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How to Transfer Files from Mac to Mac? Try These Simple Ways

Updated on February 28, 2021

iBoysoft author Connie

Written by

Connie Yang

Summary: This article concludes the simplest ways to help you transfer files from Mac to Mac wirelessly or using a USB cable. Even if your Mac is broken, there have ways to transfer files from the broken Mac to the new Mac. - From iBoysoft

How to transfer files from Mac to Mac

When talking about transferring files from Mac to Mac, the well-known way is using Apple's Migration Assistant. But What to do when Migration Assistant doesn't work? Actually, there are many other simple, time-consuming, and reliable methods for transferring files between Macs.

Thankfully, we've concluded almost all the quick ways to transfer files from Mac to Mac with Migration Assistant, a USB cable, or transfer data wirelessly, presenting in very detailed steps in this post. Here we go to learn more.

Transfer Mac to Mac using Mac Migration Assistant

Migration Assistant is a useful tool that helps for transferring all your files from an old Mac to a new MacBook, including applications, user account, preference settings, very large files, etc.


  • Update both Mac computers to available software updates. 
  • Put the two computers near each other with Wi-Fi turned on.
  • Open the Apple menu > System Preferences > Sharing to ensure the Mac computer name is listed in the Computer Name box. (For old Macs).
  • Charge the two Macs for successful data transferring.
  • Save editing documents and close all in using apps.

Note: For Mac runs OS X Lion or Mountain Lion, connect the two Macs via a Thunderbolt, FireWire, or Ethernet cable and ensure they are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

How to use Migration Assistant:

On the new Mac:

  • Open Finder > Applications > the Utilities folder > Migration Assistant.
  • Click Continue and enter your admin password.
  • Select From a Mac, Time Machine backup or Startup disk > Continue.

On the old Mac:

  • Launch Migration Assistant > Continue > enter administrator password.
  • Check-in Transfer to another Mac > Continue.

Move to the new Mac:

Select the other Mac and click Continue on the Transfer Information to this Mac window.

Select the other Mac on the new Mac

Back to the old Mac:

  • Make sure the pop-up security code is the same as the code that appeared on your new Mac.
  • Click Continue to move on.

On the new Mac:

  • Choose the files or folders or all information you want to move to this new Mac.
  • Hit Continue at the upper right corner to start up the transfer.

Select the other Mac on the new Mac

If you transfer many large files and folders, the migration process may take hours. When it is completed, close Migration Assistant on both Macs and check your transferred files on the new computer.

How to transfer files from Mac to Mac using a USB cable?

Perhaps, you think migrating files over the air is not secure enough for your secret files. Or, regarding that, the wireless data migration is time-wasting, especially for large files.

So, you want to use a USB cable to transfer your files. It's okay. There are also different ways of transferring data from Mac to Mac using a USB cable. You can choose the one that is suitable for your data transferring situation.

Transfer data from Mac to Mac with an external storage device

If you happen to have an external storage device available, like a USB flash drive or an external hard drive, you can use it as a bridge to transfer files between Mac computers.

You can connect the external drive to the Mac you want to transfer files from. Then, copy files or folders onto the drive and right-click the drive to safely Eject it.

Now, unplug the external drive from that Mac and reconnect it to the target Mac. Next, you can move the files on the drive to the Mac.

Connect an external hard drive to Mac

Mac to Mac data transferring with Target Disk Mode

Target Disk Mode is used to make an Intel-based Mac's internal hard drive perform as an external hard drive for the destination Mac machine. And it is often used to transfer files from an old Mac to a new Mac because of the fast data transfer speed.

Here's how to use Target Disk Mode to transfer files from an old Mac to a new Mac:

  • Use Thunderbolt or FireWire cable to connect the two computers.
  • On the old Mac, click the Apple menu > System Preferences > Startup Disk > Target Disk Mode to restart the Mac into Target Disk Mode. The old Mac will show a Thunderbolt icon on the screen.
  • Boot into target Disk Mode on Mac
  • On the destination Mac, open Finder. You can see the internal hard drive of the old Mac show up under the Locations tab at the left sidebar of Finder. Now, you can copy or move all or only the important files from the old Mac's drive to your new Mac.

Mac transfer to new Mac using Time Machine backups

This way is more suitable for some of you who want to migrate all the data on the old Mac to a new Mac computer, including the old Mac's preferences, applications, user accounts, and other files.

The detailed steps of transferring files to a new MacBook with Time Machine backup are as below:

  • Back up your old Mac (If you have, skip this step).
  • Connect the Time Machine backup disk to your new Mac via a USB cable (If it is a USB flash drive, plug it into the Mac directly).
  • Restart your new Mac into macOS Recovery Mode.
  • Select Restore From Time Machine Backup in macOS Recovery Mode and click Continue.
  • Restore from Time Machine in macOS Recovery mode
  • Select your Time Machine backup disk and click Continue.
  • Choose the latest backup and follow the on-screen steps to finish data transferring.
  • Restart your new Mac and check the migrated files. 

How to transfer files from a broken Mac to a new Mac?

Maybe your Mac is broken and you purchase a new one. But since the old Mac is broken, the above ways are useless for transferring files from one Mac to the other.

So, how can you transfer the files on the broken Mac to the new device? It is easy with a data recovery tool like iBoysoft Data Recovery for Mac. You can read this post carefully to get more details about how to migrate files from a broken Mac to a new one: How to transfer files from a broken Mac to a new Mac?

How to Transfer files from Mac to Mac wirelessly without Migration Assistant

If you just want to share some files with your colleagues or friends, you don't need to use Migration Assistant as it is a little bit time-consuming and complicated.

There are kinds of wireless data transfer methods available for you. You can select the one that meets your needs or you'd like to use.

Transfer data from Mac to Mac with AirDrop

AirDrop is a data-sharing feature in Mac OS. It utilizes Bluetooth to detect the target Apple device and then transfers files to Apple devices via Wi-Fi. Hence, you can turn on and use AirDrop to transfer documents, videos, folders, or other files from one Mac to another Mac

Before you start file transfer:

  • Turn on Bluetooth on both Macs.
  • Make sure the two computers connect to the same Wi-Fi.

Use AirDrop to transfer files:

  • On both Macs, open Finder and click AirDrop under Favorites at the left sidebar. In the AirDrop pane, select Contacts Only or Everyone in 'Allow me to be discovered by' according to your situation.
  • Turn on AirDrop on Mac
  • On the Mac that you want to share files from, right-click the file and select Share > AirDrop. Then, choose the destination Mac on the pop-up window.

The file on your Mac will send to the receiving Mac immediately.

Migrate files from Mac to Mac using iMessage

Apple's Messages on your Mac computer is also a nice utility for data transferring between Macs wirelessly.

  • Open Finder > Applications > Messages on your Mac and add a new iMessage.
  • Click the + icon at the upper right corner of the window to select the address of the receiving Mac.
  • Drag and drop the files you want to send into the bottom iMessage box and hit the Return key on your keyboard.
  • Transfer files via iMessages
  • On the target Mac, the receiver can right-click the file in iMessage to save it to a local folder.

Transfer files from Mac to Mac via e-mail

Don't forget to use e-mail. Sending e-mail is also a prior way to transfer files from Mac to Mac or even other devices. You can open your Mail app on Mac to create an e-mail and add the files you want to send as attachments. Then, you can send it to the specific Mac.

Transfer files via e-mail

Transfer data from Mac to Mac with File Sharing

Every Mac has a file-sharing system called File Sharing. You can find it in Apple's Sharing utility. It allows Mac computers using the same network to transfer content with each other.

So, in the first place, you should:

  • Check if the Macs have already connected to the same network.
  • Click the Apple icon > System Preferences > Sharing and then check in File Sharing on both Mac models.

If the above steps are completed, you can follow the steps below to transfer files from Mac to Mac without a USB cable.

On the Mac that you want to share files from, add the files or folders that you want to share with to the Shared Folders field.

Transfer files via File Sharing

Note: In the Shared Folders box, there lists the Public folder by default. If it is the content you want to share with the other Mac, you can use it directly. Or, you need to remove it and add the folder/file you want to share.

On the other Mac:

  • Open Finder and go to the top Finder menu and click Go > Network. In the network window, you can see your Mac's name.
  • Click on your Mac > Connect as > Connect. In the pop-up window, select one of the Connect As options that match the way you log in to this Mac (Guest, registered user, using an Apple ID). Then, type your account password and click Connect.
  • Connect the other Mac in network window
  • The shared folders will show up on this Mac. You can see them or copy them to this Mac.

Transfer files from Mac to Mac via Bluetooth Sharing

Additionally, you can enable Bluetooth Sharing in the Sharing utility to transfer data between Mac machines over Bluetooth. You need to put the Macs nearly for successful data transfer.

On both Mac machines, open System Preferences > Sharing and check-in Bluetooth Sharing. Next, click open Bluetooth Preferences to ensure both of their Bluetooth are turned on.

Check in Bluetooth Sharing in File Sharing

Now, navigate to the Mac you'll send files from, double-click the target Mac device listed in the Bluetooth window. That will trigger the appearance of a Finder window. You can select the files that you want to share with the other Mac and click Send.

On the other Mac, the popup will ask the receiver whether to accept the sending files or not. Click Accept to save them on the Mac.

Transfer files from Mac to Mac with iCloud storage

Using iCloud Drive to transfer files is also an easy way. You can use it to migrate files to other Mac computers wirelessly.

Here's how:

  • Open Finder > iCloud Drive.
  • Create a folder and copy and paste the files you want to share in it.
  • Login to the other Mac with the same iCloud account and check or move files to the local destination of that Mac.

Note: This way is just suitable for sharing files between your own Macs for security.

FAQs about transfer files from Mac to Mac

1. What is the best way to transfer files from Mac to Mac?

If you want to transfer all the files from a Mac to the other, the best way is to use Migration Assistant. If you just want to share some files or folders with others, using AirDrop is the best choice.

2. What cable do I need to transfer files from Mac to Mac?

You can use either the Thunderbolt or the FireWire cable.

3. How to transfer applications to new Mac without Migration Assistant

You can use the File Sharing feature within Sharing utility in System Preferences to transfer applications to a new Mac. And you can also use AirDrop or put the app installers in an external drive to copy these applications to another Mac.

4. Does Migration Assistant transfer everything?

Yes, you can use Migration Assistant to transfer everything on a Mac. But you can also use it to migrate some of the files or folders you want to transfer.