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Transferring Files from One Mac to Another

If you use Reunion on multiple computers, or if you just want to upgrade to a new Mac, and perhaps a newer version of Reunion, you may come across the need for transferring your Reunion family file and other files from one Macintosh computer to another. The following suggestions may be helpful to you in this process.

Keep in mind that some of these approaches are more suited to certain models of computers than others. Generally, more options are available when working with newer computers.


For the purpose of explanation, the following refers to the computer you are transferring data from as "A" and the computer you are transferring data to as "B."

Moving Files
Ethernet Network
If both computers have a Ethernet ports, you should be able to connect the computers that way, set up file sharing on one or both computers, and transfer files across. If you have an Ethernet hub and a pair of ordinary Ethernet cables, you can plug both computers into the hub and link them that way. If you do not have an Ethernet hub, you can directly connect the Ethernet ports of the two computers with an Ethernet "crossover" cable. (Some newer Macintosh models can be directly connected with an ordinary Ethernet cable rather than a crossover cable. See this page for details.)

Once the computers are connected, then you'll have to set up file sharing on one of them and connect to the "shared" computer with the other, allowing you to transfer files back and forth. Instructions on setting up file sharing on Mac OS 8 or 9 are available in this page on Apple's site. Equivalent instructions for Mac OS X systems can be found here.

Note: You may have to enable Appletalk on both computers (particularly if one of the computers uses OS 8 or 9) for file sharing to work.

If both computers are newer and have FireWire ports, you may be able to use FireWire target disk mode to make one computer (known as the target computer) available to the other (the host computer) as if it were an extra hard drive. Of course, at that point you can move files from one computer to another.

There are fairly specific limitations regarding what computers will work as "target" computers. Because of this, it would be a good idea to read the full instructions available at this page on Apple's web site before trying this.

With disks, the general approach is to copy your data from computer A to a disk, and from there to computer B. Examples are floppy disks, Zip disks, SuperDisk disks, etc.

There are several things to double-check when transferring data via disks. Be sure the largest single file you're moving will fit on a single disk (compression software may be helpful here). Also, make sure you have a disk drive for the appropriate type of disk on both computers. If a computer doesn't have a certain type of disk drive built in, you can often purchase an external one to connect to it. Finally, make sure to format the disks you use as Macintosh disks. Doing this can prevent the resource forks of Macintosh files from being lost.

With CDs there are two possible approaches. If computer A can "burn" (write/create) CDs, then the data can be burned to a CD and read on computer B. Be sure to format the CD in Macintosh format so that all information is properly preserved (including resource fork data).

If computer A can't burn CDs, you may be able to get a professional computer technician to take the needed files from computer A's hard drive and burn them onto a CD for you. This CD can then be used to transfer the files to computer B. This approach is more expensive than some, but is occasionally helpful when computer A is too old a machine for other alternatives to be possible.

Transferring files via E-mail is only viable if both computers have access to your e-mail account. If this is the case, you can send an e-mail to yourself from computer A with a file or several files attached. Then, go to computer B, check your e-mail, and download the attached file or files.

As with some other file transfer methods, you must be careful that the resource fork of the file isn't lost. Sometimes adjusting the encoding your e-mail program uses for attached files will overcome this difficulty. Some e-mail programs work best with AppleDouble (MIME) encoding, while others are happier with BinHex, an older standard. Experimentation with the settings may be profitable here.

Alternatively, you could compress the files before sending them, using compression software such as Stuffit, ZipIt, etc. Compressing the file has two benefits: It can help prevent loss of the resource fork, and it keeps the file size smaller so the e-mail can transfer more quickly.

AirPort (Wireless) Network
If both computers are newer, you can connect them via Apple's new AirPort wireless networking. To do this, you will need to have an AirPort card in each computer. You will also need to have an AirPort base station, or have one of the computers set up as a base station. See Apple's web site for more information about setting up AirPort networks on Mac OS 9, Mac OS X (10.1), and Mac OS X (Current Versions). For additional assistance with AirPort, see this page.

Once you've got an AirPort network connecting the two computers, you can then set up file sharing on one computer and connect to the "shared" computer with the other, allowing you to transfer files back an forth. Instructions on setting up file sharing on Mac OS 8 or 9 are available in this page on Apple's site. Equivalent instructions for Mac OS X systems can be found here.

Note: You may have to enable Appletalk on both computers (particularly if one of the computers uses OS 8 or 9) for file sharing to work.

Related information:

Using Compression Software
As mentioned in some of the above sections, compressing a file with some sort of compression software can reduce the file's size, and can also assist in preventing loss of the file's resource fork. The general approach is to compress the file on one computer, transfer it to the other using one of the methods above, and then decompress the file.

A couple different software packages can be used to accomplish this purpose.

  • The StuffIt line of products is one such package.
  • ZipIt, a shareware program, is another.
    Please note that if you use ZipIt, you should use it both for compressing the file and decompresing it on the other computer. StuffIt products can work with zip files, but they don't preserve resource forks when doing so.
Macintosh Files and Resource Forks
Some files created by Macintosh programs (including Reunion) have what are called "resource forks." This part of the file can store a variety of data. In the case of Reunion family files, the resource fork holds the Type and Creator codes which allow Reunion to recognize it's own files. So, when transferring a Reunion family file, you don't want to lose the resource fork of the file, or Reunion won't know that it can open the file.

PC-formatted disks don't know what to do with the resource forks of Mac files, and so the information in the resource fork is lost if the file is transferred using them. So, Mac-formatted disks are preferable when transferring files.

Likewise, some encodings for files attached to e-mails won't preserve resource forks.

In both cases, using appropriate compression software which preserves the resource fork when compressing and decompressing files can avoid the loss of those files' resource forks.