It’s bad enough when your computer dies and needs to be replaced without having the daunting task of getting your new working environment to be identical to the one you’re familiar with — not to mention getting all of your data moved over, as well.

That’s what I faced when my MacBook Pro display was impossible to use, deemed un-fixable by Apple and my Apple approved service centre earlier this week and the decision was made to ship me a replacement unit (thank you AppleCare!).  The fact that the new system was to be the latest and greatest technology was only moderate consolation to the work that lay ahead.

That’s when the service tech told me that if I use the Leopard OS backup utility called Time Machine, I would be prompted during the installation process if I would like to migrate data from a Time Machine backup.  I’ve been a religious Time Machine user since I upgraded to Leopard in January so I felt the fear of the migration lift a little.

My replacement system arrived today.  I powered it on shortly after 4:00pm and followed the setup prompts.  Sure enough, within a couple of minutes I was asked if I wanted to migrate data from my Time Machine backup (if I had one).  I plugged my Time Machine drive into the computer and selected all of the available options (user data, applications, settings and some Mac files).  It calculated a 3 hour copy time for roughly 170Gb of data.  Perfect!

I picked up my daughters from camp, took one to her music lesson, hung out with the other, took them to the grocery store, went home, had a family dinner, hung out for a bit and then checked on my system.  All of the data and apps had been copied.

I checked for system updates and found there were a few to be applied including the Leopard 10.5.4 upgrade (I guess system updates don’t migrate).   While those updates were downloading I went through all of my applications and discovered that I had been negligent updating some so I downloaded and applied those updates.  Unfortunately, some of my apps also needed to have their license strings re-applied, perhaps because of the new hardware.  That’s a pain because I can’t find the serial number for one of them.

It’s now 9:40pm.  It took about 5 hours to get my new system running with my working environment exactly as I like it — complete with all of my applications and data (all 170Gb worth).  Most of that work was done for me and I didn’t have to be here for it.  I can’t imagine how long it would have taken me if I needed to manually reinstall everything and copy the data I required from the old system.

If you’re not already using Time Machine, what are you waiting for?