Replacing Hard Drive: Time machine or cloning?

Discussion in 'Mac Apps and Mac App Store' started by sunshadow, Nov 14, 2012.

  1. macrumors member

    May 27, 2010
    I wanna replace my hard drive. I want everything exactly as it is now on the new hard drive - apps, documents, data, everything. Will a time machine backup do that for me? Or should I just clone the drive? If so, are there recommended cloning freeware?

    The last time I replaced a HD a macbook, it was new so I didn't have any 3rd party software or data on it.

  2. macrumors 68030

    Feb 13, 2011
    Baltimore, Maryland
    I think cloning would be the best in your situation.

    I don't know of any current freeware. Carbon Copy Cloner is outstanding for that purpose.

    What OS are you running?
  3. macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2012
    I will go....

    with a clone. In my experience, the cloning it is better. Saying the latter, CarbonCopyCloner always has worked very well for me

  4. macrumors regular

    Mar 27, 2007
    SuperDuper is free to try, it's simple to use, and works great. Cloning will be quicker than a Time Machine backup and restore.
  5. macrumors 6502a


    Sep 26, 2009
    Durham, UK
    Cloning 100%. i recommend Carbon Copy Cloner, it's no longer freeware but its a great piece of software. I've used it for this exact purpose numerous times & its seamless.

    Time Machine is ok, but restoring full systems with it using Migration Assistant can sometimes mean you need to re-activate licensed apps, ones from the Mac App Store will also need your apple Id the first time you open them.
  6. macrumors 6502

    Jan 21, 2008
    I recently migrated from the 500gb drive in my MBP to a 1TB drive using Migration Assistant. The process is simple and once migrated there was no discernible different from the old drive other than more space (ie: it was as if I cloned) and the bonus was that I had the recovery partition in tact (which I believe is not the case with cloning). The process is:
    1. create recovery flash drive using Apple's utility.
    2. replace drive in your Mac and install fresh Lion or Mountain Lion using newly created recovery flash drive.
    3. place old drive in USB enclosure.
    4. From newly installed OS use migration assistant and migrate user/apps etc to new drive.

    Works very nicely.
  7. macrumors 68000


    Dec 17, 2006
    East Lansing, MI
    I've done this a number of times and have always had good luck cloning with Carbon Copy Cloner. Carbon Copy Cloner is free for "evaluation" purposes for 30 days or something like that.

    For me, I use a USB external drive that I can easily remove from the case, like these clear ones at OWC:

    Here is what I do:

    1. Put your new drive in an external enclosure and format the drive. make sure it is working OK.
    2. Quit all of your open apps.
    3. Use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your internal drive on the new drive in the external case. There is an option to create the special recovery partition for Lion and mountain Lion. Don't do anything else on the computer while the clone is running.
    4. When the clone finishes, shutdown your computer and pull the internal drive.
    5. Pull the new drive from the external case, and install it in your computer.
    6. Boot up your computer on the new drive and make sure everything is working.
    If you have any issues you still have your old drive, and you can always put it back in and try again. After you know everything is OK, and you don't need the old drive any more, I usually use it in the external case for a time machine backup.

    This works well for upgrading to an SSD drive also...
  8. thread starter macrumors member

    May 27, 2010
    Thanks I'll try Carbon Copy Cloner.... I have Lion.
  9. thread starter macrumors member

    May 27, 2010
    Ok this works great. No problems cloning the drive.
  10. macrumors G5


    Nov 25, 2005
    Here's what I have always done (even though there is a Time Machine backup):

    1. Buy an external hard drive. Make sure the case can be opened. (The last one I bought for a friend was screwless. Took some patience and brute force to open it without damaging it).

    2. Plug in the external drive. Disk Utility to copy your hard drive completely to the new one.

    3. Boot from the external drive to see if everything works.

    4. Open the external drive, open the Mac, swap drives, reboot. Keep the original drive untouched for a few weeks.
  11. macrumors 603

    Feb 20, 2009
    "I wanna replace my hard drive. I want everything exactly as it is now on the new hard drive - apps, documents, data, everything. Will a time machine backup do that for me? Or should I just clone the drive? If so, are there recommended cloning freeware?"

    Clone it first. Use the FREE version of CarbonCopyCloner (version 3.4.7) which can be found here:
    (Note: disregard the blurb that it's for Tiger & Leopard only. It works fine with later versions of the OS)

    Do you have an external enclosure to use for cloning, BEFORE you install the new drive?

    If not, consider one of these gadgets (they will run you about $20-25):,k:usb3+sata+dock
    (many items shown, they all work the same, just pick one you like that's cheap)

    Hook the dock to the Mac.
    Put the drive in.
    Turn it on.
    Initialize it with Disk Utility.
    Launch CCC
    On the left, choose your source (old) drive.
    On the right, choose your target (new) drive.
    Choose to backup everything.

    When you're done, DO A TEST BOOT BEFORE you swap.

    How to boot from the dock:
    - Power down the Mac (all the way down, power off)
    - Turn on the dock (with the new drive in it)
    - Press the Mac's power on button
    - As soon as you hear the startup sound, hold down the option key and KEEP HOLDING IT DOWN
    - In a few moments, the startup manager will appear
    - You should see both your internal drive and the docked drive. Use the tab or arrow key to choose the docked drive, then hit the return key.
    - The Mac should boot from the docked drive (WARNING: it will look just like the internal looked, you need to go to "about this Mac" to see from which drive you're running.

    If all is well after the test boot, NOW it's time to "do the swap"

    Keep the dock and old drive, and use that as your "emergency booter".

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