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How To Migrate Data to a New Mac via a Bootable Backup


2. Gather Your Serial Numbers/License Codes

3. Create & Run Your Bootable Backup

4. Renaming Your Old Computer

5. Renaming Your Old ChronoAgent

6. Configure Your New Mac

7. But Wait, Not So Fast!

8. ChronoAgent, Too!

9. Migrating After The Fact






Along with the excitement and anticipation of getting a new Mac comes the trepidation of reconfiguring it and moving all your data to the new machine. A wide array of folders and files make up a typical macOS configuration. Moving data from one machine to another is not as simple a task as many would would think. Apple realizes this problem and created a tool named Migration Assistant to make the job easier for you. One problem with using Migration Assistant, however, is that the process can be very time consuming. Unless you have a trivially small amount of data on your old Mac, you can expect to spend several hours — or maybe even an entire day — transferring information to your new machine.

Fortunately, if you have a bootable backup of your current system, you can speed up the process of data transfer by migrating from your bootable backup rather than your old Mac. This performance improvement comes by virtue of the fact that transferring data from a locally attached hard drive is almost always faster than transferring across a network, especially if that network is wireless. You can expect the migration from a bootable backup to be anywhere from 2 to 10 times faster than doing so over a network.

This guide takes you through the process of migrating to a new Mac via a bootable backup. It will show you how to prepare for and perform this task and what to expect once everything has been migrated. As an added bonus, you’ll have a backup of all your data and a good foundation for a backup strategy moving forward!

2. Gather Your Serial Numbers/License Codes [top]

Before starting your migration, it is a good idea to gather up serial numbers/license codes for any third party software that you may have installed. Many programs that require license keys do so in such a way that the key is associated with the computer that is running them. When you migrate to a new machine, those programs will consider themselves un-registered, so you will have to activate them again with the original serial number/license code. Since every application program is a bit different, this behavior is by no means absolute. We CAN tell you with total confidence, however, that if ChronoSync and/or ChronoAgent are installed on the machine that you are migrating, you will need to re-register them on your new Mac. If these codes aren’t readily available to you, you can look them up now via our license code finder. You should create a temporary TextEdit document containing your license codes and save it on your desktop. It will come in handy later.

3. Create & Run Your Bootable Backup [top]

To create a bootable backup, you’ll need an external hard drive attached to your old computer. While this guide will not go through the details of creating a bootable backup, we do have another guide dedicated to the creating bootable backups. If you are doing this for the first time, you only need to follow that guide up to the point of running & testing your bootable backup (Step 8). You can then go back and read the other options and recommended practices presented in that guide after you have migrated to your new machine.

If you have already configured a bootable backup on your old computer, go ahead and run it now. Note that while this guide assumes you are using ChronoSync for bootable backups (and we definitely prefer you do so, even if just in Trial Mode) you can actually use any one of the many fine tools available for creating bootable backups. The basic concepts presented in this guide apply no matter how you have created your bootable backup.

4. Renaming Your Old Computer [top]

If you plan on continuing to use your old Mac on the same network as your new Mac, you’ll need to make some changes to avoid name conflicts between the two machines. If you have no intention of using your old computer again, you can skip this step.

To rename your old computer, open System Preference on the computer you wish to rename and choose “Sharing”:

Rename your old Mac

If a padlock icon appears at the lower left, click it and authenticate with your administrator credentials. You can then change the “Computer Name” field to a name that does not conflict with your new computer (or any other computer on the network). Close System Preferences at this point and you are done!

Important: this step MUST be performed AFTER you run the bootable backup on your old computer. Otherwise, the new name for your old computer will be reflected in the bootable backup. Your new computer will use the same name!

5. Renaming Your Old ChronoAgent [top]

If you have ChronoAgent installed on your old computer and you intend to keep using your old computer on the same network as your new computer, you will want to rename your ChronoAgent to avoid conflicts on the network. If you don’t have ChronoAgent installed, or you have no intention of using your old computer again, you can skip this step.

To rename ChronoAgent, open System Preferences on your old computer, click ChronoAgent and then select the “General” tab. Supply your administrator credentials so you can make changes.

Rename ChronoAgent

If ChronoAgent is running, you will need to stop it by turning OFF the big slide switch at the top-right of the window. Once this is done, you can change the name of your agent to something that does not conflict with your new computer (or any other computer on the network). When a new name has been entered, you can turn the agent back ON via the slide switch. Close System Preferences and you’re done!

Important: this step MUST be performed AFTER you run the bootable backup on your old computer. Otherwise, the new ChronoAgent name for your old computer will be reflected in the bootable backup. Your new computer’s ChronoAgent will use the same name!

6. Configure Your New Mac [top]

With the bootable backup complete and preliminary preparations out of the way, go ahead and shutdown your old computer (or unmount the bootable backup volume), disconnect the bootable backup drive and move over to your shiny new Mac!

Important: this guide assumes that you have not fired up and begun using your new Mac yet. If you are well disciplined and have kept it in the box up until now, things will go so much smoother! If you have already started up and configured your new Mac with an account, things will be a little more complicated. If so, you should skip ahead to Migrating After The Fact, then come back to this step once you have worked through that section.

With your new Mac out of the box and ready to go, plug in the external hard drive that contains the bootable backup of your old system. After turning the new Mac on, you’ll be asked basic configuration questions such as your language/region and desired keyboard layout. Eventually you will reach a screen like this:

Transfer information to Mac

This is the front-end to the Migration Assistant tool. If you answer “Don’t transfer any information now”, the Migration Assistant will be completely bypassed and you will need to configure your new Mac manually after the fact. That would defeat the point of this guide, so make sure you choose “From a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk” and then click “Continue.”

The next screen to appear displays the options for where to transfer information from. Migration Assistant scans your network and local devices looking for suitable sources. Since your bootable backup volume is a suitable source, it should appear in your list of choices. Note that if there are many suitable choices, you might have to scroll the list horizontally to find your bootable backup volume. Once visible, go ahead and select the bootable backup volume and then click “Continue”, as shown below:

Select bootable for migration

Migration Assistant will then begin scanning your bootable backup volume for all the information that can be transferred. Since it is a complete startup volume, all your user accounts, preference settings, passwords and data files can be transferred. After a brief delay, the options for transfer will be presented:

Select information to transfer

Typically you would make sure that all the information is “checked” and thus selected for transfer. You have the option, however, to drill down and deselect some information that you don’t want transferred. The most common candidate for de-selection would be an old user account that you created for someone else to use but who no longer needs access to your computer. If you wish such an account to be omitted, simply un-check their name. When you are satisfied with your selections, click “Continue.”

At this point, Migration Assistant will prepare to transfer the data. As part of the preparations, it will check to see if some of the components that are being transferred are compatible with your new system. Since you are likely moving to a newer system, you should have no problems. However, if your ‘new’ Mac is really an older Mac, there may be some problems and Migration Assistant will let you know. There also is the very real possibility that, while your old system is completely compatible with the new system, it contains components that are more recent. If such is the case, you may see something like this:

Incompatible app migration

This could occur because, between the time your new Mac was manufactured and the time that you purchased it, a new version of iTunes was released and you updated it on your old computer. This is perfectly normal and you should choose to update the old software if such an option is presented to you.

After any old software is updated, the migration process will begin:

Transferring information to new Mac

As always, take the time remaining estimates with a grain of salt — they are rarely accurate. After a while, the process should complete and you’ll be greeted by the following screen:

Data migration complete

When you click “Quit”, your new system will continue booting but with your old system’s settings in effect. You should reach the login screen just like you normally would (or If your old system was configured to automatically login, your new system will do the same). You should login with your account and the configuration process will continue by asking a few more questions (typically license agreements, iCloud password, etc). Once you have made it through all the configuration questions, your new system is ready to go with a configuration more-or-less identical to your old system!

7. But Wait, Not So Fast! [top]

If you had ChronoSync on your old system, you will be greeted by the following notification at the upper right corner:

ChronoSync scheduler disabled

This is your first clue that something is not quite right, at least as far as your ChronoSync configuration is concerned. The ChronoSync scheduler has detected that it is running on a different boot drive than when it was last run and thus disables itself. This is a safety net because ChronoSync realizes that your system is probably not in a state where it should fire off a bunch of scheduled synchronizations. You’ll need to launch ChronoSync to make things right. When you do so, you’ll be greeted by the following:

Register ChronoSync

This appears because the license key you entered previously was registered on a different computer, and is thus no longer considered valid. Rectifying this is simple. Make sure you have chosen the “Register the Application” option and then click “Continue.” The standard ChronoSync Registration dialog will appear:

Registration panel

If you collected your license codes and saved them in a text file on your desktop (as we suggested at the beginning of this guide), open that text file now and copy/paste your ChronoSync license code into the proper field. After clicking “Register”, ChronoSync will be fully functional and all your old synchronizer documents & schedules will be intact. You’re still not quite done yet, however. You’ll need to edit each synchronizer document that you have previously created, including the bootable backup document that you used for this guide, and update any target that was referencing your old internal drive. For instance, if you open your bootable backup synchronizer document, you should see something like this:

Cannot locate target

You’ll notice that the Source Target displays “*** Cannot locate target ***”, which is because the target hard drive is sitting inside your old computer! To re-target, click “Choose…” and select your new computer’s boot volume:

Select boot volume

After making this change, you are good to go:

Completed target selection

This change, or similar changes, should be made to any and all synchronizer documents that you had previously created. If your new computer’s boot volume has the same name as your old boot volume, e.g. “Macintosh HD”, one trick you can employ is to turn off “Strict Volume Identification” by clicking “Options” for your target instead of “Choose…”:

Strict Volume Identification

This will only work if your volume names are the same. Otherwise you’ll have to click “Choose…” and re-specify your targets (we can’t do this in our example because the boot volumes are named differently). Note you only have to do this for targets that specify the internal drive of your old computer. If a target specifies a file server, ChronoAgent Mac or cloud service, they should work just fine without modification. Also, if a target specifies an external hard drive, it should work as long as that drive is attached to your new computer (as evidenced above since we did not need to change the Destination Target).

Once you have updated all your synchronizer documents to target your internal drive, everything should be ready to resume running your synchronizations. But first you should first spend a little time with your new Mac to make sure everything is in place and operational before running backups. If you fail to do this you run the risk of losing some of your backup data if things aren’t quite right with your new machine.

When your are satisfied that all is good, don’t forget to re-enable the ChronoSync Scheduler via the ChronoSync menu in the system menubar:

ChronoSync Menubar Scheduler

8. ChronoAgent, Too! [top]

If you have ChronoAgent installed on the Mac that you have migrated, you will need to re-register it just like ChronoSync. To do this, open System Preferences on your new Mac and choose ChronoAgent. You will notice it is now running in Demo Mode:

ChronoAgent in demo mode

Click on the “License” panel, supply your administrator credentials and then click on the “Register” button:

Register ChronoAgent

If you collected your license codes and saved them in a text file on your desktop (as we suggested at the beginning of this guide), open that text file now and copy/paste your ChronoAgent license code in the field provided. After clicking “Register”, ChronoAgent will be fully functional and you may close the ChronoAgent Preference Pane.

9. Migrating After The Fact [top]

If your were impatient upon receiving your shiny new Mac and proceeded to boot it up and configure it, you can still migrate from a bootable backup of your old system. The procedure involves manually launching the Migration Assistant application and performing the transfer, much the same way you would have on initial boot of your new Mac. This approach is a little less ‘clean’ than migrating on initial boot, and some of our customers have encountered problems along the way. If you have not configured your new Mac yet, we strongly encourage you to invoke Migration Assistant on first boot as discussed above.

If you must migrate after the fact, the process begins by invoking Migration Assistant. In LaunchPad, this is located in the “Other” application group:

Migration Assistant

When you click Migration Assistant, you will be informed that all applications will be terminated and that a logout will occur. If you proceed, you will be logged out and the very same Migration Assistant window as discussed above will appear.

Transfer Information to Mac

From this point on, the procedure will be identical to a migration from first boot… with one caveat! If the user account you created when configuring your new Mac happens to conflict with the name of an account on your old Mac (which is very likely), a conflict will be presented:

User account conflict

Here you must decide whether or not to replace the account your created on your new Mac with the same account as it existed on your old Mac or to create a duplicate copy of your old account. Unless you have performed a lot of work on your new account prior to migration, we recommend replacing the new account with the old version of it. After making this decision, click “Continue” and the process will be the same as documented above.

When the migration is complete and you finally reach a Finder desktop, we suggest a system restart before following the steps to reconfigure ChronoSync and ChronoAgent as discussed above. We’ve found that sometimes your system may be somewhat confused after the Migration Assistant has been tasked with re-configuring a previously configured system. A restart usually clears that up.


For most people, the above methods will work flawlessly for migrating to a new Mac via a bootable backup. However, we live in an imperfect world and sometimes things just don't work out as expected. If you encounter any problems following this tutorial, here's some tips that may help you get back on track:


From the "Help" menu in ChronoSync, you can try some of the following search terms (minus the quotes):

"Register ChronoSync"
"Bootable Backups"


Check out the following guides that may help:


Contact our technical support team and just ask! We don’t mind — we're here to help!