Today I collected a new 15in MacBook Pro Retina. As I explained last week the new sweet spot in the Retina lineup is the £2,300 2.7GHz quad-core with 16GB of memory and the mid-sized 512GB solid-state disk. It is the perfect compromise between power and price. I can well manage with only 512GB of storage but I absolutely insist on 16GB of memory; more memory, after an SSD, is the single most important step to improving performance.
Since I already have a 2012 MacBook Air up and running, the new Pro Retina will be my main computer and will sit at home except when I am travelling for more than a week or when it is absolutely needed. On shorter trips I will continue to travel with the lighter Air.
Migrate no more
Getting the new machine was an opportunity to do something I have been avoiding for years. Like most people, I have tended to use the excellent Migration Assistant to set up a new computer. It works well most of the time and, after a couple of hours, the new machine is a virtual clone of the old one.
There is no need to remember passwords, software licences and individual application settings. Everthing you need is transferred. The downside is that along with all the good stuff comes loads of dross: Applications you have long-since stopped using and, more worrying, residual files in the Library, particularly in Application Support. My current MacBook Air is a clone of several past computers and, as a result, is cluttered with old stuff.
Every so often, therefore, a clean installation is a good idea. And this is what I have done with the new MacBook Pro.
The task is now a lot easier thanks to the Mac App Store. Everything bought from the store reinstalls itself on the new computer without the need to download from software publishers and to try to remember registration keys. It’s a good idea, however, to go through your App Store purchases and download only those you are currently using. Anything else is always there to be accessed if you decide you need it in the future.
Dropbox for data
Another big asset is Dropbox. For the past two years I have been using Dropbox as a complete replacement for my Documents folder. All data, including current Aperture files and music is stored on Dropbox. It is now a simple matter to connect to Dropbox and have all the files download automatically to the new computer. In this respect, things have improved dramatically in the last few years and it is now a much easier task to handle a vanilla installation. Apart from this convenience, the main reason to use Dropbox as a data store is that everything you do is immediately saved to the Dropbox cloud and is therefore protected.
It isn’t all plane sailing, though. Some applications are outside the App Store. For one, you could have bought them before the App Store was introduced; for another, some applications are not supported by the App Store because they cannot work within Apple’s strict sandboxing rules. Utilities such as Pathfinder, a high-power replacement for Finder, Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! fall into this category. It is necessary to download the demo verson and re-input the licence information manually.
A password storage utility such as 1Password is invaluable when recovering the information you need, including registration codes and passwords. 1Password now includes a section for software registrations but you can use a dedicated application such as LicenseKeeper if you prefer.
More time, but worth it
As a result, a new, vanilla installation takes more time than a simple migration from an old computer. It’s worth it, nonetheless, and I would recommend trying it if you can cope with the small amount of hassle. It is possible to be up and running within two or three hours, even with a new installation. Over the next few weeks, though, you will inevitably come across more settings that need tweaking. Provided you have good records in 1Password or similar utility, this is no real problem. Take it from me, you will appreciate the extra initial effort over the life of the new computer.
by Mike Evans, 19 February 2013