Time Machine vs Migration Assistant

I spent much of last weekend restoring my father-in-law’s MacBook Pro, which had stopped receiving updates and was acting out in strange ways following a small-town repair tech’s ill-fated attempt to service it. 

The situation called for a complete erase and reinstall of macOS, followed by a series of updates to bring the machine current with macOS Big Sur. 

Backing up and restoring a Mac has gotten a lot easier thanks to iCloud, but there may be occasions when you need to restore files, settings and media from a backup drive. 

Migration Assistant 

Migration Assistant is an app that lives in the macOS Utilities folder. 

Migration Assistant is more complicated than other backup methods since it requires you to already be on a Mac that has been set up, and accordingly, already on a new user account. Long story short, it can be complicated to migrate an “old” user account over to a “new” account. Migration can easily unravel, resulting in duplicated or missing files and accounts. Migration Assistant has always been complicated and frustrating tool for me.

Time Machine 

Time Machine is Apple’s go-to backup and snapshot app that provides a smoother experience. Simply use Time Machine for regular backups, including just before you want to restore your Mac. Once backed up, erase and update your Mac to the latest OS, then plug in the external drive associated with your Time Machine backup and select while files, profiles and settings you want.

It couldn’t be any easier. 

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