The 24-in. iMac that I’ve owned for four years is now retired. In its place, I’ve got a brand new, 27-in. iMac with a speedy i5 processor and a capacious hard drive. I’ve actually had this new machine since just after Thanksgiving. I didn’t set it up until this past weekend, partly due to my hectic work and family schedules and partly due to the fact that I was dreading the setup process.
In the past, it’s been my habit to take the route of many conscientious geeks, opting to build each new system from scratch. That’s always meant manually installing every application and every utility, re-creating every preference or setting from scratch. Very time consuming, yes, but it always gave me peace of mind that my new system was truly a fresh start, free of the cruft that had accreted in my previous system.
As Mac OS X has gotten more sophisticated though, I’ve become less convinced that such laborious rigor is necessary. For less critical systems, my limited experience with Apple’s Migration Assistant, which automates the process of setting up a new Mac based on the data and settings of an old Mac, had always been positive.
I posed the question on Quora: What’s the best way to migrate data from an old Mac to a new Mac?: The answers were not conclusive, but there were plenty of replies suggesting that Migration Assistant was a reliable method. So over the weekend that’s what I did, attaching an external Time Machine backup volume to the new iMac as the source from which Migration Assistant copied its files.
The results, so far, have been terrific — everything in its right place, as it were. Of course, there were some settings that had to be tweaked: the new iMac inherited the exact same network name as my old one, which I didn’t want, for example. Annoyingly, Adobe Creative Suite demanded that it be uninstalled and then reinstalled before I could register it (but then such petulance is to be expected from that company). But on the whole I was back up and running with remarkable efficiency. I was even able to re-use that Time Machine backup volume so that it’s now backing up the new iMac while still retaining older copies of files going back many months, which is fantastic.
I’ve only been using the system for a few days, so these results are hardly definitive. And naturally I can’t be sure whether this system is as fully optimized as it would be had I gone the manual route. I suspect that it’s very difficult to know for sure whether one method or the other is more effective, though. It worked for me, for now, but I’m very curious to hear if other people have had different experiences.