Apple Loses Control of Product Migration

Apple Loses Control of Product Migration
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So, here’s a holiday tale of woe, but not the kind you’d expect.

There’s no doubt that Apple is now a mature tech company, and has, therefore, lots of complicated legacy products with hard to manage upgrade paths. But this isn’t one of them. This is a story of a simple problem, with a simple solution, gone terribly wrong.

It begins with a holiday gift. After six reliable years with my 27” iMac, I was ready for a new machine. Faster processor, retina display. It was time.

So, when my spanking new iMac 27” machine arrived - I was patient and made sure I had the time to do the transfer with care.

A quick google search reminded me of past frustrations - Apple’s Migration Assistant is widely derided as being buggy, frustrating, and often flat-out unworkable. Undaunted - I researched any possible speed bump.

After hours of trying to buy a Thunderbolt 2 -> Thunderbolt #3 cable, I trudged to the Apple Store and purchased a $49 adapter. Ouch, but ok fine.

I’d been warned online, do not try and use Migration Assistant with WiFi or a USB cable - both are too slow.

So, with old an new computers connected, I started Migration Assistant. After waiting 30 min for the new machine to discover the old - I made my first call to Apple.

A charming support person told me he had “no hands-on experience with Migration Assistant, but he was happy to walk through it with me.” I asked him, how long should it take to transfer 1tb of data using a Thunderbolt cable? “I’d say an hour, maybe two or three,” he said. Ok, not very specific, but it seemed reasonable.

Half an hour later, we were just where we started, stuck, and I asked to be handed off to a Senior Associate. No prob - on the phone with Ryan, and he suggested a few things, shut off WiFi on both machines, make sure they don't go to sleep and start again. Did as told, and after a few tries, it was running… said 9hr and was running at 11mbps. Weird. Asked Ryan what the throughput was supposed to be on Thunderbolt, and he looked it up - “25gigs per second.” Ok, so that’s not right. He suggested I go buy another Thunderbolt cable, and I pointed out that cables generally don’t slow down, they either work or not. Anyway, he gave me his call back number, and I left the machines transferring and went to bed.

The next morning - woke expecting my new machine to be read to go to work.

Ugh. The machine had dropped to 5mbps and now said 35hrs remaining - the progress bar on the transfer had hardly moved.

I called Ryan, and he called me back.

Steve: “Hey Ryan, something’s wrong here - at 5mgbs with a direct connection between machines, this is going to take days to complete.”
Ryan: “Well, if that’s what it’s going to take, there’s not much we can do about it.”
Steve: “But, if it’s a bug, and Migration Assistant isn’t working - should that be something you put a ticket in to get fixed.”
Ryan: “It’s not a bug, it’s just slow.”
Steve: “What can we do to fix it”
Ryan: “I can setup an Apple Genius Bar appointment.”
Steve: “You mean bring two 27” machines in and have them do it in the store for 3 days?”
Ryan: “If that’s what you want.”

If it’s possible to hear someone shrug their shoulders over the phone, that is what I got. Then, Ryan offered me a ‘work around’ - I could use Time Machine. Save the 1tb of data to a hard drive, then connect it to the new machine and restore it.

Of course, TimeMachine would require a drive, and since it doesn’t connect with Thunderbolt, we’d lose the speed of the transfer. Quick estimate, to back up 1tb 3 days. To restore from Time Machine, 3 more days.

I asked if I could have this escalated to a more senior tech support person. This is where it gets crazy.

Ryan: “No, I’m the most senior person - there’s no way I can transfer you, but you can call the 800 number and ask for a Senior Advisor and try with someone else who you get.”

Ok, so now I’m pissed. Software that doesn’t work. A $50 cable, a 6-day workaround, and a brand new computer with no software or files on it.

I remember when calling Apple meant reaching someone smart, engaged, and solution oriented. But those days are gone.

So, as I write this, I’m on day 4 of this problem - and day 2 of a 3 day TimeMachine backup. Then, I assume a 3 day restore on the new machine. Apple’s “senior advisor” seems to think data transfer is little more than a guessing game. Apple’s estimate of one to three hours to transfer machines was a sloppy, inaccurate, and technically lazy answer to a knowable question.

Setting up a new computer might take a bit of effort, but it should be something Apple endeavors to make seamless and pain-free.

But the days of launching an Apple product with excitement and joy are sadly a thing of the past.

And that’s a shame.

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