Using Time Machine to Migrate from PowerPC to Intel

I ran a very interesting experiment last night… and I didn’t even mean to do it.

As you probably know by now, my PowerMac G5 died last Friday.  (Apple *still* hasn’t figured out why).  In any case, the new Mac Pro arrived yesterday, and it was my first opportunity to really put Time Machine to the only test that counts – restore.

When I booted the Mac Pro for the first time, it asked if I wanted to restore the machine from a Time Machine backup.  I said yes, without thinking, because it seemed like an obvious way to get back up and running as soon as possible.

It took about 3+ hours to restore over 200GB, but after the long install, I had my computer largely working as I left it.  The last Time Machine backup was literally maybe 37 minutes before the final crash, and everything was restored.  Documents I expected.   Applications I expected.  Then I noticed it also migrated System & Library files… uh oh.

The Mac Pro is Intel-based.  The PowerMac is PowerPC-based.  I suddenly became very aware of the problems that I might have caused.

I was able to easily walk through my applications one by one to check whether they were Universal or PowerPC.  Most were already Universal, but a few were PowerPC, like older versions of Acrobat Reader, Stuffit Expander, and some video applications.  I deleted them, and downloaded new Intel versions… likely a good housecleaning anyway.  (I even found a few Mac OS Classic applications in there!)

Unfortunately, the world of extensions and bundles loaded by Mac OS X was a little mysterious to me, especially with regard to things like control panels, menu extensions, background services, etc.  I was worried I would need to do a clean install to fix everything.  Of course, the system seems fine, but I was worried nonetheless.

Well, I have good news.

It looks like there are limitations to the Mac OS X Rosetta technology that prevent Intel-based applications from loading PowerPC bundles.  As a result, most extensions, etc that are not Universal won’t load.  Harmless.

I also found a great tip on Mac OS X Hints, which I wanted to share here.  You can use the Activity Monitor application to tell which processes are running PowerPC or Intel.  Here is how you do it:

  1. Launch Activity Monitor.  It’s in your Utilities folder, which is in Applications.
  2. Right-click on the title of the table, and check off “Kind”
  3. You will now have a column that says “PowerPC” or “Intel”

The good news for me tonight is that only two processes running are PowerPC:  Quicken 2007 (which I guess I need to replace), and the Disk Warrior Hard Drive Daemon (likely an upgrade issue).

In fact, the only bad news I’ve gotten so far on the migration is that the TWAIN driver for my scanner, an Epson Perfection 1660 Photo is PowerPC only, so it requires me to set Adobe Photoshop CS3 to Rosetta-mode.  Hello, Epson, I upgraded to CS3 specifically so it could run natively on Intel…

I’ll likely be hitting people up for suggestions on either native drivers, or a new photo scanner pretty soon.

3 thoughts on “Using Time Machine to Migrate from PowerPC to Intel

  1. I did a similar thing recently when my powerbook died and I migrated to a 17″ imac core 2 duo 2.5 GB ram. My migration from time machine seem great. I’ve never seen a power pc aplication listed in the Activity monitor. However, there do seem to be a few… bugs. (I’ve ran activity monitor from startup for a couple of years – I like to keep on top of system resources.) Adobe CS3 apps like Photoshop, illustrator, and indesign are often not responding and sometimes I have to hard reboot! I’m thinking of doing a clean wipe and a fresh install. I really hope that sorts out the issues, ’cause it’s really frustrating me.

  2. oh, and Activity Monitor is contantly stalling too! I have to go to View > Update Frequency > Often / Very Often (whichever is not currently selectd) to wake it up. SUPER ANNOYING!! This is something that was happening on my power book, so it makes me believe there’s some kind of system hangover. p.s. I’ve tried killing the pref but no use.

  3. i had an imac g5 since last 3 years… and now I have an imac core i3… I do the same thing.. when it asked me to restore the time machine backup… I just plug the external HD and then when I say yes…. I was thinking I make a mistake… It is backing up now and I dont know if the result will be great… I will tell you soon…

    I am in my old pc…. while it works… I am very expenting… 😦

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