Unraveling the MobileMess of the MobileMe to iCloud Migration

Apple is known for its ability to create products that are easy to use and even easier to understand. Too bad that ease of use doesn't translate to their latest cloud features. Instead, they've seemed to have mastered the art of confusing the hell out of everyone.

Especially customers who have been using MobileMe for years. A lot of the services included in iCloud were first seen in MobileMe; and some of MobileMe's most beloved features are vanishing into the, well, clouds. How's a cloud-surfer to make sense of all this? Put your tiny hand in mine; I've got you.

Good news: iCloud is free. Apple just saved you $99 a year. Bad news: Transitioning your stuff from MobileMe to iCloud is so complicated, it can make you want to smash your iPad against a wall. Apple's tips on making the switch is spread out over multiple pages on its site. It's like Cupertino is trying to piss us off.

The trick to the whole mess is patience and preparedness. Let's do this.

What You Need

  • For Mac Users, you'll need Lion (OSX 10.7.2) and iOS5. iCloud is a Lion and iOS 5 party only for Mac users. For Windows users, you can get by with Windows Vista or Windows 7. Which is kind of bullshit when you think about it. Windows users can use the Vista train-wreck while Mac users can't use iCloud with Snow Leopard.
  • Windows users should update Outlook to at least the 2007 version, and they'll also need the iCloud Control Panel app.
  • Both platforms need to update to iTunes 10.5. iPhoto and/or Aperture should be updated to their latest versions. iPhoto 9.2 or later and Aperture 3.2 or later are available via Software Update or you can download the latest builds in the Mac App Store.
  • Backup

    Before migrating anything you should back it up. No really, back your stuff up. All it takes is one tiny error to screw up your entire week while you try to track down all your contacts. Just do this. Seriously. If you don't, you almost deserve to lose all your data.

    What's Going Away

    Apple is phasing out iWeb, galleries, and the biggie, iDisk. You will not lose these sites or iDisk as soon as you migrate to iCloud; Apple's not turning them off until June 30, 2012. All the other features of MobileMe are sticking around.

    Losing iDisk is a bummer. You'll still have access to it after you migrate to iCloud, but only for a while. It'll still show up on your Mac and your iOS device. But, it's probably a good idea to get your stuff off of there sooner rather than later. Fortunately, DropBox will give you 2GB of free storage. If you require more, for $99 a year—the same price you were paying for MobileMe—you can get 50GB. Backing up iDisk is just a matter of dragging all of its content to a local drive and walking away for a few hours.

    Your iWeb pages and galleries reside on your iDisk so they'll be part of your iDisk backup. The photos can be uploaded to Flickr or Picasa. If you're using the iWeb app, you can actually send your site to another hosting service from within the app. It's super easy: all you have to do is create a domain and find a company to host your site. If you don't feel like shopping around, GoDaddy is a one-stop-shop for both of those tasks. just make sure whatever hosting service you choose uses FTP and/or SFTP for uploads.

    Unraveling the MobileMess of the MobileMe to iCloud MigrationLaunch iWeb and click on your site in the left navigation bar. You'll be presented with the Site Publishing Settings window. Select Publish to: choose FTP server from the drop down. When you signed up for your hosting service, you should have been presented with the FTP settings needed to upload your site to its new hosting service. Plug your FTP and domain in and hit the Test Connection button at the bottom of the page. If all goes well, you can now upload your iWeb site to your new host.

    What's New and What's Staying

    It's not all bad news: iCloud keeps most of MobileMe's features and adds some pretty dope new ones to the pile. Plus, did I mention it's free? You won't be paying $99 a year for an email address and the privilege of syncing your contacts over the air. Here's a breakdown of what you'll be getting:

  • Mail - Nothing new here. Whatever Apple-centric email address you're currently using will still be available. You don't have to change your "@mac.com" or "@me.com" to some stupid new domain name.
  • Contacts - Also nothing new. Add a contact on your iPhone and it automagically syncs with any other device you have associated with your iCloud account.
  • Calendars - Like MobileMe, you can add and remove events and it'll sync with all your devices. You can still subscribe to and share calendars with others.
  • Bookmarks - Safari bookmarks can be synced to all of your devices. Nothing new.
  • Notes - The Notes app still syncs to your Mac via the default OS X email client. So if you're looking for your notes, there they are. Be sure to associate your Notes with the correct email account.
  • Photo Stream - Any photos you add to iPhoto or take with your iOS device in the past 30 days will automatically appear any iPhoto Photo Stream galleries you have associated with your Apple ID. One problem though: You can't delete any one photo. To delete a picture from the stream you have to delete the entire stream. That's right, it's an all or nothing approach to deletion. If you still want to delete your entire stream sign into iCloud.com, from the main page click on your name in top right-hand corner. Select Advanced from the popup. Then select Reset Photo Stream. This will not remove photos form your devices, just from iCloud.
  • Back To My Mac - Remote access to your Mac made simple with iCloud. Need to see what's on your Mac at home while you're traveling with your MacBook? No problem, as long as you've enabled Back To My Mac on the computer at home, you can remotely sign in and control your at-home machine. No changes have been made to the second-best MobileMe feature, although it's still Mac-only. That's a pain when you realize that you forgot to email an important file that's on your home computer and all you have is your iPhone.
  • Document Syncing - Create an Pages doc, it'll sync to iCloud and you'll be able to edit and view it from any associated iOS device that has Pages installed—or you can view and download it from iCloud.com.
  • Find My iPhone - Still the best feature ever. You lose your iPhone, hop on a computer or other iPhone and find it. Be sure to turn this on first. Even if you never use any of the iCloud services, you should use this. It's free. And you drink too much.
  • Find My Mac - Like Find My iPhone, Find My Mac will locate your Mac when lost or stolen. Your Mac will show up in the Find My iPhone app and on iCloud. Like Find My iPhone, you can remotely wipe, lock, or send a message or sound to your missing Mac.
  • Unraveling the MobileMess of the MobileMe to iCloud MigrationiCloud Backup - Created for iPhone users that never sync their devices to their computers, iCloud Backup removes the need to backup in iTunes. The feature can be activated on your iOS device by navigating to Settings>iCloud>Storage and Backup. Once you turn it on, you only backup to iCloud. Turn it off to start backing up to iTunes again. You get 5GB of free storage and your iTunes purchases don't count against the allotted space. But, if you take a bunch of photos, or have more that one iOS device you'll hit that 5GB pretty quick. I recommend backing up to iTunes and doing periodic backups to iCloud as a secondary backup.
  • The Migration

    Well, let's start moving into your new digs. Once you start, Apple's servers take care of everything. If you backed up your stuff up like I told you earlier, you're protected if anything goes wrong. If you didn't back up, well, I've told you like three times to back up so you kind of deserve the pain.

  • Unraveling the MobileMess of the MobileMe to iCloud MigrationOn the Computer: On your Mac head to System Preferences and launch the iCloud System Preference. On Windows, head to the iCloud Control Panel. Sign in with your Apple ID account information. To reduce confusion, Apple has determined that your login credentials for MobileMe/iCloud and iTunes are now known as your Apple ID. One ID to rule them all.

  • Note: If you're using a different login for the App Store/iTunes Music Store than you're using for iCloud you're sort of screwed. You can't merge the two accounts. If you absolutely want to use the same account for all Apple services, I recommend using the Apple ID associated with your iTunes purchases. Since you're migrating to iCloud anyway, you might as well start anew. You will have to get a new email account, but you can continue to use your old account. To help steer everyone to your new email address, first off, send an email out with your new contact info. Second, forward all email from your old account to your new account. Third, when you reply to emails from your old account, send those replies from your new account. Lastly, create an out-of-office reply to all incoming emails that tells the sender that you will no longer be checking the old account and to update their contact info with your new account information. It's like when you left Hotmail for Gmail. Just be sure to sync the most up-to-date information to iCloud.

  • On Your iDeviceUnraveling the MobileMess of the MobileMe to iCloud Migration When you update to iOS 5, you're asked to enter your Apple ID and given the option to use iCloud. If you skipped that, you can head to Settings>iCloud to plug your information in. From there you can fine-tune what you features you want to use with iCloud. Having granular control over what your device does what is a good idea, but it can be a source for confusion. Be sure to active the features you want on each device individually.
  • Unraveling the MobileMess of the MobileMe to iCloud MigrationTurning on Photo Stream This one's a cinch: open iPhoto and in the left column you'll see the fancy new Photo Stream option. Click on it and you're golden.
  • iCloud on the Web Instead of heading to MobileMe.com, you'll point your browser over to iCloud.com. It'll take a few days to remember that.
  • Now that you're up and running, get ready for Apple to change the whole procedure again in a few years. Apple loves changing up its cloud service. Just ask iTools and .Mac users.