Software

How to migrate settings, printers, and networks between Macs

There are multiple options for migrating preferences, networks, and printers to a new Mac. Each option offers advantages and, occasionally, potential drawbacks. Erik Eckel explores the choices.

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Image: Josh Miller/CNET

Getting a new Mac is exciting—new machines are usually a little sleeker and faster than the predecessor. However, users must typically first clear the hurdle of migrating needed settings to the new system before they can begin making true use of the new Mac. Here are several ways to make the migration process easier.

SEE: Home usage of company-owned equipment policy (Tech Pro Research)

Migration Assistant

Apple's Migration Assistant is one option. Many users are familiar with the feature's ability to copy documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and files, among other information, from an old Mac to a new model; the Migration Assistant can also transfer preferences and settings. How-to instructions are on Apple's website, but basically, opting to migrate user accounts and computer and network settings ensures user preferences and settings are transferred to the new system. (If you only want to migrate applications, read my TechRepublic article on how to migrate applications between Macs.)

Among the other items the Migration Assistant collects are network configurations, time zone information, and sharing settings. Although the Migration Assistant is capable of transferring applications and files, as well as many settings and preferences, it's known to sometimes miss printers, among other elements. It's best to always carefully review the finished product upon completing a migration, just to be sure all loose ends are tied up.

The Migration Assistant greatly simplifies the process. The downside is that typically most all information associated with the computer, network, and user account is transferred, including any erroneous, bad, and/or no longer needed settings.

Time Machine

Time Machine's an alternative for migrating information from an old Mac to a new model. Time Machine can recover an old Mac's settings to a new system, too, including system preferences and network configurations. Apple provides more information on moving content to a new system using a Time Machine backup.

Time Machine's advantage is it can typically move everything—applications, user account data, systems preferences, and network settings—but you can also move just individual components, if you have the patience to learn and navigate the corresponding process.

Fresh install

It's no secret that, over time, a variety of applications, files, videos, settings, and other detritus collect on a hard drive. Unneeded files and applications consume disk space, and occasionally corrupted settings and preferences, updated long ago to accommodate a temporary need, persist. For these reasons many professionals recommend performing fresh installs when deploying a new system. Certainly, it's my preference.

When performing a fresh from scratch installation, leverage this quick checklist to ensure you don't overlook a critical setting or preference when migrating to a new Mac.

  • Key network settings, such as any static IP addresses, DNS servers, or Wi-Fi network passkeys
  • System preferences, such as Dock placement, behavior, and/or size or sound settings
  • Printers, including networked models
  • Email account settings, configured from Internet Accounts within System Preferences
  • Cloud storage accounts, including iCloud, Dropbox, and OneDrive
  • Bluetooth connections, including for external keyboards, trackpads, mice, and speakers
  • At a minimum, perform a quick check when manually migrating to a new machine.

You can confirm the Wi-Fi network your Mac uses by opening System Preferences, clicking Network, and verifying the Wi-Fi network to which the Mac connects. You can view previously used networks, too, by clicking the Network Name drop-down box.

On systems that still use a wired Ethernet connection, you can verify default settings are in place by clicking Ethernet from within the Network pane and confirming Using DHCP is selected from within the Configure IPv4 drop-down menu. If a static IP address is set (Manually should appear within the drop-down menu), be sure to enter the corresponding IP address, subnet mask, and DNS server information within the same respective fields on the new Mac.

SEE: 10 mistakes to perform when troubleshooting IT problems (TechRepublic)

macOS performs well installing new printers that are physically connected to the new Mac. New Macs also leverage the Bonjour service to reliably connect to available network printers. If you encounter trouble connecting to a new printer, having a record of the printer's name, model, and location can speed troubleshooting. You can confirm printer configuration on the old Mac by noting previous settings stored within Printers & Scanners (within System Preferences). Just click on a previously installed printer to view location, status, and make/model information.

Ultimately, fresh installs provide the most freedom and help ensure unnecessary settings, preferences, and information are not migrated to the new machine. If you consider leveraging the Migration Assistant or Time Machine options discussed earlier, you might perform a quick tune-up to potentially simplify the process and minimize the amount of old or outdated information transferred to the new machine. TechRepublic contributing writer Jesus Vigo walks you through a recommended cleanup process.

Also see

About Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...

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