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How to transfer files from your old Mac to your new Mac

Bring your stuff with you.


Your old Mac might be such a mess that you want to start fresh with your new Mac and move over only a select group of files and folders. If you've lovingly cared for your old Mac, however, and want to bring over all or most of its files, apps, settings and accounts, you'll want to turn to Apple's Migration Assistant. 

This built-in utility lets you transfer data from your old Mac or a Time Machine backup to a new Mac. Let's dig in and get you up and running with your new Mac -- but with your old settings and files.

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Migration Assistant setup

Before you engage in any heavy lifting, it's always a good idea to back up your Mac in case something goes sideways. You might also take a quick spin through your old Mac and delete anything you don't want to bring with you.

With your old Mac freshly backed up, the next step is to make sure both Macs are up to date and running the latest version of MacOS. Click the Apple icon in the top-left corner, click About This Mac and then click the Software Update button to check for updates.

Next, in order to use Migration Assistant, your old Mac will need a name. To check that it has a name, go to System Preferences > Sharing and check the Computer Name field at the top.

Lastly, connect both computers to AC power.

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Start the migration

If your old Mac is running MacOS Sierra or later, you can connect your Macs wirelessly. Just make sure that Wi-Fi is turned on for each and that they are near one another and connected to the same network. (If you can't connect them wirelessly, you can follow Apple's instructions for using target disk mode and using a wired connection.)

With your two Macs lined up, open Migration Assistant on your new Mac. Just search for it or locate it in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder. When Migration Assistant opens, click Continue, choose to transfer From a Mac, Time Machine backup or startup disk and then click Continue.

On your old Mac, open Migration Assistant, click Continue, choose to transfer To another Mac, and click Continue.

Now, go back to your new Mac, where you'll be asked if you want to migrate from a Mac, Time Machine backup or startup disk. Choose From another Mac, click Continue and make sure the security code lines up on your Macs if you see one. The name of your old Mac will appear in the Migration Assistant window on your old Mac -- select it and click Continue.

You will now see a list of items to transfer: Applications, your User Account, Other files and folders and Computer & Network Settings. Check off the items you want to bring with you to your new Mac. If your new user account has the same name as the user account on your old Mac, you'll be asked to rename it or keep the name and have it replace the user account that you set up on your new Mac. Click Continue to begin the migration.

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