New M1 Software Set Up

I recently ordered a M1 mini (I went with 16gb ram), unfortunately it won’t arrive until Jan 11th. I’ll be upgrading from a 7 year old MacBook Pro. I have a lot of “junk” on my old computer (apps and files). I thought I might start fresh and just add the apps as I need them. If I do this, what would be the best way to migrate key data files like DevonThink databases etc? I would love to hear how others have migrated. I think I will still nee to use the old MacBook for a while as not all of the apps I use regularly are M1 compatible yet.

Thanks for the assistance.

Best Regards,


I started fresh with my M1 Air. I switched on iCloud Sync for Documents and Desktop, and I already used iCloud Photo Library, so that combination brought most of my “stuff” over.

I copied a few other things across via my network, installed as much as I could via the App Store (preferring that over direct from the developer’s website where possible), and rely upon cloud sync for everything else (including OneDrive, Dropbox, 1Password, etc.)


Yes, except for Alfred. The version of Alfred in the Mac App Store is severely outdated.

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odds are they will run fine under rosetta, at least as fast as on an older intel mac. that’s been my experience with a few weeks of use.


Set up sync on your MBP, then set it up on the Mini. Let DEVONthink take care of syncing everything over. This will also take care of keeping both in sync while you switch back and forth from laptop to Mini.

Note that your database files (the .dtbase2 files) cannot be in a synced folder (like, say, Documents). Here’s more info:


I migrated my documents and other data over by doing a backup restore from Backblaze, but I deliberately left the applications folder off the list of folders I wanted the backup to be for so that I didn’t migrate over a bunch of crud I wasn’t using.

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I always start fresh with apps for three reasons:

  1. avoiding unneccessary kurfuffle
  2. easier to identify an app that is causing a problem
  3. I enjoy installing apps

This week I migrated from my 6 year old MacBook Pro to the M1 and transferred everything manually. It didn’t take as long as I expected but you should plan for a few hours and for things to come up as you start using your new MacBook.

I was surprised to see that all my apps have been running without a problem. Even Karabiner Elements is working with no issues. I use Backblaze for backups and was about to do a new full backup when I remembered it can inherit an old backup state which saved a lot of time.

When I installed and started using Launchbar it was randomly pausing/hanging for a few seconds when launching some apps, it would then continue with the command as if nothing happened. Not sure if it was because it was indexing my files or if Big Sur was doing some sort of check but it stopped doing it after a few days.

One thing I realized once I had my new MacBook is that I needed to upgrade ($) some apps to the latest versions. A couple that come to mind are Screenflow, Bartender and Clean my Mac.

I don’t upgrade my computers frequently so after so many years it’s nice to configure the new one being very conscious of what I really need and I actually also enjoy the process so it’s been a smooth transition overall.


Like most folks replying here, I took a manual+sync approach to migrating from my old laptop (MBP 2016) to the new one (MBP M1). It was even simpler on my wife’s new M1 MBA. For both, the high-level summary was:

  • First boot, follow the macOS onboarding path, log into iCloud, etc. Open Notes and let that sync. (I wanted to keep a detailed log of setup steps in Notes, as well as reference some prep notes I made.)
  • Install “critical” apps: 1Password, Alfred, SpamSieve, BBEdit, a few others. For the ones that can sync, sync. For some others, copy configuration details manually. For SpamSieve, I set it up from scratch. (I get plenty of spam for training…)
  • A round of “comfort configuration”. Various macOS system and Finder preferences that make the new machine feel like “normal”. This included setting up with my accounts (which sync’ed via iCloud, but needed tweaking).
  • Download and install “important” apps: these are apps I know I will use, but which weren’t essential to getting started.
  • Start up the old Mac in Target Disk Mode, and copy the “real” data from it. Documents folder, some fonts and sounds, etc. Whatever your real stuff is, skipping most ~/Library crap, abandoning some things that won’t work, etc. (For example, I didn’t copy over my Parallels VM images, since it’s going to be a while before those work.)
  • I specifically did not copy over any apps. While some of them would have been fine, doing a clean install rather than using Migration Assistant is intended to leave behind problems, weirdness, and forgotten junk. I’ll re-install when I need something.

For apps that sync, I logged in, and let them sync. (1Password, Notes, Messages, Photos, Paprika, One Note, a few others.) I don’t use Dropbox at all, and minimally use iCloud Drive. (Kind of old school, but I like local-only data, at least for Plain Old Documents.)

Depending on your media collection, you might have more or less of that to worry about. I was migrating from a Mojave system with iTunes, and I basically abandoned the entire iTunes Media folder. Somewhere along the way, years ago, my music library got totally borked by either iCloud Music Sync or Apple Music; missing tracks in albums, missing albums, and so on. Not worth copying. I plan to set up a media import system on a Mac mini, and re-import everything in a lossless format. Movies got copied to a home server (where the music will go, eventually), except for the home videos, etc., which did get copied to ~/Movies.

For the rest, the many other apps I have installed on the old machine, I’m waiting to actually need it before I install it. Many things need time to be compatible with Big Sur, if not the M1, so waiting isn’t really a disadvantage.

The old machine will be around for a while, so I don’t need to have a perfect, complete migration in one go. The new machine is now the main machine, but I’ll use the old laptop for Parallels and some other media-specific tasks, at least until there’s nothing Intel-only that I need to do regularly. (An older Mac mini will take over doing that, as soon as I get things moved over.)

Thanks for the detailed reply.