Moving into a New Production Computer

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Here's the situation: you buy a brand new Mac with an empty 500GB hard drive. Your old computer has a smaller hard drive, but it's completely full and not very organized. You can use software that will transplant the chaotic mess from your old drive directly into your new computer, or you can take your time and manually move files over, organizing as you go. In this post I'll share some tips on how you can turn a new leaf when you get a new computer.

A lot of the information presented in this post can also be applied to PC users. First, here's a little back story. In early 2004, I bought my first Macintosh computer. After six years of dependable service I finally decided to upgrade to a new MacBook Pro with an i5 processor. My old dual 1.8 gHz G5 was still working rather well, but the outdated PPC processors weren't really up to snuff with the latest Mac OS, and I was encountering more and more annoying little problems with software drivers and Internet applications.

 
Data migration was going to be particularly more difficult for me because I needed to consolidate the information from two computers into one. The second computer, a 1.5 gHz G4 PowerBook, I purchased in 2005 (somewhat impulsively) so I could perform onstage with a band running Ableton Live software. Over the years I've accumulated lots of different kinds of files on both of my computers, and now it was time to siphon them into one machine.

When the new MacBook Pro arrived, it was time to get to work. Since all of the computers involved feature a FireWire 800 port, I was able to mount them to the new machine in "target mode." This makes it possible to simply drag and drop the files from one computer to the next, and it's really easy to set up. Mac users also have the option of using the included Migration Assistant software.
 
A dialog box opens when you boot up a new Mac for the first time and asks if you’d like to migrate the contents of your old Mac directly into your new one. I decided not to use Migration Assistant. The files on my old computers were embarrassingly disorganized, and I didn't want to just dump them into my new machine. I decided to go through each computer's contents file by file in target mode, taking what I wanted and leaving behind the unnecessary clutter.

When I brought a file over from one of my old computers, I was very careful about where I placed it in my new machine. I created lots of new folders for the incoming files, and gave them easy-to-understand names. For example, I make lots of graphics with Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator for my own personal projects, and for work. When I was migrating these files from my old computers, I dropped them into new folders so they would be organized on my new computer. Now I have a folder called B&H Audio Graphics, and a separate folder for my personal graphics files.
 
The Home directory in Apple's OS X contains different subfolders for Music, Movies, Pictures and Documents. Whenever I was migrating a file over from one of my old computers that had anything to do with audio, I placed it in a subfolder in the Music section. I created these subfolders to help keep things organized. Any files that had to do with my video work were placed into subfolders in the Movies section, and so on and so forth. I even created new folders and placed them in the main directory of my Home folder for specific file categories. All of this is very easy to do. You just create a new folder, name it, drop it wherever it's needed and start populating it with files.

Both of my old computers had large iTunes libraries in them, and there was different music in each one. Consolidating them onto a single computer proved to be a rather complex process. This is one area where calling Apple for phone support was very useful. When you buy a new Mac you get 90 days of free phone support. After 90 days you need to have an AppleCare extended warranty to receive live telephone support. I bought AppleCare for my MacBook Pro, so I'll be able to call Apple for help for the next three years.
 
In order to migrate an iTunes library, you first must make sure that the versions of iTunes on both computers are the same. Next I needed to connect my external hard drive to my old computer, and drag the entire iTunes library off of the old computer onto the external drive. Then I needed to dismount the drive, power it off, and connect it to the new computer. I was told to delete the iTunes folder on the new computer. Then I needed to drag the iTunes library from my external hard drive into the same location in the Home folder on my new computer where it had resided on the old computer.

AppleCare

As you can see, this process can get a little hairy. I ended up speaking to a few different Apple phone support people, and interestingly enough, each one recommended a different iTunes migration strategy. If you're planning on moving your iTunes library around, I would suggest calling Apple tech support as well, instead of copying what I did step by step.
 
Now that the process is over, I'm very pleased that my files are so well organized. It was really worth the extra effort to sit down and go through them all. If you're planning on moving into a new computer soon, I would suggest that you stay focused on the task, and try to get it finished as quickly as possible. I was on the ball when I was migrating files over from my PowerBook. I ended up finishing all the work that needed to be done in two sessions. However, I got a little lazy when working on my G5, and it ended up taking a lot longer.
 
If you have any migration tips or experiences you'd like to share, we'd love to hear them in the comments section! Have you experienced difficulties with this particular project? Do you think I would've been better off just using Migration Assistant from the get-go?

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This is a great article. A must read for any Moderate to Heavy Computer User. Especially if you change computers like you change socks. :-)