Whether you are moving to a new Mac or just introducing another Mac to your computer set up you will no doubt be celebrating the way that many of the features of your old Mac sync simply to the new devices thanks to iCloud. For example, if you use iCloud Drive then your entire Desktop and Documents folders from your old Mac will sync to your new Mac, and if you use iCloud Photo Library all your photos will be available on your new Mac too.
But there is one app where our settings just don't transfer across so simply: Safari. As an extensive user of Pinned Tabs in Safari (which means that the pages I use the most are pinned to the top of my Safari window at all times) it is really frustrating that this set up isn't mirrored on every Apple device I have.
The strange thing is that as useful as the Pinned Tabs feature is, and despite the years that have passed since Apple introduced it with El Capitan in 2015, Apple hasn't yet made Pinned Tabs sync across our Apple devices.
If you are setting up a new Mac (and you aren't syncing with a Time Machine back up) and want to know how you can get your Pinned Tabs to sync across we have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that with the release of Monterey and the new version of Safari coming this autumn Apple will implement a way to simplify the transfer of pinned web pages from Safari on one device to Safari on another. The bad news is that for this to work seamlessly you will have to wait until Monterey and the new Safari launch.
But there is a bit more good news: you can test the new features coming in Monterey now thanks to the public beta, and you can also try out the new Safari via the Safari Technology Preview. Just note that the implementation of these new features will only be in beta and probably won't even work right now. Read: How to install the Monterey Beta.
How to sync Safari Tabs
One of the big changes coming to the new Safari is the ability to sync Safari tabs across devices, so you can use them on your iPhone, iPad, or other Macs. You'll also be able to group tabs together, so that you can easily access tabs that are related to a particular activity you want to undertake. We'll address Tab Groups elsewhere, what we are interested in here is the fact that tabs will be synced between all your devices.
Apple is still developing Monterey and the new version of Safari, which will introduced this new ability to sync tabs. As we said above, you could try out the Safari Technology Preview, which will work in Big Sur, and test some of the features coming to Safari later this year. Equally you can try out the beta version of Monterey. However running beta software probably isn't going to be the solution you need right now if you just want to transfer your Pinned Tabs from one Mac to another.
If you don't want to run the betas, and you don't want to wait until the autumn, there is still a way to transfer your Pinned Tabs from your old and new Mac. Follow the steps outlined below, which work in current and older versions of the Mac operating systems.
How to sync web pages between Macs (and other Apple devices)
The easiest way to grab your tabs is to follow these steps:
- Open the webpage you want to access on your old device.
- Now turn to your new Mac and wait for an icon to appear in the dock indicating that activity it happening in Safari on the other Mac. (For this to work you need to be logged into iCloud on both devices).
- Click or tap on that icon and it will open that same webpage in Safari on your new device.
- Now you can right click on the tab for that webpage to Pin it.
This is a handy feature of Continuity, which was introduced in Yosemite and iOS 8 back in 2014 and means that your iPhone, Mac and iPad are all connected, so you can pick up on your Mac from where you left off on your iPhone, for example.
This is a great solution if you have a few web pages that you use a lot - you can open each one on the old Mac, wait for the Safari icon that shows a webpage is open on another device, and click on it to open that page in Safari.
There are alternative methods that will suit you if there are more pages you wish to sync across to your new Mac though, or if you won't have the old Mac accessible when you wish to sync your Safari settings.
How to move Safari settings to a new Mac
Another option is to transfer your Safari Preferences - which includes all your Favorites, Bookmarks and Reading List items - from the old Mac to the Mac.
Before you begin you need to make sure that the Pinned Tabs are actually saved to your Bookmark list (which is actually your Favorites list), because they won't automatically copy across otherwise.
Open the webpage and then click on Bookmarks > Add Bookmarks. You can also choose to add Bookmarks for all the pages you have open.
Now that you have your Pinned tabs saved as Bookmarks you need to locate the Bookmarks.plist in your old Mac and copy it to your new Mac.
How to find Bookmarks.plist
- Open the Finder.
- Click on the Home folder and locate the Library folder (jump to here if you can't see Home or here if you can't locate the Library folder).
- Click on the Safari folder in the Library folder.
- Find Bookmarks.plist
- Copy that file to one of your iCloud folders - we copied to the Desktop since it's synced via iCloud.
- On the new Mac locate the file you just copied over.
- Close Safari on the new Mac if it is open.
- Open the Home > Library and locate the Safari folder on the new Mac.
- Copy the Bookmarks.plist file to the Safari folder. (You can replace the existing file).
- Now when you launch Safari your bookmarks and favourites should be there.
- Go to Finder > Preferences.
- Click on Sidebar.
- You will see an option to Show these items in the sidebar. You want to select the that looks like a house icon and has the name of your Mac beside it. This is your Home folder.
- Now click on the Home folder in Favourites on the sidebar of the Finder.
- You can now access Home in the Finder.
- Open Finder.
- From the menu at the top of the screen click on Go.
- Click on Go to folder.
- Type Library.
- Scroll to Safari and open the folder.
- Copy the plist folder to the new location as described above.
How to recover Pinned Tabs from Favorites and Bookmarks
Copying the Bookmarks.plist file to your new Mac will transfer your Bookmarks, including any webpages you have added to Favourites and Reading List, to you new Mac. When you open Safari you should see shortcuts to these pages as well as any webpages that are open on your other devices in the center of the Safari window.
If you can't see your Favourites Bar or the Tabs Bar to the top of the window go to View and choose:
- View > Show Favourites Bar
- View > Show Tabs Bar
- View > Show Sidebar
Now you can click on the Favorites and locate anything you had saved to your Reading List on your other device.
Once those pages are open right click or control click and choose Pin Tab.
This is an incredibly long winded way to do something that Apple really should have simplified long ago. Thankfully that will be addressed in the next version of macOS.
Read: How to use Safari on a Mac.