How to easily clone your Mac using SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner

How to easily clone your Mac using SuperDuper! or Carbon Copy Cloner

Cloning produces an instantly bootable copy of your hard drive. Here are two popular methods

Even if you're backing up your Mac using Time Machine or another method, you may eventually need to clone your hard drive as well. Cloning produces an exact duplicate of your hard drive, bootable from your Mac. If your main drive fails, it can be a life-saver.

There are a number of good reasons to clone: Upgrading your hard drive, for example, or working off an external drive for some reason, such as if you're Mac is in the shop getting something else fixed, and you're relegated to a backup machine. Maybe you just want to have an extra version of your hard drive on hand in case of emergencies.

Of the many ways to clone your Mac's hard drive, I'm focusing on two: Shirt Pocket Software's SuperDuper! and Bombich Software's Carbon Copy Cloner. They're both popular, well-supported software apps. Here are instructions for using them.

What you'll need

To get started, you'll need a few things:

  • An external hard disk drive or drive mechanism connected via a dock or caddy
  • Shirt Pocket's SuperDuper!, or
  • Bombich Software's Carbon Copy Cloner

You'll need to prepare the new disk by formatting it using Disk Utility.

To prepare your clone using Disk Utility

  1. Double-click the Disk Utility icon in the Utilities folder
  2. Click on the drive icon that corresponds to your clone drive in the sidebar.
  3. Click on the Erase tab.
  4. Make sure Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is selected from the Format menu.
  5. Click on the Erase... button.
  6. Verify you want to erase the disk.

If you've done it successfully, you should see a new hard drive icon appear on your desktop.

To clone your Mac using SuperDuper!

  1. Double-click on the SuperDuper! app icon.
  2. If it's not already selected, select your Mac's hard drive in the pop-up menu next to Copy.
  3. Select the target hard drive in the to pop up menu.
  4. Make sure the using pop-up menu reads "Backup — all files."
  5. Click the Copy Now button.
  6. SuperDuper! will ask for your administrator password to continue.

SuperDuper! will copy all of the files onto the new hard drive.

SuperDuper! enables you to create a clone of your Mac even if you haven't registered it. If you pay Shirt Pocket the $27 registration fee, you'll unlock a slew of additional useful features, like scheduling, Smart Update, Sandboxes, scripting and more. In particular, Smart Update is really handy if you'd like to keep your clone up to date instead of having to duplicate it each time, to save time.

To clone your Mac using Carbon Copy Cloner

  1. Double-click on the Carbon Copy Cloner app icon.
  2. Click on the Source pop-up menu and select your Mac's boot volume from the list of local volumes.
  3. Select your clone drive from the Destination menu.
  4. Click the Clone button.
  5. Carbon Copy Cloner will give you the option of setting up a recovery partition on the target drive. You can use built-in tools to create one if you wish (useful if you're building a replacement hard drive).

As you can see, it's a pretty straightforward operation. Once you've done it, you'll have an exact copy of your Mac's internal hard drive. If you're upgrading, now you can put the new mechanism in your Mac!

Have you cloned your Mac yet? Run into any difficulty? Prefer a different method than these two? Sound off in the comments.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 15 comments. Add yours.

Art Tabb says:

Peter's articles are so, well, just spot on.
I had the very, very, first MacBook Pro, March 2006 Core Duo. I loved its 15" screen and 100GB hard drive for many years. Then one day somebody smarter than me said I could make it like new by getting an SSD for it, and at 128GB, it would be bigger and even more useful than my original rotating drive, and multi-Machs faster.
So we did it, using Carbon Copy Cloner via USB to engage the new SSD, then installed it! Worked great (and quickly) for a long time until I finally fried the whole shootin' match with a carelessly placed Molson's last fall (please, I don't remember the details).
I now have the 13" retina MacBook Pro, so I have few regrets other than a lighter wallet and slightly smaller screen.
That very first MagSafe charger, with the MagSafe 2 adapter, which at 9.99 I think is the cheapest thing ever sold by Apple, still works perfectly with the new MacBook Pro, and Apple recycled the old computer, dried Molson skin and all.

Skier1960 says:

I use time Machine Only. My question is, if my Mac crapped out and I had to buy a new one would I not be able to just plug in my external hard drive and reload all my data to the new Mac?

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Peter Cohen says:

Yep. When you first set up a Mac one of the first things it asks you during setup is if you'd like to restore from a Time Machine backup.

Clones are a complementary backup strategy to Time Machine, or for people who are upgrading their systems with new hard drives, for example.

Skier1960 says:

Thanks Peter:)

Posted via the Android iMore App!

Art Tabb says:

I have done exactly that, twice. The first time was with the aforementioned ancient MacBook Pro, which had been Time Machine backed up. My first replacement was a MacBook Air just before a holiday trip to Florida last fall, "restored" via the Time Machine backup. I then backed the new Air up to an external 1T Toshiba Canvio Slim until it choked on one of my wife's video files using iMovie. So we ran it over to the nearest Best Buy and exchanged it for a more powerful MacBook Pro. That night, in a hotel room, we "restored" the MacBook Pro via Time Machine and the Toshiba jewel to the new computer. Unbelievably, everything I had kept on the local drive was still there through three machine iterations; programs, data, and preferences.
I love my Macs, and my Toshiba external drive.
There are still some cookies, passwords, and whatnot that don't get through, but they are no big deal relative to the amount that just works.
I hope this helps you. What I was talking about earlier is replacing the hard drive, which can be nearly impossible with modern machines, although even that can be done with Time Machine if it's hardware possible. It's not as perfect as Carbon Copy Clone, though, if you have fair warning that a replacement's coming.

wamadden4 says:

I have used SuperDuper! on my MacBook and PS3 to upgrade both hard drives... it worked like a charm each time... great program!

tombliboo says:

I wanted to do a fresh install of osx on my 2009 13" MacBook Pro. Have cloned my hard drive using superdupa, but now can't seem to get the new os to download using option+r... Anyone know what I've done wrong? Superdupa worked like a charm mind you! Have a working bootable clone of my hd!

Peter Cohen says:

I may be wrong on this, but I don't think SuperDuper creates a recovery partition - it only clones the partition you've selected. So unless you created a recovery partition on the target volume using Disk Utility, you probably can't use option-R to recover.

(Carbon Copy Cloner gives you the option of creating a recovery partition when you first clone the drive, however.)

tombliboo says:

Ah, I see. This isn't going to be as straight forward as I first thought!! Thanks.

Jonas Slough III says:

Every one of my Macs are cloned once a week. When my old PowerBook finally died it was cloned, so in essence it lives on in an OWC FW drive that I still boot off of on my G5 iMac. Every Mac user should be cloning their drives along with using Time Machine. If your drive goes you can be up and running in minutes.

Boy De says:

SupperDuper or Carbon Copy? I have just bought a WD My Book Studio 3 TB for back up purposes. Which one us the best?

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Scott Adams2 says:

I had just cloned using CCC last Thursday. I'm not experienced at this kind of thing. I read the tutorials and did make a Recovery HD partition to be able to boot from from the drive. I used a USB 2.0 drive but 4 hours later I have peace of mind I have a full bootable backup. :)

donald kepler says:

Hi, You have mentioned 2 software for cloning Mac but I cloned my Mac with a different software 'Stellar Drive Clone'. This software also clones Recovery HD partition along with creating a Mac bootable DVD as like other software CCC.

rgorinstein says:

Is it better or worse to use DiskUtility to create and image of my HD as opposed to using one of these third party apps?
Thanks!

Adison Ross says:

Hi,

A knowledgeable question you have striked over here about cloning and imaging with 'Disk Utility'. Let me allow to mention that there are many Mac novice, who find DU a bit confusing and these cases make the data loss chances a little high. Always going for Data Recovery software isn't suitable as well as time consuming. As mentioned above, CCC and Stellar Drive Clone work efficiently for backing up data and making bootable clone of Mac OS X.

Good Luck !