The Quickest Way to Transfer Your Files, Apps and More From Your Old MacBook

We'll walk you through how to transfer all your information to a new Mac using Apple's built-in Migration Assistant.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Nelson Aguilar
Nelson Aguilar is an LA-based tech how-to writer and graduate of UCLA. With more than a decade of experience, he covers Apple and Google and writes on iPhone and Android features, privacy and security settings and more.
Matt Elliott
Nelson Aguilar
3 min read

If you're updating to a new Mac, there's an easy way to transfer your important files between computers.


Is your old MacBook just not cutting it anymore? Whether it has slowed down or its battery can't hold a charge, you may be considering an upgrade. Unfortunately, we didn't get any new MacBook models at Apple's recent "Peek Performance" event (we did, however, see the Mac Studio and Studio Display), but more MacBook Air and MacBook Pro laptops are rumored to be coming soon. In the meantime, you might be interested in upgrading into a new computer, like the 2021 M1 Pro or M1 Max MacBook Pro


Before you think about getting rid of your old computer, you may want to transfer over all your most important files, apps, settings and accounts. Using  Apple's  built-in Migration Assistant feature, you can transfer data from your old MacBook or a Time Machine backup to a new MacBook. Let's dig in and get you up and running with your new MacBook -- but with your old settings and files.

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Back up your data and update to most recent MacOS

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

Last, connect both computers to power.

Read More: How to Factory Reset Your Old MacBook Before Selling it

Use Migration Assistant to transfer data

As long as you're running a more recent MacOS, like Big Sur or Monterey, you can connect your Macs wirelessly (anything after Sierra). Just make sure that Wi-Fi is turned on for each computer, 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 and then enter your passcode. As soon as you do, every program on your computer will close. Next, 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, 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. Depending on how much information you're transferring, the process could take up to a few hours. Once the transfer process is over, close Migration Assistant on both computers and then hop on your new computer to see your transferred files.

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