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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Why I used Migration Assistant to move to my new Mac

This isn’t a tutorial. If you’re in need of one and you’ve somehow stumbled onto my blog of jumbled thoughts on a variety of topics, sorry. You’ll need to go back to Google and try again (though, really, you should be using Duck.com).

I recently upgraded to a 16-inch MacBook Pro (review forthcoming) and had the opportunity to use Apple’s built-in process for moving from one Mac, or Windows computer, to a new one – Migration Assistant.

I’ve upgraded from one Mac to another (at my best count) 6 different times. Once I used Migration Assistant. All other times I didn’t. Since I only seem to buy new Macs twice a decade on average, I figure these moments are a good opportunity to start with a clean slate on my computer.

Doing so is not very easy. Though, I will say, moving from one computer to another is easier than it has ever been thanks to password managers, cloud services and storage, and a variety of other reasons. I remember in the 90s it taking about 3 or 4 days to feel as though you were back up and running. Then in the 2000s it would take me about a full long day or two. Most recently, without Migration Assistant, it would take me a full day. This latest move took me about 2 hours.

The reason I decided not to start from scratch was that I didn’t want to lose my current productivity level. Though I’m usually up and running within a few days, I feel somewhat hamstrung for at least a few weeks. Each time I open an app it requires new permissions, or whenever I pick up an old development project – with its myriad of dependencies – I have to relearn what I need to get it to run*.

So, fearing that I would lose momentum I decided to try Migration Assistant. My plan was to use it to migrate from my 13-inch MacBook Pro to the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and be up and running in the same day with every single app, preference, setting, dependency, file, password, and even session. My fear this time was if Migration Assistant did a terrible job at this, I’d have to format the computer and start over from scratch.

I’m happy to report though, that it went pretty smoothly. There were one or two apps that simply wouldn’t open (Visual Studio Code being one that comes to mind). So I simply trashed the app and reinstalled and it worked. I don’t know if it had to do with Migration Assistant or another issue but that was a simple enough fix.

Other than this one hiccup, I didn’t skip a beat. I never once went back to the old Mac and ended up formatting it the same afternoon that I received the new one. And with the added horsepower of this new Mac I feel even more empowered than I did prior to the move.

I do, however, have two suggestions to anyone using Migration Assistant… Do not use WiFi to make the transfer. I don’t even know why it is an option. I have a modern wireless set up in my home – it is very, very fast for most things – yet Migration Assistant simply would not work over WiFi. From what I could tell, the process would have taken multiple days. It seems impossible. So my only guess is that it simply doesn’t work. Apple should remove it.

If you cannot directly connect your two Macs because you do not have the right cables, consider recovering from a Time Machine backup using Migration Assistant (like I did). It only took about 90 minutes. To do this, you just need to make sure you back up your old computer right before making the jump.

I hope this new Mac lasts 5 years or so (unless the rumored switch to ARM is simply too enticing to wait). When I do switch to a new Mac, though, I won’t hesitate to try Migration Assistant again.

* This too has been dramatically improved with things like package managers and Docker.