There are several options available to transferring your files and applications from an old Mac to new Mac. Apple has a built-in software assistant to help facilitate the process, or you can use a more manual approach such as burning files onto media. Depending on your version of Mac OS, some methods may not be a viable solution, and you may need to take a more hands-on approach to moving data. The following is a list of options to facilitate the process:
If you are using Mac OS X 10.3 and above, Apple has included Migration Assistant (previously known as Setup Assistant) as part of their Utilities software. This application takes you step by step through the process of transferring all of your documents, applications and settings. In order to use Migration Assistant, a bridge between the two systems need to be established using either a LAN, a Ethernet crossover cable or FireWire cable.
Apple's Migration Assistant
For older versions of Mac OS X, file transfer is a more time-consuming process consisting of manually moving files from one computer to the other. With FireWire, you can mount the second computer's hard drive on your other system using Target Disk mode. First, connect the FireWire cable to bridge the computers (FireWire 2.3 or above is required). On the second computer from which the data is to be moved, activate Target Disk Mode under System Preferences > Startup Disk, then reboot the system. The second computer should mount as a drive on the desktop on the other computer and is ready for transfer.
An alternate method to Target Disk Mode is using an Ethernet crossover cable. Simply, plug the cable between the two systems. On both computers, go to System Preferences > Network > Built-in Ethernet > AppleTalk. Make sure AppleTalk is active. Then, go to Sharing under System Preferences on the old computer and turn on Personal File Sharing. The hard drive of the old computer should mount onto the other machine allowing files to be pushed over to the new computer.
The most time-consuming method of transferring files is using external media. With this option, you manually burn files onto CD or DVD media, then load the files onto the other computer. Flash drives work better and are faster than burning discs. The one advantage of this method is that you have a backup of your old system in the event that your new system files get corrupted.
Apple - Transferring files between two Macintosh Computers
Apple - Migration Assistant FAQ
Apple - How to use FireWire Target Disk mode