I have two MacBooks (an old one mid 2009 with a 150 GB drive (128 GB used) and a newer from 2011 with a 300 GB drive (30 GB used)) and a 1 TB Hard Disk.

What is the easiest way to move the content of the 2009 MacBook to the 2011 model and the content of the 2011 model to the 2009 model (so that basically the content of the the two MacBooks is swapped afterwards)?

  • please enhance your question to address the one time swap if the related questions at right don't solve your problem. Explain how large your backup disk is in the updated post please. The sizing you added is excellent data to guide solutions. – bmike Aug 30 '15 at 13:28
  • The version of MacOS X which are running your 2 MacBooks is an important factor of success (are Migration Assistant and Time Machine available on these versions). Please add this detail. – dan Aug 31 '15 at 6:30

You could use Migration Assistant to move from the old to the newer, although OS X seems to have its own ideas about which OS are acceptable. Time Machine is also a good way to transfer files to a new installation. If these work this is probably the easiest.

The ultimate tool is to use the command line tool rsync which can transfer files and also (optionally) delete unmatched files. I use this to copy my user files to an external HD, for transfer to other Macs. I use a simpler rsync command to restore selected data to other Macs - e.g. I can selectively copy email data between a portable and other Mac.

NOTE rsync does not need an external disk, but I prefer the security this offers.

The following script is used to copy my user data to a mounted disk.

# 2015-03-31
BACKUP_MOUNTED=$(mount | awk '/\/Volumes\/volname / {print $3}')
if [ $BACKUP_MOUNTED ]; then
    echo "Commencing Backup"
    rsync -a --delete-excluded --exclude=Library/Caches ~ /Volumes/volname
    echo "Finished Backup"
    echo "Backup drive not available"

You could open up the cases and swap the HDD. This is probably the fastest way, if you don't mind using a screwdriver.

  • Quite practical. It also can be reversed once you get a good backup of both - perhaps using Time Machine to the same external or bootable clone if desired. – bmike Aug 31 '15 at 11:44

Make a time machine backup of the new mac, then disconnect the external drive. Next, use the migration assistant and a network cable or wifi connection between the two to transfer everything from the old mac to the new one. Next, use the migration assistant on the old one to import the time machine backup from the external drive.

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