iMac + Time Machine expert challenge

Calling any Mac experts to answer this question:

I currently have an iMac and use Time Machine through a Time Capsule. The iMac has a 1TB hard drive, which is maybe 60% full (i.e. about 600GB of data on it).

I’m thinking about buying a new iMac with a 256GB SSD + 1TB HD. Apple preformats the SSD with the OS and applications with the hard drive for data (makes sense).

I’m fairly certain Time Machine isn’t complex enough to be able to notice where you keep you data, so my guess is that when asked to restore it will try to put everything either on the SSD or the hard drive. Clearly I don’t want to do that.

Is there an easy way to make the transition?

Use Migration Assistant to do the restore from your new machine, selecting Time Machine Backup as the source, and don’t go nuts checking all the options – just apps and user data; it will keep the current formatting for existing apps, and copy your old stuff over with minimal fuss.

So it’ll be smart enough to move apps onto the HD and user data onto the SSD?

I couldn’t answer this before, but now that I have an iMac that I’ve added an SSD to, the answer seems to be a qualified “no” – qualified on the fact that I don’t know how Apple ships these things if you order the drives from them (I did not). But my symlink method (mapping /Users to another volume) was over-written by migration assistant. I just used ditto to copy that migrated user where I wanted it, re-did the symlink, and used control-click on the user account to open up the advanced options and tell the OS what directory to use for each user’s account.

So now I have an SSD with everything except user data, and a 1TB drive for that plus backups. I probably should have upgraded the spinny HD while I was in there (1TB seems a bit light these days) but I’m not about to crack it open again, since I managed to get the screen back on with no trapped dust or anything, and I don’t want to press my luck.

The complaints about not being able to upgrade the drives on the new model appears to be complete hogwash, btw; I used an SATA power splitter (which discards the temperature data Apple grafts onto some unused pins) to power the new SSD, plugging a new SATA data cable into the motherboard for that drive, and I have not had to do anything to keep the fans in check. I’m running Lion.

Good info! My first attempt at the new iMac arrived DOA so now I’m waiting for a replacement. I’ll try a vanilla migration next week, but if it doesn’t work I’ll probably want more info regarding your method.

Just a quick update to this: OS X Lion makes this whole process super simple. I just copied my Time Machine-d (i.e. backup) home folder to the second hard drive, then all you have to do is cntrl+click the user in the preferences pane to select where the user folder is. One reboot and everything is restored.