What to Transfer
The majority of what is transferred will be one of the the following:
- Data (Documents, Desktop, Download, Pictures, Videos, Favorites, etc.)
- Applications (even though applications can never be directly transferred, the installers and keys and data, if available, can)
For Macs, the type of data is the similar, but exact directories will be a bit different.
The fastest method, which we almost always use, is the USB / SATA cable. Once the old hard drive is connected to the new machine, it can remain connected until all the data, settings and applications have been transferred. The old hard drive can then be kept available in case more data is needed later on, or it can be placed back in the original machine. Either way, do not discard it immediately.
Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive is slow since the data must be copied twice and it has to go over the Internet to the destination machine. Also, if items are omitted on the first copy, then forgotten ones must then be transferred.
Over the network. If in an environment where both machine are online and connected at the same time, network copy is possible. This may be OK if physically-connected, but wireless connections will really slow things down. Especially if one has to go back and copy more a second or third time.
Using an external hard drive. Fast, especially with USB 3.0, but copy in 2 directions must be made. Can be slow, especially if one has to go back and copy more a second or third time.
Using a transfer cable. Cables are advertised for this purpose, but they most often require installation of special software and can still somewhat slow. We have never used this method, as it is still easier to attach the source drive externally until the procedure is complete.
The order of the copy is important.
Usually, I copy the data folders (Documents, Desktop, Download, Pictures, Videos, Favorites, etc.) first, as they are the largest.
Then, while the above data is copying, I install all applications. After the applications are installed, I copy or import any application data. This includes email data. Now, with Office 365 and Google GSuite providing most email accounts, all of the email should still be stored on the server and available for the new machine without having to copy it, while the autocomplete file must be imported for GSuite accounts.
Finally, any settings, bookmark and saved passwords from the browsers are imported onto the new machine.
At the end, I test everything, configure backup and setup remote access for support.