16-inch MacBook Pro BlenderSource: Rene Ritchie / iMore

Migration Assistant makes it super easy to move data from your old Mac to your new one, either directly or from a Time Machine backup. You can also connect two Macs with Wi-Fi, Thunderbolt, FireWire, or Ethernet. Migrating your old data to your new computer will make it possible for you to start working on your brand new Mac without missing a beat.

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Before you start

If you are new to Mac, you can also migrate your old PC data.

But for current Mac owners, here's how to transfer data to a new Mac from your old one.

  • Update your software - You will need to update your software first.
  • Name your old Mac - If you haven't done so already, make sure your old Mac has a name. Open System Preferences > Sharing > and enter a name in the Computer Name field.
  • Connect your old and new computers to a power source - Both devices need to be plugged into a power source to ensure that you don't run out of juice in the middle of the migration process.

How to transfer data to new Mac

As Apple explains:

If your old Mac isn't using OS X Lion or later, and your new Mac isn't using OS X Mavericks or later, you'll need to follow the Mountain Lion migration steps below.

If both computers are using macOS Sierra or later, place them near each other with Wi-Fi turned on. If either one uses OS X El Capitan or earlier, make sure that both are on the same network.

On your old Mac, choose the Apple menu, then System Preferences, click Sharing. Make sure that a name appears in the Computer Name field.

Using Migration Assistant

Step 1: On your new Mac:

  1. Click Go on your Mac's toolbar.
  2. Choose the Utilities folder.
  3. Open Migration Assistant

    To use Migration Assistant on Mac, click Go on your Mac's toolbar. Choose the Utilities folder, then open Migration Assistant.Source: iMore

  4. Select how you want to transfer your information, from a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk.
  5. Click Continue.

    To use Migration Assistant on Mac, select the option. Then click Continue. Source: Apple

Step 2: On your old Mac:

  1. Click Go on your Mac's toolbar.
  2. Choose the Utilities folder.
  3. Open Migration Assistant

    To use Migration Assistant on Mac, click Go on your Mac's toolbar. Choose the Utilities folder, then open Migration Assistant.Source: iMore

  4. Select the the option to transfer to another Mac.
  5. Click Continue.

    To use Migration Assistant on Mac, select the option. Then click Continue. Source: Apple

Step 3: On your new Mac:

  1. Select the other Mac option when asked to select a Mac, Time Machine backup, or another startup disk.
  2. Click Continue.

    Now, on your new Mac, select the other Mac option, then click Continue. Source: Apple

Step 4: On your old Mac:

  1. Confirm the security code shown on your old Mac is the same as the code now on your new Mac.
  2. Click Continue.

Step 5: On your new Mac:

  1. Select the information to transfer.
  2. Click Continue.

    On your new Mac, select the information to transfer, then click Continue.Source: Apple

After Migration Assistant is done, log in to the migrated account on your new Mac to see its files.

How to transfer data to a new Mac using Mountain Lion and earlier

The following directions only apply to migrating to OS X Lion or Mountain Lion. For most, the newer steps above are more appropriate.

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Using Migration Assistant

Step 1: On your old Mac:

  1. Connect the Thunderbolt, FireWire, or Ethernet cable from your old Mac to your new Mac.
    • If you are using local Wi-Fi, make sure both Macs are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

Step 2: On your new Mac:

  1. Launch a Finder window by clicking on the Finder icon in your Dock.
  2. Click on Applications in the sidebar.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to open a Finder Window and click Applications in the sidebarSource: iMore

  3. Double-click on the Utilities folder.
  4. Double-click on Migration Assistant.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to double-click the Utilities folder, then double-click the Migration AssistantSource: iMore

  5. Click Continue.
  6. Enter your administrator password if prompted.
  7. Click OK.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to click Continue, enter your administrator password, then click OKSource: iMore

  8. Click From a Mac... when prompted to select how you want to transfer your information.
  9. Click Continue.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to click From a Mac... then click ContinueSource: iMore

Step 3: On your old Mac:

  1. Launch a Finder window by clicking the Finder icon in your Dock.
  2. Click on Applications in the sidebar.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to open a Finder window on your old Mac, then click Applications in the sidebarSource: iMore

  3. Double-click on the Utilities folder.
  4. Double-click on Migration Assistant.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to double-click on the Utilities folder, then double-click on Migration AssistantSource: iMore

  5. Click Continue.
  6. Enter your administrator password if prompted.
  7. Click OK.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to click Continue, enter your administrator password, then click OKSource: iMore

  8. Click To a new Mac... when prompted to select how you want to transfer your information.
  9. Click Continue.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to click To a new Mac..., then click ContinueSource: iMore

Step 4: On your new Mac:

  1. Migration Assistant will be looking for a source. Select your old Mac (if you are using a Time Machine backup, select your Time Machine hard drive).
  2. Click Continue.

    • A security code will display on the screen.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to click on your old Mac or Time Machine hard drive, click Continue, and get the security code from your new MacSource: iMore

Step 5: On your old Mac:

  1. Confirm that the code on your old Mac is the same as your new Mac.
  2. Click Continue.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to confirm your security code on your old Mac, then click ContinueSource: iMore

Step 6: On your new Mac:

  1. Select the files, settings, apps, and other information you want to transfer to your new Mac.
  2. Click Continue.

    Migrate data from your old Mac to your new Mac showing how to select the files, apps, settings, and other information that you want to move to your new Mac, then click ContinueSource: iMore

This will probably take a while, so grab a cup of coffee and watch your favorite movie while the process takes place.

When you're done

Your new Mac should have all of the data that you selected to transfer. If you migrated everything, your new Mac would look almost exactly like your old one.

If you plan on selling your old Mac, don't forget to clean it before transferring it to its new owner.

Questions?

Do you have any questions about how to transfer data to a new Mac? Let us know in the comments.

Updated January 2021: Up-to-date for macOS Big Sur.

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