I had tried upgrading my MacBook Pro to Catalina from Mojave a couple of times on my own, but always got stuck on a 'could not be verified' error at the very end of downloading the said upgrade. Finally I decided to get it done at a verified Apple Service Centre. I have backups of my important documents on iCloud as well as a Time Machine backup for everything on an external hard disk.

I had submitted my MacBook Pro to the Service Centre yesterday and got it back today. The upgrade to Catalina is perfect, but I've lost all my data and applications. Even the user profile that I was using is nowhere to be found.

Now iCloud is automatically restoring some of the documents that I had backed up, but the applications/software that I had installed are completely lost. I do have a Time Machine backup, but I am not sure how I restore to that one. Moreover, restoring would take me back to OS Mojave, I think.

Is there any way I can keep Catalina but get back my applications/software from Time Machine?

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    After installing the OS - a welcome screen guides you through choosing to restore the backup from Time Machine - do you know who saw that screen and made those choices? FWIW - loafing an older backup to a newer OS is no problem - it’s the other way that’s problematic - not supported.
    – bmike
    Jul 8, 2020 at 9:50
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    @bmike i think the service center guys would have done that.
    – Aritra Das
    Jul 8, 2020 at 10:40
  • @bmike How do I go about specifically importing applications from the backup Mojave OS to Catalina? Time Machine in Finder doesnt show those older applications on the backup!
    – Aritra Das
    Jul 8, 2020 at 10:43
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    Aah - so you could wipe all contents and settings to get to that screen again. The /var/db/.AppleSetupDone file is left once the assistant has run one time, so some people remove that and restart to get a second chance if that fits... apple.stackexchange.com/questions/375635/… I don’t recommend messing with that and doing a reinstall, though if the normal assistant fails your needs.
    – bmike
    Jul 8, 2020 at 10:59

1 Answer 1


The Migration Assistant is the program on any Mac that allows you to transfer in or out data and applications. I would connect your backup drive and then start the assistant.

It will then show you the information from the most recent backup or if there are many backups and the system can’t tell which backup was on your Mac, you can choose from the many destinations that can be saved to one Time Machine drive.

You can bring in accounts, settings, applications or a mix of some or all of the above.

Here is Apple’s support article that I think does a good job of the overall design and intent of this process.

Since Catalina has excellent support for containers, the old steps to reinvoke the assistant are a bit complicated. If you don’t have anything on your new system, erasing the content / reinstalling in an erase install might be much easier now that you are on Catalina.

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