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In the past I've restored hard drives by (SuperDuper!) cloning, but for setting up new machines I've always set them up from scratch and then copied data over. This is a lot of work.

I have a 2013 iMac with macOS Sierra, and will soon receive a new iMac. I'm thinking of cloning the 2013 iMac to the new computer.

Tentatively I was thinking of connecting to the new Mac's Fusion drive via Thunderbolt Target Disk mode, and then using SuperDuper to clone from the current Mac to the new Mac, rather than doing a multi-clone process with an external drive.

Is there some reason why this is doomed to failure?

I know that a concern would be if the new Mac required a newer build of macOS. But the "new" iMac came out in 2017.

I was planning to upgrade the current Mac to High Sierra first, before cloning. But now I'm not even sure I should do that. The 2017 iMac originally came with mac OS 10.12.4 Sierra, which is older than current Sierra. So I'd think that simply cloning Sierra would work.

If the new Mac comes with High Sierra, and I decide to clone from Sierra, should I erase the target drive first?

(Note: If you're wondering why I don't use Migration Assistant, it is because I don't trust it to copy everything.)
 


Is there some reason why this is doomed to failure?
So long as the cloned system software is compatible with the new hardware, there's no reason why it shouldn't work.

Some people may blanch at this, but my current System has been in use since October 21, 2004 (according to the folder creation date). It started life as Mac OS X 10.3.5 in a Power Mac G5. It got upgraded to Leopard, which was a Universal Binary system, and made a successful transition to a Mac Pro (Early 2008) by simply moving the hard drive over. The hard drive was then cloned to a dual hard disk drive Apple software RAID using Carbon Copy Cloner. Then, the RAID array made another successful machine transition to a Mac Pro (Early 2009) (a warranty replacement for the 2008). From there, the OS was upgraded to Mountain Lion, at which point the system was cloned again to a DIY Fusion Drive. And later upgraded to its current Yosemite state. I'll probably upgrade at some point to High Sierra or Mojave, but I'm not sure yet which or when.
 


... (Note: If you're wondering why I don't use Migration Assistant, it is because I don't trust it to copy everything.)
Michael, trust Migration Assistant. It only skips items installed in the top-level Library folder from third-party vendors, like the newer SoftRAID kernel extension. I am not sure whether Migration Assistant also skips third-party items installed into invisible folders such as /bin, /sbin or /usr, but you should be able to quite easily reinstall the relatively few items it does skip. HUGE time-saver when using Migration Assistant -- but my advice is to only use it from a fresh, never-booted "factory-state" OS, which allows for the same exact User ID to be created.
 


Michael, trust Migration Assistant. It only skips items installed in the top-level Library folder from third-party vendors, like the newer SoftRAID kernel extension.
What version of macOS do new Macs come with? Is it always the same version that they were introduced with, or is it the latest point release? Rumor is you can't use Migration (or Setup) Assistant to migrate from a newer version to an older version, such as from Sierra 10.12.6 to 10.12.4.

I'm also nervous about it skipping items in the Library folder. I see a large number of third-party files in /Library/Application Support, for example, so if it skips them, I'm back to having to reinstall all of those applications.

Note: Mr. "SuperDuper" says Setup Assistant during first boot is the way to go.
 


What version of macOS do new Macs come with?...
New Macs usually are supplied with the "dot zero" release of the current OS. But if you choose to perform a storage boot drive erase and then a network OS reinstallation, I believe you get the current "dot" release of the OS you choose to install. Refer to this Tech Note for the correct keys to hold at boot:

How to reinstall macOS

I do not have any experience in attempting a migration from newer to older -- I would suspect you might get a warning that it is not allowed or supported.

Migration / Setup Assistant will not skip 3rd-party items in /Library/Application Support. And I agree with Mr. SuperDuper.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
New Macs usually are supplied with the "dot zero" release of the current OS.
That's not actually the case, as shown, for example, in EveryMac.com listings of the original OS versions for various Macs:

13-Inch (Touch Bar): Sierra (10.12.1)
15-Inch (Touch Bar): Sierra (10.12.1)
iMac Core i5: Sierra 10.12.4
2013 Mac Pro: OS X 10.9.1
 


Some people may blanch at this, but my current System has been in use since October 21, 2004 (according to the folder creation date). It started life as Mac OS X 10.3.5 in a Power Mac G5.
Interesting - my user folder shows a creation date of Aug 4, 2004, when I migrated to a then-new Power Mac G5. But the system creation date is July 8, 2016, which probably is the date I set up the external hard drive that I now boot from.

How do you manage the cruft that tends to accumulate over the years?
 


I want to create a partitioned dual-boot SSD - Sierra and High Sierra. However, Disk Utility in High Sierra only shows APFS, so I cannot create a bootable Sierra volume. Any suggestions?
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I want to create a partitioned dual-boot SSD - Sierra and High Sierra. However, Disk Utility in High Sierra only shows APFS, so I cannot create a bootable Sierra volume. Any suggestions?
I'm not running High Sierra to try this, but can you add a partition ("+" button, then Apply the change), and then go back and Erase that partition into HFS+ format?
 


I'm not running High Sierra to try this, but can you add a partition ("+" button, then Apply the change), and then go back and Erase that partition into HFS+ format?
No. There is no option for anything except APFS (journaled, encrypted, case sensitive).
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
There is no option for anything except APFS (journaled, encrypted, case sensitive).
Well, presumably you could format a partition in HFS+ by using an older Disk Utility (e.g. in macOS Sierra), but, lacking that option, perhaps the Terminal command line (e.g. diskutil) would let you do it - maybe worth a look. I wonder also if booting in Recovery mode would give you any additional options, though I'm guessing it won't.
 


I want to create a partitioned dual-boot SSD - Sierra and High Sierra. However, Disk Utility in High Sierra only shows APFS, so I cannot create a bootable Sierra volume. Any suggestions?
Based on this discussion, it sounds like you have to have High Sierra installed on the SSD you want to partition, and boot from that same SSD also. Then, within Disk Utility, you will have the option to partition it and format that partition as HFS+ (last 2 pictures in the thread).

It apparently does not work if you boot from a different device and try to partition the not-booted-from SSD (all the stuff he talks about for the first 80% of the discussion in that thread).
 


I want to create a partitioned dual-boot SSD - Sierra and High Sierra. However, Disk Utility in High Sierra only shows APFS, so I cannot create a bootable Sierra volume. Any suggestions?
Well, clearly it can be done, since I've got one. However, I started by booting in Sierra, so maybe that's the issue.
 


I have avoided upgrading my own laptop, as well as computers owned by clients, to High Sierra -- El Capitan is perfectly fine for now. But I had two recent disconcerting experiences with High Sierra -- one on a brand-new MacBook Pro, and another MacBook Pro which was erased and freshly-set up with High Sierra.

In both situations, Safari refused to allow me to change the home page to any other URL than what was pre-programmed in (Apple's home page.) I tried both manually entering the desired URL in Safari's Preferences as well as surfing to that particular web site (Google) and then instructing Safari to use that current web page as the home page. Complete Fail.

Anyone have the identical experience? Any known workarounds?
 


... Safari refused to allow me to change the home page to any other URL than what was pre-programmed in (Apple's home page.) I tried both manually entering the desired URL in Safari's Preferences as well as surfing to that particular web site (Google) and then instructing Safari to use that current web page as the home page. Complete Fail.
Anyone have the identical experience? Any known workarounds?
I ran into that last Halloween, here's my post:
On several Macs running El Capitan when I tried to change Safari's homepage to DuckDuckGo it was overwritten by Apple's preset homepage. If I go to DuckDuckGo, open Safari's Preferences, and click "Set to Current Page" nothing happens. I was tabbing out of the field to make it set, a GUI SOP for decades. That doesn't work, it resets the field to the original contents. I found the trick today. After typing in the new home page I clicked on another of the icons at the top of the Preferences window, then the change stuck. Once again, we have to memorize how to work around a dysfunctional common UI element that "just worked" for decades.
 



What version of macOS do new Macs come with?...
An update: The new (2017) iMac came with High Sierra 10.13.4, which is one behind the current macOS release.

And I'll never know how effective it would have been to use the first-boot Setup Assistant to migrate from the old iMac.

I set up the new iMac in place of the old, started up the old iMac in Target Disk Mode, connected by Thunderbolt: old iMac (with Thunderbolt 1) -> Thunderbolt cable -> Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt 3 adapter -> new iMac with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C). And then started the new iMac.

But the new iMac didn't see any drives on the old iMac. So, on to plan B: connect by gigabit Ethernet. Rebooted the old iMac.

Imagine my shock when the old iMac started up with a prohibitory symbol! The Fusion drive is toast! Not even DiskWarrior can revive it.

And despite all my careful planning, I had neglected to bring the SuperDuper clone up to date first (it was last cloned two weeks ago). I didn't even make sure Time Machine had run before shutting down the old iMac. I wasn't thinking that the old iMac had any hard drive problems, just the display.

I don't have any idea why the Fusion drive got corrupted. I have rebooted the iMac many times since it first started exhibiting display problems. My leading theory is that Target Disk Mode had something to do with it. Or it was only working before because of all the other USB-3 devices plugged into it.

I ended up doing the first-boot migration from Time Machine (even though I don't trust it, because I know that Sierra has trouble accurately updating it), and then copying the excluded files from the SuperDuper clone.

So let this be an object lesson: update your clone before migrating to a new computer!
 


I have avoided upgrading my own laptop, as well as computers owned by clients, to High Sierra -- El Capitan is perfectly fine for now. But I had two recent disconcerting experiences with High Sierra -- one on a brand-new MacBook Pro, and another MacBook Pro which was erased and freshly-set up with High Sierra. In both situations, Safari refused to allow me to change the home page to any other URL than what was pre-programmed in (Apple's home page.) I tried both manually entering the desired URL in Safari's Preferences as well as surfing to that particular web site (Google) and then instructing Safari to use that current web page as the home page. Complete Fail. Anyone have the identical experience? Any known workarounds?
A good reason to use a different browser as your default (I favor Firefox). I still use Safari (as well as Chrome and Opera) for the occasional site that doesn't play well with Firefox.
 


I usually use the Migration Assistant every time I get a new machine. It has never let me down or resulted in flakey behavior. If I was interested in completely reinstalling the OS, apps, etc. every time, I could just run Windows...

My experience with Mac OS X:

My first Mac OS X machine was a Titanium PoweBook G4 DVI, which came with Mac OS X 10.1.

Updated in place 10.1 -> 10.2 -> 10.3 -> 10.4 (skipped 10.5)

Bought the last aluminum PowerBook G4 (with Mac OS X 10.4), put the Titanium in Target Disk Mode, used Migration Assistant to copy everything from the Titanium G4. Never updated it past 10.4.

Bought an Early 2011 17" MacBook Pro, with Mac OS X 10.6.8. Put the aluminum PowerBook G4 in Target Disk Mode, used Migration Assistant to copy everything over. Worked flawlessly, even though it was going from PowerPC -> Intel and skipping an OS generation (10.4 -> 10.6).

Upgraded in place from 10.6 -> 10.8 (skipped 10.7).

GPU died, so I bought a replacement Late 2011 17" MacBook Pro (call it MacBook Pro #2), transplanted the SSD from the dead one. This became my primary work machine.

Found someplace to repair the original 17" MacBook Pro, bought a new SSD for it, used Target Disk Mode and Carbon Copy Cloner to clone #2 back to it.

Upgraded #2 in place from 10.8 -> 10.11 (skipped .9, .10) -> 10.12

I wanted to keep the original at 10.8, but needed 10.12 on it. Used Target Disk Mode and Carbon Copy Cloner to clone #2 back to it.

Bought a refurbished 2015 MacBook Pro. Used Target Disk Mode and Carbon Copy Cloner to clone #2 to it.

I now use ChronoSync to keep the three synchronized; the replacement 17" MacBook Pro is still my primary machine.

I have never had any weird stability issues, even though there are remnants from my old Titanium PowerBook G4 on it. Mail, iTunes, iPhoto/Photo databases survived every update. I could probably save a little space if I wanted to wade through and delete old stuff, but I don't.

The only problem I had was trying to update from OS X 10.8 -> 10.9. The Apple Mail update was broken and corrupted my mail database, so I abandoned it and went back to 10.8.
 


For what it's worth...

My first Mac system was in 1987 (yes, I came to the platform late). I used a floppy copied from someone else as my personal boot drive around the university, so I could rely on having the same fonts and control panels (using Font/DA Mover). My first Mac purchase was an external hard drive (I believe 40 megabytes at $400 or some such), which I connected to the Mac Plus computers; I got a Mac months afterwards. I drag-copied the system from the floppy to the hard drive.

Long story short, I've never had to start over again. That system kept getting upgraded until I was at Mac OS 9. I joined Mac OS X with Tiger (10.4), which many saw as the first usable version. I'm now on macOS 10.13 and have never done a clean install.

I will admit that now and then I've cleaned out the system files, and there's no doubt I have a lot of junk, but thanks partly to app uninstallers, I've managed to have a clean, crash-free system; indeed, since 10.13, I don't think I've had a single freeze or crash.

The only exception is when I do an upgrade; around half the time, the system shows two dialogue boxes, and I can't reach either one, so I reboot and all is normal. That's due to some utility or another, and between Little Snitch, Default Folder, BlockBlock, etc., there's a lot to remember. Perhaps if Apple didn't insist on layering their warnings and dialogue boxes over each other on an otherwise blank screen... or putting us through those same “setting up your Mac” boxes every time we do a minor update?
 


Migrating Zombies to Your New Mac?

In 2005 I bought a G4 Mac Mini at CompUSA, and the resident Apple employee suggested I add the Intego Security Suite. I bought it and later added a multi-year, multi-user license. At the second renewal, Intego substantially raised prices. I didn't renew and un-installed Intego from all Macs.

Three or four new Macs later, I noticed issues with slow processing and "Internet throughput." Cause: zombie pieces of the Intego Suite that had persisted through an unbroken chain of "Migration Assistant" setups. The zombies were trying to phone home. Maybe even were phoning home? Found and squashed them. Perhaps they were hibernating for years? No idea what changed that caused them to draw my attention.

It is possible that AppDelete, with its "find orphans" feature, would do the job on zombie application stubs. Definitely worth a try before "migrating" and possibly after.

Due to my experience with the Intego zombie, I stopped using Migration Assistant, preferring a clean setup, even though it takes more time to recreate my preferred setup.

On a sad note, AppDelete developer Reggie Ashworth died in 2017. Thankfully, AppDelete lives on. There's just enough difference between the full and "lite" App Store versions to choose the full one, and to send a bit more money to Reggie's heirs.http://www.reggieashworth.com/about
 


Now and then I do go through extensions and startup things with software like LaunchControl (which I highly recommend to anyone). Among other things, it helps when you install and de-install software, or you can shut off various “phone home” functions (e.g. for daily updates on software that you use maybe once a year).

AppDelete might do that and it might not. I don't think any uninstaller is perfect. It takes five to ten minutes to go through LaunchControl's list of startup programs, libraries, and such and remove or deactivate anything that doesn't look right.

The problem with starting fresh each time is if you have a lot of software, some of which you don't use often, you may find it's impossible to re-license it. Some companies (Adobe!) put you through a lot of work before they'll re-issue, if they do at all.
 


The problem with starting fresh each time is if you have a lot of software, some of which you don't use often, you may find it's impossible to re-license it. Some companies (Adobe!) put you through a lot of work before they'll re-issue, if they do at all.
It has been a good while since I used Migration Assistant, so is my memory correct that Adobe/Microsoft programs with "keys" require key re-entry, anyway? The Adobe recommended approach seems to be to deactivate Adobe programs on the "old" Mac then do a "clean install" on the new one.

Here's a summary from a Carbon Copy Cloner FAQ that mirrors my recollection from migrating and cloning:
Bombich Software said:
Some applications won't work when transferred to a new disk or when run on a different Mac. This has nothing to do with whether or how CCC backs up your data, it comes down to the serialization requirements imposed by the software vendor (i.e. their anti-piracy strategy). Some applications will work just fine, some will simply require that you re-enter your serial number (Microsoft Office and Adobe apps frequently fall in this category), while other applications will require a reinstallation from the original install media or online reactivation via the vendor's website.
 


It has been a good while since I used Migration Assistant, so is my memory correct that Adobe/Microsoft programs with "keys" require key re-entry, anyway?
Yes, you have to deactivate and reactivate when changing machines, but only for a few programs (Adobe and Microsoft, in my case; the others are fine). Most stuff just carries through. Still, if you've done customizations, and Adobe used to encourage that with Dreamweaver and Photoshop, deactivate/reactivate is a lot nicer than reinstall/activate. Most software in my experience just works.

The same goes if you have custom Word dictionaries and style sheets, though Microsoft has been discouraging that by abandoning them when you go up a version.
 


(Addendum...)

I posted because I wanted to add a different perspective. I’m not saying my way is right for everyone, because it isn’t. However, I tend to personalize and get things “just right for me,” and I’m sure I’m not alone. Though I don’t change computers often, (I’m now eight years on the Mac Pro 5,1 though I go through laptops a bit more often), it's nice to use Migration Assistant and find everything still running fine.

In the past, Migration Assistant has been good at moving the really dead stuff out — though it keeps the preferences, which do clutter up the place. I tried utilities to remove those, but they don’t work all that well. (They get rid of active stuff as well, probably because i set up “noatime” long ago. I should really remove that.)

I know one can do it manually by selectively moving in preferences and such. That's always an option. But so far I haven't had any issues with Migration Assistant and such, and I suspect that's true of many people out there.

As a side note, I recently moved my virtual machine from Windows 10 32-bit to 64-bit. It's a free upgrade, and dramatically increased speed for whatever reason, but... you really do have to start from scratch there! So far, Apple has not, in my experience, ever done a mandatory “nuclear option.”
 


I think Migration Assistant has improved much. However, it lacks granular selection. I wish Apple would allow "advanced" settings to uncheck apps, prefs, folders, etc, that would not be necessary or might be conflicting. One thing for Apple: at least we have the ability to migrate from a 10.9 to 10.13 macOS. On the Windows side, you have to buy tool like PC LapLink's PCMover if you need to move Win 7 users to Win 10. (I see what you did there Microsoft!)
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I think Migration Assistant has improved much. However, it lacks granular selection. I wish Apple would allow "advanced" settings to uncheck apps, prefs, folders, etc, that would not be necessary or might be conflicting.
I agree completely - it's frustrating to have so little control over what gets migrated. Here's Apple's support document:
Apple said:
How to move your content to a new Mac
Use Migration Assistant to copy all of your documents, apps, user accounts, and settings to a new Mac from another computer.
 


It has been a good while since I used Migration Assistant, so is my memory correct that Adobe/Microsoft programs with "keys" require key re-entry, anyway? The Adobe recommended approach seems to be to deactivate Adobe programs on the "old" Mac then do a "clean install" on the new one.
Microsoft Office 2011/2016 Perpetual Licence requires reactivation/serial number if the CPU changes. It's usually okay with a hard drive/storage change/upgrade or a Time Machine recovery on the same computer. This can be a problem though as you are only allowed to use the serial number several times (rumours/experience put it at 3 times - then you're SOL if you can't get Microsoft to give you a new serial number key - successes and horror stories doing this are documented previously on MacInTouch).

Microsoft Office 365 requires reactivation pretty much if anything changes including the user account even on the same computer - this is because the licence is per user, per computer. You can control the activations/users/licenses via your Office 365 account online including removing them - see Deactivate an Office 365 install

Adobe Creative Suite CS6 requires reactivation pretty much if anything changes with the hardware but the licence is per computer so can be used across multiple users on the same computer. The standard CS6 licence actually allows two installs for the same user - this is to allow for installation on one desktop computer and one laptop computer, but must be the same user plus the licence states concurrent use is not allowed. On an attempted third activation the activation will fail. As there is no way to control your activations online you are highly recommended to "de-activate" on one computer and then reactivate on the new computer - see Activate and deactivate Adobe products

Adobe Creative Cloud requires reactivation pretty much if anything changes with the hardware but the licence is per computer so can be used across multiple users on the same computer. The standard CC licence actually allows two installs for the same user - this is to allow for installation on one desktop computer and one laptop computer, but must be the same user plus the licence states concurrent use is not allowed. On an attempted third activation it is different to CS6 - CC asks you if you want to deactivate all previous installations and activate on the third installation. This is useful if you forget to deactivate (or cannot due to hardware failure) an original install.

So if you are upgrading/migrating to a new Mac here's the summary:
  • Microsoft Office 2011/2016 Perpetual Licence = good luck if you're used the serial number more than 3 times
  • Microsoft Office 365 = go online to your account and remove the old activation, activate on the new computer
  • Adobe Creative Suite CS6 = you must de-activate before you upgrade/migrate
  • Adobe Creative Cloud = de-activate the original install before you upgrade/migrate but don't worry if you forget/can't, the third activation will allow you to deactivate the first two
 


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