Mac OS X Hard Drive Reinstallation Tips

Introduction ¶ 

This wiki page is intended to be a brief, high-level set of reinstallation tips for users who have swapped hard drives and now need to manually port over their old data from the previous hard drive.

The page assumes that you're comfortable with navigating through the Mac OS X folder structure within Finder, and are able to copy/paste from the old drive to the new desired location.

This guide is intended to be used as a quick reference, not necessarily a step-by-step "how to" guide. If you're unsure of what you're doing, it's probably best to investigate further with your best friend Google.

For all of the following tips, the character "~" represents your "User" directory on your Mac, which can be found under /Macintosh HD/Users/<your user account name>/.

Note: Your Users/Library folder is hidden in OS X Lion, so you'll have to manually access it by going to Finder --> Go --> Go to Folder... and then copy/pasting ~/Library/ into the dialog box.

Mail and Preferences ¶ 

All your emails are located in:

~/Library/Mail/

Copy the entire folder over to the same location on your new machine.

Your mail preferences are stored within a file called "com.apple.mail.plist," which is located in:

~/Library/Preferences/

Just copy it over to the same location on the new machine to also transfer your preferences.

Safari Bookmarks ¶ 

Super-simple: just copy ~/Library/Safari/Bookmarks.plist from your old drive to the new one.

Address Book ¶ 

Use a hard drive enclosure to boot up your old drive and go into the Address Book (under Applications). Click File -> Export -> Address Book Archive and select the destination to be a folder your new hard drive.

Reboot the machine and double-click the file from the new drive. Address Book will ask you if you'd like to overwrite your old entries with this file, agree to this message, and you're done.

Alternate method (if you don't have access to the old hard drive, but do have access to its Time Machine backup):

Navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/ on your Time Machine backup and copy the AddressBook folder. Then, navigate to ~/Library/Application Support/ on your new hard drive, and overwrite the AddressBook folder with the version from the Time Machine backup.

Note: OS X might tell you that the folder is in use by some process on your machine. If so, log out, log back in (and make sure not to open any program aside from Finder), and re-try the same procedure above.

iTunes Playlists ¶ 

Use a hard drive enclosure to boot up your old drive and go into iTunes. Click File -> Library -> Export Playlist for each playlist, and select the destination to be a folder your new hard drive.

Reboot the machine and reload iTunes. This time click File -> Library -> Import Playlist for each playlist, until all playlists have been imported on the new drive.

Alternate method (if you don't have access to the old hard drive, but do have access to its Time Machine backup):

Navigate to ~/Music/ on your Time Machine backup and copy the iTunes folder. Then, navigate to ~/Music/ on your new hard drive, and overwrite the iTunes folder with the version from the Time Machine backup.

Stickies Transcripts ¶ 

You can try copying the Stickies database file located at ~/Library/StickiesDatabase to the same location on your new drive. However, if that does not work, you can also manually transfer them by:

  1. Use a hard drive enclosure to boot up the old drive.
  2. Copy/paste all your Stickies text into a TextEdit document.
  3. Save the TextEdit document on your new hard drive.
  4. Restart the machine, and copy the text from the TextEdit file into your new stickies.

Non-Apple Programs ¶ 

Adium Chat Transcripts ¶ 

Adium transcripts are stored in:

~/Library/Application Support/Adium 2.0/Users/Default/Logs/

Exit Adium, then copy the entire /Logs/ over to the same location on the new drive. Once the transfer is complete, restart Adium and perform the File -> Import -> Reindex Adium Logs command to reindex the logs and make them happy once again.

Creative Suite 5 ¶ 

Deactivate it from the old machine before doing the hard drive swap, otherwise you'll either 1. burn through licenses, or 2. have to deal with Adobe. 

Miscellaneous Tips ¶ 

Programs Without Reinstall Discs ¶ 

If you do not have reinstallation discs readily available for some of your programs, try dragging them from the old Applications folder to the new one. Depending on the program, they may or may not work properly, but it's worth a shot if you've lost the reinstall disc(s). Note that this also may not copy over any installation keys the program needs to run, so it's a low-risk, low-expectations kind of procedure.

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