I'm in the process of buying a new MacBook Pro.

My actual notebook is a MacBook Pro Core Duo which dates back to July 2006.

My actual operating system is Snow Leopard, and I have a Time Capsule unit in place since 2010, so my backups are OK.

Now the question is: when my new computer arrives it'll have Lion; I'd like to take back my whole digital life from my backups in Time Capsule, but I'm wondering they are coming from Snow Leopard. Could this represent a problem for system restore?

Would it be better in this case to proceed with a Migration Assistant operation?

  • Note that in my experience local Time Machine backups on USB-disks are typically faster than remote Time Machine backups on remote Time Capsules even with Gigabit cabling in place. Feb 13, 2019 at 15:41

2 Answers 2


It actually doesn't matter. If you install Lion you can use the Time Machine backup as the source for restoring all data through Migration Assistant. It works exactly the same as if you put your old machine into target disk mode and use it as a drive for Migration Assistant.

(I was really surprised to find this out a couple of days ago when shuffling hard drives - 3 bad SSDs in a row, long story - and I was not allowed to select Time Machine to restore from because it was too large for the 240GB SSD, after using a 750GB spinning disk for a while - even though I had carefully excluded enough data to be sure it would fit. Then when Migration Assistant came up it allowed me to use the Time Machine drive to restore all the data I wanted anyway - all 90GB of it. All's well now, and this unexpected feature of Time Machine saved me some time.)

  • This is great news as I wasn't sure what I was doing with Time Machine backups if this couldn't be done with them. So, what you're saying is that if I do a complete backup with SuperDuper! on an external, then let Time Machine back up my computer, then get a new computer, migration assistant on a new computer will treat all three the same: the old computer in target disk mode, the backup hard disk or the Time Machine backup hard disk. Is that right?
    – Richard
    Mar 23, 2012 at 9:37
  • 2
    My process was to tell my Time Machine to do a backup, to be sure it was up to date; clone with Carbon Copy Cloner to an external, for an extra backup; swap drives; install Lion via USB; be asked for a Time Machine backup to restore from, only to be told it was too large; proceed to the usual Migration Assistant and have it recognise my connected Time Machine as a valid restore source. I think you are right - any of your three sources will be a valid Migration Assistant source. Mar 23, 2012 at 10:07

In general restoring from Time Machine or using the Migration Assistant is not much of a difference (you can even neglect speed, if you consider using the Gigabit Ethernet ports in both cases). What won´t work (if you´re thinking about the newest MacBook Pros) is simply copying the old hard drive to the new one, since Snow Leopard (as far as I know) never incorporated the drivers required for the newest generation of MacBooks.

  • I've found that the Time Capsule is comparatively slow when restoring. Depending on your needs, this might be a good time to tell the Time Capsule to do a USB-disk backup overnight, and then use that disk for restoration and then stow it away as a backup disk. Feb 13, 2019 at 15:40

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