Better is NOT Perfect

April 28, 2007

WWDC07 Rumor: VirtualBox + BootCamp = Migration Assistant 2

[NOTE: This post was originally published April 28, 2007 @ 10:00 on my personal blog. It has been moved here to consolidate all my Apple-Related rants in one place.]

Anyone who has set up a Mac is familiar with the Setup Assistant. It’s the first thing that runs when you turn on a New Mac. During this process, if you have an old Mac, you can connect it via firewire and it will tell your new Mac everything it needs to know. You can transfer your accounts, settings, preferences, applications, documents, and data. It gives you the option of not moving old applications if the new machine has a newer version so you never have to fear that you are “downgrading” your new machine.

Users of Mac OS X 10.4.0 or later got the sister application Migration Assistant in their Utilities folder. Migration Assistant works just like setup assistant. You hook the computer you want to grab an account from to your Mac, and it grabs it.

I hear switchers and potential switchers out there saying “What if your old computer is a PC? I’d love to Boot Camp into my old setup.” (I’ll forgive my imaginary readers for verbing the noun Boot Camp, if you’ll forgive me for verbing the noun verb.)

Current the answer is no, for two reasons.

First, Migration Assistant 1.0 depends on Macintosh’s Target Disk Mode. It’s a hardware thing, programmed into the EFI on new Macs (and the OpenFirmware of every Mac made for the last decade), but not into the BIOS of any PC. No manufacturer demanded it so it simply isn’t there. Sorry.

Second, Migration Assistant 1.0 officially supports only Firewire, which has been standard on Macs for a decade but is a relative latecomer to the PC world, and still doesn’t appear on most low end and mid-range PCs. MA1.0 unofficially supports external USB drives, which hints at the direction Apple is heading.

Solving both of those problems is a small application, let’s call it PC Helper, running on the PC. It takes control of 1 firewire (or USB) port and emulates a Firewire (or USB) drive.

Migration Assistant 2 will have Boot Camp built-in. If your old computer is a PC, instead of moving accounts and settings, it will fire up VirtualBox.

VirtualBox is an open source, cross platform VM. Thanks to PC Helper, VirtualBox can grab the contents of your PCs hard drive and Boot Camp can put it on your Mac.

As with all rumors, take with an appropriate amount of salt.

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