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How to Clone Your Mac’s Hard Drive: 5 Quick Steps

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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Losing access to your Mac due to damage, theft, or loss can be a distressing experience, especially when you urgently need essential files and applications. This is why I always recommend cloning your Mac’s hard drive to avoid this nightmare.

By creating an exact copy of your hard drive, you can ensure the safety of your data and quickly restore your system when needed. In this article, I’ll show you how to clone your Mac’s hard drive with step-by-step instructions and create a reliable data backup.

Before We Begin

Before cloning your Mac’s hard drive, you must prepare your computer, and MacKeeper can help. MacKeeper is an all-in-one application designed to deliver multilayered protection against malware, clean cache files, uninstall unused apps, and more.

What Is Mac Hard Drive Cloning?

Mac hard drive cloning refers to creating an exact replica or copy of your Mac’s internal hard drive contents onto another storage medium, typically an external hard drive. This cloning process includes duplicating the operating system, applications, files, and data on the original hard drive.

The purpose of cloning is to have a complete and identical copy of the original hard drive, allowing you to replicate the entire system and easily transfer it to another drive or computer.

Why Do You Need a Mac Hard Drive Clone?

Having a Mac hard drive clone serves several important purposes:

  1. 💾 Data Backup: Creating a clone of your Mac’s hard drive ensures all your files, documents, applications, and settings are backed up. In the event of a hardware failure, accidental deletion, or data corruption, you can quickly restore your system to a previous state.
  2. 🔄 System Migration: When upgrading to a new Mac or replacing your existing hard drive, a clone allows you to transfer your entire system, including all your data and settings, to the new drive seamlessly.
  3. 🔒 Disaster Recovery: Cloning your Mac’s hard drive provides an effective disaster recovery solution. In a catastrophic event like a hard drive failure, malware attack, or software corruption, you can restore your system and get back to work without losing critical data or settings.
  4. ⚙️ Testing and Troubleshooting: If you want to experiment with new software, perform system updates, or troubleshoot issues, having a clone of your Mac’s hard drive allows you to do so without affecting your primary system.
  5. 🌟 Peace of Mind: With a Mac hard drive clone, you gain peace of mind knowing your data is safe and easily recoverable. It provides an extra layer of protection against unforeseen circumstances and offers reassurance in case of any data loss incidents.

What Do You Need Before You Clone Your Mac’s Hard Drive?

To create a clone of your Mac’s hard drive, you’ll need the following:

  1. 💾 Destination Drive: You’ll need a separate storage device that serves as the destination drive for the clone. This can be an external hard drive, SSD (Solid State Drive), or another internal hard drive connected to your Mac.
  2. 💿 Cloning Software: Utilize a reliable cloning software or disk cloning utility. Various options, such as Disk Drill, Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper!, or Disk Utility (built-in with macOS), are available.
  3. Sufficient Storage Capacity: Ensure the destination drive has enough storage space to accommodate the entire contents of your Mac’s hard drive. It should be equal to or larger in capacity than the source drive.
  4. 💻 Mac Operating System: Ensure your Mac runs on a compatible and supported operating system version. The cloning process may vary depending on the macOS version, so checking compatibility with your cloning software is important.
  5. Time and Patience: The cloning process can take some time, depending on the size of your Mac’s hard drive and the speed of the destination drive. Be prepared to allocate sufficient time and exercise patience during the cloning process.

By having these essential components and ensuring the necessary preparations, you’ll be ready to clone your Mac’s hard drive and safeguard your data effectively.

How to Clone Your Mac’s Hard Drive 

Cloning a hard drive involves several stages, so let’s break it down into easy-to-follow steps.

Step 1: Preparing Your Mac

Before proceeding with the Mac hard drive cloning process, assessing and evaluating the data stored on your Mac is essential. If you have accumulated many unnecessary files, I highly recommend deleting them beforehand.

Cleaning up unnecessary files and clutter will ensure you only back up valuable data. And MacKeeper can help you with that. Below, I’ve shared how to use MacKeeper to prepare your Mac for cloning.

Here are a few tips to prepare your Mac for cloning:

1. Remove Old and Unused Apps

Using MacKeeper’s Smart Uninstaller, you can easily remove unwanted apps from your Mac with just a few simple clicks. It also removes leftover files along with the app to make sure no residue is left on your system.

Follow these steps to uninstall unwanted apps from your Mac using MacKeeper:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. After installation, launch MacKeeper and click the Smart Uninstaller in the left-hand menu.
click smart uninstaller in the left sidebar 2
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in smart uninstaller 1
  1. Select the applications you want to delete from the list and click Remove Selected.
select the applications you want to remove and click remove selected
  1. Tap the Remove button on the pop-up to confirm the deletion.
click remove on the pop up window in smart uninstaller 2
  1. Next, click Leftovers in the left sidebar.
click leftovers in the left sidebar of smart uninstaller
  1. Select the leftover files you want to delete in the right pane and click Remove Selected.
select the leftover files you want to delete and click remove selected
  1. Tap the Remove button to confirm the removal.
click remove on the pop up
  1. MacKeeper will uninstall the apps and remove associated files and folders. You will get a Removal Completed notification. If you want to scan your Mac again, click Rescan.
click rescan in smart uninstaller 3

If you don’t have MacKeeper, you can use the native method to uninstall apps on your Mac:

  1. Click the Finder icon in the Dock.
click finder in your dock
  1. Find the Applications folder in the left sidebar and click it.
open finder and select applications in the left sidebar 1
  1. Find the app(s) you want to uninstall. Click the app icon and drag it to the Bin in the Dock. Alternatively, right-click the app icon and select Move to Bin from the context menu.
right click an app and select move to bin 1
  1. Next, right-click the Bin icon in the Dock and select Empty Bin.
right click the bin and select empty bin

2. Delete Cache Files on Your Mac

MacKeeper’s Safe Cleanup feature acts as a superhero, swiftly identifying and removing unnecessary files causing clutter within your Mac’s system.

Here’s how to clear the cache on your Mac using MacKeeper:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and select Safe Cleanup in the left sidebar.
click safe cleanup under the cleaning section 3
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in safe cleanup 2
  1. Select files from the scan results to remove unnecessary cache items from your system. You can also click the Check All checkbox.
select junk files to remove or click check all 3
  1. Click Clean Junk Files.
tap clean junk files 3
  1. You will receive confirmation that the cleaning process has been completed successfully. Click Rescan to scan your Mac again.
click rescan in safe cleanup 2

Alternatively, you can use the manual method to clear cache files on your Mac. Here are the steps to clear the system cache on Mac:

  1. Open Finder, click Go in the top menu bar, and select Go to Folder.
click go in the menu bar and select go to folder
  1. Type the following path into the search bar and press Enter:
~/Library/Caches/
type library caches in the window
  1. This will open the Caches folder. Here, select the folder for the system data you want to clear.
  2. Right-click the files and select Move to Bin.
right click system folders and select move to bin
  1. Empty Trash on your Mac to permanently delete the cache from your Mac. To do this, right-click the Bin icon and select Empty Bin.
right click the bin and select empty bin

3. Remove Duplicates

MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder feature lets you effortlessly eliminate unwanted duplicate files in a matter of moments. This helps you gain valuable space on your Mac for all your cherished files.

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper on your Mac and click Duplicates Finder in the left sidebar.
click duplicates finder in the left sidebar 1
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in duplicates finder 1
  1. Select a folder in the left menu to review duplicate files before deletion.
click an item in the left sidebar
  1. Alternatively, you can click Check All and tap the Remove Selected button to remove all duplicate files at once.
click check all and tap remove selected 1
  1. Tap the Remove button on the pop-up to confirm the deletion.
click remove on the pop up window in duplicates finder
  1. This will remove the selected files, and you’ll get a Removal Completed message. Click Finish to end the process.
click finish to complete the process 1

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides uninstalling unwanted apps, clearing junk files on your Mac, and removing duplicate files, MacKeeper can manage login itemsremove annoying ads, and free up your Mac’s RAM. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn about these features.

4. Tidy Up Your Downloads Folder

The Downloads folder on your Mac can quickly become a cluttered mess, filled with files and documents you may no longer need. Tidying up this folder is essential to maintain a clean and organized system and free up valuable storage space. Plus, it reduces cloning time.

Here are some effective strategies to manage your Downloads folder on Mac:

  1. Open Finder and click the Downloads folder tab in the left sidebar.
click downloads in the left sidebar of finder
  1. Review the files and determine which ones you want to keep and which ones you want to delete.
  2. Select the files you want to remove and right-click them. Then, select Move to Bin.
right click the files and select move to bin
  1. Empty the Bin to remove the files from your Mac completely.
right click the bin and select empty bin

5. Organize Your Desktop

Organizing your desktop is essential for maintaining a clean and efficient workspace, enabling you to stay focused and easily access important documents. Besides, it reduces the time it takes to clone your drive if there are only useful items on the desktop.

Here are some practical tips to declutter your Mac’s desktop and organize your files:

  1. Review the files and folders on your desktop.
  2. Create folders to categorize related files and folders.
organized folders on mac desktop
  1. Drag and drop files and folders into the appropriate folders.
  2. Remove unnecessary files or move them to other locations on your Mac.
right click folders and select move to bin
  1. Use desktop organization tools like Stacks (right-click on your Mac desktop and select Use Stacks) to automatically group files by type or date.
right click the desktop and select use stacks 1
  1. Regularly clean up your desktop by deleting files you no longer need or filing them in appropriate folders.

Step 2: Formatting Your External Hard Drive

Now that you have prepared your Mac for cloning let’s move on to the next step: formatting your external hard drive. To ensure compatibility with your Mac and facilitate the cloning process, you need to format the external hard drive properly.

By following these steps, you can format your external hard drive using Disk Utility:

⚠️ Please note that this process will erase all existing contents on the drive.

  1. Open Finder > Applications > Utilities > Disk Utility.
launch disk utility from utilities
  1. Select your external hard drive from the menu on the left.
  1. Click the Erase option in the upper menu.
choose your external drive from the sidebar and click erase
  1. Choose the Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format.
  1. Click Erase to complete the formatting process.

⚠️ Pressing the erase button will delete all the data on the drive. Double-check that you have chosen the correct new hard drive before proceeding.

type in a name for your drive and select the format

❗️This process can take up to 10 minutes, so be patient and don’t quit Disk Utility till the process completes.

Step 3: Downloading and Installing Cloning Software

Now that your external drive is formatted, you can move on to creating a disk image. But for that, you need cloning software. Various options are available, but I recommend Disk Drill because it is easy to use and offers a free trial.

Here are the steps to download and install Disk Drill on your Mac:

  1. Visit the official website of Disk Drill and download the application by clicking the Free Download button.
click the free download button to download disk drill
  1. Go to your Downloads folder and double-click the diskdrill.dmg file.
double click the disk drill dmg file
  1. Next, drag the Disk Drill icon to your Applications folder on this window.
drag the disk drill icon to applications folder

Step 4: Creating a Disk Image Using Cloning Software

After downloading and installing cloning software (Disk Drill in this case), you can start generating a disk image. This process lets you recover the deleted files in the future.

Here’s how to use Disk Drill to create a disk image on your Mac:

  1. Connect an external hard drive to your Mac. Ensure the storage capacity of the external hard drive is greater than or equal to your Mac’s internal hard drive or at least larger than the space currently being utilized.
external hard drive connected to macbook
  1. Launch Disk Drill on your Mac by opening your Applications folder and double-clicking the Disk Drill app icon.
double click the disk drill app in applications
  1. Click the Byte-to-byte Backup option in the left sidebar and tap OK, let’s do it in the right pane.
click byte to byte backup and tap ok lets do it
  1. Next, choose the hard drive you wish to clone and tap the Create backup button.
choose a hard drive to clone and tap the create backup button
  1. Select a name for the backup and designate the preferred location for storing it. By default, Disk Drill suggests a name for the backup, but you can customize it if desired. Click Save.
choose a name and location for the backup and click save
  1. Allow the backup process to complete. The duration will depend on the data being backed up, so it may take some time.

Please note that I backed up a mechanical hard drive instead of an SSD, which took approximately 4 hours despite the time displayed indicating just over an hour. If you have an SSD, the process will go faster.

  1. You’ll receive a Disk image created! notification once the backup progress reaches 100%.
  2. All your data is now securely cloned on your external hard drive.
  3. To locate the clone on your external device, click the Show results in Finder option. This feature proves useful if the original drive had any issues, allowing you to access and examine the backup.

Step 5: Verifying the Clone Is Bootable

To ensure the successful cloning of your hard drive, it’s recommended to verify if the clone is bootable. Follow these steps:

  1. Restart your Mac while holding down the Option ⌥ key.
macbook pro option key
  1. You’ll see a list of available drives.
  2. Select the newly created drive and wait for your Mac to boot up.
  3. Check that all applications work as expected.

How to Restore Your Mac from a Clone

To restore your system using the clone, boot your Mac into Recovery Mode and follow these steps:

For Intel-Based Mac

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select Restart.
click the apple icon and select restart
  1. Immediately press and hold Command ⌘ + R until you hear the startup sound or see the Apple logo.
macbook air command r keys
  1. From recovery mode, select Disk Utility > Continue.
select disk utility from macos recovery screen
  1. Find and select your hard drive, go to the Restore tab, and choose the external device as the source.
select your hard drive and click restore
  1. Select your MacBook hard drive as the destination.
  2. Click Restore and restart your Mac.
click your hard drive and tap the restore button

For Apple Silicon Mac

  1. Turn on your Mac and press and hold the Power button.
press and hold the power button on your mac
  1. Keep it pressed until you see startup options.
  2. Click Options (gears icon) and hit Continue.
click options on startup options page
  1. Follow the on-screen instructions, select a user, and enter the administrator password.
  2. From recovery mode, follow the same steps as for Intel-based Macs.

Once you have cloned your Mac hard drive onto the external drive, it is crucial to understand how to utilize this backup effectively. You have two options for restoring your Mac from the clone:

a. Restoring Your Mac from a Clone

  1. Shut down your Mac.
click the apple icon and select shut down
  1. Connect the external drive to your Mac.
external hard drive connected to macbook
  1. Turn on your Mac and press the Command ⌘ + R keys simultaneously to enter Recovery Mode.
macbook air command r keys
  1. Click Disk Utility and tap Continue.
select disk utility from macos recovery screen
  1. Select your hard drive and go to the Restore tab.
select your hard drive and click restore
  1. Choose your external drive as the source and your Mac’s hard drive as the destination.
  2. Click Restore to initiate the restoration process.
click your hard drive and tap the restore button
  1. Restart your Mac after the backup has finished restoring.

b. Booting from the Clone Using Another Mac

  1. Turn off your Mac.
click the apple icon and select shut down
  1. Connect the external drive to your Mac.
  2. Turn on your Mac and press the Option ⌥ key when you hear the startup sound.
macbook pro option key
  1. Select the external drive with the clone backup from the list of systems.
  2. Utilize the clone to restore files to your partitioned Mac drive.

How to Boot Your Clone on a Different Mac Without Erasing the Original

To boot up from your clone on a different Mac without erasing the original system, follow these steps:

  1. Open Disk Utility.
launch disk utility from utilities
  1. Select your hard drive and choose Partition.
select your hard drive and choose partition
  1. Click the + button.
click the plus button
  1. Adjust the partition size by dragging the circle.
  2. Provide a name for the partition and click Apply.
name the partition and click apply
  1. Wait for the process to complete.
  2. Connect your external hard drive containing the clone to the desired Mac.
  3. Turn on the Mac while holding down the Option ⌥ key.
macbook pro option key
  1. Select the external hard drive to boot from your clone.

Clone Your Mac’s Hard Drive to Protect Your Data

Now that you have successfully cloned your Mac hard drive and safeguarded your data, here are a few more tips for keeping your data secure on Mac:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I clone my Mac hard drive using Time Machine?

    No, you cannot clone your Mac hard drive using Time Machine. Time Machine creates incremental backups, storing multiple versions of files, but it is not designed to create a bootable copy of your entire hard drive.

  2. Do I need a large external hard drive to clone my Mac hard drive?

    Yes, you need a large external hard drive to clone your Mac hard drive. An external hard drive with sufficient storage capacity is recommended to accommodate your current data and provide room for future growth.

  3. Can I use the cloned backup to restore my Mac on a different computer?

    No, you cannot use the cloned backup to restore your Mac on a different computer. Cloning your Mac hard drive creates a bootable copy of your system, which you can use to restore your Mac on the same computer or migrate to a new Mac with identical hardware specifications.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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