Best Way to Migrate?

Good afternoon!

Branching off from the USB adaptor thread…

I have a mid-2010 27" iMac and am on the verge of ordering a Mac Studio and Studio Display to replace it.

Current computer has:
FireWire 800 port
USB 2.0 ports (USB-A)
802.11n Wi-Fi
Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 2.1
Mac OS High Sierra 10.13.6 (latest supported OS version)
Internal 1TB SSD (installed in 2017, formatted APFS)
Time Machine backup to hard drive attached to FW 800

New computer will have:
Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C)
WiFi 6
10Gb Ethernet
Bluetooth 5.0
Mac OS Monterey

I’m happy to run Migration Assistant rather than trying to clean install and do a partial migration… but I’m not sure what will be the fastest/ most reliable way to connect the two machines. I had originally assumed I would try to migrate from the Time Machine backup, but that would require one or two adaptors. (I will buy a new external drive to use for Time Machine on the new system.)

Is the optimal approach as simple as just connecting the two machines with an ethernet cable? Or is there something else I should be considering?



Ethernet is certainly the easiest & cheapest.

It won’t be super fast, that’s for sure. But attaching the FW HDD wouldn’t be faster. And it will set you back the cost of at likely two pricey Apple adapters (TB2-3 & TB2-FW800). Perhaps you could remove the HDD from the enclosure (if you built your own) and connect that with a cheap SATA-USB bridge to your new Mac, but that still wouldn’t be much faster. The HDD’s likely ~ ≤100 MB/s which means it cannot outrun Gigabit Ethernet (1 Gbps) by much (if at all) and it certainly won’t be able to make much advantage of SATA’s peak 6 Gbps.

Wifi is convenient. But slower than Gigabit. And less reliable. So while I’d use it if stuck in the desert with zero chance of getting a cable, at home I’d go straight for Gigabit.

The underlying issue here is your old iMac doesn’t have TB. A direct TB connection from old to new Mac is obviously the fastest and these days often the most convenient manner to use MA.

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I just went through this with a “new” used Mac Mini from an older one (my old one was 8 GB RAM and a spinning hard disk, so way too frustrating at times, but it will be a perfect media server at the family summer cottage.) I tried using Ethernet, but it was slow and got stuck with “12 minutes remaining” for 14 hours. I finally stopped the migration, got the Time Machine disk updated, moved it over (thankfully I didn’t need new cables), and the migration was done in about an hour (about 200 GB and two user accounts.)

If I had a Thunderbolt cable (these are both 2014 Minis, so TB2), that would have been faster than Ethernet I think, but I didn’t have one, so I used TM instead.

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Don’t know if you can connect them directly to each other with ethernet…some hardware has the ability to do that but not all. However…you can use ethernet via your router. That’s the way I did MA from my 2015 rMBP to my M1 Pro MBP 14. There’s about 500GB used on the drive and it took maybe an hour or 90 minutes total for the migration via wifi on my home network.

Depending on what version of macOS you’re currently running…might need to weed out 32 bit apps…there’s an app that does that for you or you can use the System Information App and look at applications and sort by type.

I would go ahead and start the setup on the new Studio…and then create a single admin account on it using the same name as the (if you have one) main admin user account on your old machine. Then launch MA and connect to the old machine as the source…it will also migrate from the TM drive if you have one that also does USB and the correct A to C cable for it but I’m not sure that will be much faster than wifi or ethernet anyway.

Anyway…once you select the things for migration…and I did everything when I MA’ed my laptop from up to date Big Sur…you’ll have to put in passwords for all the accounts and then tell it whether to migrate the old user folder for the first admin account you created or create a new one and save the old one on the new drive…I migrated the user data myself…and then go away until it’s done.

If you’re not running Big Sur…or maybe Monterey, can’t remember when it started…on the old machine then the new one will have the separate read only boot volume with macOS on it that is paired in the background with the -Data partition so it looks like one drive…but all the system stuff will get migrated nicely assuming it’s compatible. However…with BS you can’t put (easily) any folders at the root of the drive…so all my folders like /Junk where I keep downloads as well as the shared /Music folder will get moved into /Users/Shared. That’s inconvenient to me but Apple doesn’t let you do it the old way easily any more.

Ah…see you’re running HS on the old machine so you will get the double partition masquerading as one…essentially the entire macOS is on a small read only signed partition so it’s essentially impossible to break the parts of macOS…

Speaking of accounts…if you’re not running your daily driver account as non admin…you should. That way it’s much harder to screw things up…not impossible but harder as you can just type in admin name and password when needed. If you need to create one…what you want to do is create a new admin account then after logging in as that one west your old daily driver admin account to standard user…that way you don’t have to fix all your preferences and such…if you’re not familiar with that process ask away and we’ll tell you the details.

You will be mightily surprised by the improvement over the old machine by the Studio…heck, I upgraded from a 2019 iMac and was impressed how much quicker it is.

The one caveat with the Ethernet solution is that you need to have the two systems running within the length of the Ethernet cable.

My personal preference would be to use the migration as an excuse to set up a scheduled cloning backup system using aSSD as the external drive. You would need to purchase a USB3 or Thunderbolt SSD the size of the drive in the new system (most come with an USB-A adapter. In advance of the arrival of the Studio, clone the old system using SD or CCC via a version that runs on High Sierra. Purchase a license so that you can make incremental clones. A day before the Studio arrives, update your clone. Just prior to the migration, update the clone again (this should be pretty quick as there shouldn’t be much data to update). Now migrate using the clone as the source.

Now you can repurpose the the SSD as a backup device on your Studio.

I’ve distrusted the Time Machine as a source for migration because I am somewhat wary of the amount of work needed to construct an image of a current drive from images going back several years. I’m much more confident in using a flatter version created by a clone. I also prefer using a drive for the migration process for two reasons:

  1. It’s an asynchronous process–I only need to be running one system at a time (I have a messy office).
  2. If there are problems, I can easily try the process again or try one of the other possible solutions.

The OP has a 2010 iMac. It does not offer any TB connectivity.

These days pretty much all Ethernet equipment can be connected directly. The OP’s 2010 iMac certainly supports that, no need for “patch cables” or any such thing anymore.

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That’s a nice suggestion, but since the OP’s old Mac is a 2010 iMac it doesn’t offer USB3 ports.

Now you can physically connect the devices using an A-C adapter (or cable). That would let you connect a modern USB-C SSD to the OP’s old iMac, but it would be terribly slow making that clone at perhaps 25 MB/s (real world result of 480 Mbps USB2 on a Mac).

I’ve always connected the two Macs via Ethernet cables to one router, and never had a hardware problem.

The software, however, was another thing… every time I tried to use Migration Assistant, it failed to work, and in fact made an awful mess. Perhaps because I wait so long between migrations? Or because my systems are all so heavily customized? I don’t know. I’m aware that Migration Assistant works fine for many people, but I’ve given up on it.

A few articles that might help:

(That last is a very old article, but still somewhat helpful perhaps.)

Good luck.

P.S. Speaking of things not working right… why do the three links I created (above) look gigantic in my browser, compared to all the other text? Do they look like that to everyone?

[I’ve fixed them; they were prefixed with #, which equates to H1, rather than *, which creates a bullet list. -Adam]

Yes. Gigantic and orange. But, mostly, thanks for being so helpful!

As covered by others, A regular ethernet cable between the two macs will be fastest and no need these days for the patch cord version.

It’s not absolutely necessary to eliminate your 32-bit apps and other executables since they will simply fail to run on your new Mac, but will save some time in not bothering to have to transfer them. An excellent tool to help with this is Go64.

Some concern that perhaps Migration from High Sierra to Monterey might not work perfectly or could even fail completely. There have been changes over the years to the process and not always backward compatible. I suffered that problem several years ago when I tried to skip over several MacOS versions.

Thanks everyone! I’m going to go with the ethernet cable, hope that Migration Assistant works, and if not I’ll see what else I can fall back on.

I’ll have a while to mentally prepare–they’re quoting around eight weeks for the Studio Display and around six weeks for the Mac, so I’ll have an Apple Paperweight™ for two weeks. (I’ve been checking lead times for a while–apparently only the default/minimum SSD size is kept in store inventory, so the SSD upgrade slowed down the machine. But with an eight-week delay for the display, it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway.)


Just to add a data point, my Migration from High Sierra on a 2015 MacBook Pro running Sierra to an M1 MacBook Pro occurred without a hitch.

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