Software

How to migrate applications between Macs

Setting up a new Mac, while easier than in the past, still requires thought. Find out the options for simplifying application migration.

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Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2016)

Image: Josh Miller/CNET

Receiving a new laptop is almost always a welcome experience, particularly when it's a MacBook, a MacBook Air, or a MacBook Pro. What's not always so enjoyable is tracking down and installing applications to run on the new machine.

SEE: Apple's first employee: The remarkable odyssey of Bill Fernandez (TechRepublic)

Unfortunately, several elements can conspire to complicate the process, such as:

  • previously purchased software licenses and registration keys may have been lost or misplaced;
  • previously purchased software installation packages may no longer be available;
  • new Macs may not possess optical drives, necessitating workarounds if the only installation media available is old-school CD-ROMs or DVDs;
  • old software platforms may prove incompatible and require upgrading on newer OS X releases;
  • software releases may no longer prove available within the Apple App Store; and
  • Time Machine backups may prove incompatible for reinstalling some old software applications.

The easiest option for installing applications on a new Mac is to associate the Mac with your Apple account or your organization's Volume Purchase Program (VPP) account. Using a VPP program, administrators can push an installation file to end users via email. Using an Apple ID, you may open the App Store and download and install previously purchased applications using the Purchased tab.

The next option is to download and install software applications from software manufacturers' online portals. To do so, you typically must possess the email address, password and, sometimes, a registration key associated with the previous purchase. Occasionally, you must also deactivate a license previously installed on an old system and, if the old system is no longer accessible or operational, a call to the manufacturer's customer support team to reset the license eligibility may be required.

Installing applications using original installation media, or an executable file saved from previous installations, is the next choice.

Other options exist, too. You can restore a Time Machine backup. You can leverage Apple's Migration Assistant. Alternatively, you can physically connect two Macs and try migrating applications using a Thunderbolt cable, for example.

SEE: Data backup policy (Tech Pro Research)

In my experience, the more applications pile up within my Apple App Store account, the easier it is to migrate programs between computers when setting up a new Mac. Requiring physical installation media, and tracking myriad license keys and registration codes, is already becoming a practice of the past. Outside of the App Store, downloading applications from manufacturers' websites proves most straightforward, although you may find you require a password manager to track all the corresponding accounts.

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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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