Migrating OS X Installation via Target Disk Mode

FireWire logo, slightly rubbed out

Some time ago, I upgraded to a new MacBook with Intel Core 2 Duo processor (yay 64-bitness!), and was faced with the question how to get data from the old MacBook to the new one, without having to reinstall everything.

With Linux, I have used rsync to migrate installations. In fact, my last Linux laptop (retired in 2006) was running a Debian installation that originated on a desktop around 1999, and had been moved between machines (and upgraded, of course) several times. However, since the preinstalled MacOS X on the new laptop was also newer (10.4.10, no Leopard yet), something else was called for.

Enter the Target Disk Mode (TDM) of MacOS X. I will not cover all details here, but with a FireWire cable, it enables me to hook up the new MacBook to the old one, which exposes its hard disk as external FireWire device. The installer recognizes this, and asks whether I want to copy over all data from the disk. The granularity of choice what to copy is rather coarse, but it actually worked as expected!

Well, mostly at least. A few things needed manual care taking. I will list them here as future reference for myself:

  • X.509 certificates were not copied over. Fixed by enabling the root user, logging in, and copying them into Keychain's X509Anchors.
  • Some settings were not copied over, for example, Accessability settings were disabled (which made MondoMouse not work).
  • The English-German keyboard layout was not copied over.
  • I synchronize my calendars via iCal to https WebDAV shares. For some random reason, I needed to go once with the Safari browser(!) to each of the https URL, otherwise iCal refused to synchronize them.
  • X11 and the Xcode IDE were not copied over. I reinstalled them from the new installation DVDs.
  • The /usr/local/ hierarchy was not copied at all. Curiously, /opt/local/, where MacPorts live, had been copied over automatically.
  • It seems that I must go through all of /etc/ to ensure that nothing gets forgotton, for example, the settings in /etc/hostconfig to hardwire the hostname, /etc/postfix/, etc..
  • Bluetooth pairing and pairing with the Apple Remote needs to be repeated with the new machine.
  • VPN and 802.1x settings were not copied over.
  • Fonts needed by the GIMP were not copied over, my solution was to reinstall MacGIMP.
  • With the new iPhoto '08, the Picasa iPhoto plugin did not work anymore. For a while, there was no workaround, except using the standalone uploader. However, a recent Picasa update appears to fix it.
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