Zero Panic Migration to a New Mac, Part II

In part I, techniques for protecting and preserving data prior to a migration to a new Mac were discussed. Then the restore from Time Machine technique was discussed with a mind towards duplicating all the files and settings on the new Mac. In this part II, the post migration tasks, sale of old Mac, licensing and answers to previous reader questions are addressed.

Step #3: Multiple Drives

My old Power Mac G5 had two internal SATA drives. One was the factory original and one was an add-on. Because the new Mac is an Intel Mac with, for now, just one internal drive, I selected an external drive to receive all the files from the PMG5's second internal drive.

However, because it would be used with an Intel Mac, I first partitioned the drive as GUID instead of Apple Partition Map (APM). That was in case I ever decided to put a backup copy of the OS on it. GUID Partitions are required to boot Intel Macs, and that function is found in /Utilities/Disk Utility on the Partition tab and the "Options..." button below the graphic of the partition map. That drive, which was the OWC Guardian Maxiumus I reviewed two years ago, had no important data, so I was free to erase it.


Booting: APM for PPC and GUID for Intel Macs

I could have restored the files from the Time Machine backup but I elected to do a Finder copy of the files in this case.

Step #4: Erasing the Internal Drive(s)

After copying the files from the second internal drive, I elected to erase it with the seven pass DOD MilSpec 5220-22 M standard available in Apple's Disk Utility. That's the minimum one should use for a drive to be sold to another person. It takes about 6 hours to fully erase a 200 GB drive. 35 passes would have been nice, but this Mac was going to a friend, not a stranger, and I didn't have time for 35 passes.

Erase options

Seven pass erase is minimum before selling a Mac

Step #5: Licensing Issues

The OS that shipped with the PMG5 was Panther. Gulp. I advised my friend, who is a legacy PC person, that while I'd give him the the disk, he shouldn't use it. To be secure and properly licensed, I advised him that I would buy a copy of Leopard 10.5.6 from Amazon (US$97), install it for him, and add $97 to the price of the Mac. He agreed. Now he's totally legal and properly licensed, and his Panther DVD can remain in the box ... forever.

After I installed the new copy of Mac OS X on the erased drive, I set up basic admin accounts, then, sure that my Time Machine backup had transferred everything to the new Mac, and all files checked to death, I was ready to boot use Disk Utility to erase the (first, internal) factory drive. That's the one that had my copy of Leopard from a Family Pack. (This is why it's important and helpful to run both Macs side by side for a few days or a week.) Again, seven passes. I did it this way because I didn't want to use the Leopard DVD Disk utility, spinning for six hours, during the erasure. This way, the Leopard DVD had done its job and was safely back in the box.

When I was done, I:

  1. Applied 10.5.7 Combo update manually.
  2. Installed iLife '08 and iWork '08, old copies, legally sold to customer. He can upgrade himself if he choses.
  3. Updated ilife and iWork via Software Update.
  4. Set up the second internal drive as designated Time Machine drive for this Mac novice.
  5. Shut down the computer, ready for car trip to new home

I would suggest that if one is selling an old Mac to a stranger, and you have the time, do a 35 pass erase. Either that or specify that the old drive is not included, and if easy to remove, take it out and apply a sledge hammer several times in the drive way. New 200-400 GB drives for old Macs are cheap as dirt.


A reader asked about Time Machine and bringing in the primary, named, admin account. In Unix, each account has a short name that shows up in /Users. Unlike the long name, that's not an easy string to change. It's the short name that's tied to Unix file ownership. The upshot is that if you want your old account name brought over unchanged, create a dummy admin account on the new Mac so they don't conflict.

short UNIX name

It's the Short name that's tied to UNIX accounts. Hard to change.


One seldom discussed trick is to look in detail at the account info, found by right clicking the account name in System Preferences -> Accounts. When you right click the account name, you'll see "Advanced Options." Note that each user has a userID number and that's set in concrete in the Directory Services. Changing most of that info and keeping things working ain't like dustin' crops.

Advanced options

Short User Name: Advanced Options. Novices Beware! Heed Warning!

A reader asked about what kind of disk is best to back up a hard disk. I don't know that SSDs are any less reliable or less preferable. However, because backups should be fast to minimize frustration induced shortcuts, HHDs are probably best and cheapest for now. That could change in the future.

A reader asked if Apple's Migration Assistant can be used to transfer files from a PC to a Mac. It cannot because of differences in the PC and Mac architecture. However, Apple has published a note on how to manually bring files from a PC to a Mac.

A final note.  Some of the advice here is subject to my own preferences.  Variations by experienced users are expected.  However, for beginners, it's often useful to see at least one ironclad way of doing something in order to form a baseline of knowledge. With experience, some users may elect to take shortcuts or conduct these operation in completely different ways.