Can I Merge Mac User Accounts After a Time Machine Restore? [Ask MacRx]



Ask MacRx took a hiatus for a few weeks in December but we’re back for 2012 and here to help try and answer more of your Mac and iDevice questions. Today we hear from a reader who has more user accounts than desired after restoring from a Time Machine backup:

I recently replaced the drive in my Macbook, upgrading to a larger capacity drive. For the first time I used Time Machine to restore my applications, settings and data files. I was surprised to find that I had to name the restoration differently than the account named on the destination drive. I followed the on-screen prompts and successfully transferred the data from my old drive to the new one.

My question is regarding the fact that I know have two accounts on the new drive – the account established when I first installed Snow Leopard on the new drive, and the account containing my restored data. Is there a way I can consolidate the two accounts into one, applying my old settings to the newly established account? Any guidance will be appreciated.


Hi Phil,

The way to proceed would have been to not create a new account on the Snow Leopard system after installation but instead immediately restore your old account from the Time Machine backup. If you want to repeat the install/migration process you can still do that.

If not, there is no automatic way to merge the contents of the two accounts, but you can move items over in the same fashion as performing a Manual Mac System Migration. Hope that helps.

I appreciate your response and it confirms other sources of information. Thank you so much.

• • •

Readers, have any additional suggestions on this topic, or corrections/clarifications on the advice above? If so, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • Dan Bennett

    I recently blogged about this. I agree that it’s easier to migrate onto a fresh system, without setting up any user accounts.

  • Dan Bennett

    I recently blogged about this. I agree that it’s best to migrate onto a fresh installation, before setting up a user account.

  • MacAdvisor

    We use the Time Machine/Time Capsule backup system at our small, non-profit office and I use it at home. While the main use of making backup easy and pain free for the users is great, administering the thing is a pain in the bloody ***. Apple needs to develop some serious admin tools for this thing. Some issue:

    1. There isn’t any good, quick way to back up the backup. I am glad the users individual systems are backed up, but that still leaves the whole thing on the premises. Building burns down, everything is lost. All the equipment gets stolen, including the Time Capsule, all is lost. There needs to be a DVD drive for making off-site backups or perhaps some way of moving everything to the new Apple cloud. Apple simply has ignored the need for the data to go off site. This is true for home users, too. I would feel much better if I could take home a DVD set with everything backed up on them in case of disaster. 

    2. When a system fails (and we have older, often donated equipment, so failure is not uncommon), I can move someone’s backed up ID to another system, but getting that new system to use the old backup is impossible. Time capsule starts a new ID and there isn’t any way to link the two, so the users the key ability to go back in time and retrieve a deleted file. The same thing happens when I put the user back on their system once its been repaired. We need an ability to tell Time Capsule this should be all one back up.

    3. The registration keys can be moved from one system to another, often creating duplicates. When I need to temporarily  move some ID from one system to another, when I move them back, because I can’t link to the old back up, the applications will move with the user, screwing up my registration key assignments. 

    4. As an administrator, I should be able to look at the backups of other users for security reasons, yet there isn’t any way to do this. 

    I know Apple likes to keep things simple, but there also needs to be a way to get under the hood and fix things when life isn’t simple. And life isn’t simply rather often.