Best way to eliminate personal data on Macbook Pro?
October 30, 2009 6:44 AM   Subscribe

After problems with my old laptop Apple sent me a free replacement, whats the best way to migrate my data, eliminate personal info but leave potential problems intact?

So my 2007 MacBook Pro has been a nightmare, multiple logic boards, wireless card outages etc. So they replaced it with a brand new current model MacBook Pro. My initial plan was just to dump my time machine backup onto the new machine, but I am wondering if that would instantly slow down the new machine by adding all the old pref files and junk that accumulates over the years to slow down machines? Should I worry about this? Would it be better to do a pile of fresh installs and manually copy music directories and such?

Also I want to send me old machine back to Apple as intact as possible. I would hate for the current wireless card issue to be a software problem and then I do a entire install and wipe and it fixes it. So I want to send it back as is but delete my personal data, passwords, etc. What's the best way to do this?
posted by UMDirector to Computers & Internet (8 answers total)
Not sure why you care if wiping your old Mac might fix the problems. You obviously had issues, they replaced it. End of that story. Just do a complete reinstall and check the customized option to "erase and install" (though not sure if that's as accessible in the snow leopard install disk as it was in 10.5).

As for your new Mac, I always take these opportunities to install fresh. Just move over your Document folder, Music, Pictures, and applications that you want to keep (or the whole folder if it is everything). You may have to reinstall some apps (like Creative Suites) to fix the registration. That way you lose the cruft of lots of preference files and start-up items that could cause flakiness.

But to reinforce, you don't have to worry about inadvertently "fixing" your old mac in the process of erasing your data.
posted by qwip at 7:11 AM on October 30, 2009

Forgot to add that you also want to move over your Mail and Mail Downloads folder in ~/Library/ (that's your home folder Library). You can also sort through the Application Support folder there as well and move over stuff you intend to keep.

If you have MobileMe, you can sync bookmarks, mail, calendars, address book, etc first and when you set up MobileMe on the new Mac, it'll put them on there for you. Not sure if it moves "On My Mac" mail folder.

Regardless, make a backup of your old Mac before wiping it for return so you can access anything you miss the first go round.
posted by qwip at 7:16 AM on October 30, 2009

Whenever I get a new machine, I make a clone of the disk with carboncopycloner, even just to a disk image on an external. That way I can do a fresh install, copy over the files I need, and leave it on the drive for a few months for the times I realized I forgot to copy something. Usually after 6mo I'm satisfied enough that I can delete it.

If it's a software problem, then they would wipe the machine either way. They've determined it's not, though, and sent you a replacement, so just format the machine and send it in.
posted by CharlesV42 at 7:27 AM on October 30, 2009

Disagreeing Chairface here: I use Migration Assistant often and it has never let me down. I've never noticed it making things slower my Mac is always pretty snappy so I'm not sure what you are experiencing.
posted by chairface at 7:41 AM on October 30, 2009

Oh, deleting personal info:

Make a new admin account. Log into it. Delete the old user accounts and empty the trash. That should be enough. If you have sensitive data you could wipe all the free space too via the Disk Utility.
posted by chairface at 7:44 AM on October 30, 2009

Using Migration assistant will move data and apps, and preferences. I doubt that Apple would give you a new laptop if the problem were software related. So just migrate your account, and if you want do a erase and install. on the old machine AFTER you check out the new machine.
posted by Gungho at 8:27 AM on October 30, 2009

I've switched Macs, lord... fifty times, not counting cases where I have a few in use at the same time that I wish to keep in sorta-sync. I never use Migration Assistant or Time Machine backups to do this, mainly for the cruft reasons in the question. There's also the human factor: Time Machine or MA don't notice that I have files there that I haven't used in six years, or that "hey, there's a better app for this now than there was last year", and copying them to machines all the time is just silly. The amount of space taken up by things I never use is eye-widening.

I look at a new machine as a chance to start fresh with a nice, tidy setup free of old nonsense, like a spring cleaning or desk tidying. When I need something from an old machine or backup, I go and get that thing.

There's nothing nicer than a fresh installation. It doesn't take that much work to get things set up the way you like again, and you may even find new ways of organizing at the same time.

Naturally, keep a backup.
posted by rokusan at 10:35 AM on October 30, 2009

Another data point: I recently switched out hard drives on my late 2006 MBP, from the stock 160 GB drive to a 500 GB with otherwise identical specs. I used SuperDuper to clone the drive's contents block-by-block, not on a per-file basis, so all of the file structures and fragmentation were intact (at least, that's my understanding).

My computer boots up sooooo much faster now. It used to take Font Explorer X thirty seconds to do its thing on startup; now it takes three. All other hardware and software remained unchanged. If a complete backup-and-restore to the same computer can do that for me, imagine what it can do for you.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:50 AM on October 30, 2009

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