Moving to a New Mac: What’s Left to Do After Migration?

Originally published at: Moving to a New Mac: What’s Left to Do After Migration? - TidBITS

When you buy a new Mac and migrate your old Mac’s files to it during setup, Setup Assistant moves over numerous settings and configurations. But don’t assume you’ll just be able to pick up exactly where you left off, since there are quite a few apps and services that require additional post-migration attention.

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For a while, I had been storing almost all of my documents in iCloud, and almost all of my apps came from the App Store. A couple of years ago, I bought a new Mac. I booted up the new machine, signed into iCloud, and thirty minutes later, almost 90% of my life was back where it once was. I couldn’t believe how automated everything was. Almost all my apps and documents were there. My backgrounds were back up. My desktop files were there. My settings were all set. It was almost as if I never bought a new system.

As I said, it was 90% of the way there. That last 10% was:

  • Open Source Development Apps: I was doing development and I had to download all of my development stuff. This included Subversion, Git, Eclipse, and the toughest, Java.
  • Dropbox: Not everything was in iCloud. I was using Dropbox. Reinstalling Dropbox got me back all the files there.
  • BarTender: An app that’s not in the app store. I had to reinstall that.
  • Microsoft Office: That was gone. In order to reinstall that, I needed the Installation CD, a way of reading that Installation CD (since my Mac didn’t have a CD drive), and the installation code which I had no clue where it was. I decided to screw it, and not bother to install Office. I haven’t missed it.
  • PathFinder: Another app I decided not to bother with. When I first got PathFinder, the Finder was pretty bad. It didn’t even do tabs, and trying to setup particular things was almost impossible. (Such as making directories that were invisible visible or peering into App packages). By the time I got my new Mac, Finder had many of the things I needed. It even had tabs. PathFinder however, didn’t play well with iCloud, and was having troubles keeping windows up to date. I didn’t bother with PathFinder. There may have been a few other apps of the PathFinder ilk for Mac Power Users that I didn’t bother to reinstall.
  • Kornshell: I’m an old ancient Unix developer and my shell of choice was Kornshell. BASH came around much later. Kornshell and BASH are about 95% compatible, but that last five percent always threw me. Installing Kornshell once again was a bear, especially since I had to change the Unix configuration to make it work as a shell.

I kept by backups around for a while, but never had to use them. There was a couple of developer apps I found I had to reinstall a week or two after getting my new Mac up and running, but otherwise, I found the whole transfer process to work extremely smoothly.

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And that’s without a migration step, correct? I have way too many apps that don’t come from the Mac App Store (most of them) and files that I don’t store in an iCloud-synced folder (for a variety of reasons) to do that.

When it comes time to install Big Sur, I may go for a clean install, which will require a lot of work in moving things over manually and reinstalling apps. I’ve done that before, and it’s helpful for clearing out cruft. But I install many more things than most people, so I’m a distinct outlier in this regard. And even still, a migration makes the most sense for me in normal circumstances.

I’m not moving to a new Mac, but messages from my iPhone and iPad were not showing up on my Mac. I spent a lot of time with a senior Apple Advisor and finally got it to work, moving practically all Message files from various libraries including the messages themselves to the desktop and then trashing them. In the end that worked.
I was trying to check my iPhone, went to Settings>> Messages but there is no “Text Message Forwarding”. I still have ios 13.6.1
Any ideas?

I didn’t need to do a migration step. Almost everything came over. At that time, I actually had more documents in Dropbox than iCloud, but reinstalling iCloud brought all of them back. I had source repositories in Dropbox for both Git and Subversion, and all of my source code came back. The migration experience for me was a really pleasant surprise. I had thought I was going to spend hours futzing with everything.

The biggest difference for me was the lack of Microsoft Office. I simply decided to skip it, and realized I didn’t miss it all that much. Maybe if I was a more serious writing, I’d miss Microsoft Word, but that ribbon is a freaking pain — especially since it differed between the Mac and Windows version.

I don’t have Photoshop. I don’t have a lot of the software needed to produce technical documentation and blogs. I can imagine with your needs, that moving to a new machine is way more complex.

As a developer, I felt a bit of your pain with things like Eclipse (IDE for Java) would be a mess to reinstall with all of its configuration and plugins, but I had installed Elclipse in Dropbox, so that came back. Java was a big headache, but only because Oracle made it so. VIM, Subversion and Git were already on the Mac, but I wanted the newer versions. It didn’t take me long to reinstall the software tools — including Kornshell.

The big problem I have with iCloud is that it doesn’t really work like another folder. For example, I could setup Eclipse in Dropbox which allowed me to move my configuration from system to system, and use symbolic links to keep configuration files in Dropbox even though they were really supposed to be in my $HOME directory. Now that I moved everything off of Dropbox and onto iCloud, I am not sure what I’d do with those $HOME/.config files that live in Unix systems.

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I had reported on this in TidBITS Talk a few days ago. Admittedly, I’m running 13.7. Are you sure you are checking the Messages app setting (between the ‘Phone’ and ‘FaceTime’ settings in the list) and not the Settings->iCloud->Messages setting?

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Yes @aforkosh. That is the one.

I migrated from a 2009 iMac to a new 2020 iMac on the weekend. Like David, the majority of my data now lives in iCloud and Dropbox, so migrating isn’t as much of a pain as it was in the past.

I do make an effort to log out of accounts on the old computer. I unlink the computer from Dropbox. I follow Apple’s recommendations and log out of iCloud, deauthorize the computer in iTunes, and log out of Messages.

One quirk I ran into seemed to be caused by removing old devices from my Apple ID. For some reason, doing this seems to cause me to have to log back into my account in random places. For example, after removing the old computer, the Podcast app on my iPhone reported I needed to reenter my password. Strangely, other services connected to that Apple ID still seemed to be working fine on my iPhone, and I don’t recall anything popping up on the iPad or my MBP.

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I agree with your experience. I migrated from a mid 2010 iMac to a new 2020 iMac. I tried my best to log out of, deauthorize, disconnect, etc., etc. However, after several months I am still finding issues I should have taken care of that I failed to identify in advance like deleting the old machine from the devices list in my Apple ID. Because catching everything is so difficult it is most important to remove the hard drive from the old machine or assure it is reformatted with erase before selling, recycling, or otherwise disposing of it.

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I have just moved from my trusty old Mac Pro 5,1 (nearly 10 years old) to a shiny new 2020 iMac. My biggest concern was getting Office 2011 to install within Parallels (as detailed in another thread), but it’s now working. My biggest problem turned out to be getting everything upgraded from 10.12 Sierra to 10.15 Catalina; permissions seemed to be the biggest stumbling block. I had to resort for the first time ever to engaging a Mac consultant to iron out everything for me; Migration Assistant transferred everything across, but any hope of getting the new iMac to work were dashed by multiple and continuous error messages about permissions and iCloud.
It’s all working now. I suspect that the there were two main impediments; one was the new T2 chip’s insistence on ensuring that everything was ridgey-didge (as it should), but the other was Little Snitch, which effectively blocked all access to the Internet. I still have it turned off as I wait for Objective Development to get back to me with a diagnosis.

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I have a folder named dotfiles/ in iCloud Drive which contains all the dot files supposed to be in your home directory. I then make a symbolic link for each of them to my home directory. And magically all my dot files are in the cloud and in my home directory, syncing across devices etc…

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I’m surprised you could do that. I had a dotfiles directory in Dropbox with a shell script to create the symbolic links in my $HOME directory. But, I knew where that Dropbox folder lived ($HOME/Dropbox), so it was easy to make the symbolic links. I’m not 100% sure where my iCloud directory lives, and it’s format. I know Pathfinder had difficulties with the iCloud directory, and is one of the reasons I stopped using it.

I would never ever use Dropbox and iCloud for my data. As tertiary place for saving data that I don’t really need. But not as primary storage.

Both Dropbox and iCloud are way too slow for larger files. They tend to not do well with files that don’t conform to open, edit, save. For instance, for my development software there is warning against using Dropbox. I had a customer whose database was eaten by iCloud.

The last time I checked Dropbox supported a really old unicode version (1999/2000ish). If you have files with odd filenames (my app can write files with emojis from emails subjects) then the files aren’t uploaded.

After BS killed my old laptop I had to reinstall many apps. No, I don’t like using the castrated stuff from the AppStore. And the incident told me - again - that I need at least 2 backups. Somehow, the backup from Acronis did run, but it didn’t save any files. I was told that this was “unusual”. Sigh…

That can be risky, but I assume you’re only doing this for the dotfiles that you have hand-edited (e.g. .profile, .chsrc, .emacs, etc.)

If you try to sync files that are auto-generated by apps, then that could create problems. Especially if the content is machine-specific. Fortunately, there are not many such files on a Mac (unlike a Linux system, where there are quite a lot).

A post was merged into an existing topic: Catalina, I wish I’d never installed it

I like using GNU Stow for that. The file structure is a little tricky to get right, but you can just run a single command and set up the link.

Did you use the migration feature in Setup Assistant too? I’m intrigued that some people have so much data in iCloud/Dropbox/whatever that it doesn’t seem necessary to use Setup Assistant’s migration when moving to a new Mac. I’d think there would be so much stuff in ~/Library, for instance, that it would be worth migrating no matter what.

Oh, good point. One thing I didn’t mention is that I’m keeping the old iMac (it’s running Big Sur beta at the moment) so I didn’t need to deauthorize anything. If I’d been getting rid of it, that would definitely have been an issue.

Let’s keep this on the topic of post-migration tasks for a new Mac.

Yes, you’re right. You do it only for your dot files.

It’s easy: you can open a Finder window on the iCloud dotfile/ folder, and then you drag the folder icon to the terminal. magically, this giges you the exact unix path to the folder.

You and I upgraded at about the same time, @ace, but my new iMac is the 2019 version, coming from a late-2012.

The biggest issue for me was the sheer number of permissions requests. Because my documents are in Dropbox, that was no problem at all. My work was coming from High Sierra, so I actually gained some superpowers by having current and better versions of Final Cut Pro X and its friends.

With my older, still-operating iMac connected to the network, I think the Migration Assistant did everything it could be expected to do in bringing over applications. 32-bit apps are dead, as expected. But the pain of re-registering apps was minimal, and because I’m a “trial-er” and have beta-tested for several developers I found apps that had become figurative wallpaper. Migrating gave me the opportunity to clean out my Applications folder.

In my experience, the Migration Assistant seems to work better than I have any right to expect, and it usually surprises me with how little pain it causes.

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