I got a new unibody MacBook today, and for the first time ever, getting a new Mac hasn’t left me happy. Dear Apple: Please bring back either FireWire target mode or a replacement that, you know, works.

It used to be, when you got a new Mac, you started up your old Mac in “FireWire target mode”, and plugged it in, and this thing called Migration Assistant turned your new Mac into your old Mac, only newer and faster and better. It might take as much as a couple of hours, but who cares? This is a killer feature. Er, this was a killer feature.

The new MacBooks don’t have FireWire. That’s OK, when it comes up it invites you to wire up your old mac via Ethernet, fire up Migration Assistant, and let ’er rip. Only it progressed from “4 hours 37 minutes remaining” to “2 hours 50 minutes remaining” and then said “The other Macintosh has gone offline.” Repeatably.

Well OK then, it says it’ll also restore from a Time Capsule backup. I have one of those. It got on the WiFi all right, and has now spent five hours in “Checking Time Machine Backup” mode. My confidence that this is going to work is subsiding fast.

In the old days, I would have been happily running on the new machine by now, cheerily blogging about my shiny new Mac. As it is, it looks to me like Apple, not to put too fine a point on it, removed a killer feature from a flagship product. This doesn’t feel like a good idea.

Um, dear LazyWeb: Advice would be welcome.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Ted Wood (May 19 2009, at 22:44)

I agree. Bring Firewire back across your entire line, Apple.

Sorry, don't have any advice, except: try again.


From: Fred Blasdel (May 19 2009, at 22:48)

A) Don't ever use Wifi for this, or anything like it.

B) There's no reason to use the migration assistant when your old install will boot fine on any Mac! The only thing that won't "just work" are the preferences for directory services, power, sound, and screensaver -- they're stored in "ByHost" plist files, which have the MAC address in the filename.

Just restore from your bootable backup (you have one, right?) on your new lappy.


From: Zack (May 19 2009, at 22:48)

When the automatic systems break, it's best to go manual. All the Migration Assistant does is move over your home folder, create an identical user account, and copy Applications (and appropriate contents of the /Library hierarchy)

If you log in as another admin user, copy your account folder from /Users the old mac to the new mac (via file sharing, scp, or rsync), then create an account with the identical short name, you'll be prompted to use the existing folder. You may have to chown -R the entire thing to fix permission issues.

Ideally, the account you regularly use shouldn't be an Admin account for security reasons.

As for apps, this is a good opportunity to reinstall them and make sure you have the most current version.


From: shazron (May 19 2009, at 22:49)

I would bite the bullet and don't do a migration. Run iBackup http://www.grapefruit.ch/iBackup/ on the old one to a backup ext drive, then do the reverse using iBackup on the new one.


From: Sam Collins (May 19 2009, at 22:54)

A cheap external USB case and Disk Utility can help you there. Boot from OS X DVD, clone from old drive to new.


From: mr ghort (May 19 2009, at 23:04)

Did you try the ethernet method across a switch or connected directly? I used direct and it worked fine.

But yeah, I too mourn the loss of firewire.


From: David Anderson (May 19 2009, at 23:14)

For me, the migration feature is much more interesting in theory than in practice. Inevitably something has always gone wrong during the firewire migration -- I have tried it each time I've gotten a new Mac, which must be 4 or 5 times, and it has never really worked. Perhaps this is because I wait to get a new Mac until the old one is, well, old, and the filesystem has probably got some hideous cruft somewhere, or the disk drive is flaky. But I do wonder how often this "killer" feature behaves as advertised. I've had better luck with SuperDuper and CarbonCopyCloner.


From: stand (May 19 2009, at 23:32)

I had a similar problem recently with a mini. Make sure that the old machine doesn't go into hibernate mode. I turned off all the power save/auto logoffs and it worked for me.


From: Paul Downey (May 19 2009, at 23:43)

I'm jealous of your new Mac! Recently I gave my two year old black MacBook a new lease of life by upgrading the internal hard drive to 500Gig. The new drive cost £80 and only took a couple of hours to clone using SupaDupa and an external SATA/USB enclosure. It was then a simple matter to then swap the drives over. I guess that offers a few possibilities if you were willing to whip out a screwdriver.

Given how much digital cruft builds up, I'd be tempted to live on a clean machine and knife and fork bits over from an external drive as and when you notice them missing.


From: Tok (May 20 2009, at 00:19)

Firewire lost the war, sure target mode was useful but there are plenty of ways to work around this.

I'm glad Apple cull the the dead and dieing, whilst I don't see floppy drives on PC laptops I still see Parallel ports.

CD/DVD drives next to go, then ethernet.


From: David Warde-Farley (May 20 2009, at 00:30)

When my last-generation MBP had its third hardware failure Apple replaced it, I restored from a USB Time Machine disk, all went smoothly.

I too agree on the rollback of FIrewire (even with a Pro I'm still missing a Firewire 400 port, grumble grumble dongles grumble).


From: Thijs van der Vossen (May 20 2009, at 00:41)

Connect to your Time Capsule with an ethernet cable (preferrably directly) before you do a full restore (or an initial backup). It's much, much faster an less error-prone than over wifi.

And yes, they should bring Firewire back or add some sort of target mode for USB.


From: Unhappy camper (May 20 2009, at 00:50)

My experiences with OS X has recently been in the windows league. Without a yearly reinstall everything seems to crumple into pieces. I no longer even try to transfer the environment from old computers to new, just because it either fails miserably or I still have to do reinstall from scratch in a month or two.

However, if you want to know what real pain is, just try to use a 30" display with your macbook. Now that's failure with biblical proportions.


From: Martin (May 20 2009, at 01:29)

A new Mac is a great chance to install a fresh copy of MacOS X! Really.

Never ever use the migration assistant and never upgrade an OS (these are the two things that Apple is imcapable of).

Just setup the new machine, copy your apps over and then copy the NEEDED files from ~/Library/Preferences/ and ~/Library/Application Support - and leave the rest where it is... in a backup ;-)

This way you are able to start with a fresh and ungimped system.


From: Martin Probst (May 20 2009, at 01:38)

I think I remember that the Time Machine backup didn't work for me, either. I ended up just copying over my home dir, and then manually reinstalling the applications I missed over time.

Which is manual, so somewhat annoying, but it also has a bright side. You don't loose the application settings (those are stored in your home dir), and you'll automagically clean up any old things you don't use anymore.


From: Henry Maddocks (May 20 2009, at 02:33)

I have successfully restored two MBP from Time Machine backups in as many months. Can you plug your Time Capsule into the new Mac?


From: Dave Nanian (May 20 2009, at 04:03)

Note that you can migrate from any volume attached to the Mac... including a USB volume.

So, if you make a full, bootable backup to a USB drive (with, say, SuperDuper! ;-)) and bring that to the new Mac, then point at the external volume during initial migration (do NOT migrate after the first prompt to 'copy from another Mac'), it'll work great.


From: Bob Aman (May 20 2009, at 05:12)

No more Firewire? They didn't get rid of Firewire 800 did they?


From: Adam Sherman (May 20 2009, at 05:30)

FYI, I did a restore from a Time Capsule over GigE recently and it took a number of hours to calculate disk space requirements and then something like 10 hours to restore 100GB of data.

Worked perfectly though.



From: Chris H (May 20 2009, at 05:50)

Just get a Firewire 800 to 400 cable. I have one. They're nice. :-)


From: Drew (May 20 2009, at 05:53)

The lack of firewire is what kept me on MacBook Pro (suppose I shouldn't say that too loud as it's no incentive for apple to fix the MacBooks if their flaws force people to trade up).

Hopefully at some point they will find a way to add target-usb mode or else there's some promising firewire-over-ethernet noise out there on the inter-tubes.

As to a solution for right now I would just share the old MacBook over a direct ethernet connection and manually bring over your user accounts per the above suggestion.

Option B would be to go into energy saver on both Macs and tell them never to sleep and try doing a Migration over Ethernet again.


From: Dethe Elza (May 20 2009, at 07:05)

Sorry to hear about the trouble you're having. I've been using Migration Assistant for years and it just keeps getting better, in my experience. I have run into quite a lot of bad ethernet cables, though, so you might want to check that you have a good connection there.


From: Dan Creswell (May 20 2009, at 07:23)

I purchased a new iMac only a month or so ago, and was able to run migration assistant to pull across the environment on my old dual-G5 with no troubles at all.

Never tried it on a wireless network and in this particular case it was all done across GigE.


From: Mark (May 20 2009, at 23:10)

I successfully used the Migration Wizard over WiFi, believe it or not, but it took about 15 hours to transfer 30 gigs. :/


From: Derek K. Miller (May 21 2009, at 08:53)

As I mentioned in your later post on the subject, an external USB 2.0 drive would have been the simplest way to go: clone from your old Mac (SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner or command line will do it), connect to the new one, use Migration Assistant, and it will be just about as fast as FireWire -- plus you'll have a known-good backup of your old Mac.

I've never had a problem with a Migration Assistant setup, if what you <i>want</i> is Your Old Mac On New Hardware. That does bring over a lot of cruft, and I'm thinking that next time I get a new Mac I'll do a more manual migration of the stuff I really need. I'm often surprised at some of the strange little applications and files (preferences from apps I tried back in 2001 and never used again...) that I've been moving from Mac to Mac for years. They're like boxes you pack in a house move and never open.


From: Edmund (May 25 2009, at 04:51)

I emphatize with you regarding the removal of firewire in the Macbook line.

This is the reason why it kept me from getting the new one from my old macbook.

Sorry apple but this is a big letdown also for me and I will just keep my old macbook instead until the time comes when it is dead or you return firewire to the macbook line.


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