Use Migration Assistant with MacBook Air over Airport / WiFi
Have a MacBook Air, and looking to transfer it using Apple’s Migration Assistant? If so, you may have found yourself in a conundrum – as the MacBook Air doesn’t have FireWire or Ethernet (Unless you have Apple’s $29 USB Ethernet adapter).
Later MacBook Air models have Apple’s Thunderbolt port, which Migration Assistant supports – but as of this post it would be rare to use Migration Assistant to another Mac with Thunderbolt.
Transferring a non-Thunderbolt MacBook Air with Migration Assistant requires a Mac-specific trick: creating a personal WiFi / Airport network, with Internet Sharing enabled.
Creating a wireless network will allow the newer Mac (Air) to connect to the older Mac without FireWire or Ethernet. However even with WiFi, the two Mac’s won’t be able to communicate properly for use with Migration Assistant unless Internet Sharing is enabled. Internet Sharing turns on the Macs DHCP server, thus allowing IP addresses to be assigned to the newer Mac (Air).
Notes about Migration Assistant over wireless:
- WiFi technology is slow compared to Firewire or Ethernet even with a direct connection – transfer times will be substantially slower (3x – 10x slower) than using FireWire or Ethernet. If you have a USB Ethernet adapter available, use it! Expect a 40 GB migration over WiFi to take 5 – 7 hours.
- Keep the two Macs physically close to each other during the wireless transfer to increase performance & reduce probability of dropped connections mid-transfer.
To Setup a MacBook Air for Migration assistant:
1) On the older Mac about to be replaced, create a wireless network from the Airport / WiFi menu in the Mac’s top menubar:
2) On the older Mac about to be replaced, name the wireless network – in this case, “MacBook Air Transfer” – channel selection is not important.
I would recommend leaving “Security” set to none, as it will improve performance during the Migration Assistant transfer.
Once the network is created on the older Mac, the top menubar wireless icon will to change to a gray computer screen instead of wireless bars.
3) On the older Mac about to be replaced, turn on Internet Sharing in “Apple –> System Preferences –> Sharing”. Set Internet sharing to share FROM Ethernet, TO computers using WiFi / Airport. You may not actually have anything plugged into Ethernet on your older Mac. That is OK.
4) On the older Mac about to be replaced, open Migration Assistant found in Applications –> Utilities –> Migration Assistant.
Choose to transfer “To another Mac”:
5) On the newer Mac (Air) looking to be setup / transferred – Connect to the older Mac’s created Airport / WiFi which has Internet Sharing enabled from either the initial “Welcome to Mac” setup screen, or while logged in at the top menubar Airport / WiFi icon. Then continue to initially setup & login to the Mac. Network Migration Assistant does not work from the initial “Welcome to Mac” setup screen out of the box. While logged in, open Migration Assistant from Applications –> Utilities –> Migration Assistant.
Choose to transfer “From another Mac”.
7) On the newer Mac (Air) looking to be setup / transferred, you should be able to see the users & data on the old Mac, and begin the transfer…
Alternative Connection Method
Note: If the Migration assistant connection isn’t working – it’s likely due to Internet Sharing. Another connection method would be to still create a wireless network, but instead manually assign static IP’s into each Mac’s Airport / WiFi Network System Preference (Advanced –> TCP/IP tab).
A 192.168.1.1, 192.168.1.2 / 255.255.255.0 subnet scheme would be fine, with the “router” address on each Mac pointing to the opposing Mac’s static IP. (In this case, 192.168.1.1 & 192.168.1.2.)