Mac Drive Cloning Guide

So, you've filled up your Mac with your movies, photos and documents, and have set up your machine just how you like it. But then you run out of space on your drive! What can you do? Start from fresh? - NO! Here's how to move your system from one drive to another, and retain your system and files just how you like it, using a method called Cloning

Alternatively, if you are using Time Machine to backup your Mac (which you should!), then you can use this instead to restore your data, see our drive set up and Time Machine guide.

However, when transferring your boot disk to a new hard drive it can be better to do a clone rather than a Time Machine restore, since a clone restores all logs and caches, while Time Machine does not; this can lead to occasional minor issues on the restored system. While a Time Machine restore won't require any further hardware or software purchases, we on balance recommend a clone instead of a Time Machine restore if you are doing a planned migration from one drive to another. But both are good approaches.

MacUpgrades Recommends Carbon Copy Cloner

This guide is written for Intel Macs running macOS 10.13 or later. The procedure is similar with older software, but there are some differences in the interfaces used. It may be helpful to refer to an earlier version of this guide, written using older versions of Mac OSX and using the older Cloning software, which is archived here.

This guide assumes that you will be cloning directly from your old drive, which has been removed and you will connect externally, onto the new drive that you have fitted into your Mac. It is also possible to clone to an intermediary external drive, and clone from that to the new drive - you might want to do this if you do not have a method of connecting the old drive as an external device but do have a spare external drive that you can blank down. If you want to do that, adapt the instructions below to take a clone to the external drive first, and then restore from that in the same way as we describe doing from the original drive.

Concise Instructions for Advanced Users

  1. Download Carbon Copy Cloner.
  2. Agree to the trial, if necessary follow the instructions to give CCC full disk access.
  3. Fit new drive to computer.
  4. Attach old drive with cable or enclosure.
  5. Boot holding the Option (Alt) key.
  6. Select the external drive to boot from.
  7. Erase (format) then new internal drive.
  8. Install previously downloaded Carbon Copy Cloner on external drive.
  9. Open Carbon Copy Cloner.
  10. Select the source (external) and the Destination (internal).
  11. Click Clone.
  12. Upon completion, go to Apple Menu > System preferences > Startup Disk.
  13. Choose the new internal drive (after clicking the padlock), and choose Restart.

Detailed Cloning Guide

Before You Start

When changing your drive, you are making a change to your computer that is detectable to software installed on your machine. Some software has anti-piracy measures built into it which will interpret the change as being installed onto a new computer, and will require reactivation before it can be used. If the software has a limit on activations, and you have already reached that limit, reactivation may be difficult. To avoid using up an activation, you should deauthorise any software that has this option prior to cloning. Note this is not an issue with cloning as such, and the same issue can occur when restoring from a Time Machine backup.

What You Will Need

In order to clone a macOS system from one disk to another, you will need the following:

  1. A new replacement internal hard drive or SSD. To see the ones compatible with your machine select your machine by Serial Number or Model ID. Then go to the Internal Hard Drives & SSDs section. This will display drives that are guaranteed to be compatible with your Mac.
  2. The required tools fitting the drive.
  3. A method of hooking the old drive up externally via USB - either a cable adaptor or an enclosure. We sell these separately for SATA drives - we do an adaptor cable for 2.5in SATA drives, an enclosure for 2.5in SATA drives and an enclosure for 3.5in SATA drives. Other drives may be sold with suitable enclosures, but we do not have them for every type of drive that Apple has used, so you may need to use a different method of restoring your data for some machines.
  4. Some software to clone with. There are a number of options here, the one we use internally and recommend is Carbon Copy Cloner. This is paid for software with a free 30 day trial (which is fine if you are just doing a single transfer). There are alternative software packages that also work well, but the instructions below are based on Carbon Copy Cloner.

Performing the Clone

  1. Unpack your new internal hard drive and the enclosure/adaptor.
  2. Fit the new drive. For home installable parts, instruction videos are provided on our site in the internal hard drive section for the machine in question.
  3. Install the old internal drive from the computer in to the enclosure (or connect it via the adaptor).
  4. Connect the enclosure/adaptor to the computer.
  5. For mains powered enclosures (for 3.5in SATA drives), ensure that the enclosure is plugged in and turned on.
  6. Press and hold the Option (Alt) key on the keyboard of your computer, then press the power button as normal. This will bring up the boot selection screen, after a period you should see the "Macintosh HD" show up (or whatever your old hard drive's name was). Choose it with the mouse and click the arrow underneath.
  1. When the computer boots through to the desktop you should (in most cases, if not don't worry, move on down) see a window appear saying you have attached a device the computer cannot read. This is normal as the new internal drive is not formatted for use. Click "Initialize..."
  1. Disk Utility will open. If it does not, navigate to the Go menu at the top the screen, then click on "Utilities" then double click on Disk Utility.
  1. When Disk Utility opens, you will see all the drives (including any optical drives/disks) in the machine. On the far left are listed the devices. You will see your current boot drive listed with an orange icon (in most cases this is called Macintosh HD or Untitled) this is your current hard drive.
  1. You should also see another item listed under "Internal", this will be your new drive ready to use. Now we have to prepare the new drive for use. Disk Utility has changed how you see this. Goto the View menu and choose "Show All devices". This will then show the Device. Select the device in the left hand pane, then you should see the "Erase" option, select this.
  1. You will see the options to give the drive a name, choose its format and the Partition Scheme. What you choose here for Format is important. If you have installed an SSD (and you are running 10.13 or later) you should choose APFS. If you have installed a hard drive in 10.13 then choose Mac OS Extended Journaled. If you are using a hard drive in 10.14 or 10.15 select APFS. Once you've selected these options, click Erase.
  2. Once the erase process has completed you will see items indented and below the drive information that was there previously. The lowest one will have the name you just gave the drive. This is your new volume, ready to accept the clone.
  3. Find Carbon Copy Cloner (hereafter CCC) in the Downloads folder (or wherever you downloaded it before you started) and double click it. The app will ask to move itself to the Applications folder, allow it to do so. You can either purchase this great software if you wish to use for ongoing backups, or click trial for this one off usage.
  4. If you are using 10.14 or later there will be further steps on screen to allow CCC to have full disk access. Follow the instructions to give CCC permission to clone your drive.
  1. The CCC interface gives you two boxes. Click to select Source and click to select Destination. The source should be your external drive (Orange) and the destination your internal drive (grey). Ensure that the Copy All Files options is selected from the drop down.
  2. Once you have confirmed that the drives are the correct way around, click the Clone button.
  3. Cloning can take a number of hours to complete, depending on the size and structure of your data. It's probably best not to do anything on the computer while its cloning - to maximise speed and reduce the risk of newly created files not being transferred.
  4. Once the clone has completed you will get a message saying that the backup task has completed.
  1. Once the clone is complete there is one final step to do. You have to tell the computer to boot from your new SSD or Hard Drive.

    Goto Apple Menu > System Preferences.

    Choose Startup Disk.

    You will see two icons listed. The one in orange is your old drive. The new one is in grey. Click the padlock and enter your password. Choose the NEW drive, and click restart.

    Enjoy your revitalised mac!

    If you've found Carbon Copy Cloner useful why not purchase a copy, it's a great addition to Time Machine for ongoing backups (you can boot directly into a CCC backup, letting you continue work immediately without having to wait to do a full restore).