Mac OS forum


time machine: old mac to new mac. how to?

by richard19223 / November 9, 2012 2:23 AM PST

I am buying a new Mac mini and want to get it running just like my old MacBook Pro. I make backups using Time Machine to an external hd.

I can't quite get my head around how to transfer/migrate my old mac to the new one with my Time Machine backup.

I get how to recuperate files, photos, etc. but can't quite see how to copy everything to my new machine.

I am running the latest Mountain Lion.

I would really appreciate it if someone could explain the process to me.

I realize this is pretty basic. I am a good cook but my computer skills leave a little be desired!!!


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Clarification Request
What is "everything"?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / November 9, 2012 2:32 AM PST

We know apps don't move so well so let's exclude those. Why not use the Migration assistant noted at

I read it notes use of the machine to machine as well as Time machine.

All Answers

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It's really quite easy.
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / November 9, 2012 8:23 AM PST

The easiest way to do it is when you first take your new machine out of the box and turn it on.
If you have already done that, you will have noticed that it asked you if you had any data that you wanted to move from an Old Mac or a Time Machine Backup.
Having answered "Time Machine" you just connect the external hard drive to the new Mac and follow the instructions.
Once done, it takes a while, your new Mac will be just like the old one.
Items like iPhoto, iMovie & iTunes do not get moved BUT, their contents do, so all your movies, pictures and music will be there when you next launch those apps.
Unlike Windows, almost all of your applications will make the journey to the new machine without a problem, unless your MBP was an old version with a PPC processor, like a G4.

If you have already done the initial setup on your new machine, do as Bob suggested and run the Migration Assistant and follow the instructions that you get.

Let us knowhow you get on


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Clear and concise. Thks.
by richard19223 / November 9, 2012 2:47 PM PST

Thanks for the quick and easy solution.

My new Mac is supposed to arrive on Monday, so will do as you suggest. I suspected that with Apple it would be a piece of cake.

Will let you know.

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TM restores are typically reliable.
by philb1701 / November 9, 2012 6:38 PM PST

I've done a fair number of Time Machine restores in my day, and have had little to no difficulty in getting everything back. By it's very nature, TM will backup your applications, user folder and data without a hitch. My advise is to use a backup drive AT LEAST twice the size of the drive you are making the backup from. That will allow for not only day-to-day backups but also for backups of those files that TM can't look inside to. Specifically iPhoto libraries, Entourage and Outlook mail databases, VM Fusion and Parallel virtual files as well. Probably other files as well I'm not familiar with.

What Time Machine WON'T back up is a Boot Camp partition. It will also ignore external hard drives unless you tell it otherwise. That will of course mandate a larger backup drive.

Using TM is fairly straight forward. Make sure your TM backup drive is formatted for GUID partition. You would do this in Disk Utility. Mountain Lion gets cranky if a TM backup drive uses the older formatting scheme for PowerPC Macs, and won't work at all with a Windows/DOS formatted drive.

When you go to restore from your TM drive using Mountain Lion, let it walk you through the first-time setup, and when it gets to the screen that asks if you want to restore from another disk, select it and then point to your TM backup drive. After it calculates how much data is going to be moved, click Continue and let it do its thing.

Hope this helps some.

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TM restores are typically reliable
by dickldoit / November 10, 2012 2:09 AM PST

I would agree with you that Time Machine is good for restores but the original query concerned migration of data from one machine to another.

As the enquirer is a good cook and not an IT nerd I would still recommend migration assistant.

I used it recently to migrate data from an HDD to a SSD and it worked great.

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Time Machine:old mac to new mac - how to
by dickldoit / November 9, 2012 7:31 PM PST


If I were you I would use the Migration Assistant which is on your old mac and will be on the new one. It's far easier than Time Machine


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Spoken like one who has never used Time Machine
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / November 9, 2012 10:07 PM PST

to configure a new machine or a replacement HD in an old machine.
This is not the "find the item I want and hit the Restore button" procedure, this is a fully automated "click the button and everything else happens automatically"

Once finished, the new machine if fully configured and ready to go.


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Thanks for all the replies... one last thing
by richard19223 / November 10, 2012 5:25 PM PST

Thank you all for taking the time to clear this up for me.
My new Mac mini is in the mail and should arrive any day now.
The process seems pretty straightforward and I am sure is easier than I am anticipating.
There is one last (probably dumb) thing I am wondering about:

The monitor is just a matter of hooking up but I have a cordless Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. When I fire up the mini for the first time, will it detect those? Without a keyboard and a mouse I can't do anything and I don't know if the mini comes with Bluetooth enabled or not.

Probably just me obsessing on detail but I would like to know what to expect before it happens. Happy

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Bluetooth is enabled by default and the mini
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / November 10, 2012 11:36 PM PST

should detect the keyboard during the initial setup.

I do know that it will detect the Apple wireless keyboard, which is Bluetooth, during the initial stage so you should be fine.
Alternatively, any USB keyboard will do in the interim if the Bluetooth one is not detected at first shot


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