Clone Mac Hard Drive to SSD with Carbon Copy Cloner

Some things macOS has always done better than Windows, including the complete cloning of the Mac hard drive. This is basically possible with the Disk Utility. However, this is not very convenient, especially since the APFS file system can cause problems here: Both drives must be formatted under APFS, which may not make sense in a typical cloning scenario – internal SSD hard drive to external SSD of mechanical make.


Clone or Backup?

Therefore, you should clarify in advance what you actually want to do exactly. Do you want to create a 1:1 clone of your hard disk, for example to boot another Mac with the clone? Or do you simply want to copy all data, i.e. create a backup? While a simple backup is best done with Time Machine, which also allows restoring to a new Mac, cloning goes one step further: it creates a complete 1:1 copy of the system hard drive – ideal if, for example, the hard drive in a Mac is to be replaced.

Advantages of Hard Drive Clone

Such a 1:1 copy has two advantages: It is bootable directly from the USB port when you press the [option] key at system startup. The Mac then runs from the external clone, which is also a good solution as a rescue system, for example. The second advantage is that no macOS needs to be installed on the system hard drive to reboot a Mac using the clone: Simply boot from the external SSD, run the clone program and copy the external disk to the system drive. The new Mac will be just like the old one.

How to Clone Mac Hard Drive with Carbon Copy Cloner

But which cloning program to use? The best choice is Carbon Copy Cloner, which is free for 30 days. Enough time, therefore, to accomplish a hard disk move. An alternative is the tool SuperDuper, which works on a similar principle.

First of all: Before you clone your Mac hard drive, you need to put the external SSD into a bootable format. To do this, follow these instructions and select the "Mac OS Extended (Journaled)" option in step 5 for older Macs. If you are using the macOS version High Sierra (2016) or newer, you should select "APFS".

Step 1: Download the free trial version of the Carbon Copy Cloner. The trial version is valid for 30 days, a n subsequently the tool costs just under 34 euros once.

Step 2:  In the overview, select the drive to be cloned – your system drive – as the source on the left.

Step 3: Select an external SSD as the target. This should already be formatted and set up. How to format hard disks/USB sticks under macOS is explained in this tip.

Step 4: That’s it: a click on "Clone" still asks for a utility to be installed at the first start. Enter your administrator password and click on "Install utility".

Step 5: The copying process starts now. Depending on the occupancy of the system hard disk and the speed of your Mac and the external hard disk, the process may take quite a while. Afterwards, you will have a bootable clone of your Mac hard drive on the external SSD.