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.

The main difference between cloning and using Time Machine is that a cloned backup is bootable at startup, while Time Machine is not.

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, we're 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.

Before you start

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

Step 1: Prepare your cloned drive

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

  1. Open the Disk Utility app.
  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.

Step 2A: Clone your Mac using SuperDuper

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.

  1. Download and double-click on the SuperDuper app to open it.
  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; it will then copy all of the files onto the new hard drive.

Step 2B: Clone your Mac using Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner creates a duplicate of any Mac in your house using the same $40 license. You can use Smart Update to only update files that have changes since your last backup and you can customize and schedule your backups. There is a free 30-day trial if you want to check it out and make sure it's right for you.

  1. Download and double-click on the Carbon Copy Cloner app to open it.
  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.


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