18 January 2016

Migration Issues

Where were we? Oh right, new iMac. Big screen, lots of RAM, faster wi-fi, fast hard drive. It checked all the boxes for me. Remember, too, that I am working at home (two jobs, in fact, these days), so I also saw my new hardware purchase as an investment in improved productivity.

One of the little things that makes someone like me a loyal Apple partisan (for nearly 25 years at this point) is a utility called Migration Assistant that allows you, with relative ease, to transfer everything from an old Mac to a new one. Files, photos, music, web bookmarks and passwords—all of it transposed, as if you had cloned your old computer's brain onto a new hardware host. It's a simple and relatively painless way to switch everything over when you get a new Mac.

In the old days (ten years ago), the two Macs had to be connected by a cable, and then there's a bit of trickery called Target Disk Mode (really, just holding down a particular key combination while starting up) that allows the older Mac's hard drive to appear on the desktop of the new Mac; from there it's really easy to run the Migration Assistant. Here in 2016, this can also be accomplished using wi-fi and does not require Target Disk Mode, or for the computers to be connected by a cable.
(new iMac on the right)
Or so I thought. In trying to be modern and using wi-fi, I think I opened myself up to some trouble. The migration also took a lot longer over wi-fi than I expected, something like seven hours. When it was finally finished (I had gone away to do other things), not only could I not find some of my stuff (my photos seemed to be fine), but I could not open a number of programs: Spotify, the Firefox browser, the Chrome browser. And I was getting weird error messages about them: "profile is missing," "error type 6," that sort of thing. Huh? And my Bluetooth trackpad would not connect to the new Mac, either.

Without the use of Firefox and all my bookmarks and passwords, I could not use the new iMac for my jobs, which are done almost entirely via web browser; I ended up having it sit off to the side on my desk while I spent the next several days continuing to use my old one for work. I knew a call to AppleCare was in my future, and since I imagined it could take a while, I had to wait until the next weekend to ensure I had enough time.

That didn't go so well. Apple was not interested in helping me with the Firefox problem because Firefox is not Apple software. Apple, naturally, wants its users to use Safari, but there are a number of things about the way Safari does stuff that irritate me to varying degrees, so I tend to stay away from it. They couldn't help me with Spotify either. Their suggestion in both cases was to delete and reinstall the software; that did not work in either instance.

While I was on the phone with Apple, I figured out the Bluetooth problem on my own. It's embarrassingly stupid, but we're all friends here, so I don't mind sharing. If a Bluetooth device is paired with a particular computer, and you want to use it with a different computer, you must first un-pair them so it is "discoverable" by the other computer. But then, you must also TURN OFF BLUETOOTH on the old computer so it can't interfere while you are trying to get the device to pair with the new computer. Head-smackingly simple, yet not obvious to me for more than a week.

After that small victory, I started to think about the whole migration process. And the more I thought about it, it seemed pretty obvious to me that the migration had missed a bunch of stuff; I wondered why it wasn't obvious to the AppleCare techs. I decided to delete the incomplete user profile that had been created during the migration and redo the whole thing, this time using the older method. One small hurdle: Apple had abandoned Firewire for another high-speed date transfer technology called Thunderbolt. But I'd had to obtain a Firewire-to-Thunderbolt adapter from the Apple store anyway, in order to continue using my external hard drive for backups, so I was ready to roll.

The second migration, with the two iMacs connected via cable and employing Target Disk Mode, took under three hours (less than half the time of the first one) and was completely successful, right down to my desktop picture (Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks). It's very satisfying to be able to resolve these things oneself, which is another reason I have been a Mac user for so long. And while I don't think there will be any other Mac migrations in my near future (I'm hoping to be able to get close to a decade's use from this new one), if one does happen to come about, I know I won't be using wi-fi.

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