How to Check the Migration Assistant Data Transfer Selection in macOS?

Bethany Walsh

Feb 22, 2022

The macOS Migration Assistant needs a data-transfer selection stored in the "Moving Data to This Mac" screen. The default choice is "From another Mac, PC, Time Machine backup, or other disks." Still, users can change this before beginning the migration process.

Changing this selection does not affect what will happen during the migration process — only what will happen afterward.

For example, if you use the Migration Assistant to move your user's files from one computer to another and select "From another computer," any files which are not automatically transferred during that process can be transferred by choosing "More Options >''' Transfer Other Files Now."

By default, the Migration Assistant prompts you to select the data-transfer method before it begins, but this is not always desirable.

If you use the Migration Assistant to copy files from a computer that has a non-system disk or hard drive (other than the startup disk), it is impossible for the Migration Assistant to proactively choose right away. However, if you tell it that you want to move those files to another computer, it can choose to transfer them at that point instead of having you wait for them.

1. Open Terminal and type in "diskutil cs list" and hit [return].

In OS X 10.11 "El Capitan" and later, you can also replace "diskutil" with "diskutil cs list" from Spotlight.

2. When the output looks like this (without the columns in the center), you can select the entry titled "Main Disk," which is identified as "[Disk name]." If there are additional entries for other disks, select them as well:

When you select your startup disk in this way, any files that do not have ownership of "System" will be re-created by Finder. This may take some time if there are a lot of files to be copied or moved.

3. Open Finder and select the Go >''' Go to Folder menu item. Copy and paste the following command into the field that opens:


4. Select "Go," and you should see a list of folders created by Migration Assistant that are named after your former computer. If you are already familiar with the location of this folder, you can also enter "~/Library/Application Support/MigrationAssistant" without copying and pasting.

5. Open MigrationAssistantData.MoveToTheCloud in TextEdit and look through its contents using Cmd+F.

There is a lot of information here. However, the most critical pieces of information are the following:

* Whether or not the file was successfully moved from another Mac, PC, an external drive, or a Time Machine backup. This is not information you need to change in the Migration Assistant itself.

* Where the migration assistants now go to get its data (e.g., iCloud). To view this screen in more detail, open Finder and go to "Users >''' [Username] >''' MigrationAssistantData" (CMD+OPTION+G).

6. If you want to make changes to this screen by using Finder, you will need to click on one of two buttons: "Edit" or "New." If you click "New," you will be able to type in a new location for the MigrationAssistantData. If you click "Edit," however, you can only change the existing entries (by deleting information or changing it).

7. Clicking on "Edit" will open MigrationAssistantData.MoveToTheCloud in a Finder window where you can edit it:

8. To create your own transfer selection, type over all of the existing text with something like this:

Then, press CMD+S to save your changes and close the Finder window.

After you've made your changes, you can either restart the Migration Assistant and select "From another Mac, PC, Time Machine backup, or other disks," or you can switch to "More Options" and select "Transfer Other Files Now." This will create new entries in the Migration Assistant's list that have no migration assistant data associated with them.

9. The following line will get you back to the Migration Assistant's main list:

10. If you have already selected a particular data transfer method, it will be challenging to go back and select something different. In that case, we would suggest deleting all of the existing entries (in MigrationAssistantData) and re-starting from scratch with a clean slate. You can then interactively choose what files you want to transfer without worrying about how the data was originally transferred.

Currently supported operating systems: OS X Yosemite (10.10), OS X El Capitan (10.11), OS X Mavericks (10.9), and OS X Mountain Lion (10.8). If you are using an older version of macOS, we suggest using a different set of instructions until development is completed for that version of the Mac operating system.

If you have any questions or suggestions for this article, please leave them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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