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Setting Up My New Mac Pro
5 February 2014
 
 


Now that I have written about my first impressions of the new Mac Pro — smaller, quieter, faster — I want to share some of the details about how I set the new computer up.

Because my previous Mac Pro was five years old, and had run five different versions of the Mac OS X — Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks — I decided that this was a good opportunity to start with a clean slate, or hard disk, as the case may be.

Before turning on the new Mac Pro, I moved my old Mac onto a table next to my desk. To it I attached one of my two monitors, a spare Kensington Expert Mouse (trackball), my Logitech wireless illuminated keyboard, and of course, a network cable.

To my new Mac Pro I attached the other monitor, as well as my everyday Kensington Expert Mouse and Logitech illuminated ultrathin keyboard. Although the new Mac Pro has WiFi, I hooked up a much faster network cable, and then I pressed the power button on my new baby for the first time.

During the initial set of questions Apple asks you when setting up a new computer, I made sure to decline the offer to copy my previous set-up from my old Mac or from my external Time Machine drive. Once I got through the questions and arrived at the Mac desktop, it was time to start downloading and installing my favorite software.

In general, getting a program up and running is a two-step process. The easy part is downloading the installation file. For example, you just need to Google "firefox" in order to find the download page for this popular Web browser. Once the file is downloaded, installation is a snap. But what about all of my hundreds of bookmarks, and the dozen-or-so very useful add-ons I have collected over the years? This part is a bit trickier.

Once again, Google is your friend in time of need! In this case, I searched for something like: "firefox mac where are bookmarks stored." The top result was exactly what I was looking for: Profiles - Where Firefox stores your bookmarks, passwords and other user data.


 
 
Which brings us to a critical issue on the Mac: the custom settings and preferences for most of your programs are stored in a hidden folder called Library. More specifically, it's your home Library folder — commonly written in Unix syntax as ~ / Library, which means "a folder named Library inside your home folder." The fact that this folder is normally hidden makes it kind of hard to find your program settings!

Fortunately, it is not very hard to access the home Library folder: see this Macworld article for more details. Because I use the Path Finder file manager instead of the Mac's built-in Finder, I can view hidden files and folders like Library with just one menu command.

At this point you have to be careful, because if you can see ALL the hidden files on the Mac, you will discover that there are actually three Library folders! The most important one for our discussion is the home Library folder located in your home folder. There is another Library folder at the root level of your Macintosh HD, and a third in the root-level System folder. Explore at your own risk!

Most of the program settings are going to be found in the Application Support folder, which is inside the home Library folder. In general, transferring a program's settings from one computer to another is simply a matter of finding that program's folder in the Application Support folder of the old computer, and copying it to the Application Support folder of the new computer. It is best to do this after you install the program — because some or all of the settings my be erased during the installation process — but before you run the program for the first time — because at that time you may be asked to configure the program if it can't find any existing settings.

This is the approach I took with iTunes. However, its settings are not in the Application Support folder, but in the iTunes folder inside the Music folder inside your home folder. After installing iTunes, I simply copied the entire iTunes folder from the Music folder on my old Mac to the Music folder on my new Mac. I started iTunes, and there was my complete music library of over 20,000 tracks, gloriously intact! I've had problems doing this in the past, so I was overjoyed that it worked without a hitch this time around.

To continue with my Firefox example, it's a bit more complicated, as the above-mentioned article explains. In this case, you want to run Firefox once so it creates a default profile folder, quit Firefox, find the default profile folder inside the Firefox folder on both computers (inside the Application Support folder), and then copy the contents of that folder from the old computer to the new, overwriting any existing files on the new computer. It sounds more complicated than it really it — just give it a try.

The lesson to learn here is this: in case you have any doubt as to where a program's settings are stored on your old computer, or how to transfer them to the new computer, research it on Google to find the answers. This has worked for me every time. Many other computer users have faced these same issues already, and some have written about it on the Web, so we get to benefit from what they have learned and shared.

I've been using Thunderbird e-mail for quite a few years now. In the past I have had trouble transferring my account info and my hundreds of folders of old e-mails over to a new computer. I think my mistake has been running Thunderbird before I copy the old data folder to the new computer. This time, after installing Thunderbird, I found its settings folder — in the home Library folder itself, and not in the Application Support folder — and copied that entire folder to the home Library folder on my new Mac before I ran Thunderbird for the first time. Once I started Thunderbird, all my folders and accounts were there without any further configuration! Now that was easy!

Because I have used dual 24-inch monitors for years, I was beginning to feel claustrophobic having only one monitor on my new Mac Pro. In considering the alternatives, I realized that I could use the built-in capabilities of OS X to remote control my old Mac from my new one. Therefore, on the old Mac Pro I opened the Sharing pane of System Preferences and then turned on Screen Sharing.

Back on my new Mac Pro, I opened a new Finder window, and in the Shared section of the Sidebar I clicked on the name of the old Mac Pro listed there. Then, near the upper-right corner of the Finder window, I clicked on the Share Screen... button. This launched the OS X Screen Sharing app, in which window I could now see the screen of the old Mac Pro! I was able to attach my second monitor to the new Mac Pro — phew, that felt better! I was also able to unplug the mouse from the old Mac and disconnect the Bluetooth keyboard, leaving only the power cord and network cable. This arrangement worked a lot better for me than the set-up I had started with.

Now that my screen claustrophobia had been cured, I continued installing my collection of indispensible free software, including OpenOffice, Picasa, HandBrake, Skype, DropBox, Kindle Reader, FileZilla, VLC media player, and more!

Once I was done installing all the free software, the one program that I needed to get installed as soon as possible was 1Password. Not only does this wonderful (and spendy) software keep track of my more-than-250 passwords, but it also stores the license keys of all the software I have purchased. This is a much better system than digging through tens of thousands of old e-mails trying to track down the license key for each program I want to install. And I love the fact that I can synchronize the data in 1Password with the iOS version, so I can have access to all of my passwords even when away from home, or when I want to log into a Web site from my iPad. There are other password managers out there, but I think 1Password is worth the money.

Since I set up my previous Mac Pro five years ago, "the Cloud" has become all the rage. It was interesting, and delightful, to see how this newfound emphasis on the Internet made setting up my new Mac that much easier. All of my settings and data from the Mac/iOS apps like Reminders, Calendar, Maps and Contacts where automatically and instantly transferred to my new Mac as soon as I signed into my Apple account.

I've been a subscriber of Adobe Creative Cloud for the past year and a half. All I had to do to install my collection of the latest Adobe software was to log on to their Web site, download the Creative Cloud manager app, tell it which Adobe programs to install, and leave my computer on during the night while the app did the rest.

Adobe also stores in the Cloud some of my personal settings for various programs, which were synced when I ran those programs on my new Mac. Unfortunately, many of the important customizations in Photoshop are not transferred, including keyboard shortcuts, workspaces and actions. But it wasn't a big deal because all of these custom settings are found in the Application Support folder mentioned above, so I was able to simply copy them from my old Mac to the new.

Some programs need to be deactivated on your old computer before activating them on your new machine, because the manufacturer keeps track of how many computers you install their software on. This is true for Adobe's Creative Cloud programs, as well as the Intego Mac Internet Security software I use to help keep my computer safe from the nasties out there. If you forget to deactivate these kind of programs before you uninstall or otherwise dispose of them, your license will be stuck on a computer you are no longer using, and will not be available to activate the program on your new computer.

For my Web site development, I run an Apache Web server and MySQL database server on my local Mac. For some years now I have used the MAMP distribution. This package is very strange in one vital respect: your settings, and more importantly, your MySQL databases, are NOT stored in the Application Support folder, nor indeed anywhere in the home Library folder. Instead, they are tucked away in the MAMP folder in the Applications folder.

Once I installed MAMP and copied over my data, I was still having very troubling configuration errors for both Apache and MySQL. Seeing that I'm not an expert in setting up either server, I decided to give the paid version, MAMP Pro, a try, because it offers better configuration tools than the free version. After the time-limited trial version fixed my problems, I decided that the seemingly-steep $60 registration fee was actually well worth it, because I MUST have these servers running properly on my Mac.

Can you believe that I still use some Microsoft Windows programs — sacrilege! I've never found a satisfactory Mac replacement for the venerable HomeSite HTML editor (when it was still developed by Allaire). I've tried a LOT of HTML editors over the years, but HomeSite is still absolutely the BEST — in fact, I'm creating this article with it right now. ALL of my Web site development for all of my Web sites is centered around HomeSite.

Neither have I found a decent Mac replacement for Quicken (I tried the Mac version a few years back and it was really bad!), nor for Microsoft's Access database and Streets & Trips map programs. Therefore, ever since I got my first Mac Pro five years ago, I have been running MS Windows in a virtual machine on the Mac.

Running these Windows programs on my new Mac Pro was a piece of cake! There was no need to reinstall MS Windows or to reconfigure the virtual machine. Once I had installed Parallels Desktop for Mac, I simply copied the virtual machine file from my old Mac to the new, started Parallels and the virtual machine, and Windows was up and running!

For most of these five years I had been using VMware Fusion for Windows virtualization and was satisfied with that software until the end of last year. After I upgraded to OS X Mavericks, and from VMware Fusion 5 to version 6, things started going downhill. But that's a whole nother story which you can read about in Windows on the Mac: VMware vs. Parallels.

To finish setting up my computer, I of course, copied over all of the other folders from the home folder on my old Mac to the home folder on my new Mac, particularly the Documents folder. Within 24 hours (including sleeping and eating and other necessities) after my new baby was delivered I had a fairly-operational system, and within 48 hours my new computer was completely set up almost identically to my old one. It actually went much quicker and smoother than I had anticipated.

As to where all the hundreds of gigabytes of data ended up on my new system, and how I've configured my internal and external storage in general — don't miss the next article in this series: Hard Drive Storage On My New Mac Pro.
This article is 5th a series of articles on this Web site related to Technology and Computing which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
1.
26  Oct  2010
2.
11  Jan  2014
3.
24  Jan  2014
4.
29  Jan  2014
5.
Setting Up My New Mac Pro
5  Feb  2014
6.
7  Feb  2014
7.
14  Feb  2014
8.
15  Feb  2014
9.
16  Feb  2014
10.
17  Feb  2014
11.
1  Nov  2014
12.
12  Nov  2014
13.
20  Nov  2014
14.
22  Nov  2014
15.
2  Dec  2014
16.
6  Dec  2014
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