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Mac Cloning 101: How to Clone Your Mac Computer

by Vishal
Mac Computer

Are you trying to move your Mac’s data onto a hard drive? Here is a step by step process of everything you need to do to clone your Mac Computer.

Computer hard drives don’t fail that often. The online backup service Backblaze publishes a quarterly failure report from the nearly 150,000 drives they use and they typically see around a 1 percent failure rate.

But if the drive in your Mac happens to be one of those 1 percent that fails, it doesn’t matter how low the odds were – you could lose a lot of important data.

Having a cloned backup of your Mac can help avoid data loss and downtime. Let’s look at how Mac cloning works.

Types of Backup Systems for Mac Computer

There are several types of backup systems, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The most common options include:

  • Incremental archive backup
  • Cloning
  • Online backup

macOS includes a backup system called Time Machine. It’s an incremental archive system that saves copies of all your documents, pictures, and other data. It doesn’t back up things like your apps, the operating system, and system files though.

Online backup works similarly in that it only backs up certain data on your Mac. But instead of saving it on a local drive, it uploads it to the backup service in the cloud.

Cloning is exactly what it sounds like. This type of backup created an exact image – a clone – of everything on your Mac.

Why Mac Cloning Is a Good Choice

Cloning Mac hard drive data is a good option because it lets you get up and running quickly if you run into a problem with your Mac.

If you ever need to restore your Mac after a hardware failure or some other data loss, you can boot from the clone and you’ll be right back where you left off. You don’t have to worry about restoring individual files, reinstalling macOS, or any other intermediate steps.

Cloning also makes it easy to move everything over to a new Mac when you upgrade to a new model.

How to Clone Your Mac

There are several ways to clone your Mac, including:

  • Target disk mode
  • Migration Assistant
  • Specialized cloning software

Target Disk Mode

With target disk mode, you can connect two Macs through the Firewire, Thunderbolt, or USB-C connections. One of the two machines gets treated as a type of external storage for the other one.

In this mode, you can connect an old Mac to a new one and clone the drive across. This moves everything over to the new Mac exactly as it is on the old one.

You can run into problems if the older Mac is more than a few years old though. If it’s running an old version of macOS that isn’t compatible with the new machine, you may not be able to clone it directly.

Migration Assistant for Mac Computer

Migration Assistant is another backup feature in macOS meant for moving your data from an old Mac to a new one. It’s not a true cloning system because it doesn’t make an exact copy of what’s on the old Mac.

Instead, it migrates your apps, data, settings, and other information across. This is a good option when the two machines are significantly different in age and the new one has to run a different version of the OS.

Cloning Software for Mac Computer

If you’re more interested in creating a backup of your Mac so you have a copy of your data, rather than moving it to a new computer, using an app that can clone your system is the best choice.

There are several popular backup apps for cloning Mac computers, including:

  • Carbon Copy Cloner
  • SuperDuper
  • Chronosync
  • Disk Drill

Some of these apps, such as Chronosync, can do more than just cloning. Some will also work as incremental backup systems if you only want to save certain types of files.

When you create a clone image with one of these apps, you’ll need an external storage device that has at least the same capacity as the internal storage on your Mac. You can use an external hard drive, SSD, or USB stick as long as the capacity is high enough.

The software will make a complete copy of everything on your Mac, down to the operating system and system files. If you need to recover your computer, it’s as simple as booting from the external storage device and you’ll be up and running.

Recovering Your Mac With a Cloned Image

The advantage of a clone backup is that it’s a mirror image of your Mac so you can boot from it and use your Mac the same way you normally would.

To boot from an external drive instead of the internal drive, hold down the Option key after the startup chime when you turn on your Mac. Hold it until you see the boot selection menu.

That screen shows all the drives connected to your Mac. You can click on the external drive to boot from it instead of the internal one.

Once your Mac starts up, you can restore anything you need back to the internal storage. And if your internal drive fails for some reason, you can keep using your Mac from the external drive until you’re able to get the drive repaired or replaced.

Once that’s done, it’s as simple as running the cloning app again and cloning the external drive back to the new internal drive. Any work you’ve done in the meantime will get copied back along with the rest of your data.

Don’t Put Off Setting Up a Reliable Backup System

Mac cloning and other backup system aren’t one of the most exciting parts of using a computer. A lot of people procrastinate or ignore the task completely but if you don’t have a backup, you’re gambling with your data.

Take the time to get a backup system in place now, before you run into a hardware failure or something else that causes you to lose data. When that time comes, you’ll thank your past self for making the effort.

Looking for more tips and tricks for getting the most out of your tech gear? Check out the rest of our blog for more helpful posts.

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