New Mac, new start?

Upgrading from 2015 MacBook Pro to a brand spankin’ new M1. For the first time in forever, I am considering building it from scratch rather than using Migration Assistant.

MA has done the job well in the past but I am thinking there must be some old cruft in here and have had issues with this and other machines as I have migrated back and forth – most important, that TextExpander doesn’t work well in some apps, often pasting out of order (especially in Messages and Slack and a few others), a problem I and Smile support have been unable to figure out.

SO: Anyone have suggestions about how best to build the new system up? Any workflows that work?

I always build from scratch. I generally make a list of what’s installed on the old machine via the App Store, SetApp, and direct download, then decide which of those I actually still need.


I tried Migration Assistant to set up a 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro from an Intel MacBook Pro, and got all sorts of weirdness. Not sure if the Apple Silicon to Intel thing was a problem. It’s been a while, so I don’t remember what the issues were, but it was enough after a few days for me to go back and do a clean install.

I always (read: done once or twice, haven’t upgraded Macs that often) write a script and run it on the new machine. Usually installs mission-critical things from Homebrew, tweaks certain settings, etc. Files are backed up to OneDrive and code is backed up to GitHub so that’s transferred over as usual. Everything else is left on the old machine and I add it to the new one as needed, often resulting in a lot that doesn’t make it over. Works well for me.

I tend to do as @ChrisUpchurch described. I usually take a screenshot of my old Applications folder and print it out to use as a reference. The first apps I install are mostly the utilities like 1password, bartender, hazel, keyboard maestro, arc, etc. Then I start installing the other apps. There are certain ones I know I’ll want but the others I install only when and If I need them. I usually end up with fewer apps than I had before. I always do a clean install to get rid of the cruft as @anon20961960 mentioned.


I do much the same. I install the apps I use at least once a week, then wait until they are needed to install others. There is usually a couple that are never reinstalled.


I always start from scratch. It’s fast enough if you have good copies of license files and settings/preferencens.

In your case going from Intel to M1 I would do it in any case and make sure you download M1 versions of all software.

I will be doing an M1 to M1 restore for the first time in a while next week when my Mac Studio arrives. My M1 Mini only has been build up a few months ago, so I will restore it.

I normally do a complete rebuild once a year. I like “the smell of a new computer”.

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In going from Intel to M1 I decided to build from scratch. In my case I moved from a MacBook Air + display to an iMac. Kept the Air for travel so I had it as a reference for all my applications. I started with the apps I knew I was going to use in the short term then installed the others as I needed them. Found a number of apps I wasn’t really using anymore.

Hey, that’s MY routine! lol


I used MA or clones for years and then 3 years ago started my new MBP from scratch. However I kept a clone of the old HD in part because it was 2TB and the new MBP was 1 TB. I have had to go back to the clone now and then. I’m still waiting for my next MBP which will be 2TB again.

OK, so a ground up build it is. Any suggestions about the procedure?

I think it’s:

  1. Fire up new M1 machine without migration, log in to my icloud account.

  2. Manually install apps from scratch.

  • I have MS Office 2019, not sure how to get the M1 version, install, and validate with my license.
  • Adobe apps I think are no issue.
  • And I guess for the rest, I reinstall from their website or using the App Store. I have serial numbers and should be good.
  1. Now, what about preferences? How do I get them without sucking in a lot of cruft?

  2. My data: Not sure how to proceed here. I have a Time Machine and Super Duper backup, assume I would work from the latter and wade through my User file grabbing the obvious, leaving Library folder behind?

  3. Mail: Not sure how to migrate over, especially the folders that are On My Mac.


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  1. Yes

  2. Yes. I cannot comment on Adobe but it appears you can download a new installer.

Microsoft 365, Office 2021, and Office 2019 support for Apple silicon

  1. I’ve always set everything up manually. But I suggest you see what others suggest.

  2. I’ve been successful just dragging the contents of folders (Documents, etc.) from a Chronosync backup so using SD should work. I’ve haven’t restored Apple Notes in years, hopefully others can guide you on the best course for that.

  3. If your email is IMAP just set up the accounts and mail will take care of itself. “On my Mac” folders can be exported from your old Mac and imported on your new.

Good luck.

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Your suggestions and those from @WayneG are good. More thoughts:

For iCloud settings, I recommend against allowing iCloud sync of your Documents and Desktop folders. If you do select iCloud sync of Documents and Desktop folders, do NOT copy or drag those folders to the new Mac.

After logging in to iCloud and selecting appropriate settings, the first app I would install would be 1Password or your password manager of choice.

Next would be Dropbox, if applicable for you. Don’t drag over your Dropbox folder from the old Mac - just let your Dropbox folder sync from the cloud.

You didn’t mention Photos. If you use iCloud Photos, your photos will automatically sync down from iCloud, so you should NOT copy over your Photos Library.photoslibrary file from the old Mac (or backup) to your new Mac. First make sure you you have Photos settings selected as you desire - iCloud Photos (Y/N) then decide between Download Originals to this Mac or Optimize Photo storage.

If you have other pictures in your Pictures folder (that are not in Photos Library), you should copy those over to the Pictures folder in your new Mac, but not the Photos Library.photoslibrary file.

Simply copy > paste (or drag) your other data folders from your SuperDuper disk or other backup - Documents, Desktop (assuming you don’t select iCloud sync for those), Downloads, Movies.

Some apps are licensed for only one computer or for a limited number of computers, so you must follow the developer’s procedure for deactivating the license on the old Mac, then installing and registering or transferring license on the new Mac.

There will undoubtedly be a number of settings or preferences that you forget (e.g., keyboard, trackpad and mouse preferences), so make sure to check those.

There are Youtube videos that provide useful tips for setting up a new Mac, reminding you of settings you might forget or pointing out new ones. Here is one of my favorites from Tyler Stallman:

Another good one:

Good luck!


Wow, such great replies. Thank you much.

With regard to Photos and Music, those are on an external disk and I plan to move them to my new (larger) SDD but I take your point about letting Photos sync from the cloud; otherwise, I run the risk of it not recognizing that the local file is the same and getting duplicates?

Re prefs, I think I will let them all go to default settings and redo as I encounter them.

Yes, and there is more. And that leads to a roundabout and counter-intuitive answer, so bear with me. (And remember - you asked for this! :grinning:. Be careful what you ask for!)

My answer, and the more complete explanation from the excellent Podfeet blog (link below), assumes a specific situation: You have a large system Photos Library that contains full-resolution images (“originals”, in Apple-Speak).

Quote from

… On the machine which has the full resolution photos, If that connection to iCloud gets disturbed in any way, the iCloud service will check every single image to see if it’s been synced to and from iCloud. With a normal library, this might cause a check of say 1000 photos or even 5000 photos. But when you’ve got 70,000 photos, this turns into a huge problem…

This one-by-one check of every individual photo can take a VERY long time, much longer than simply downloading the photos anew from iCloud without the one-by-one check. And if you allow the one-by-one check to grind on, no new photos can be synced down through iCloud Photos. This has been called the “3-week dance of doom (™️Donald Burr).” Read the blog post linked above for a full - and entertaining - explanation.

So by all means carry on with your nuke-and-pave, or from-the-ground-up build of a new Mac, but let your Photos Library sync down from iCloud rather than copying it over from a backup. If you have a large Photos Library, you will be glad you did.


Indeed! LOL.

I am deeply grateful to all who replied here; I think you all have helped me dodge several bullets.

Great ideas and those two videos are perfect for what to configure once the new Mac is up. Thanks!

Lots of good advice above. I want just to point out the #1 most annoying thing I’ve encountered in pursuing a few “new starts” in my life as a Mac user. This was: all the keyboard shortcuts I’d set up in System Preferences → Shortcuts → App Shortcuts did not transfer to the new machine. I had put so much thought into creating these that I was mildly devastated the first time I lost them all. Subsequently I took meticulous screenshots (first of the System Preferences pane, then via the CustomShortcuts app) and recreated my shortcuts by hand. But even this was such a pain that now I don’t use System Preferences for keyboard shortcuts at all! … Instead I rely entirely on Keyboard Maestro, because it is so much easier to transfer my macros to a new Mac (or, more often, to an old Mac that I’m trying to bring back to life by giving it a “new start”). I hope this is helpful and that you avoid losing your keyboard shortcuts like I did!

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I haven’t done a total reboot the last 15 years or so. But I’m planning on buying a MacBook Pro later this year and will problably start from scratch then.

• How are you doing with all your emails? (I know that most of them will be stored as IMAP, but I have a lot of local storage as well) And signatures etc in Mail?

• Preferences can be redone, but I am surprised how many special things I have gotten used to during the years, and I have a zillion shortcuts in System Preferences that must be moved as well…

Talking about this; Why isn’t System preferences etc stored on iCloud Drive as well? That is one reason why I don’t have two Macs – I only have one MBP now. If I buy a stationary as well, I want them to be identical!

Unless someone knows of a better way to do this than recreating them all by hand, I will make one suggestion (hinted at in my comment above) to make this very slightly easier. You’ll want screenshots of your current shortcuts to remind you what they are when you’re recreating them. But taking screenshots of the tiny System Preferences window requires a ton of scrolling and a ton of screenshots. It’s easier to install the CustomShortcuts app (see above). This displays all the same shortcuts but in a resizable window, thus cutting down on the number of screenshots you’ll need. Does that make sense? The app also presents an easier interface for adding and changing shortcuts. Good luck with the move. Hope someone can help you with the other questions you had.

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