Can I use Apple Time Machine to restore to a new MacBook?
Every time I buy a new computer, I go through extraordinary levels of hassle copying files from the old computer to the new one, and this time I am determined to do something smarter. I heard from a friend that since I use Time Machine (actually, I have a Time Capsule for network backups) that when I get my new MacBook I can just tap the Time Machine backup of my existing system and have it restore every single file and config onto the new system and have it a perfect clone. Rockin'. How do I do that??
I've been holding on to this question for a while now, waiting for a new computer of my own because I too have a Time Capsule and have been using Time Machine for quite a while now to have reliable and invisible backups of my different Mac systems. It's a winner in my book and I have had to restore files from it more than once.
Having said that, I don't really like the fancy "time tunnel" interface to get to Time Machine backups, especially from a computer other than the one you've backed up, but fortunately there are now third-party alternative apps that make this quite a bit easier to do: go to versiontracker.com and search for "time machine" to see what I mean.
So when I got my new MacBook Pro, I got the first chance to test out restoring from Time Machine...
Here's what I saw on initial startup:
I chose "from a Time Machine backup" and then made the mistake of connecting to the unit via my wireless network. Bad mistake since I was going to be restoring hundreds of gigabytes of data (iTunes libraries, Document archives, etc). Why? Sssslllooowwwww city.
I restarted and this time when I got to the same prompt, I made the same choice, but had already hooked my Mac up to the Time Capsule via a direct Ethernet wire.
Once selected, the option changes color:
And it'll be time to click on "Continue" to proceed:
It's a little weird, but since it's connected directly, you don't need to enter a "name", just the password. Enter that correctly and you can proceed by again clicking on the "Connect" button.
Which leads you to...
This is where the wireless connect stunk: two hours after seeing the previous progress bar, it was still spinning, which is why I restarted and tried again with a direct wire connection between the computer and Time Capsule device!
Connected directly it should only be a few minutes before you see:
Now we're getting somewhere! Select what you want to have restored onto the new Mac and once everything has been calculated size-wise, it'll enable the "Transfer" button.
Now you'll see the following cheery, smiling Mac transfer window:
I hope you like it. You'll be looking at it for rather a while...
Those time estimates? Yeah, well, they're estimates...
Suddenly it moved to the next stage and the time estimate, uh, changed a bit:
Oh good, we're moving backwards in time. Well, I guess we are using Time Machine, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised when we roll backwards in time after all? :-)
A bit more time passes and:
Finally, by George, I think we've finished the restore!
Next up is Apple inviting you to register your computer with their central customer database. I always do:
Wait, please, how are you going to use this?
Hey, looks like we're done!
Click "Go" and your computer will restart and hopefully look exactly like your original desktop on your old computer. It worked for me:
So the long and short of it? It's a great way to configure a new computer if you have a Time Machine system set up. Just be patient and do not try to do this via wifi: use a direct Ethernet connection. You'll thank me when it finishes in less than a week. :-)
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