For iPhone users, one of the most convenient aspects of owning one is the ability to use iCloud backups. These allow you to literally back up your device to the cloud, reset it, get a new one and then use your iCloud account to have all your apps and settings just like you left them on your previous iPhone. Of course, the Mac achieves this to some degree thanks to Migration Assistant, but that gives you no control over your backups and it will always restore all applications.
So, what to do if you have a new Mac and all you want to transfer to it from your old one are a couple of important applications and their settings? Apple doesn’t provide a solution for this problem, but thankfully there is a method to solve it.
The Problem With Preferences Files
Perhaps the hardest thing to figure out when trying to move an app and its settings to another Mac is to find the application’s preferences, which are usually located in the Preferences folder within your user’s Library. The problem here is that the Preferences folder is full of files, all of them named differently, making it really hard to find just the one you need.
Making things even worse, several apps on your Mac store information in other folders, making it virtually impossible to hunt for all of their related files.
The basic premise behind AppCleaner and similar apps is that they are designed to perform exhaustive, system-wide searches to find out an application’s preference files and delete them along with the app itself. And guess what? The files AppCleaner finds are exactly the ones you need.
Important Note: Other uninstall apps should work as well, as long as they work the same way AppCleaner does.
So, in order to find the preferences files and folder, just drag the app which preferences you want to migrate into AppCleaner. There, all the app’s associated preference files will show up with their paths listed in detail. Make sure to take note of them or to take a screenshot of the window. After you do, hit the Delete button.
Getting Your App Back
The application in question and all its associated preference files will go to the Trash. Once there, simply pick them up and copy them somewhere safe. Knowing these files’ locations, you could always hunt for them in their corresponding folders of course, but picking them up from the trash is just faster.
Then, place those files into a flash drive or anywhere where you can pull them out from on your new Mac.
Once done, head to your new Mac and drag the application from your flash drive to the Applications folder. Then, drag the preference files to the exact paths shown on the screenshot you took earlier on.
Start the app and all your preferences should be right there as if you had never changed Macs. Enjoy!