How To Clone Your Mac Hard Drive With Carbon Copy Cloner

If you're swapping out your hard drive for a new one, the best thing to do is clone the old one first.

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If you're swapping out your hard drive for a new one, the best thing to do is clone the old one first. Cloning a drive creates an exact sector-to-sector backup copy of your drive. It's a perfect image of the original, including all OS files. So when you swap out your old drive for the new one, you don't have to tweak or reset anything.

For cloning a hard drive on a Mac, I highly recommend a free utility called Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC). Here's how to use CCC to clone a hard drive on your Mac.

First, download and install Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC).

After downloading it, installation is a piece of cake. Just double click on the Carbon Copy Cloner mounted icon.

Select and drag the CCC icon into your Application folder.

Now, from the Applications folder, launch CCC. Just double-click on its icon.

The first time you launch CCC, it will prompt you to read the Quick Start Guide. Do it later. Click on No Thanks.

Now down to business. Do you know what drive you'll be using to create the clone? I recommend an external drive. Regardless, if you've just bought a new internal or external drive, or are using one previously connected to a Windows machine, you're going to have to reformat it first.

Microsoft Windows FAT32 or NTFS file system comes on most new drives and it isn't Mac-compatible. If you have a new drive from the Apple Store or preformatted for Mac, you can skip this step.

So before going on with the CCC process, access the Disc Utility in OS X. This will reformat the drive with Apple's HFS+ file system for Intel Macs. I'm using an external drive, so I just plug the external drive into the Mac and power on the drive.

On recognizing the new drive, OS X will prompt you to back up your current drive's data with Time Machine. Don't do it. Click Don't Use.

Then click Go on the Finder toolbar and select Utilities.

Scroll down a bit. Double-click on Disk Utility.

In the Disk Utility, highlight the external hard drive in the left panel. Under Volume Scheme, select 1 Partition. Under Volume Information, give the drive a memorable name. Also, date it so you know when it was created.

Click on Options and select GUID Partition Table. Hit OK. Then click Apply.


When the system asks you if you're sure you want to partition the disk, click Partition.


Now wait while the disk is formatted as HSF+ so it can be used with CCC. This could take 10 to 20 minutes depending on the size of the disk. Your mileage will vary.


Now that you've formatted the external drive, it's ready to accept a clone of your local Mac hard drive.


There are many methods to use, but here's the easiest way to use CCC to clone your local hard drive onto the new one. Under Source Disk, select your Mac's local hard drive. That's Macintosh HD.


Next, select Target Disk. In this case, it's the external drive you just formatted. Notice I named mine CCC. After that, select New Disk Image.


In New Disk Image, you'll be able to choose additional settings like encrypting the disk image with a password and compressing the image to save space. Make your choices depending on what you need. When you're done, click OK.


You should now have your local drive set up as the Source Disk and your new drive as the Target Disk. Remember, I called mine CCC. Under Cloning Options, select Backup Everything.


Click Clone. Enter your user password if you have one. Click OK.


Now the cloning process will start. It will take at least an hour to complete.


Creating a clone of my hard disk with 34 GB of data took just over an hour.

When it's finished, you'll get a message notifying you that CCC is finished. Click OK to close CCC.


Now keep the external drive in a safe offsite location. That's a best practice, of course, unless you intend to install the newly cloned drive immediately or have another urgent need for it. Just don't forget where you put it!

Brian Burgess is the executive editor at BYTE. Follow him @mysticgeek. Got a comment or idea? Send it to him at [email protected].

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