I want to move all my data to a new SSD drive, and I want to create a workflow that does not use cloning or Time Machine. The reasons why I do not want to clone my drive or to reinstate my data from Time Machine/Migration Assistant (TM/MA) is because both methods suffer from 'crud transfer'. I have always used Time Machine to move my data to a new mac, but over the time I noticed that:

  1. TM/MA does not honour the install receipts, so I end up with quite a lot of stuff whose origin I do not remember, especially for obscure packages such as ZFS for OSX
  2. a number of OS specific files are transferred as well. I had a problem on ML due to a com.apple.whatever file that originated either in SL or L, and got passed on by reinstating my data from TM/MA. Only problem was, this plist was (1) not playing nice in ML and (2) slowing Mail to a crawl. I'd like to avoid this experience again.

So, is there a specific 'workflow' that will allow me to copy all my data to the new disk? I can install ML on the new disk allright and copy all that is the old drive under /Users/me. Is there more to do? Any specific SNAFU in moving /Users/me/Library as a single block, especially between OS releases? I will basically reinstall all my programs, but I find that less hassle than debugging obscure problems.

Because I am planning to do this for every OS upgrade (and I also need to move some data from a SL machine to a ML one) I will sum it up:

is there a way of safely and completely moving all my data, and all my preferences and history to a new Mac with the same OS release, or a different OS release, without losing anything but avoiding carrying over obscure OS specific files that will cause obscure bugs in the future?

As I mentioned above, I found that TM/MA does not do the above (and loses installation info), and I disk cloning would not work for data transfers between OS releases.

  • When I say TM/MA lose installation info, I mean you cannot use pkgutil --file-info to find the receipt associated with a file, and pkgutil --files to find the files associated with a receipt, because TM/MA loses that info May 28, 2013 at 14:35
  • Interesting question. By what criteria are you differentiating "all your data" from "crud"? I end up using a tool like WhatSize app to see what large things I want to clean up after migrating data to a new Mac and that seems to be a nice compromise between not inspecting 100,000 files and missing to transfer something I won't notice until 6 months later or so.
    – bmike
    May 28, 2013 at 16:24
  • To me crud is stuff like the little bundle of joy that was com.apple.mail.plist, coming through TM/MA and brought form either SL or L into ML, just to mess Mail up (apple.stackexchange.com/questions/84451/…). I just like to live life with the least amount of weird and obscure bugs as possible. May 29, 2013 at 11:16

1 Answer 1


The answer is simply no, because no program will be able to know all the specifics of installed programs (MA probably comes closest to 'knowing' most of the specifics of Apple software but as you found, it did so for 99% only), much less drivers, **nix level installes (MacPorts, etc.).

If you have a well working copy, then clone the disk (SuperDuper, etc.) and then upgrade the new disk to the new operating system.

If you have trouble with your current installation, make a fresh install, then plug the old disk into an USB case and coppy the /Users/(you)/ folders. This will avoid installed software , old drivers etc. Then install the software you need (most of it will pick up the essential config data from /Users/you/Application Support/).

The first is quick and painless. The 2nd usually is still quicker than you mostly think and gives you the nice good feeling of a fresh start :-)

  • I do not want to transfer applications, because, as I said, it is pointless. What I want is to transfer data etch -- without old incompatible configuration crud. Is moving ~/Library SNAFU proof? May 28, 2013 at 19:01
  • I don't think there is anything SNAFU safe (that's why there is an "N" in SNAFU :-)). But, in ~/Library you have user specific settings for the system and some applications. For example ~/Library/Application-Support/ has files for many 3rd party applications like Thunderbird. Settings there for an application that is not installed, will not hurt. If you reinstall the application (e.g.Thunderbird) it will come back configured as before. But (as you found out Mail), there is absolutely no gurantee, that a different version of an application may not choke on settings from another. S"N"AFU.
    – Grezgory
    May 29, 2013 at 16:00
  • My point is, clone the disk (or have a backup) so you can revert if something goes very wrong. And most things that go "normally" wrong, are probably fixed with less effort than it takes to worry about it upfront and the time it took you to write your question here. Hiccups are normal, that's why they say "never touch a running system". And especially with Apple, most of the time, all goes well.
    – Grezgory
    May 29, 2013 at 16:05

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