Migration Assistant has long provided a straightforward way to move your macOS setup from one Mac to another. Instead of performing a fresh setup and copying files, Migration Assistant can move over all your files, users, applications, and preferences. Restart after migrating, and the experience is often just like your old Mac.
But what if you want to move just a single user over? Mac 911 receives emails from readers who are consolidating from multiple computers to a single one and want to retain separate accounts for family members “joining” the shared Mac.
Fortunately, Migration Assistant makes this simple, too. Before starting, make sure both Macs are as up-to-date with macOS as possible, at least within their current version. Apple continuously improves Migration Assistant, so having the most recent version of macOS available on both Macs can provide a cleaner experience.
Now connect the two Macs via a Thunderbolt cable if at all possible for best performance. A gigabit ethernet cable is often the second-fastest method, while being on the same Wi-Fi network is the third. The time difference can be so huge that it may be worth ordering a Thunderbolt cable and waiting for it to arrive. (See this previous Mac 911 column on checking the connection method Migration Assistant has selected.)
You can now start migration. Launch Migration Assistant. The app works in either direction, so you can start from either machine:
- On a Mac you want to migrate an account to, select “From a Mac, Time Machine backup or Startup disk.”
- Or, on a Mac you want to migrate an account from, select “To another Mac.”
Click Continue. Select the other Mac when prompted and click Continue.
You can select what to migrate. Since you just want to migrate one or more accounts, uncheck everything except the listed user or users you want to move over. Click Continue and wait for completion.
When Migration Assistant has finished you can log out of the current account on the Mac you migrated an account (or accounts) to and then log in to the migrated account with the password used for the account on the other Mac.
You can also enable fast-user switching in System Preferences > Users & Groups by clicking Login Options. Check “Show fast user switching menu as,” and this appears in the system menu. Select a migration account to log into it.
This Mac 911 article is in response to a question submitted by Macworld reader Johnnie.
Ask Mac 911
We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get asked most frequently, along with answers and links to columns: read our super FAQ to see if your question is covered. If not, we’re always looking for new problems to solve! Email yours to firstname.lastname@example.org, including screen captures as appropriate and whether you want your full name used. Not every question will be answered, we don’t reply to email, and we cannot provide direct troubleshooting advice.