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I am migrating data files from an Early 2011 MacBook Pro to a 2019 MacBook Pro 16" (all UCB-C cables).

What is the best (fastest) way to migrate the files in terms of connecting one mac to the other?

I'm not sure the wireless approach would be fast, though I'm not sure. I was thinking ethernet cable (from Early 2011) to a USB-C-to-ethernet connector for the 2019 MacBook Pro.

  • Ethernet is definitively faster than wireless for this. Did you check Apple‘s support document on data migration? – nohillside Dec 2 at 21:00
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    My recommendation would be to back everything up to an external drive, either NAS or USB/Thunderbolt, then copy only what you need to the new computer. I am interested in what others recommend. – Dave Nelson Dec 2 at 21:00
  • Did you mean all cables are USB-C? If so, does the 2011 Mac have USB-C capability? Or just ethernet. Assuming the USB-C in not available on the 2011 mac, I think your method would be fastest. – jmh Dec 2 at 21:03
  • Possible duplicate of What is the fastest connection between two MacBooks – pkamb Dec 2 at 21:09
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The fastest way is to connect the two computers using Thunderbolt. This will give you 10 Gbps of bandwidth, which is 10 times what you would get from the ethernet port on the 2011 MacBook Pro.

Note that if you have only one drive in your old MacBook Pro, you'll technically be limited by the speed of that drive when transferring. I.e. if you have a 6 Gbps drive, you'll only be able to transfer at that speed - which will probably use approx. 7 Gbps of Thunderbolt bandwidth. If you've got the two drive mod for the old MacBook Pro, you'll theoretically be able to use the full bandwidth of the Thunderbolt connection.

You'll need a Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt cable and a Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3 adapter cable to connect the two Macs. As Thunderbolt 2 is backwards compatible with the original Thunderbolt, this will allow you to link the two Macs together. Then boot up the old Mac in Target Disk Mode (hold down the T key while booting) - and you can use it as a data source in Migration Assistant.

If you haven't got those cables lying around, chances are that it is probably faster to just use Ethernet rather than waiting for cables to be delivered. WiFi is definitely the slowest approach here.

  • This is helpful, thank you. I have the cables for the Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt solution and plan to use this approach when the new Mac arrives. – mi_sat Dec 3 at 10:05
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The fastest and most economical way to migrate your files would be remove the hard drive from your 2011 MacBook Pro and with the use of an inexpensive USB-to-SATA Adapter (it's a minimum of USB 3.0), you'll be able to transfer files at 5Gbps; using USB 3.1, up to 6Gbps.

Here are some factors:

  • The drive from the 2011 MBP is a SATA III drive which is capped at 6Gbps, so whether it's an SSD or a traditional spinning drive, 6Gbps is the limit no matter how fast the drive or connection.

  • USB 3.1 can go up to 20Gbps, but because of the throughput limit of the drive, you're limited to 6Gbps - you can only go as fast as your slowest link.

  • It's 5x faster than Gig Ethernet (1Gbps) and potentially 1000x faster than 802.11n (54Mbps - the wireless spec in the 2011 MBP)

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    Your answer doesn't really answer the question - he asked to transfer data by "connecting one mac to the other" - not by disassembling one of them... – jksoegaard Dec 2 at 22:22
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    I still like this answer - I’m often the king of “non-answer” or different take on things. Also - sneaker net has massive bandwidth! Shipping hard drives FTW – bmike Dec 2 at 23:49

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