iCloud simplifies migrating files from an old Mac to a new model, but for those Apple users not using iCloud, alternatives exist for making the process almost as smooth. Here are options for non-iCloud users who need to move files to a new Mac.
SEE: Cloud Data Storage Policy (Tech Pro Research)
As an IT consultant, it's rare to encounter clients, particularly small businesses, that don't possess Dropbox accounts.
Apple users who store files in a Dropbox account need to ensure that all the files—including documents, spreadsheets, presentations, PDFs, photos, and videos—are synchronized with Dropbox on the old Mac. Then, install Dropbox on the new Mac and log in to the Dropbox account on the new machine. Dropbox will copy the files within the account to the local Dropbox folder the application creates on the new Mac.
Similar to Dropbox, Mac users can leverage Microsoft's cloud-based file-storage service to migrate files to a new Mac.
Users can download OneDrive from the App Store. Once the application is installed and the user logs in to his or her corresponding Microsoft account, OneDrive can sync all files and folders within the OneDrive directory that's created within the user's Home folder with Microsoft's cloud service. Users need to ensure the correct files and folders are parked within the old Mac's corresponding OneDrive folder, install the application, and log in on the new Mac. Then, the program will copy the files to the new Mac.
Several OneDrive preferences are adjustable, including configuring the application to automatically open at login. To set custom preferences, open OneDrive from within the Applications directory, click OneDrive from the menu bar, and select Preferences.
While wired Ethernet connections are becoming an obsolete technology for many Mac users, including MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro consumers increasingly relying upon wireless connections, if both your old and new Macs possess Ethernet ports or you possess the required Ethernet adapters, another option is to transfer files between Macs using a fast Gigabit connection. CNET has published how-to instructions.
Thunderbolt or FireWire
Another file migration option available to Mac users is to connect the old and new Macs directly via a Thunderbolt or FireWire cable. The Apple Migration Assistant, which is capable of copying files as well as user accounts and settings between Macs, eliminates the need to manually move files, using such direction connections. The same migration tool also supports the Gigabit Ethernet option mentioned earlier.
Thumb drives and external hard drives
Apple users can always go low tech, and simply connect a thumb drive or an external hard disk to the old Mac. When the external drive is connected to the old Mac, the old Mac should subsequently display a corresponding desktop icon. Double-clicking that desktop icon should prompt the Mac to open a Finder window. Users can drag all the files and directories they wish to migrate to the new Mac to that window.
Once the file transfer completes, users can connect the drive to the new Mac, open Finder, double-click the external drive, and copy the files and directories to the intended locations on the new Mac's drive.
- Apple iCloud: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- How to use iCloud to migrate files between Macs (TechRepublic)
- How to migrate settings, printers, and networks between Macs (TechRepublic)
- How to migrate applications between Macs (TechRepublic)
- How to transfer data between Macs with Migration Assistant (CNET)
- How to transfer large amounts of data between Macs quickly (CNET)
- Move your content to a new Mac (Apple)
- OS X: Manually migrating data from another Mac (Apple)
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 of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.