How to quickly move everything from your old Intel Mac to your new M1 MacBook

November 20, 2020 

When you buy a new iPhone, getting it all set up takes minutes. All you need to do is back up your old phone and sign in to your iCloud account on your new phone, and you can pick up right where you left off, home screen layout, open Safari tabs, and all.

It's not quite as simple on the Mac. While Apple offers several ways to transfer files from one machine to another, none of it is as simple as iCloud backups on iOS. But if you know which toggles to flip, apps to sync, and folders to share, it doesn't have to be so hard. Just follow our guide to getting everything set up on your new Mac.

Apple services, passwords, and apps

First the easy stuff. If you subscribe to any Apple services, you only need to log into your iCloud account for the appropriate service--Music, TV, Arcade, News, etc.--to get back in sync. Your music and movie library, favorite shows, games, channels, and magazines will all sync and be ready to go.

The same goes for the other Apple apps you use: Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Safari, Photos, and Notes, as well as any stored passwords in your keychain. And since Safari is essentially a password manager now, you'll be able to see all of your saved passwords from your old machine no matter how many years it's been since you last logged in. Just head over to the Apple Account tab in System Preferences (or iCloud in pre-Catalina macOS) and make sure everything you want to sync is checked off.

iCloud Drive

There might not be an official way to back up everything to Apple's online locker, but you can still use your iCloud account to transfer important files between machines. Inside the same Apple Account/iCloud preferences above, you'll see a Desktop and Documents Folders checkbox, which will sync your file across all of your devices.

You'll need some space, though. Apple only gives you 5GB of free space per account, so you'll likely need more if you want to store a bunch of files. Apple offers monthly storage plans of 50GB for a buck, 200GB for $3, and 2TB for $10.

13in m1 mbp imovie IDG
Your iCloud Drive can help get your new Mac up and running in no time.

When you log into your new Mac, you should see an iCloud tab in the sidebar of your Finder window, but if it's not there, you can add it in the Finder Preferences. Once they appear, you merely need to drag out the relevant files to your desktop and download any documents you want to store locally by clicking on the cloud icon.

You can also use your iCloud Drive to transfer files that aren't in your Documents folder just by dragging them in. For example, if you want to save all of your downloads, simply drag the folder from your old Mac into your iCloud Drive and drag it out again on your new Mac.

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