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I have some app on my old iMac (Dasiy Disk, MS Word, etc) that I want to install on a new MacBook Pro. What is the best way to do that?

I tried taking some of the apps and saving copies in Dropbox and then opening from the new Mac. That didn't work.

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The best approach would be to reinstall the apps afresh. However, that may not always be desirable, as it will involve a lot of work.

For e.g. user has heavily customised the apps, the apps have a lot of preferences items which the user has spent hours tweaking, or the apps have plugins that the user has installed etc.

With fresh install approach, these actions will be have to be meticulously repeated and is prone to human error.

To handle this scenario, preferences export can be performed in various ways. For e.g. many apps save their preferences in file(s) under Library. If such file(s) can be reliably identified, the user can copy them over in the corresponding location in the new system. Some apps maintain their preferences in an easily accessible configuration text files which can be copied over.

The previous approach may still involve a lot of work and may not be desirable. A simpler approach would be using macOS Migration Assistant. This feature lets you easily transfer settings, apps and data from one Mac to another.

A very helpful and concise guide on Migration Assistnat and its usage can be found in the Apple Support Article, How to move your content to a new Mac.

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  • Would you copy my answer as a postscript to yours for “in case you really want to migrate” - you can summarize my words / edit them down and leave some of the links if you like. I like your take here and reinstall first seems best to me. – bmike Jun 5 '18 at 1:52
  • @bmike: Sure, I'll do that in a while. – Nimesh Neema Jun 5 '18 at 1:57
  • Have you had success with Migration Assistant? I've had a lot of frustrating experiences personally. – user141511 Jun 5 '18 at 3:57
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    @DoritoStyle What’s the harm in trying it? Make a backup before you migrate (unless you just have a clean OS) and then test? I typically lose 15 minutes getting it set up and then wait for it to finish overnight or whatever. Feel free to ask a new question if you have specifics to dig into – bmike Jun 5 '18 at 4:04
  • @NimeshNeema No pressure either - your answer stands well alone, too – bmike Jun 5 '18 at 4:05
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Your best bet for an automatic process is running Migration Assistant on the new / destination Mac. It will ask you to connect the old Mac in target disk mode or connect a Time Machine backup of the old Mac. If you don’t want to use target disk mode - you can also use Disk Utility / Carbon Copy Cloner / Super Duper to make a bootable clone of your old Mac to an external drive and connect that when Migration Assistant asks for the old Mac to be connected.

From there - it can move over user accounts, applications and/or settings and other files from the old Mac to the new Mac.

Lots of good examples here:

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  • I do not have extensive experience using Migration Assistant. Reading the answer makes me wonder if the process is too intimidating for casual/novice users (which should be highly unlikely). – Nimesh Neema Jun 5 '18 at 7:08
  • Carbon Copy Cloner is wonderful if you don't mind copying the whole disk. – user141511 Jun 5 '18 at 17:07

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