I’ve been using Mac computers for many years. I’ve also changed through several Mac computers along the way. So that means the exercise of migrating from one Mac to another is something quite familiar to me. Fortunately, this process is relatively painless, thanks in no small part to OS X’s excellent Migration Assistant.
However, there are still a couple of things that you need to take care of, and knowing them in advance will probably save yourself some annoyance. These are primarily related to software licensing and other sorts of authorisations.
Let’s start off first talking about the migration method. You may already know that Migration Assistant can work over Wi-Fi, Ethernet, FireWire or Thunderbolt connections. My recommendation is to go with Time Machine backup on a directly connected disk such as a portable hard disk. If you already do Time Machine backups on a portable hard disk, then you’re already good to go. Migrating from a directly connected Time Machine backup disk is simple and reliable.
Before The Migration
To start off your preparation for migration, do a couple of housekeeping tasks.
- Delete stuffs that you don’t need anymore. Check in your documents, music, videos, downloads, and other stuffs.
- Empty your Trash.
- Perhaps even uninstall Applications you don’t need or don’t want anymore.
The idea above is to remove unnecessary things, so that you don’t waste time migrating unwanted stuff to your new Mac.
Next, deactivate your various licenses or authorisations. This is most important if you are going to reformat your old computer, give it away, or otherwise lose access to the stuff in this computer. The reason is that some licenses or authorisations may have limitations on how many times you can activate them, or how many times you can “reset” existing activations. So where possible, get it done correctly while you can.
- Adobe Creative Suite, and many other Adobe products, need to have their licenses deactivated. I’m referring to the old style licensing before their Creative Cloud subscription model was introduced. Their licenses are usually good for one installation. If you change computer, they usually let you activate the license one additional time, in case for various reasons you couldn’t deactivate the old computer (e.g. hard disk crash). You get just two activation chances. It can be a troublesome process talking to customer support to “reset” your license.
- In iTunes, remember to de-authorise your old computer. Click on “Deauthorize This Computer” and “Deauthorize Audible Account” in the Store menu. You can authorise all to 5 computers to play your iTunes content. You have to de-authorise a computer from the computer itself. If you forget to do that, and you run out of your 5 computer quota, you have to do “Deauthorize All” from your iTunes account. You are only allowed to “Deauthorize All” once a year.
- Turn off iCloud stuffs like Find My Mac. Go to System Preferences, iCloud, and deselect Find My Mac.
Think about what other software licenses, service entitlements, or authorisations you have, and deal with them as needed. It’s better to deal with them properly now when it’s simple to do so.
Microsoft Office licenses, unfortunately, cannot be deactivated. After you transfer them enough times, you’ll probably run into problems and need to contact Microsoft for help.
You’re about ready now. Make sure your Time Machine backup is as fresh as possible. Go to Time Machine in the menu bar, and click on Back Up Now. When it’s done, eject the Time Machine disk.
Doing The Migration
On the new Mac computer, during the first boot setup, you’ll reach a point where you’re asked about transferring stuff from your old computer. Just plug in your Time Machine disk and choose it for transferring your stuff.
You will be given some options about what to transfer. For example, do you transfer specific user accounts, the applications, etc. Personally, once a while, I would like to have a “fresh start”, and not have all the applications simply transferred over. Stuff from the Mac App Store are easily re-installed. The troublesome thing is with other standalone install applications. Sometimes, I have no choice to migrate the applications because I don’t remember where the installation disks are anymore. (Worse, there are no CDROM/DVDROM drives with new Macs nowadays.)
After The Migration
If you’re going to sell, give away, or otherwise abandon your old Mac, remember to zap it blank. If you are super concerned about securely cleaning out the old Mac, I’m sure you can go find the right tutorials on the Internet.
For layman, I’d suggest to simply boot into Recovery mode, erase the disk, and if applicable, reinstall the operating system. To launch Recovery, turn on your Mac while holding Cmd-R.
There you have it. Migration is pretty much easy.