Reader Mike Vogel is curious about configuring a new Mac with multiple transferred accounts. He writes:
My wife and I currently have our own MacBook Pros. As we are transitioning to iPads we are going to replace our oldest laptop with a new iMac. So for the first time I need to set up a Mac with multiple user logins. Both laptops currently run Snow Leopard. Is it possible to set up my profile by restoring from my Time Machine backup, and then my wife's profile by restoring from her Time Machine backup? Or will I have to use Migration Assistant and manually port over data?
In order, the answer to your three questions are Yes, Yes, and Yes/No. Now to lend clarity to these somewhat unclear answers.
Yes and yes you'll restore your backed up user accounts from their respective Time Machine backups. But yes, you'll also use Migration Assistant to do it and no, it's not really a manual operation. It fact, it works this way.
On the new iMac make sure that you have access to the drive where the Time Machine backup is stored and then launch Migration Assistant. It will notify you that it needs to quit all open applications. Allow it to do so.
The first Migration Assistant screen will offer three options regarding data transfer. Select the first one, which reads From a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk and click Continue.
In the next screen choose the drive that holds your backup and then click Continue.
The window that follows will present a list of any backup archives the drive holds. In all likelihood there's just one. Select it and click Continue.
You may then be asked to choose a stored volume from within the selected backup archive. Do that and click Continue.
Finally you'll be asked to select the accounts you wish to restore. As you've indicated that you haven't set up multiple accounts in the past, you should see just one. You also have the option to restore applications and computer and network settings. If you're starting from scratch and intend to reinstall fresh copies of everything, disable these options. If you want to transfer those applications and settings, leave them enabled.
If you're already configured an account on the new iMac that uses that same user name as you've used previously on your MacBook you'll see a red warning that reads This user needs attention before Migrating. When you click Continue a sheet appears that gives you the option to either replace that account with one that has the same name or keep both user accounts (in which case you must create a new name for the account you're transferring over). Make the choice you want, click Continue, and the account will be restored.
Turning to your wife's account, there's no need to set up an account for her on the iMac. Just repeat this procedure using her Time Machine backup and the account will be created for her when it's transferred from her MacBook Pro's backup.