Using Target Disk Mode and Migration Assistant under Lion

You’ve just purchased a new Mac that has Lion (OS X 10.7) installed and want to transfer your data and programs from your older, Snow Leopard computer. You connect the two machines using a standard firewire cable and start up the Snow Leopard Mac in target disk mode. Then, you open up Migration Assistant in Lion, where you struggle to decide what to do, for target disk mode no longer appears in the descriptive text.

According to another consultant who encountered this dilemma, the first option, “From another Mac or PC,” appears to apply to situations where the two systems are on the same network (wired or wireless) and that data would be pushed from the old system to the new.

If you want to transfer data using target disk mode, choose the second option, for a Mac booted up in target disk mode is now considered a disk.



Filed under Apple Hardware, Apple Software, Troubleshooting

7 responses to “Using Target Disk Mode and Migration Assistant under Lion

  1. GP

    Thank you. For a minute there, I thought Apple had dropped Firewire migrations completely. A small bit of text on that screen would have saved me about 30 minutes of head scratching and Googling.

  2. Gary Kennedy

    I did what is described above, but how do you get applications like Safari and Address Book to import bookmarks and addresses? Where does all the imported stuff end up on the new system?

    • admin

      Gary, your bookmarks and address book info are stored by default in your personal Library folder. However, in Lion your personal Library folder is no longer visible in the Finder. That was a user interface change that Apple made when it released Mac OS X 10.7. You can view your personal Library folder by Option-clicking the Finder’s Go menu located on the top of your desktop screen; choose Library from the menu to open the folder in the Finder.

      Click here to read the different ways you can use to access the personal Library folder.

      An alternative method of transferring bookmarks, address book contacts, and calendar data from a previous version of Mac OS X to Lion is to first export the data on the old computer to a portable hard drive or USB flash drive, then use the applications’ import function in Lion to bring in the information.


        I used migration assistant to transfer all my applications, but have tiger (10.4.11) and going to lion (10.7.3) I chose the option to only send over applications, not user settings or anything, and when the transfer was over it seemed like the applications were all there but I couldn’t open any aftermarket apps. They all required putting in my serial numbers and what not. Is there not a way to transfer all of that information so that I don’t have to find my serials again. I travel a lot and the original packaging is in storage in my home state….

        • admin

          Unfortunately you usually can’t transfer the old apps and expect them to open on the new Mac, unless they don’t require a license/serial number. Software licensing information is stored in .plist files located in the Preferences folder of the administrative user who registered the program on the old computer. Since you didn’t transfer your user settings, that information didn’t get copied to the new Mac. Moreover, since you were running Tiger on your old Mac, chances are that these same programs won’t run on your new Lion system, anyway, without a software upgrade. Old software programs like Microsoft Office 2004 that were designed for Power PC Macs are unsupported in Lion, due to Apple’s business decision to drop support for the Rosetta translation technology.

          One tip for future reference: Enter your serial numbers in a software utility application like 1Password or Keychain Access (which comes with Mac OS X). Another option is to enter the information in a Word or text file.

  3. Barry

    What is target disk mode? How are you supposed to get it? Do I just click ‘From a time machine or backup disk? HELP!!

    • admin

      Target Disk Mode is Apple’s proprietary method of transferring data from an old Mac to a new one using either a FireWire or Thunderbolt cable. To initiate a Target Disk Mode session while installing Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion), you, indeed, choose “From a Time Machine or backup disk.” If you’re not installing a new operating system, you can also activate Target Disk Mode by having the two Macs connected via FireWire or Thunderbolt cable and starting up the “slave” Mac with the ‘T’ key pressed down. Target Disk Mode does not work using a USB cable.

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