New Drive Set Up & Time Machine Guide (Macs from 2011 and Later)

So you've found the correct parts on our website and your order has been delivered. You've viewed the installation videos on your machine's page (select your Mac to see these) fitted the new drive and now you are wondering how to setup the new drive for use. If your old drive was working (albeit slow or full) then you may want to "clone" your old system to the new drive - we have a guide for that here.

This guide is to help you either set up a new drive with a clean operating system, or to restore from Time Machine. How to do this depends on when your machine was made, since Apple introduced an internet boot option in 2011. This page deals with 2011 and later machines with Internet Recovery only. If your machine is earlier than 2011 see the appropriate page here.

Technically all the 2010 machines apart from the Mac Pro, were upgraded with Lion to also be able to use the method outlined on this page, but our experience is that reliability is questionable. By all means try this method first (follow the instructions for the 2011 machines), but be prepared for it not to work and having to fall back on the earlier method.

These 2011 and later machines all have the ability to install a clean operating system, or restore from Time Machine, by connecting to the internet and downloading the required components. To do this there is a key combination which you press on the keyboard (and continue to hold) while turning on the machine. There are a number of different key combination options (which you can see on the Apple website here) but we will cover what is usually the most useful, which is to install the highest operating system available for your machine.

Prepare the New Drive for Use

Whether you plan to install a clean operating system, or restore from Time Machine, the first step after fitting a new drive is to prepare it for use.

Press and hold the Option key, the Command key and the 'R' key together, while powering the Mac on (the Option key is the Alt key, the Command key is the Apple key). This will start the internet recovery process.

Your computer needs to connect to the internet. As such it may ask you to connect to your wireless network. You can find the password on your router if you need it.

The internet recovery process may take some time to download.

You may need to agree to the macOS license agreement and select a language. Once this is done you will see this window. This allows you to install the Mac operating system, or restore from Time Machine. You won't be able to proceed yet as you will need to prepare your new internal drive for use. This process is called formatting but Apple use the term "Erase". This essentially sets up the drive ready for the operating system to be installed.

Choose "Disk Utility" from the Menu.

As your machine is 2011 or later, and you are booted into the latest version of macOS your Mac is compatible with, you will be using at least the version of disk utility which came in in 10.13, shown in this image. In order to see the full information and choose the correct part to erase, click on the View button, and choose "Show All Devices".

In the left hand pane you will see your new drive listed under "Internal". Select the drive by clicking on it. The text that is show is the drives description, and it should match the size of drive you are expecting. If it does not show up, then either there is a problem with the drive, its compatibility with your Mac, or with the installation (contact us if you get stuck). Assuming the drive is showing correctly, choose the "Erase" option from the right hand pane.

Next we need to decide what partition map we need to use, and give the drive a name. The procedure is a little different between 10.13 (which 2011 Macs will have booted into with Option-Command-R), and later systems that the 2012 and later machines can run.

2011 Machines

We are going to format in Mac OS Extended (Journaled) here as 10.13 uses this format for hard drives and APFS for SSDs, and the installer will change this as necessary during the install process, so the drive should be Erased in Mac OS Extended (Journaled) for both types.

Give the drive a name (Macintosh HD is standard). Choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) and GUID Partition Map (see picture). Then press "Erase". This will then prepare the drive for use.

2012 and Later Machines

You will be using the newer file format for both hard Drives and SSDs, called APFS. This was introduced as the standard format for hard drives and SSDs in 10.14.

Give the drive a name (Macintosh HD is standard). Choose APFS as the format and GUID Partition map as the "Scheme" as per picture. Then press "Erase". This will then prepare the drive for use.

Once the erase process is finished, the drive is ready to install an operating system, or restore from Time Machine. Go to the "Disk utility" menu (next to the Apple Menu) and choose "Quit Disk Utility". This will return you to the original menu above.

Install a Clean Operating System

Follow these instructions if you wish to install a clean operating system on the new drive, or if you wish to restore from Time Machine using the Migration Assistant method we describe in the "How to Restore from Time Machine" section below. Skip this step if you want to restore from Time Machine directly from the recovery menu.

Choose "Reinstall macOS" from the menu.

The installer will ask you where to install the operating system. You should see only one option in this scenario, which will be the drive we erased a few moments ago. Choose the drive and press continue when asked.

The installer will download the components it requires from the internet, so dependant on your connection this can take some time.

Your computer may restart several times during the process as firmware updates, etc., may need to be installed. This is fine and normal.

Once the installation is complete the Mac is ready to go.

How to Restore From Time Machine

You can restore from Time Machine in one of two ways. Either by simply selecting the "Restore From Time Machine Backup" option the recovery system menu (having erased your drive ready for use), or by installing a clean operating system, then using Migration Assistant. We tend to recommend the second approach as a good test for the drive, and it gives you a clean version of the operating system (with your data, applications and settings restored), but either approach is fine.

Time Machine Restore From the Recovery System Menu

Select "Restore From Time Machine Backup" from the recovery system menu, and follow the on-screen instructions (similar to the process described below).

Time Machine Restore Using Migration Assistant

First, follow the instructions in the above sections Prepare the New Drive For Use and Install a Clean Operating System.

Once the OS installation process has finished ,you will see the welcome screen. Choose your language and press continue.

You will be asked for your WIFI or network details. These are worth entering now if you have them, especially if your Time Machine backup is a network or wireless drive.

Then you will get to the user setup section where you can choose to restore your data.

Before you choose an option here, if your Time Machine drive connects to your computer directly (such as with USB or Thunderbolt), connect it to the computer now. If your time machine drive is a network drive then just carry on.

Choose option 1: "From a Mac, Time Machine backup, or startup disk".

Click "Continue". This will start the Migration Assistant Utility

If for any reason you want to use Migration Assistant, but have already passed this point, you can run the utility manually once you have logged in to an account. Migration Assistant is located in the Utilities folder, which is inside the Applications folder.

Now you will choose your Time Machine backup drive, and what information you would like to transfer. If you have not yet attached your USB or Thunderbolt backup do it now. If your backup is a network drive it should be listed already.

Choose your Time Machine drive and click "Continue".

You may be given a list of backup dates and times to choose from. Unless you have a reason to do otherwise, choose the latest one.

You will now been show the list of information to transfer across.

Unless you know better, leave all the boxes ticked.

The computer will calculate all the size of the information to transfer. This may take some time to complete, but its extremely important to wait until you have values for each of the items (failing to do so can cause an incomplete restore).

Once the calculation is complete, it will give you a total. Now click Continue.

If you are restoring data to a 10.13 system it will ask you for the passwords for all of the accounts on the computer. Enter these and click Continue.

The Migration Assistant will now restore the data to the new drive. This takes a rough average of about 1 minute per 1GB if your backup drive is a hard drive. So the more data you have the longer this will take. Once complete the machine will restart and you are ready to go. Well done!

Operating System Links

In case you have a requirement for a specific operating system, here is a list of links to obtain operating systems that are compatible with any of these Macs that remain legally available. Be aware that you cannot install an operating system earlier than was sold with your Mac, and earlier Macs will have a maximum operating system they can run (look your Mac up on our site to see precise operating system compatibility).