Using Migration Assistant

When you need to transfer files from a Mac or Windows PC to another Mac, use the Migration Assistant utility. You’ll avoid having to set up email, bookmarks, passwords and other settings from scratch. Migration Assistant easily transfers user accounts, including the desktop, movies, music, pictures, messages and fonts. You can even transfer applications, support files and settings. Migration Assistant is smart enough to copy files without replacing software that’s already present (or newer) on the replacement computer. When you’re finished, the new computer is ready to use, and the source computer is left untouched… nothing erased or changed.

Migration Assistant should be run before the user begins working on the new Mac. There is no provision for merging the old user account with anything created before the transfer. You can transfer files from a working Mac, Windows PC, bootable Mac disk or Time Machine backup. If you need to move loose files on a disk, contact us for help.

Before you begin, learn how to  determine how much space is used on your old computer, as well as the space available on the new one. Review the options below and make sure you have everything you need.

Choosing a migration method

Migration Assistant can transfer files several ways. The method you choose depends on the ports, cables and time available. Check each computer and compare the ports and cables shown below. Then click the corresponding bold link below to continue.


  1. Thunderbolt is the fastest method and is available on all Macs from 2011 and later. Expect to transfer at least 3 GB per minute. You’ll need a Thunderbolt cable.
  2. Ethernet is available on desktop Macs, Windows PCs and older Mac laptops. Expect to transfer 2 GB per minute. A Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter (or USB 3 to Gigabit adapter) adds a network port to Macs that don’t have one. You’ll also need an Ethernet cable. 
  3. Firewire was common on older Macs (2008-2011). Use a Thunderbolt to Firewire adapter and Firewire cable for 2 GB per minute transfers. Stuck with an old Mac (2002-2008)? You might need a Firewire 800 to Firewire 400 6-pin cable for 1 GB per minute transfers. 
  4. Time Machine backup volumes can be used to transfer files to a new computer. The Time Machine backup may be on a Time Capsule, OS X Server or hard drive. The old Mac remains fully operational during and after the transfer, resulting in little or no downtime. Migrating from a backup may be the only option if the old Mac is inoperable or stolen. Transfer time depends on how the backup is connected to the destination computer – Thunderbolt, USB, Firewire, Ethernet or wi-fi. Learn how to do a Time Machine backup.
  5. Wi-fi is a last resort. You’ll want to put the computers as close as possible to the wi-fi hotspot and try to shut down any other computers that may compete for bandwidth. If both computers and wi-fi router are 2013 or later (with 802.11ac), you can achieve almost 1 GB per minute. Older systems with 802.11n may take 3 minutes to transfer 1 GB.

When you’ve chosen the best method, click a bold link above to get started.

Learn more about transferring files and backup.

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