I've just purchased a 27" iMac and am planning on installing a SSD (256 gig) to act as my boot drive. I was wondering if it would be possible to: 1) Install Lion on to the new iMac 2) Create my user account 3) Move the new user account to the HDD that came with the iMac 4) Use Migration Assistant to migrate my old user account into my new iMac?

The current Home folder/Music/Photos and home movies is nearly 400 gigs of information.

I've read here where users utilize migration assistant twice (once for apps, then move home folder, then data) or manually move the data

1 Answer 1


Besides the obvious issue of you having too much information to load onto the SSD, I've done this basic procedure in the past. However, it's much easier now using Time Machine, but you have a few options:

Time Machine

If you don't currently have a backup that can hold all your data, do yourself a favor and pick up a drive that can. Time Machine should be built into the OS you're currently running.

Do the backup. For 400 GB, you probably want to set it up before you go to sleep and let it run overnight. Once it's complete, unmount the drive and unplug it from the computer. Go through with the drive install and then install Lion. When the computer reboots, before you start to work with the setup assistant, plug in the new drive. At some point it will prompt you for a location from which to migrate data. Select your backup. Let it run for a while and when you get back, it will contain all the data you backed up, in a usable form. This is my current favorite method for cloning user workstations.

Super Duper

If you can't get an external backup, you can use SuperDuper to create a full-system backup from the active system disk. You'll have the ability to trim the data to the size of the disk to which you're copying in the interface. This route is a little more technical and requires a bit more time hands-on.

File Copy

I wouldn't recommend copying a user folder for a logged-in user due to open preferences files. You'll get all kinds of "File In Use" errors and it will probably exit the copy prematurely. Instead (if you're dead-set on using this method - which I advise against) create a second admin user and copy the folder over into a temporary location before staging it into the actual /Users/ location. You'll also need to make sure the permissions for the entire folder are set so that the user whose home you are copying can actually access and write to their files. To do this, you can use the Finder's Get Info on the folder and then add the user to have full permissions. Once it's staged into the /Users/ folder, you can log back in to the main user and delete the secondary admin. You may have permissions issues in the future using this method.

All that said, it's totally worth it to get an external to back up to for Time Machine to clone your new SSD from.

  • I have a Time Machine backup for the current (old) iMac, however, I'm not sure how to utilize your suggested method when the home folder won't fit. My thoughts of moving the home folder first might be able to get around the size problem, but I was unsure if it would work chris.pirillo.com/how-to-move-the-home-folder-in-os-x-and-why indicates the actual movement/reutilization of the home folder would not occur until the next log in. Thanks for the advice Apr 30, 2012 at 18:12
  • Well, the size issue is something you're going to have to accomodate somehow. When I migrated to an SSD, I used the DVD-RW bay in my laptop as a mount for my old, larger drive. Now I keep all my media on it. That works pretty well. One way for you to do that is to move the non-ssd to an enclosure and use it as a media disk as well, which should free up most of your space.
    – zwerdlds
    Apr 30, 2012 at 19:31
  • I can't verify that this will occur on the initial install/restore process in the setup assistant, but apparently Migration Assistant (which the setup assistant's Time Machine portion is based on) will prompt you for data you want to omit. Again, I can't validate that it will work, but perhaps you can try it out and get back to us/edit my answer to reflect your results.
    – zwerdlds
    May 2, 2012 at 17:09

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