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I have an older Macbook Air. I'm trying to transfer the data onto my new Macbook Air using a Thunderbolt cable. The Apple Store employee assured me that you can connect a Thunderbolt cable to a mini display port. However, using Migration Assistant does not recognize that the two Macbook Airs are connected via the Thunderbolt cable. I learned that you might be able to put the old one into "Target Disk Mode" and treat it like an external start-up disk. However, I can't seem to get it to work. I have shut down the old Macbook Air and started it up while holding down the T key. I have also tried enabling it through System Preferences, but there is no Target Disk Mode option. Both Macbook Airs are running Mavericks.

How can I enable target disk mode so this migration doesn't take days?

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Target Disk Mode is not supported on Macbook Air that lack a true Thunderbolt port. The Mini DisplayPort is purely a video out port, and cannot be used for data transfer, despite the identical connector.

In the 2017-2019 timeframe, most Air have Thunderbolt 3 (or 2) and do support target disk mode.

For all devices, an additional supported option for transferring data between two MacBook Air, using a wired connection, using Migration Assistant, is through ethernet. Since MacBook Air have no ethernet ports, you will need to purchase the Apple USB to Ethernet Adapter for the older model MacBook Air which does not have a Thunderbolt port, and an Apple Thunderbolt to Ethernet Adapter for the newer model which supports Thunderbolt.

If you do not want to purchase the adapters, you could migrate the data off the Air using file sharing or have the Mac opened by a service technician to remove the storage and assist with a converter or another Air to house the drive while it's being accessed.

By deleting all files that are non-essential you can speed up the time of transfer, but the USB to ethernet adapter is 100MB speed and likely the fastest you could transfer files. Wireless network would be slower in almost all cases than a direct connection and neither would be as fast as a target mode Firewire or Thunderbolt transfer sadly.

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In the "startup disk" section of system preferences, you should have a button to restart in target disk mode. If this is missing/ disabled then the machine doesn't support Target Disk Mode.

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