The SDDCbox Project — Part #4 — From iMac to Mac Pro

Photo by "Hello, I'm Nik" on Unsplash
Photo by “Hello, I’m Nik” on Unsplash

In my previous article, “The SDDCbox Project — Part #3 — Choosing a Mac Pro Configuration“, I determined which Mac Pro configuration I should get for my SDDCbox project. Now, the question becomes: how do I move from my current iMac to this new machine? Should I use a backup from Time Machine or start from scratch? It’s a bit complicated. Let’s try to figure this out.

Using Apple’s Time Machine

Transfer information to this Mac during Mac setup
Transfer information to this Mac during Mac setup

Probably the easiest way to move from my current iMac to a new Mac Pro is to use a Time Machine Backup. This way, during the initial setup of the Mac Pro, at the Migration Assistant step, I would choose from which backup I want to restore all my applications, data and settings. It is a very tempting approach, but it comes with a few drawbacks.

My current iMac SSD usage numbers
My current iMac SSD usage numbers

First, my current iMac is running macOS Catalina. When I upgrade from my 2007 iMac, I used Time Machine to set up this 2017 iMac. I’ve been upgrading this iMac from one version of macOS to another for many years. Something tells me there are a bunch of things sitting around on this SSD for no reason. Maybe it is time to do a clean install. Second, I know there are a few apps and utilities sitting there that are no longer needed. Using a restore from Time Machine will bring them back again while reinstalling each of them manually is the right occasion to ask myself: is it needed?

Starting from scratch

Setting up a new machine from scratch means reinstalling all the applications one by one. This strategy could prove to be relatively easy but time-consuming. Easy because I’m a big user of Apple’s iCloud Drive which syncs Documents, Contacts, Safari bookmarks across my devices. Many things will just come back from my iCloud account. The biggest issue with this approach is to track paid software licenses. Usually, it is a pain to look for them in mails, downloaded PDF or online to apply them in each application’s settings. Speaking of licenses, some applications check for simultaneous computer use like ScreenFlow or Vadle, two applications that I use quite often. Before installing them on the new Mac, I’ll need to get rid of them on my iMac first. It’s a bit of a hassle to do.

For other applications like Adobe Lightroom Classic, it’s a bit more tricky as I need to take care of the catalog. On the other hand, Lightroom CC is cloud-based; it is easier to move because the photos and the catalog sit in the cloud.

Starting from scratch also means the transition will take a lot longer to accomplish. Selling my iMac won’t happen until I’m done with this transition. It could take weeks but this could be a good thing too.

The macOS Big Sur Unknown

Apple’s macOS Big Sur is currently in beta (version 11.0.1, weird), but its release could happen very soon, in a matter of days. Current rumours point to a release in the middle of November. How long before a new Mac Pro comes preinstalled with macOS Big Sur? If it comes preinstalled, this would make me skip an upgrade but any non-compatible applications could delay the transition. Applications like Cisco AnyConnect is a prime example of this. Eventually, it could take weeks, Cisco will release an update to support the latest macOS version.

The best scenario is to run Big Sur on the Mac Pro and Catalina on my iMac for a while. It’s the best of both worlds. Big Sur will certainly see a few minor bugfix releases during that journey while I’m in the middle of my transition.

The waiting game begins

My transition strategy is definitely going to be starting from scratch, hopefully from Big Sur factory-installed. Carefully picking which application will make it to the Mac Pro will be a satisfying journey. Meanwhile, my attention is now turning towards the next Apple event to see what’s new when it comes to the Mac.

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