I'm trying to migrate my files from my time machine backup (external drive 500 Gb) to my MacBook Pro with Lion 10.7.1. It has almost empty brand new internal hard drive 500 Gb.

I can see the external hard drive in the desktop (is connected to my MacBook Pro with a FireWire cable), but the Migration Assistant is unable to recognize it!

What can I do to migrate my files?

3 Answers 3


Have you tried right clicking on the time machine icon on your dock, and telling it to browse other time machine disks? See if Time Machine will recognize it as a backup, and see if it will restore any files that way.

When you select Restore From Time Machine backup it doesn't even see the external drive or list it/any backups?


Boot to your recovery partition holding down cmd+R on restart. That will give you the option to restore from time machine backup. That will definitely find your time machine backup

  • Command + R at restart also got me to a screen showing my time machine backup file on an external drive attached to my MBP. After looking at many other forums, Command + R seems to be the tip I've needed all along.
    – user13520
    Commented Nov 11, 2011 at 4:11

If the OS cannot recognize the external drive containing the TimeMachine backups, it is possible that the backup was done on a drive which does not support upper/lower case, while the file system of the new OS does.

Unfortunately it seems impossible to force an OS which installed on a case insensitive drive to perform its TimeMachine backup on a case sensitive drive. Even when you erase and format the disk accordingly, the file system is changed on the moment you tell TimeMachine to use it as a backup disk.

Any workarounds to this problem are highly appreciated! (Suppose there must be some, otherwise people with older machines would not be able to upgrade to new ones)

If you want to be sure that the issue is related to the filesystem of the disk, try to execute the migration from mac to mac (both have to be in the same network and MigrationAssistant must be started). If this is the problem, the machine will be found but an error message will explain why MigrationAssistant can't migrate the data from one machine to the other.

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