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#941: Migrating from Time Machine; Exporting Your Photo Library; Thunderbolt vs. Mini DisplayPort


Hello Fellow Technophiles,

I want to assure you right here at the top that this week’s edition of Tech Tails will NOT contain any Star Wars: The Force Awakens spoilers. Despite being firmly in the Star Trek camp of the great sci-fi divide (see picture at left for proof), I am also a huge Star Wars fan and have seen the movie twice already with plans in place for a third viewing in the theater, and likely many viewings at home once it is legally available. If you are planning on trying to obtain a pirated copy of this movie, I would like to strongly discourage you. First of all, this is quite illegal. It also a pretty good way to get malware on your device as one can never be sure what one is actually downloading from the murkier parts of the web.

While none of them are energetic enough to power a lightsaber, we do have three great specials this week on portable power devices. Make sure that the Force is always with you and your devices by buying one of these. You don’t want your device to turn to the Dark Side, do you?

We also have some great articles from our team this week. Erich continues his ongoing backup saga, Vincent helps you free up space by moving your Photos library, and Kevin helps you identify your ports.


  Restoring From a Time Machine Backup  

We talk a lot about how to make a Time Machine backup and how important it is, but we don’t often talk about how to restore or transfer your data using a Time Machine backup. There’s a couple of ways to get data off the Time Machine backup, the easiest of which is to transfer everything from the backup to a new Mac. Sometimes this doesn’t work though, as older machines with Hard Drives (HDDs) frequently have more space, and potentially more user content to be transferred than the new Solid State Drives (SSDs) that new new Apple notebooks ship with which means there might be an issue with space. It’s always good to check if you’re getting the right amount of storage space. There are many ways to do this, but that’s another topic altogether.

Migration Assistant is an app that you can find in the Utilities folder within your Applications folder on your Mac that will allow you to restore data from a Time Machine backup. If it’s a brand new machine (or restored to factory settings with a clean install) you’ll have three options for transferring data during the initial setup: transfer your data from a Windows PC; create a new account; or transfer your data from a Mac, Time Machine Backup or Startup Disk.

The one with Time Machine Backup in its description is the one we want. Before you start transferring everything (after you’ve clicked through a few relatively self-explanatory screens) you’ll be able to select what user accounts you want to transfer and whether or not you want to transfer the contents of the Applications folder. You get a little bit of granular control here, but not too much. It’s simple, but doesn’t give you complete and total control. If it does move a bunch of stuff that you don’t want, it’s always an option to delete it from the new machine to free up space.

In most cases I recommend just checking everything and just transferring everything. It’ll set up your new Mac more or less as closely as possible to the settings of the old one, and for most people, that’s exactly what they want.

  Export your Photos Library to an External Drive  

For a lot of people, pictures are the things that eat up space on their internal hard drives. Add in the more frequent use of solid state drives with relatively small capacities on the new MacBooks and this leaves people needing external or cloud storage for their photos. I personally recommend exporting your entire iPhoto or Photos library to a external hard drive. The major upside is you have more internal storage for apps, documents, and other media. The downside is you need the external hard drive to access the library.

To do this the first thing you need to do is purchase the drive you want to use. If it is not already formatted for Mac, you will need to reformat the drive as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) in Disk Utility. Then you select the current iPhoto/Photo library and drag it to the external drive. When you next open up the Photos app you hold down the option key. You will be able to choose the newly created library for the app to refer to by navigating to the external drive. I highly suggest you use the application and check to make sure all your files are there. After testing the library, and backing up via Time Machine (or other methods) to a different drive, you are free to trash the original and free up internal hard drive space.

  Mini DisplayPort vs Thunderbolt Port  

There are two different (but similar) ports that appear on different Macs that often get confused. They are the Mini DisplayPort and the Thunderbolt port. Please take a look at the picture on the right to refresh your memory as to what they look like.

As you can see the plug is exactly the same but the icon that is beside each is different. The Thunderbolt port is on the left and the Mini DisplayPort on the right. In the past, the Mini DisplayPort was used as an audio/video output port which was used to hook up your Mac to an external display or monitor. The new Thunderbolt still does this and is backwards compatible with Mini DisplayPort adapters. The main difference between the two is that Thunderbolt can also transfer data (backing up or transferring files, for example) by using adapters to USB, Ethernet, FireWire or directly to another Thunderbolt device. This means you can have a working connection when plugging in a Mini DisplayPort peripheral to a Thunderbolt port but not vice versa. See the image below for a better understanding.

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