How to clone a Mac hard drive

Asya Karapetyan
Content marketer, who specializes in Mac how-to guides
January 20, 2022
7 minutes to read

There are many ways to protect yourself from losing important data on your Mac. You can regularly back up your Mac with Time Machine, synchronize your files with cloud storage, or clone your hard drive to SSD. In this article, we will explain how to clone your Mac hard drive and the fastest way to do it.

Cloning a Mac har drive


  1. Why you should clone your hard drive
  2. The difference between cloning and backing up with Time Machine
  3. How to prepare your external disk for storing a Mac clone
  4. How to clone Mac hard drive using Disk Utility
  5. FAQ

Tip 1 – Clean up junk files from your Mac before cloning the hard drive

Clean up your Mac from all junk files before cloning your hard drive and making a backup.
You can easily do this with MacCleaner Pro.
Download a free trial of MacCleaner Pro and remove all unneeded junk, like caches, logs, unused app, duplicates, leftovers of previously removed apps, and other junk.

MacCleaner Pro

Free Download

Why you should clone a Mac hard drive

Despite using a Time Machine, you can clone your Mac hard drive if you want to create a backup. When you clone a Mac, you also copy your operating system, drivers, software, folders, and everything else stored on your drive. As a result, if your system crashes, you can recover your system from the cloned backup exactly from when you cloned it. It is a great way to keep your files safe. If you ever need to recover your hard drive, you can do it without wasting time or money.

A clone is an exact copy of your Mac drive on an external drive. If you have a Mac hard drive clone, you can recover your important data in unexpected situations. For example:

  • If your Mac accidentally breaks down and it needs to be repaired;
  • If you have software issues after updating macOS (such as your Mac not booting up);
  • If you lose your MacBook or it is stolen.

With your Mac hard drive’s clone, you will not lose your data in any problematic case. If you have your hard drive’s clone, you can continue working with your files after recovering your data or booting the system on another Mac.

If there is no hardware problem with your Mac, you can recover your disk from the clone image within 15-20 minutes. Thus, cloning a hard drive is recommended for all Mac users.

Read also: “DYLD files on Mac.

The difference between cloning and creating a backup with Time Machine

Both local Time Machine backups and disk clones are used to keep your data safe if something goes wrong with your Mac. The great thing about cloning is that you can create a bootable copy of your disk. This means that you can access any file on another Mac computer. To do this, just plug the drive with the clone into another Mac and then select the drive from the startup menu. HDD clones are great to be created when you need to give your Mac to professionals for repairs but still need to work. You can use the cloned copy on another Mac.

Most third-party programs for cloning a Mac HDD provide additional features, including an option to create backups regularly. This is super helpful because if something happens to your Mac unexpectedly, a one-year backup won’t help you. However, you also can clone your hard drive with a default Mac software called Disk Utility.

How to prepare your external disk for storing a Mac clone

Before cloning your Mac, you need to prepare your external drive properly for storing this. You need to use an empty external hard drive to create a bootable disk for the cloned data. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Connect your external drive to your Mac.
  2. Open the Disk Utility app from the Launchpad.
  3. Select your external drive in the left sidebar.
  4. Click on the Erase tab at the top of the window. Disk Utility window with the Erase tab highlighted
  5. Provide the name for your disk and select the format Mac OS Extended (Journaled).
  6. Click Erase.
  7. Click Finish once the process is complete. Disk utility window showing how to erase a disk

Your hard drive is now ready for cloning your Mac.

How to clone your Mac hard drive using Disk Utility

Disk Utility can be used to create Mac clones. In Disk Utility, this option is called “Restore,” just like recovering your data from a source disk to a target disk. Also, note that the “restore” feature works with any storage device that can be mounted on your Mac, including disk images, hard drives, SSD, and USB drives.

Steps to clone your Mac with Disk Utility:

  1. Open Disk Utility.
  2. Connect your previously prepared external drive for cloning.
  3. In the top bar, click Restore.
  4. In the Source field, drag your Macintosh HD. In the destination field, drag your external disk where the clone will be stored.
    Note: If you haven’t prepared your external drive before, Disk Utility will ask you to erase it to use the “Restore” option. When erasing a disk, all the data on it will be removed.
    Disk Utility window with the Restore option highlighted
  5. Click Restore.
  6. Provide your administrator password to permit the action.
  7. Once the cloning is finished, you will see the clone of your system in the Disk Utility’s sidebar. The cloning time depends on your Mac hard drive’s volume.


What is the fastest way to clone a hard drive?
Does cloning a drive make it bootable?
Is cloning the same as copying?
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