How to Transfer Data From an iMac to a MacBook Pro

Updated March 23, 2017

The iMac and MacBook Pro are two models of Macintosh computers produced by Apple. While the MacBook Pro line of laptops has remained fairly consistent throughout its life, there have been four distinctly different versions of the iMac desktop computer, each identified by its processor type. No matter which type of iMac you have, Apple has made it simple to transfer data between Macs, requiring only a FireWire cable or an external hard drive.

Create a new folder ("Command," "Shift," "N") on the desktop of the iMac and name it "Transfer." Drag all the data that you want to migrate to the MacBook Pro into that folder.

Highlight the "Transfer" folder by clicking on it once and selecting "Get Info..." under the File menu, or click "Command" and "I." The window that opens will indicate how much data the folder contains. Take note of this, as you will need to know this in the following step.

Double-click on the MacBook Pro's hard drive. The amount of free hard drive space is indicated at the bottom of the window. An alternate method for determining free space is by highlighting the laptop's hard drive and selecting "Get Info..." under File or by pressing "Command" and "I." As long as the free space on the Mac Book Pro's hard drive is larger than the size of the Transfer folder, then continue to Step 4. If not, you'll either have to delete some files from the MacBook Pro's hard drive or remove some files from the Transfer folder on the iMac's desktop.

Reboot the MacBook Pro while holding down the "T" key. It will boot in "FireWire" mode and the screen will display the FireWire icon. Attach one end of a FireWire cable to the FireWire jack on the iMac and the other end to the FireWire jack on the MacBook Pro.

Look for the MacBook Pro's hard drive, which is indicated by the FireWire icon, to mount on the iMac's desktop. If it doesn't appear, select "Preferences" from under Finder and confirm that "External disks" is checked off under the General tab.

Drag the "Transfer" folder from the iMac's desktop to the MacBook Pro's hard drive. Once the file has finished copying, eject the MacBook Pro's hard drive by dragging it into the trash or by clicking the triangle-shaped "Eject" icon next to it in the finder window.

Power down the MacBook Pro by pressing the power key and disconnect the FireWire cable. Then reboot it and you'll see the "Transfer" folder on its hard drive. At this point you can move the files anywhere you want on the MacBook Pro.

An alternate method is to use a flash drive or external hard drive to transfer the files. Plug the drive into the iMac, copy the "Transfer" folder to it and disconnect it when it's finished copying. Then attach it to your MacBook Pro and copy the files onto the your laptop.


Before transferring any data, slim your Transfer folder down by deleting any duplicate or unnecessary files.


Don't delete any files from your iMac until you've confirmed that they've copied successfully to the MacBook Pro.

Things You'll Need

  • FireWire cable
  • External hard drive or USB flash drive
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About the Author

Christopher Capelle is a freelance copywriter with over two decades of experience. Subjects of his writing include the business and technology fields, consumer products and home repair/improvement. He graduated from The University of Connecticut and earned a master's degree in journalism from Iona College.