When it comes to the cloning topic, what do you expect from the process? If you are planning to clone Mac hard drive to SSD, let us take a close look at what is the cloning process all about. Generally, it is recommended to clone the hard drive of your Mac in case you decide to upgrade the hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD), replace an old or corrupted drive with a new one or if you are going to create a bootable hard drive.

In most cases, all these demands can be achieved with the help of cloning. Essentially, when you clone the hard drive, you will no longer worry about reinstalling the operating system as well as transfer folders, files, applications and some configurations on the new hard disk. Another advantage with the cloning process is that if you have a duplicate hard drive with setup volume, it can aid in booting your Mac easily in case of unexpected disasters.

Solid State Drives

What are solid state drives (SSDs)?

Before you decide to clone Mac hard drive to SSD, let us take a close look at SSDs. Solid state drives or SSDs utilize flash memory to keep data. If built into a computer, they are usually seen as chips on the circuit board. You can also find them in 2.5” format that you can install in a laptop or an external enclosure.

Generally, SSDs are quiet, compact and fast, especially if you are starting up a computer or waking up the device. Remember that hard disks might go into sleep mode when not used for a certain span of time and takes a few seconds to spin up. SSDs also utilize less power, run cooler, lighter and do not have any movable parts which make them suitable for laptops.

When you accidentally drop your laptop when the hard drive is spinning, there is a likelihood for the drive to be damaged and lose data. SSDs are generally more dependable, and in case they fail, you can still read data whereas you cannot do this with a hard disk.

Nevertheless, SSDs are considered as a costly option if you are considering the cost to storage ratio. At present, you can purchase an 8TB external drive for less than $150 while that same amount of money will only provide you with a 500GB SSD.

How to clone Mac hard drive to SSD

There are several reasons why it is best to boot from an external hard drive. In case you prefer to keep your files synchronized from a desktop and laptop, enlarge your storage or have an on-hand bootable backup duplicate of your system, there is an unseen feature in Disk Utility that makes the process an easy task.

Essentially, booting from an external hard drive is usually slower, even if you are using the latest Thunderbolt or the USB-C drives. They are relatively sluggish than the solid state drives (SSDs) that are found in most of the latest Macs. Although this is not suggested for daily use, it is a possible option.

Disk Utility

Using Disk Utility

If you are going to clone Mac hard drive to SSD, it is recommended to use Disk Utility. Simply open Disk Utility from the Spotlight (Command+Space) or on the Utility folder in your applications. You will be presented with a list of all the volumes including the internal hard drive and the external hard drive.

It is important to note that the “Restore” option in Disk Utility will work by copying the files from the backup to your core drive. It is ideally intended to the utilized for Recovery mode to reinstate the hard drive in case a failure occurs.

Once you decide to set your external drive as the restore target, you can switch that action around and copy files from the main drive to the backup. Choose your external drive in the sidebar, tap on the “Restore” button in the menu and select your main drive as the “Restore From” option. You have the option to choose an ISO image, but it does not have much use.

Tap on the “Restore” button and Disk Utility will initiate the copying process. In most cases, the process is relatively a long one which is based on the speediness of your external drive as well as its link to your Mac. Due to this, it is recommended to have a rapid hard drive with USB-C, Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 connections.

Once Disk Utility completes the task, you can turn off your Mac and press on the Option when it starts to restart again. You will be presented with the boot switcher and you are allowed to boot from the external hard drive. You can utilize your Mac as usual but remember that it is separate from the installation on the main internal hard drive. Take note that any settings that you alter or files that are saved there will not be reflected on the primary installation.

You can perform the same process in a reverse manner if there is a need to copy the files back over or to restore the backup in case your computer malfunctions.

Should I backup or clone?

Generally, hard disks can be backed up or cloned. Remember that there are differences between the two with their own advantages and drawbacks.

Back Up Hard Drive

Backing up a hard drive

If you are going to back up a hard drive, the entire content of the chosen drive or partition is backed up into a file on the targeted location. All data is saved into a single file. When a complete backup of the hard drive is carried out, the whole operating system along with the installed applications and settings are also set aside. The file can be protected or encrypted with a password.

The advantage of this approach is no other than simple management since a single file contains the whole backup. You can also compress the backup file so that it utilizes less space.

As for a drawback, you need a backup software to be able to reinstate the system or data to a previous state or to access documents and files.

Clone the Hard Drive

Cloning the hard drive

If you are going to duplicate or clone Mac hard drive to SSD, a copy of the drive is created directly on the target location. This simply means that you have an instant copy including the hard disk structure. A cloned disk or drive includes all the partitions from the source drive or disk.

An advantage with cloning is that the data is directly copied to the specified location and can be utilized and edited directly. The duplicated system drive which includes the operating system can be mounted as a fresh drive and booted right away.

As for the drawbacks, a clone requires more space since the partitions are created immediately on the targeted disk. Due to this, it is not likely to compress or add encryption to the data.

Let's wrap it up

If there is a need for a backup to be created regularly, it is recommended to opt for the hard drive backup. This usually takes up less space and allows the creation of extra backups.

In case you require a bootable extra drive to be operational after an unforeseen crash and to lessen the downtime period, it is best to clone Mac hard drive to SSD.

Generally, both methods have been proven to be the ideal choice. A consistent drive backup for daily data along with a clone of the system drive is essential for easy accessibility in case of emergencies.