Setting Up a New Mac

After getting my new Mac mini, this is the process I went through to set it up for the first time. I’ve heard that on Macs these days it is really easy and reliable to use Migration Assistant to transfer your stuff from your old Mac to the new one. However, I still like the idea of setting everything up from scratch so there’s nothing unwanted or unnecessary transferred over. I also had the time to do it as I’m still using my MacBook for work and travel so I didn’t need to quickly get the mini up and running.

  • After turning the mini on I skipped the part for connecting to a wi-fi network. I wanted to do some other things first before having the computer connected to the internet.
  • Open System Preferences and make various customizations, like setting my desktop and dock preferences, selecting hot corners, enabling the firewall, turning on FileVault, etc.
  • Set my Finder and Desktop preferences. For Finder preferences I change what folder new Finder windows will show and what items appear in the sidebar. For the desktop I set the icon size and spacing, sort order by kind, and tick to show item info.
  • Connect the computer to my wi-fi network.
  • Run System Updates for any OS updates that might be there.
  • Open Safari and customize the app preferences.
  • Install 1Password.
  • Sign in to iCloud to download and sync the various services I use. Currently that is: iCloud Drive, Photos shared albums, Calendars, Reminders, Safari and Notes.
  • Open the App Store to check for updates and install apps that I previously downloaded and still want to use through the App Store. There’s not many of those outside of Apple’s built in apps like Pages, Numbers, etc. This time I re-downloaded: Day One, Pixelmator, Monity, and Ghostery Lite.
  • Download and install some of the main apps I use regularly. Any other apps I would download and install later when needed. The initial apps I first installed were:
    • Dropbox
    • Alfred
    • BusyCal
    • Chrome
    • Zoom
    • Tunnelbear
    • Banktivity
  • Connect an external hard drive and set up Time Machine.
    • Later on I would also set up Backblaze on the Mac mini but I was still using it on my MacBook. After the mini was all setup I found this article to figure out how to start using Backblaze on the new computer without having to re-upload all my data again.
  • Open Mail and add my email account. I probably would have done this sooner if I needed to get this machine up and running as my main work computer.
  • Open Contacts and add my two accounts I use for syncing contacts since I currently don’t use iCloud for that.
  • Setup iTunes. On my MacBook Pro I had my iTunes library installed on an SD card using a Nifty Minidrive in the SD card slot. I copied the music folder from this drive and used that to add my music files to the new iTunes library on my Mac mini. These are all my old mp3 files ripped from CDs back in the day before I used Spotify. I don’t use playlists much on iTunes and any TV shows or movies I’ve already got backed up on an external drive so those can be added later when needed.
  • Setup Photos. I copied the Photos library file from my MacBook Pro onto an external drive to transfer it over to the mini. I then opened that library file up with Photos on the mini and everything was just as I had it on the laptop. I don’t use iCloud photos other than for shared albums, so I still manually import photos from my phone to the Photos app and just use Google Photos for free cloud backup.
  • Transfer my Desktop and Documents folders. My final step in getting the new Mac mini ready to fully use as my main computer was copying the files from my Desktop and Documents folders on the MacBook Pro over to the mini.

I’m sure everyone’s list for doing this would look quite different depending on their needs and uses. This worked for me and was fun to set up. It’s been a while since setting up a brand new Mac so I wanted to write this down to help me remember it. Also I’m curious to see how much changes the next time I end up doing this whenever that may happen.

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