Setting Up a New Mac: Should You Migrate or Do a Clean Installation?

If you’ve just bought a new Mac, and you’re upgrading from an older computer, you want all of your files and data to be accessible on the new machine. But when setting up a new Mac, should you migrate or do a clean installation?

When you buy a new Mac, it might be a good idea to do a clean installation; starting from scratch, with a brand-new operating system, and adding the files that you need manually. Here’s how to migrate your files to your new Mac, or do a clean installation, and the pros and cons of both methods.

Read the rest of the article on the Intego Mac Security Blog.

12 thoughts on “Setting Up a New Mac: Should You Migrate or Do a Clean Installation?

  1. First, apologies in advance for my tardiness in commenting on an article more than two years old. It resonated in many ways for me on the original read as I was stymied with a mid-2010 Macbook Pro with indisputable, vexing issues. Purchased with Snow Leopard installed, it has seen Mavericks and is now on El Capitan, and because I had never attempted to download it from MAS, was unavailable to me there so as a result I had to rely on it being bundled with Sierra on a USB flash drive from Amazon which, by the way did not include *any* Apple Setup/Migration features. Subsequently, all the unwanted flotsam and jetsam from all those years of upgrades and numerous application installs/uninstalls rode merrily along for the ride with OS X 10.11.

    Fast forward to today, where I find myself with a brand new Macbook Air, still sealed in its carton, and struggling to find a way to successfully transfer not only those files that I still utilize but to scrupulously avoid importing any of the issues which have been plaguing me and the MBP for some time.

    I do believe, that despite the recommendations of some other Take Control Of authors, that the setps you ouline here mark the path I should follow, ignoring any and all existing Apple Setup/Migration features. I’ve got the time, and hopefuuly, the patience.

    While I understand fully the folly of willy-nilly dragging of pre-existing Preference files (as opposed to their parent folders), especially for apps I no longer plan on using, one detail of your article remains ambiguous to me, Kirk, and that’s the advice to “manually reset the preferences for your apps”—why/how/where could this be accomplished, and can this process be done without having to resort to third-party programs?

    thanks,
    Charlie

    • What I mean is that you should, in each app, reset the preferences that you were using: colors, font sizes, etc. If you have two Macs, keep the old one running as you launch the apps you use regularly, and open the Preferences or Settings windows of those apps on both, and manually apply the same preferences. There’s no way you can do this with a third party tool.

      You could manually move the Preferences folder in your user’s Library folder to the new computer, but it’s just as good to not do that, to get rid of files you don’t need from apps you no longer use, and, again, reset preferences manually, in case some of the files are glitched or corrupted.

      • Your recommendations on duplicating desired apps’ preferences by opening each in the two Mac laptops are understood. This should also provide the additional spot-checking and scrutinizing of those Preference files for previous known issues, something the use of 3rd party software I wouldn’t place much credence in. To be honest, I suspected (incorrectly) that I would need to employ a plist editor.

        Also understood is that apps obtained from MAS should be re-installed directly from MAS. As for the remaining apps I wish to keep, is dragging them individually from source to destination what you would suggest, or re-downloading them directly from their developer’s sites? I’ve read conflicting opinions on this process.

        • Some apps need to be installed, not just copied to the Applications folder. So I’d redownload installers for all the apps. And, of course, Mac App Store apps need to be reinstalled from that source, which is a bit easier than third-party apps that you’ll have to chase down (unless you’ve saved installers).

  2. First, apologies in advance for my tardiness in commenting on an article more than two years old. It resonated in many ways for me on the original read as I was stymied with a mid-2010 Macbook Pro with indisputable, vexing issues. Purchased with Snow Leopard installed, it has seen Mavericks and is now on El Capitan, and because I had never attempted to download it from MAS, was unavailable to me there so as a result I had to rely on it being bundled with Sierra on a USB flash drive from Amazon which, by the way did not include *any* Apple Setup/Migration features. Subsequently, all the unwanted flotsam and jetsam from all those years of upgrades and numerous application installs/uninstalls rode merrily along for the ride with OS X 10.11.

    Fast forward to today, where I find myself with a brand new Macbook Air, still sealed in its carton, and struggling to find a way to successfully transfer not only those files that I still utilize but to scrupulously avoid importing any of the issues which have been plaguing me and the MBP for some time.

    I do believe, that despite the recommendations of some other Take Control Of authors, that the setps you ouline here mark the path I should follow, ignoring any and all existing Apple Setup/Migration features. I’ve got the time, and hopefuuly, the patience.

    While I understand fully the folly of willy-nilly dragging of pre-existing Preference files (as opposed to their parent folders), especially for apps I no longer plan on using, one detail of your article remains ambiguous to me, Kirk, and that’s the advice to “manually reset the preferences for your apps”—why/how/where could this be accomplished, and can this process be done without having to resort to third-party programs?

    thanks,
    Charlie

    • What I mean is that you should, in each app, reset the preferences that you were using: colors, font sizes, etc. If you have two Macs, keep the old one running as you launch the apps you use regularly, and open the Preferences or Settings windows of those apps on both, and manually apply the same preferences. There’s no way you can do this with a third party tool.

      You could manually move the Preferences folder in your user’s Library folder to the new computer, but it’s just as good to not do that, to get rid of files you don’t need from apps you no longer use, and, again, reset preferences manually, in case some of the files are glitched or corrupted.

      • Your recommendations on duplicating desired apps’ preferences by opening each in the two Mac laptops are understood. This should also provide the additional spot-checking and scrutinizing of those Preference files for previous known issues, something the use of 3rd party software I wouldn’t place much credence in. To be honest, I suspected (incorrectly) that I would need to employ a plist editor.

        Also understood is that apps obtained from MAS should be re-installed directly from MAS. As for the remaining apps I wish to keep, is dragging them individually from source to destination what you would suggest, or re-downloading them directly from their developer’s sites? I’ve read conflicting opinions on this process.

        • Some apps need to be installed, not just copied to the Applications folder. So I’d redownload installers for all the apps. And, of course, Mac App Store apps need to be reinstalled from that source, which is a bit easier than third-party apps that you’ll have to chase down (unless you’ve saved installers).

  3. 10-4 on the re-downloading/installation of desired apps, Kirk. It reaffirms what I’d suspected, that the copying of, or dragging-and-dropping apps from one location to another won’t work.

    I’ve been saving some of the respective dmg files for later use. Presumably *these* may be successfully transferred via copying/dragging-and-dropping?

    Also, if I may, considering that the new Air lacks both Firewire 800 as well as an ethernet port, which of these two methods would you recommend for joining the two Mac laptops: Apple’s Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter, or would a tested backup via my backup’s external enclosure using USB 3 suffice?

    It astounds me how many user’s past, persistent issues could have been averted had they this knowledge. Molto grazie again!

    • Some apps might work if you copy them, but many won’t. Copying the DMG files is fine.

      I’d go for the external drive; it’s much faster than ethernet.

  4. 10-4 on the re-downloading/installation of desired apps, Kirk. It reaffirms what I’d suspected, that the copying of, or dragging-and-dropping apps from one location to another won’t work.

    I’ve been saving some of the respective dmg files for later use. Presumably *these* may be successfully transferred via copying/dragging-and-dropping?

    Also, if I may, considering that the new Air lacks both Firewire 800 as well as an ethernet port, which of these two methods would you recommend for joining the two Mac laptops: Apple’s Thunderbolt-to-Ethernet adapter, or would a tested backup via my backup’s external enclosure using USB 3 suffice?

    It astounds me how many user’s past, persistent issues could have been averted had they this knowledge. Molto grazie again!

    • Some apps might work if you copy them, but many won’t. Copying the DMG files is fine.

      I’d go for the external drive; it’s much faster than ethernet.

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