How old is the MacBook Pro that you're getting rid of... and is it still functional? If it is still working and even in just decent shape, you should be able to sell it for several times that amount.
You can use something like CarbonCopyCloner or SuperDuper (both are free for full cloning) and create a backup of your current system onto your external drive. When you get your new system, you can use Migration Assistant to migrate your data from the clone you created on your external drive.
Another alternative is to buy a new drive, put the new drive into the computer and the old drive into an external enclosure. Do a fresh install of the os (using the disks that came with the computer) on the new disk, run software updates, and list it on eBay. Remember that you are required to deliver those disks that came with the computer to the buyer, and that transfers your license to the software. Then when the new computer comes you use your old drive that's in the enclosure when it asks if you want to transfer from a different computer.
Drives are pretty cheap, and you probably can't even buy a drive as small as your current drive, so this will make the computer a bit more valuable on ebay, too.
JoeyR deserves at least half a cookie.
You need to:
(a) confirm that the total size of your external drive is at least 10% bigger than the total size of the MBP.
(b) confirm that you can connect the external drive via FireWire.
(c) confirm that the the external drive is not Western Digital.
(d) download Carbon Copy Cloner and spend some time reading the excellent information on the CCC website
(e) make a *complete bootable clone* of the HD of the MBP, to the external drive. NB, this could take a long time- an hour or more - the first time you do it.
(f) test the clone by booting the MBP from the clone (i.e. not from its own internal hard drive)
(g) when you have confirmed that the clone is good, wipe the HD in the MBP to ensure nobody else is going to get hold of your bank account details, naughty pictures, etc.
(h) clone the clone (yes) from the external FW drive back to your new MacMini.
What flavour are those cookies?
Thanks for the half cookie Tom
The only part of your recommendation I would be a little hesitant on is cloning the image from the MBP to the Mini. Cloning across platforms can often cause stability issues even if testing by booting off the external drive seems to be okay. That was why I recommended using Migration Assistant to migrate the data from the external drive vs. cloning. Even migrating can sometimes cause problems depending on how different the hardware is between the two systems (there are sometimes application incompatibilities running older apps on newer hardware).
I was assuming that everything on the Mac Mini would be deleted during the clone process from the external drive.
Thus the Mac Mini would be an exact clone of the MBP.
The MacMini could then be updated as necessary by installing any subsequent system upgrades, software updates, etc.
I've done this myself (from one Mac to another) many times, without any adverse effects.
You can set up a new Mac from the Time Capsule backups of the old one. But I'd strongly advise to make a "clone" as suggested, both as insurance against there being a problem with your Time Capsule or the backups, and because it will be much faster. Two separate, independent backups, made with two separate apps, protects you best.
When the new Mac arrives, use +Setup Assistant,+ per [Setting up a new Mac from an old one or its backups|http://web.me.com/pondini/AppleTips/Setup.html] (or use the link in *User Tips* at the top of this forum).
Sometimes you'll get away with cloning to a newer and/or different model, but sometimes you won't. See [Don't install a version of Mac OS X earlier than what came with your Mac|http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2186] and [Mac OS X v10.6: Issues after restoring a Mac from a Time Machine backup made with a different Mac|http://support.apple.com/kb/TS3243], which specifies Time Machine backups, but the same issues could arise with restoring such a clone, too.
Thanks everyone for your great advice and answers!
Cookies to all! ((just pop over to Northern Virginia, USA this afternoon and I'll be serving up oatmeal chocolate chip, peanut butter with raspberry jelly and homemade oreos)).
I'll let you know what does happen. All plans are on hold.
Most likely I will sell the MBP instead of recycle (thanks for that idea), which will help greatly in the migration process.