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Migrating User Settings in Mac OS X

As part of Mitch Ratcliffe's comparison of the Vista and Mac OS X user experiences, this is a step-by-step explanation of how to migrate user settings, documents and applications from one Mac OS X installation to another.

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As part of Mitch Ratcliffe's comparison of the Vista and Mac OS X user experiences, this is a step-by-step explanation of how to migrate user settings, documents and applications from one Mac OS X installation to another.
Unlike Vista, which only transfers user settings through its Windows Easy Transfer application, the Mac OS can synchronize all the settings, bookmarks and email accounts on multiple machines at any time through the .Mac online backup service.
Here is where we take the first step to bring a new Mac system up to speed. Select what you want to synchronize and click the Sync Now button.
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When you first synchronize with .Mac from a new system you can set the rules for future connections. If, for examople, you expect to add new contacts on the system, you can merge those contacts back onto .Mac for synchronization to other systems you use—essentially spreading the new data across all the systems linked to your .Mac account automatically.
.Mac asks you preferences for for each type of data, then completes the first synchronization process. If it finds duplicate data, it will ask you to review and approve what action it will take.
After synchronizing with .Mac, all the settings from your previous system will be installed on the new Mac OS. The next step is to move applications and other files, such as the Desktop folder.
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In the Utilities Folder (inside the Applications Folder) you'll find the Migration Assistant, an application that connects to another Mac through a Firewire connection to synchronize documents and applications to the new system. Using this utility will save virtually all reinstalling of applications you might need to do with a new system, requiring only that you be prepared to enter the serial numbers of applications to have them run legally on a new copy of Mac OS X.

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The first page presented after clicking the Migration Assistant explains what you can do with the application.

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Before you can select what you want to migrate to the new system, you must enter the password for the Administrator on the new computer.

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After entering your password, Mac OS X asks where your old data resides, whether on another Mac or a volume on your current hard drive (which you might use if you have multiple installations of Mac OS X on the same hardware).
By selecting another Mac, you tell the application what it's next step will be, since it must guide you through connecting to that old system.
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The Migration Assistant will step you through how to connect to your old system and boot it as a hard drive on the new system. Using a FireWire cable, it will examine that drive and guide you through selecting which volumes and other data you want to move from that system.

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Next, the Migration Assistant explains how to restart your computer as a hard drive connected to your new system. First, connect the FireWire between the two systems, then hold down the "T" while restarting the old system.

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You may need to be patient with this. Wait until you see the icon that indicates your old system has booted as a drive....

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Your old system will display the icon seen in this photo on its primary display if it has rebooted as a hard drive on your new system.
It is not necessary to restart your old hard drive. System Migration simply looks for the new volume to appear after the old machine restarts.
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Once connected to your old system, System Migration will take a moment (it could take two minutes or longer) to examine the drive for copies of Mac OS X.
On this system, there is only one copy of Mac OS X, called "TR," though your system will most likely be called something else, unless you're a Teddy Roosevelt fan.
Select the volume you want to migrate and click the Continue button.
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If you have more than one user on your old system, this list will display all of the accounts you can migrate. In this case, there is only one user, Mitch Ratcliffe, who has 106GB of files on the old system.
The new system does not have that much storage available, so we don't select the user's files and volumes to upgrade. If we did, and had enough room on the new system, everything in that user's directories would be moved to the new system.
As it is, we are going to move the application software and other documents.
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On this page, we select the Applications files and, also, system files that may have been changed by application installers.
The system will examine 33 GB of files, comparing old files from the previous system, with new files on the target system, updating only those that have been modified. In fact, the migration will move much less than 33 GB of data, but every application should move to the new system ready to run.
(After this migration, Parallels Desktop was the only application discovered that needed repairs which was not flagged, and System Migration flagged two more applications that needed to be reinstalled.)
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At this step, you may be presented a choice to migrate hard drive volumes and other disc images from your old system. It's not necessary to do so.

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Chances are that you already turned on your Mac for the first time and configured these settings then. If so, you don't need to import them, but do so if you haven't configured your network and sharing settings in particular.
You're ready to move your old applications and settings to the new system. Click Migrate.
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The Mac Migration Assistant will assemble the files for moving, giving a status report along the way. This and the next image illustrate the importance of feedback when conducting a process that could take hours.

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Once the files are ready to go, the Migration Assistant will tell you the actual transfer has begun. Along the way, it will calculate estimated time remaining. Depending upon how much data you are moving, this process could take from a half hour to five hours (if you are moving hundreds of Gigabytes of files).

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The Migration Assistant monitors the installation of applications during the move, alerting you to applications that may need to be reinstalled manually. In this case, two applications relating to the Missing Synch for Windows Mobile application appear to be a problem. I also found that Parallels Desktop needed repairs because of the way drivers are configured during its initial installation. Everything else worked fine.

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Your migration is done. There's no need to restart, though it is advisable if you have moved security applications, such as Norton AntiVirus.
Total time for this migration, which included personal preference, mail accounts, applications and settings through .Mac Sync and Migration Assistant was 56 minutes.

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