Apologies if this has been asked and answered - I've found a myriad of material on Time Machine but not that specifically answered the nuances of what I'm concerned about.

I've asked some questions on here as I've tried to regain use of a household computer. The end result was purchasing a 1TB external drive and making that the boot volume for the computer (a significant increase from the 500GB internal that had been used).

As it is, I'm primarily using this computer because MY iMac died and, being a late 2008 model with a dead graphics card, I can't justify putting repair money into it. I've been using a 2012 Mac Mini and copying any immediately needed files over from my Time Machine backup. However, because of the space limitation, and because of uncertainties with how Time Machine works, I've hesitated integrating myself completely into the Mini - specifically, I have not reestabliehed my iTunes library or set up my e-mail. (I've been manually accessing the Linux server I POP from and leaving anything there I want to keep so I can import it to wherever I establish my "new desktop", which now seems to be here.)

Enough time has passed, I don't expect to have a new desktop anytime soon due to finances, so I've decided that since there's now enough space on the Mini, I want to reestablish my home account there. However, I've also been using the Mini for about 2 years and have an established workspace on here as well. My old computer was also used by the family. I have accounts for the wife and three children contained in the backup. None of the kids use this computer any more, and the wife barely does, but I don't want to just ditch all of their stuff before they have a chance to look through it. However, three of these individuals have accounts on the current desktop. I don't know whether I can just copy old (iMac) accounts INTO the current (Mini) accounts without decimating preference files and such, or if I should literally restore accounts from the Time Machine as new users (and if so, do I need to create the accounts, or is that part of the Restore procedure?).

If it matters at all, my iMac used High Sierra; the Mini is currently running Catalina (though I have a Mojave partition). I'm well aware some of my software will no longer run.

  • 1
    Not sure why the edit was made to my post since both are grammatically correct and similar enough in meaning.
    – lonadar
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 16:56

1 Answer 1


You can import a lot of things manually by opening your old Time Machine volume (option-click Time Machine icon and select “browse other Time Machine disks” then select your backup). After authenticating you should be able to view the backup and copy any files or data into your account or a new account set up just for import purposes. Make sure you include files in your Library if you want settings from specific programs (usually Application Support subfolder is all that you’ll need, but check other locations just in case something doesn’t work as expected after import). Apps that you might import should work provided you are using the same AppleID for App Store items, or have the registration info for non-App Store programs that require it.

Best thing about this, especially if you are pulling the data into a clean profile, is that you are not risking overwriting anything in your existing profiles, and you are always able to go back to the original files from your iMac if something didn’t transfer correctly.

I did this when setting up a new Macbook for my son. We have a parent account on the computer to administer it, TimeMachine backup was from an older system with a much larger hard drive. I was able to import his profile but not the parent profile due to disk space. I created a profile on the new computer and just manually imported the files and settings I wanted to keep from the backup.

  • The primary issue here, though, is integration. Three of the four profiles are not clean, and I'm concerned if I just grab the Application Support folder (for example) and bring it over, it's going to remove the existing folder and/or overwrite newer versions of files.
    – lonadar
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 11:35
  • I'd recommend creating a new empty profile and importing to that if you want everything, or manually pulling in just the settings for specific programs not already installed. With your old account in a new profile, you can at least open applications and review the settings, then manually mirror these preferences in each applicable program in your current active profile. Tedious, but no risk of overwrite.
    – dr.nixon
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 17:55

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