Moving Devonthink to a new computer Mac

Maybe that speaks to how technically minded most users are. Or how many simply restore from TimeMachine when setting up a new device. But yes, to me a tool which automates transferring DT from one device to another would really make sense (settings, scripts, rules & groups, known databases copied automatically to a location of the user’s choice and restored from there to the necessary locations by starting the “Restore DT App” which is handily also placed in the same location).


You seem to be not the only one. The link to the thread explaining how to move DT to another device has been clicked 26 times since you placed it (I was 1, :grinning:)


I’ll be upgrading my MacMini (BigSur 11.6, DT3 3.8) in a few days. And I do not use “To Go”. I don’t know which MacOS will be on the new machine. I’d like everything, except the new hardware, to be the same after the switch. I use TimeMachine on an external drive and plan to “restore” to the new MacMini. Note that I have 2 DT3 seats, with both in use - 1 for the MacMini and 1 for my MacBook.

Q1: Will I need to remove a device in order to do the install?
Q2: Indexes - Is there anything I need to do ahead of time to be sure they still work on the new machine?

I’m concerned that the linkage to all of the indexes will remain in tact. I have some indexes contained within my main database and I have a couple DT3 databases that are indexes of folders on my Mac’s hard drive. And, I’ve added content to those directories (notes, bookmarks, etc) using DT3.

Have you looked into Apple’s Migration Assistant? Move your content to a new Mac – Apple Support (UK). I don’t know if it works on MacMini, but you can check. I’ve used it for past new Mac purchases.

Surely will have to migrate the license. Login to your account at DEVONtechnologies to do that.

1 Like

Thanks, I’ve looked into the Migration assistant and plan to use it as my guide. My main concern is the integrity of the DT3 indexes after the restore to the new machine

This note from BlueFrog indicates there is something special needing to be done with index files for a fresh install. Hence my question.

The Migration Assistant is not a “fresh install” but a “clone”. But you don’t have to use it. Up to you to let the computer take care of it or do it all manually. I suspect your question already answered when @BLUEFROG says “you’ll have to locate and move those items …” in support of doing it the fresh install way. In whatever way, the indexed files need to go back into the file system into new folders with same name as DEVONthink’s they are in.

I’ll leave others including @BLUEFROG to comment.

1 Like

If you have encrypted databases, you should probably search for both .dtBase2 and .dtSparse.

Are global smart rules and groups synced with the inbox?

Q1: Will I need to remove a device in order to do the install?

You will need to deactivate a machine in order to apply the seat to the new machine. However, this is not necessary for the migration as it can be done while DEVONthink is in the trial period on the new machine. You can switch seats after you’re situated.

Q2: Indexes - Is there anything I need to do ahead of time to be sure they still work on the new machine?

I don’t know what indexes you are referring to here. Based on your later comment, I think you’re referring to indexed items but I’m not sure.

Thanks for your perspective. I’ve re-read @BLUEFROG’s comments on the earlier post and can see that he’s trying to explain locating all the files on the old system and putting them into the proper location so that the indexes will work. Since I’m interested in a “clone” and not a “fresh install”, hopefully, all the file names, paths, etc. should be the same.

Thanks for the info on device activation. The indexes I’m referring to are the elements that are created within a DT3 database when using the File>Index Files and Folders menu item. I thought they were called indexes - sorry for the confusion

They will be the same if you make them the same.

See this n ew post from @LewInVT who used the Migration Assistant which to me seems to be what you should do to achieve what you expect. It’s only the MacMini that is uncertain to me.

1 Like

Thanks for your response.

Good point about the .dtsparse files. But I’m hoping the cloning effect of restoring from my current Time Machine backup will take care of things.

And I don’t understand your question about the global smart rules & groups being synced with the inbox. And I don’t know how to check for that condition. Please expand. When I check Sync in the DT3 help, it leads me to information about “To Go”, which I do not currently use.

If you plan to use Migration Assistant, be sure both computers are running the same version of macOS. On my first try, my old MacBook Pro was running an older version and it did not go well. I used peer-to-peer rather than WI-FI transfer.


Regarding global smart rules and groups being synced with the inbox, I just checked. A global smart group or rule created on one machine doesn’t appear on another machine when you sync it.

You can, however, right click a smart group or rule and export it. If I understand correctly, that doesn’t export the contents of the group or rule, just the group or rule itself.

You can also export a multiple selection.

The group is imported on another machine by double clicking on it in the Finder. Export to a thumb drive on one machine, import on another with a double-click.

That is correct. Global smart groups, smart rules, Favorites, and application preferences do not sync between machines at this time.

No worries!
We just refer to them as indexed items or files.

Following up on @rmschne’s comment: Put the indexed files back in the same relative place on the new Mac. For example, if you were indexing a folder called Stuff in your Documents folder, make sure you transfer that Stuff folder to the Documents folder in the new machine.

1 Like

Another vote for the Mac OS Migration Assistant (and Time Machine backups)

My MacMini died last week; leaving me with a 10 year old Apple Time Capsule and my iCloud database backups

I plugged in the new machine, and Migration Assistant kicked in; loading the DT app, files and databases. The iCloud database backups weren’t required
With little effort on my part, I’m up and running

Internal storage is limited so I moved the databases to an external drive
(new addition for my Time Machine backups)


Thanks. That gives me hope. I’m doing a preventive replacement while my 4 year old MacMini hard drive is still healthy. The new one is all SSD and I hope to get longer life out of it. I lived through a hard drive failure with corrupt backup file WAY BACK in the DOS days - never want to go through that again.

@rmschne and @BLUEFROG have provided a lot lot of information about specific settings and content that do not transfer with sync in DT3. I’m not syncing at the present time. Since I’m planning on moving forward with Apple’s Migration Assistant, restoring from TimeMachine, I’m figuring I won’t need to worry about DT3 elements that don’t migrate with sync. But I will make notes of the current settings so I can check/confirm on the transfer. Sounds like I will be able to go back to DT3 on my old machine and export if necessary.

Just an update on this item. I finished the migration of my TimeMachine backup to my new MacMini yesterday - and it took most of the day - since I just put everything on the new machine like it was on the old one.

I opted to keep my existing TimeMachine history files (back to Feb. 2019 - I’m such a pack-rat), rather than starting a new version for the new machine. I just made sure to close all my files before shutting down the old machine. Then plugged all my devices into the new MacMini and started it up. The migration assistant worked well, though it took a bit over 3 hours to restore (about 650 GB of files) from my external TimeMachine drive.

I was unable to use TimeMachine on the new MacMini until I got the drive’s encryption password logged into the new Mac’s keychain. And toward the end of the install got a warning message that System Extensions were not enabled (I don’t know what that means - so I just clicked “Not Now”)

I had no issues with DT3 databases, including an encrypted one and one that contains a 30k index of files and folders on my hard drive. And just like @BLUEFROG noted, I was able to run DT3 until I was able to delete my old mac mini and register my new one. The only significant issues I had were; I had to restart a couple of times because my encrypted TimeMachine drive was not recognized after the install; the need to repeatedly log in with my Apple ID to connect to iCloud; and my MS 365 personal, Excel failed to restore properly which required a 2 hour call with MS. Before I contacted MS I tried to reinstall Excel but got the browser message that there was not sufficient space on my hard drive to download the MS package (even though Finder showed I have over 600 GB left on the 1TB SSD - but MS support was able to resolve it.