Mac files from old old Macbook  to brand new Macbook Pro.

vlogg5 used Ask the Experts™
A client of mine has just bought the latest 13 inch Macbook Pro and would like me to move his files
from a much older Macbook. I don't want to do it wirelessly so I thought I would buy an adapter to
hardwire connect his 2 machines and do it that way or remove his old HDD and connect it externally.
His old Macbook has a regular USB port and his new Macbook is cofigured as follows:
Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports with support for:
Thunderbolt (up to 40 Gbps)
USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps)
It is not clear to me whether or not the new Mac's USB-C ports are able to transmit receive data, via an adapter, from the
old Mac's HDD. Can they?
If not how do you migrate data from an old Macbook to a new Macbook Pro.
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David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

To do this via WiFi is free + requires a single rsync command.

Using hardware for this will be simple.

1) Purchase a Disk Doc which provides USB 3.1 access + optionally Thunderbolt (for new Mac).

There are many on Amazon. Be sure to get the correct Thunderbolt version, as most recent Macs use Version 3, while older Macs use Version 2.

2) Purchase a Disk Drive big enough to hold your data.

3) Connect dock to old Mac + copy files to drive.

4) Connect dock to new Mac + copy files off drive to Mac.

I'm unsure why you'd wish to go through all the extra expense + time to do all the above steps, when a simple rsync will do the job.
You can use a USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) to Thunderbolt 2 adapter to directly connect the 2 systems.  Put the older system in Target mode by holding the letter t as you boot up and you will turn your mac into an external disk.  Then drag and drop the files.
You can also just start the Migration and "migrate" the files.  Yes, rsync can work on the command line too.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Using target mode, as serialband suggested can work too... and... there's a caveat.

If you're going from a very old Mac to a very new Mac, many of the Applications won't work (because of API changes).

Using target mode, for me, is best done when upgrading from one OSX version up one level, so 10.10 -> 10.11 so Apps will work.

Otherwise, I prefer rsync to just move across non-App code folders, like Desktop + Movies + Music.

A perk of target mode, is you don't require any external hardware, so if you're selective, as serialband suggests... only moving certain directories, likely target mode will be best option.
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You do require external hardware, an adapter cable and thuderbolt cable.  Those may actually cost more than a USB M.2 adapter, but would be easier to connect.  If your Mac is even older, and uses Firewire, then you should just remove the SSD or disk and get a USB to SATA adapter.  If both Mac's are USB-c, you can just use the cable from your power adapter to link them.

How old is the older Mac?  How much data?  If it's not too much, then just share it and do it wirelessly, because that's free.


The old Macbook is about 10 yrs old (according to the owner). It has 2 USB ports.
I already have a USB to SATA adapter. so I was thinking of removing the hard drive,
attaching it to the USB to SATA adapter, attaching it to the USB end of the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C)
adapter and then using migration assistant.
Does that work and if so could you supply a link to a page in Amazon in order to buy the Thunderbolt
USB adapter. I don't want to end up buying the wrong piece of equipment.

Actually all you need is a USB-C to USB-A adapter to be able to plug your sata adapter into the new machine.

Or better is to buy a small USB-C hub that has a few USB-A ports. This is something that keeps being useful afterwards, because each new Macbook Pro owner should have one for use with USB sticks and other USB devices.
If it's 10 years old, then you can pull out the drive and use the usb to sata adapter.  I have a usb-c to sata as well as a usb3 to sata and an older usb 2 to ide/sata.  I gave away my usb 1.1 to IDE, long, long ago, but I had been using USB to disk interface adapters before most people knew they even existed.  They've saved me lots of time.


"could you supply a link to a page in Amazon in order to buy the Thunderbolt
USB adapter. I don't want to end up buying the wrong piece of equipment. "
Enter your Mac serial number on the everymac site and tell us the exact model number.  This way we someone can find the right part(s) for it.


Will do.
Look for a "AmazonBasics USB 3.1 Type-C to 4 Port USB" or any similar usb c hub.

This will allow you to plug in your USB to SATA adapter into the new Macbook Pro.

Cheap and easy.


Thanks to all.


Thanks everybody. Have ordered the adapter.

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