How to clone a Mac hard drive

We talk a lot about backing up your Windows hard drive to prevent data loss and to speed up recovery but we rarely mention Mac. While Apple computers are more stable than Windows can be, it isn’t immune to failure or to faults. Today I’m going to show you how to create a bootable clone of your Mac hard drive.

Here at Dave’s Computers, we deal with lots of Macs in various states of repair. With many years’ experience with Mac from all generations, it’s good to see the hardware and software develop steadily. That said, some faults still make it through and Macs do have a few foibles we need to manage.

Clone your Mac hard drive

Cloning a hard drive is the process of taking an exact copy, bit by bit until it is completely duplicated on another drive. It is different from copying files, as it includes the file system, operating system, drivers and every single bit and byte of data. It is an exact one-for-one copy of your drive and means you can switch drives and be up and running again immediately if something happens to your main drive.

MacOS has a built-in utility that can handle this process so you don’t need to buy or download any extra software. What you will need is another hard drive of the same type and the same size or larger. I suggest using an external drive but you can use what you like.

Here’s how to clone a Mac hard drive:

  1. Open up the Utilities folder on your Mac and select Restore.
  2. Select your external drive as the restore target and your main drive to Restore From.
  3. Select Restore to set the process running.

Typically you would reverse that to restore files from an external backup to your main drive. In this instance we have flipped that so we make a full clone backup of your main Mac drive.

The process can take a while depending on the speed of your Mac and what kind of hard drive you’re using. If you’re using SSD, the process can be done in a few minutes. If you’re using an HDD, it will take longer.

Once complete, you can boot from your external drive by hitting Option when the Mac boots to access the boot switcher. As long as your external drive is connected and powered on, you can choose to boot from it and work on your computer as normal or restore your main drive as you normally would using Restore.

Cloning a Mac hard drive is surprisingly easy yet is something not all Mac owners know how to do. If you take a copy of your boot drive today, you may not need our data recovery services. So what are you waiting for?