Manual or Migration Assistant: Moving From 2012 iMac to 2020 MBA

I’m hoping for some experiences here.

I just ordered a refurb of the last Intel batch of MBA. My iMac is starting to show some signs of age (is that the fan or disk I faintly hear?)

I would like to avoid brining over cruft, duplicate folders and files, and a more convoluted file structure than what would be in the Maxine out of the box.

  1. To what degree does Migration Assistant allow you to choose folders, sub folders, apps to move over? Applications? Most I can get off AppStore but not all.

  2. Would moving them manually over WiFi or whatever present problems if there are those little operational or systems folders that might not have the user files I’d be working on or whatever didn’t get moved? If it’s not something I understand, I don’t mess with it. And I’m trying to avoid bringing over as much of that sorta stuff as possible.

  3. Apple Music and Photos. I gotta lot. I know where my actual music files are. But I have Apple Music and that sort of does match and maybe some of those files are in the cloud rather than the iMac HD. Are they? Losing Music would be catastrophic.

  4. Similar question for Photos. I assume these are just in my iCloud? But there are folders…

Finally, the last week I’ve been getting the “Time Machine is full error.” I’d like to get one last backup. What’s the best way to free up space to allow for a Time Machine backup. That stuff’s supposed to be automatic.

Thank you in advance! I googled all this stuff, but it’s hard to know if I’m even asking the right questions let alone how trustworthy some items in the results are.

Tinkertool System by Marcel Bresink is one software that should be able to remove Time Machine snapshots

The last time I migrated from one Mac to another I pruned all the “cruft” before beginning the migration. I deleted what I knew was on longer needed and saved what i wasn’t sure about to a thumb drive, then turned the job over to Migration Assistant.


When I setup my new iMac I installed all applications fresh but copied over my Documents and Photos library from my clone so they wouldn’t take so long to sync from iCloud. Installed some core apps but installed others as I needed them. Have about half the number of apps installed as before.


@glenthompson has the right idea. You really don’t want to copy your old Library folder to your new machine.

@glenthompson I like this idea. Is there a direction in which you could point me for directions on cloning what I need?

Photos, docs, but especially music files need to be retained.

My fear is that over the years because of duplicating users at Apple’s direction while troubleshooting somethings, user error, and happenstance over nearly 9 years, all of theses things aren’t in one overall folder to drag/drop, send to iCloud/download, put on SSD/drop onto HD, etc.

No particular reference. I just copied my Photos library from my clone along with my Documents folder. Those were the major pieces. I could have let those sync from iCloud but wanted to save some time and bandwidth.

I don’t know how to clone and how you would put stuff from the clone onto the new Mac. :frowning:

Carbon Copy Cloner - a very useful tool for backups. Less useful for bootable backups now due to T2 security but still great for a full disk backup. To make the copies I just used Finder to copy the files over.