admin account, because it was the seller's full name. DO NOT EVER DO THIS IN MACos. WHATEVER YOUR GOAL IS IN DOING THAT, THERE IS PROBABLY A BETTER WAY TO ACCOMPLISH IT, I PROMISE YOU!

    There was some verbiage on the screen about changes not taking effect until after a Restart, so I immediately summoned the nuclear football from my 24/7 military aide, and pushed the red button. (The one marked 'Restart' on the machine). Perhaps if I had let the UNIX kernel somehow work on my desire to change the shortname, there is a way for that to actually work out. But I doubt it. UNIX is fine with a single, permanent, shortname for what is almost, kinda-sorta, the root account, so why would some idiot want to change it? UNIX doesn't need that, so why should you. DO NOT DO THIS.

    The restart went through and the smoke cleared. I could now use my 2012 MacBook Pro to my heart's content - as a "Standard" user. There was no "admin" user. No matter what I did. There was the intriguing "Other User" option that I had never seen before, so I could type in all kinds of usernames and passwords there - mine, the original owner's, my original account on the '07 machine, all of the passwords, in every combination. Nothing worked. I no longer had admin level control of my machine, and all of my OS X life going back to Cougar or Panther or whatever, was locked in a Time Capsule.

    Enter Apple's most recent and nearly most infamous "Bug" - I had High Sierra on this machine - I could be "root" with no password at all! What a relief! I was blown away by the news of this bug, and even more blown away that it came along just exactly perfectly right when I needed it. I could control my machine just like a Swiss Watch.

    Sort of. It was a fun little bug. I am more than a little tempted to someday create an account called "root" just to see it up there on the task bar again, but I now know well how many problems that would probably cause. DO NOT DO THAT. I think it gave me a little insight into how the bug came about - it was incredibly handy to just type 'root', hitting Tab, and then Return, into any permission dialog box that popped up and my guess is a programmer working on testing High Sierra set up this little back door during some pre-public-Beta phase and then forgot to ever close the door later. But we will never know.

    Oddly, Safari did not work for 'root' at all - it told me had a suspicious certificate! That would have been a classic screenshot, if only shoulda/coulda/woulda. (It actually reported that for every single web address).

    But I could still use Safari normally in my 'standard' account. So off I went to go through all the steps to create a bootable macOS installer USB drive. Getting the High Sierra install app to download correctly was an adventure - if you don't see it give a running time estimate right under the 'download' button on the pretty splash screen, it is probably downloading stuff and setting up an alias that you can't use - 'the 19 megabyte version'. But a lot of something stuff really did download, I watched it happen via Activity Monitor...

    I finally got the installer app in to the Applications folder correctly, at 5-point-some Gigabytes, as it's own stand-alone little app. It had even launched correctly when the download finished - if you don't see that happen, do not pass Go, waste 200 more minutes and start over. (throttled public wi-fi access points for me in my life, ugh).

    I was just reading the instructions on creating the install USB when my '12 MPB informed me it had downloaded a High Sierra update and I should click 'Restart' to continue. OK, makes sense.

    NOOOOOO! Not now! I would lose my awesome power of ROOT! I can't remember if I had an option on that restart, but it was water under the bridge. I did not suspect I would need admin level access just to create a bootable USB drive, but them's the rules, it turns out.

    'root' was a distant memory now. I was back to being only 'standard'. My '07 data was as far away as ever.

    I continued my research - thankfully I had an iPhone with me. A strange thing about researching these issues is that Google will show you results from forum threads inside the Apple Developer community - that I couldn't access. I don't know why Apple lets Google scrape those forums, doesn't quite make sense. Perhaps with more persistence I could have eventually read those threads, but I didn't feel like that should be necessary and there would be a good chance a lot of it would refer to conditions in the Beta of High Sierra.

    There are a variety of techniques to recover passwords, restore hosed machines, etc. out there for macOS. I changed the password on the one account I did have via my Apple ID. That didn't help - it was still a 'standard' account.

    I discovered the idea of deleting AppleSetupDone, tricking the machine into allowing a new admin account to be set up.

    That worked for me. Now I finally had an admin account. I created a High Sierra installer, wiped the hard drive and set up a new clean High Sierra machine. Man that picture of the High Sierras makes me want to go Trout fishing - there is one hiding in the stream likely flowing through that draw on the left, just under those conifers, I can feel it.

    But I still had the problem that migrating in my '07 Mountain Lion data would create a machine with multiple accounts holding tangled permissions in all directions.

    And then, yeah, the end of the story is I discovered Network Recovery in this thread, erased the hard drive all over again, and basically installed Mountain Lion on the empty machine using my slightly older Time Capsule from a much healthier external drive.

    Very NOT-intuitive, doing an OS downgrade that way, I would say, but it worked. !Yay!

    I am not completely positive Network Recovery is necessary here? Does the suite of Recovery software stored on the hard drive partition offer the option to restore from a Time Capsule ---- OR, since Network Recovery is designed for machines having a hardware issue with the volume originally hosting the OS, does only Network Recovery offer that option.

    Anyhow, thanks again macrumors, and someone less verbose than I can probably write up some of this technique much, much better.

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