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Tips on Transferring Files and Settings From and Old Mac to a New Computer

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Michael Dougherty•updated: 1/25/2010

If your computer is about ready for the junkyard (but it’s still alive and kicking), be smart and gather up the information you need before the computer dies for good. Then, transfer this data to your new Mac (but make sure you only transfer what you need).

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    Backup, Take Inventory, Transfer

    Purchasing a new computer consists of much more than just walking into the Apple store and plopping down your credit card. Once you get your new Mac you will want to install applications you’ve already purchased and paid for, as well as hardware like printers, scanners, and cameras. You’ll also want to copy your personal data, settings, Preferences files, downloaded fonts, and more. That said, you’ll want to backup this data before your old Mac kicks the big one, and then you’ll need to sift through the data to find out what you really need to transfer and what you can leave on the disks.

    Here are some things to back up prior to your old computer going kaput, and your new computer becoming part of your life, as well as some tips for transferring the data:

    Back up all of your important documents, pictures, music, movies, and other files to a CD, DVD, or external drive. Remember, though, just because you back it up doesn’t mean you have to put it on the new computer. Only transfer what you need to the new computer.

    Write down your printer name and model, scanner name and model, camera name and model, and so on, and visit the manufacturers’ Web sites to verify that there are updated drivers for these devices. If there aren’t, seriously consider not installing these items. You don’t want to mess up your new machine with an incompatible piece of hardware.

    Write down the applications you plan to install on the new computer, and visit those manufacturer’s Web sites to verify that they will work properly on your new system. Look specifically for applications written specifically for OS X or higher.

    Make a note of your display settings; they’re configured this way for a reason. Either a program requires it or you prefer it. Either way, they’re important.

    Write down your Internet connection data. That includes the security settings, custom settings, type of servers for POP 3 and SMTP and their names, account names and passwords, e-mail addresses, address book, and messages. Make sure to include any settings for your DSL or cable connections.

    Write down any network configuration settings such as workgroup or domain name, computer name, passwords, and so on.

    Make a note of firewall or anti-virus programs and settings.

    Make a backup of your Preferences folder.

    If you think your computer is about to die, back up all of the data you want to keep to CDs or DVDs. You might have to install the data manually from that media if your computer poops out before you get a new one. If you manage to purchase a new computer while your old computer is still working, there is a way to hook up your new computer to your still-working one and transfer the data more easily. There's more to it that that so find out more about the FireWire Target Disk Mode here on the Mac Channel at Bright Hub.