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How to Transfer Files When Your Older Mac Doesn’t Have FireWire

If your Mac is so old that it does not have FireWire, you still have ways to transfer files to your new Mac. If you have Ethernet, you can try to use AppleShare. It doesn’t work for all older versions of Mac OS, but it’s worth a try. Running System 7.5.5 or later is recommended. Alternatively, you can transfer files without Ethernet or use modems to transfer files.

You can download disk images of older Mac operating systems from Apple.

Transferring with Ethernet and AppleShare

To transfer files with AppleShare, connect the older Mac to your Ethernet router or run an Ethernet crossover cable between the two Macs.

On your OS X Mac, select Sharing from System Preferences and turn on Personal File Sharing. Select Network from System Preferences and click the tab that corresponds to how your new Mac is networked —that is, Ethernet or AirPort. Make AppleTalk active by selecting the check box, and click the Apply button.

On the older Mac, select Control Panel from the Apple menu and select AppleTalk. Make sure that AppleTalk is set to connect via Ethernet. Then select Chooser from the Apple menu and click the AppleShare icon.

Hopefully, depending on the age of your older system software, you see the new Mac’s icon in the old Mac’s Chooser.

Log on to the new Mac with your username and password. After you’re logged on, you should see an icon representing your new Mac on your old Mac’s desktop. Double-click that icon to open it and navigate to a folder where you want to move your files. Then drag them to that folder.

Transferring without an Ethernet

If your Mac does not have Ethernet or the previous procedure does not work, your best option may be transferring data by writing to disk. Decide which files you care about and write them to disk. Your choices depend on what drives are usable on your older Mac:

  • If your older Mac has an optical drive that can write CDs, it’s your first choice. CDs can hold 650MB of data or more.

  • If your older Mac has a Zip drive, look for a used USB Zip drive on eBay.com or Craigslist.com. You can use it with your new Mac to read Zip cartridges written on the older Mac. Zip cartridges hold 100MB or more, so you have fewer copy steps than would be required when using floppies. It’s a good idea to check out the entire process first by copying a few files.

  • If your older Mac only has a floppy drive, check whether it can write high-density (HD) floppies — these are the kind that are PC-compatible. The original Lisa, Mac 128, Mac 512, Mac Plus, some SEs, and Mac IIs cannot. Get a USB floppy drive for your new Mac and clear a few hours from your schedule for copying stuff from it. Again, it’s worth trying the process all the way through on a disk’s worth of files first.

If you have an ancient Mac that can only write single-sided or low-density double-sided disks, your best bet is to find a later-model used Mac that has a floppy drive. Apple Macintoshes with a built-in floppy drive can read the older disks. If possible, get a used Mac that has Ethernet and a drive that can write CDs.

Using modems to transfer files

If your older Mac has a modem and you purchased the Apple Modem for your new Mac, you may be able to transfer files by connecting the two modems with a telephone cable. The Kermit project at Columbia University distributes a tool for exchanging files over serial communications lines. It even has a version of Kermit for OS X, as well as for older Macs (MacKermit), not to mention nearly every computer in existence.

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