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Here is an outline for my customers that explains the process of migrating to a new Mac. Usually, I prefer to do this process via Zoom because there is usually a several-hour waiting period while your data transfers, so we need two Zoom appointments. If a house call appointment works, we can do a hybrid where we have our first visit in person and then we have a follow-up by Zoom.

Step 1: Buy your new computer

I recommend booking a short Zoom appointment with me to decide what computer is best for you. 30 minutes should do it. You may want to brush up on my (almost always up-to-date) Mac Buying guide for general information. If you purchase a computer without enough memory or storage, you cannot upgrade it later without replacing the computer, so it makes sense to buy a computer now that will last you for five to ten years, not just a computer that is good enough for today. I can give you advice on what model, what specifications to choose, what accessories to purchase, and where to purchase it from. If you want extra assurance that you are getting the right thing I can even walk you through the purchase during our appointment.

We should have this discussion when you are ready to actually make your purchase. If I give you a recommendation and you end up waiting for a month or two, my recommendation could change. Apple rarely announced products ahead of time so I can only make reliable recommendations based on what is available right then.

Some notes on purchasing

You can purchase from any place that is an authorized Apple reseller. It will include the same warranty and you can take it to an Apple Store for warranty service. This includes buying from Apple, Best Buy, Amazon, Microcenter, B&H Photo, and more. Sometimes you can save $100-$200 by shopping around, but often times there is no difference in price. B&H tends to have the best inventory selection for immediate shipment with many custom configurations. Amazon rarely has custom configurations. If you buy from Apple, they rarely have custom configurations in-store so you will need to order. When buying from Best Buy and Amazon, be careful because they often sell older versions of products without labeling them as such, or even worse they may say they are the latest version but they haven’t updated their product description after a new version is released.

Refurbished products are a fantastic option to save some money, however, I only ever recommend refurbished products direct from Apple. Apple’s refurbished products include a brand new body and battery and have the same warranty as a new computer. Generally, refurbished items are not returned because there was a problem; Apple has an extremely generous 2-week no-fee return policy, so people often use them as a “loaner” Mac when their computer is in for repairs. Sometimes a Genius bar technician will even recommend this. Many people swear that these are the most reliable Apple products because they go through a far more strict verification process than the ones that come off the assembly line. I’ve seen far too many people get burned with Best Buy’s “Open Box” deals. Those are often returned for a reason. But if there is an exceptional deal it may be worth the risk.

For payment, Apple Card is enticing because they offer 0% financing for 12 months and you get 3% cash back if you pay using the Apple Pay function. However, this card does not include purchase protection. If you use a premium credit card, especially one that has an annual fee, those often offer insurance against damage or sometimes even loss or theft. With a big ticket item like a computer, you may want to take advantage of this. You will need to check your specific card’s terms.

Step 2: Book time to perform the transfer

Once your computer ships and you have a delivery date from the courier, book a time to perform the transfer. Don’t schedule based on the delivery estimate when you place or order, as these can change drastically in either direction. You will need to book two appointments. My general recommendations are below but depending on your setup and how much we prepared I might have given you different times.

The first appointment will be to start the transfer and to prepare the computer. This can either be a 1-hour Zoom call or a house call.

The second appointment. I recommend the following day, as your transfer can take many hours. This will be a half-hour Zoom call to tidy up loose ends.

Step 3: Prepare for our appointment

  • Unpack the new computer and connect it to power.
  • Do not begin the setup process until we start our call. If you go through the setup steps and start using your new computer without transferring your data, you will end up with two computers with different data on them and it will take extra work to combine them into a single computer.
  • Have your old computer in the same room, also connected to power. If your old computer is no longer working, have your Time Machine/backup drive ready.
  • Have your passwords handy if possible. Specifically, we will need your computer password, your Apple ID/iCloud password, your WiFi Password, as well as passwords for Dropbox, Microsoft Office/Microsoft Live, and Adobe if you use those. If you don’t have them we can look them up or reset them during our first call.
  • Close and save documents on your current computer before we begin our call. During our call we will be shutting your computer down.

Step 4: Transfer the data

On our first appointment day, join our Zoom call from your old computer. This will be where we go over any tidying up that needs to be done so that less is transferred, update your apps so they are compatible with your new computer, and document anything that needs to be done afterward. At a certain point, we will need to shut your old computer down, so we may need to finish up the call with Zoom on your phone, FaceTime, or maybe even a plain old phone call.

Step 5: Finish up

After the transfer, which can take several hours depending on the speed of your old computer and the amount of data you have, your computer will ask you a series of questions. I have a separate blog post on this here.

General Questions

Will I be able to use my computer while my data is being transferred?

No, both computers will be unusable until the transfer is complete. If this will be a problem we might be able to use your backup drive instead of transferring directly from your old computer, but I find that a direct transfer is usually faster and more reliable.

What happens to my old computer?

This process does not make any changes to your old computer, so if you find that something isn’t working quite right on your new computer you can use your old computer in a pinch. Just be aware that unless you are saving to a cloud service, things you do on your old computer may not come over to your new computer. People call this a “transfer” or “migration” but it really ought to be called a “copy”.

What transfers to my new computer?

Basically everything. Your apps, files, customizations, and settings. However, many apps will require you to log in or reactivate again because they see that they are on a new computer and they need to be validated in case they were pirated. This includes Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, and Dropbox.

What will be different with my new computer?

Unless you are switching to a new type of computer (desktop to laptop or vice versa), there should be little that is different. We can discuss what those might be. Typically the only major changes are the physical connectors that your new computer will have. If your old computer is running older system software, chances are that most of your changes will simply be adjusting to the newer Mac software, not the hardware.

What do I do with my old computer?

We can erase your computer later, but I usually recommend keeping your old one around for a week or two just in case something isn’t working as expected on the new computer.

Eventually, you do want to get it recycled or repurposed. There is little sense in holding onto an old Mac. With rare exceptions, computers don’t get more valuable with time, and portable computers with batteries pose a fire hazard if left unchecked. For recycling, I recommend taking your Mac to an Apple Store. They are equipped to efficiently recycle their own products, melting them down into new Macs and iPhones. If you wish to sell your old Mac, I recommend sellyourmac.com.

How long will the transfer take?

It can take anywhere from half an hour to 10 hours, depending on the speed of your old computer and how much data you have.

Further Help

If you are an existing customer who needs help with this or if you have other questions, or if you are in San Francisco and interested in becoming a client I invite you to book an appointment with me. Otherwise, you may wish to contact Apple Support or find a local Apple consultant.

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