Mac to Mac Transfer - Move Your Important Mac Data

Back Up or Move Mail, Bookmarks, Address Book, iCal to a New Mac

MacBook, iMac, and iPad on desk

Courtesy of FrimBee/Pixabay

Your Mac contains tons of personal data, from your saved emails to your calendar events. Backing up this data, whether just to have a backup on hand or to move the data to a new Mac, is actually pretty easy. The problem is it's not always an intuitive process.

Below are detailed instructions on moving this important info to your new Mac, as well as how to create backups of individual application data. If you're making a wholesale move to a new Mac with your data, you will probably find using the Migration Assistant, included with OS X as one of the easier methods.

If you're trying to troubleshoot a Mac problem and have reinstalled OS X on a new drive or partition, then you may wish to just move a few important files over, such as your mail, bookmarks, calendar settings, and your contact list.

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Moving Apple Mail: Transfer Your Apple Mail to a New Mac

Mail App icon
Courtesy of Apple

Moving your Apple Mail to a new Mac, or to a new, clean install of the OS, may seem like a difficult task but it actually only requires saving three items and moving them to the new destination.

There are a few ways to perform the move. By far the easiest and most often suggested method is to use Apple’s Migration Assistant. This method works well in most cases, but there’s one drawback to the Migration Assistant. Its approach is mostly all-or-nothing when it comes to moving data.

If you only wish to move your existing Apple Mail accounts to your new Mac, this tip may be all you need.

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Back Up or Move Your Safari Bookmarks to a New Mac

Safari Bookmarks and Favorites
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Safari, Apple's popular web browser, has a lot going for it. It's easy to use, fast, and versatile, and it adheres to web standards. It does, however, lack a feature: a convenient way to import and export bookmarks.

Yes, there are 'Import Bookmarks' and 'Export Bookmarks' options in the Safari File menu. But if you have ever used these Import or Export options, you probably didn't get what you expected. The method outlined in this article makes it easy to save and restore Safari bookmarks.​

This method should work for just about any version of Safari and Mac OS going back as far as Safari 3 which was announced in June 2007.

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Back up or Move Your Address Book Contacts to a New Mac

Address Book Icon
Courtesy of Apple

You've spent a long time building your Address Book contact list, so why aren't you backing it up? Sure, Apple's Time Machine will back up your contact list, but it's not easy to restore just your Address Book data from a Time Machine backup.

The method I'm going to describe will allow you to copy the Address Book contact list into a single file that you can easily move to another Mac or use as a backup.

This method works for Address Book contacts going back to OS X 10.4 (and a bit earlier as well). As well as Contacts data from OS X Mountain Lion and later.

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Back up or Move Your iCal Calendars to a New Mac

Calendar app with 2016 Red Sox schedule
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you use Apple's iCal calendar application, then you probably have a multitude of calendars and events to track. Do you maintain a backup of this important data? Time Machine doesn't count. Sure, Apple's Time Machine will back up your iCal calendars, but it's not easy to restore just your iCal data from a Time Machine backup.

Luckily, Apple provides a simple solution to save your iCal calendars, which you can then use as backups, or as an easy way to move your calendars to another Mac, perhaps the new iMac you just purchased.

The calendar has undergone a few changes over the years requiring a few different methods of backing up and moving the data the Calendar app or its earlier iteration iCal used. The process isn't that different but we have you covered from OS X 10.4 till current versions of the macOS.

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Moving Time Machine to a New Hard Drive

Time Machine icon with iMac
Courtesy of Apple

Starting with Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6.x), Apple simplified what's required to successfully transfer a Time Machine backup. If you follow the steps below, you can move your current Time Machine backup to a new disk. Time Machine will then have enough room to save a larger number of backups until it eventually fills up the available space on the new drive.

The process is simply requiring you to format the new larger Time Machine drive, copy the old Time Machine backup folder to the new drive, then inform Time Machine which drives to use for upcoming backups.

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Use Migration Assistant to Copy Data From a Previous OS

Migration Assistant
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple’s Migration Assistant makes it easy to copy user data, user accounts, applications, and computer settings from an earlier version of OS X.

Migration Assistant supports numerous ways of transferring the necessary data to your new installation of OS X. The method used in this guide will allow you to transfer data from an existing Mac startup drive volume that contains an earlier version of OS X to a new installation that’s located on either a new Mac or a separate drive volume on the same computer.