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How do you make an image of whole Mac disk drive and tranfer it to another Mac?

What is the best software to do this?

I am looking to make an exact duplicate copy of my machine to reload on a new Mac with the same hardware then reformat the older computer.

Acronis like software or something?

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Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! would do exactly what you need.

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If both Macs have FireWire, you can use Disk Utility to make a very high-fidelity copy directly from one computer to the other:

  1. Name the hard drive in the new computer something different from the volume name in the old computer (it'd really suck to get them mixed up at the critical point). It's OK to name it something silly, as it'll get renamed to match the old one as part of the copying operation.
  2. Start one of the Macs with the T key held down; this puts it in target disk mode, where it essentially acts like a FireWire hard drive.
  3. Connect the two Macs with a FireWire cable.
  4. Boot the second Mac from the OS X Install DVD that came with it (or a newer version). Note that you must be booted from some other disk because trying to copy a live (mounted and/or booted) disk is problematic.
  5. Select a language on the installer's first screen, then ignore the second screen and choose Disk Utility from the Utilities menu.
  6. Select one of the disks from the sidebar, then the Restore tab on the right.
  7. Drag the old computer's volume from the sidebar to the Source field on the right. Note that the sidebar shows both disks and the volumes they contain; you need to grab the volume, not the disk.
  8. Drag the new computer's volume to the Destination field.
  9. Make sure the Erase Destination checkbox is enabled, and triple check that you have the right volumes set as Source and Destination. The Destination will be erased, and it'd be really bad to accidentally erase the data you're trying to copy.
  10. Click the Restore button and wait for the copy to complete.
  11. Quit Disk Utility, and then the installer. Do NOT proceed with reinstalling the OS.
  12. Check everything out and make sure the copy works. When you're comfortable with the copy, you can boot the old Mac from the Install DVD again, run Disk Utility, and erase the internal HD.
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I migrate a mac about once a month, and I have used all the methods below. It is easier to migrate a Mac than a Windows machine by a mile. I use the term "source" for the machine your are replacing, "target" for the replacement, and [your account] for your user account on either machine.

The utilities listed are in order of my preference.

Several alternatives:

Migration Assistant Apple's Migration Assistant a great way to go. It is part of OS X and is located in your Applications/Utilities folder. I update my laptop every six months and use it every time without any problem.

With Migration Assistant, you can import the set-up and data of a source machine directly from the source, from a backup disk image of the source, or a Time Machine backup of the source.

Be sure to have an extra account set up on the target since you cannot migrate into and replace an existing account. ie, if you had an account on both machines called "danny" Migration Assistant will lead you through all the step (which takes awhile) and then fail when you pull the trigger because of the name of your account.

The solution is to do this:

  • Setup an account called "xfer" on the target machine;
  • Save your data in [your account] on the target;
  • log into "xfer";
  • delete the account [your account] on the target;
  • then run Migration Assistant, follow the directions, and you are good to go.

Migration Assistant has some intelligence. If you have a new version of something (OS, framework, software) on the target Mac, it will not overwrite it. If you have a configuration that is not supported on the target, it will not copy it.

You run Migration Assistant on the target machine. You can use Firewire or ethernet to connect to a source machine or any connection form to import from a disc backup of the source.

Duplicate the existing mac You can also use SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner. In this case, you will make a perfect copy of the last Mac then boot into it. Macs are similar enough in architecture that this works most of the time and it is the fastest way to go. The downside is that if your new mac has newer software, it will be overwritten with the older version.

You run these utilities on the source machine. You can put your target machine into Firewire target mode and copy direct to the target or onto an external drive. If you go through an external drive, you will need to run twice: once on the source to make the backup and again on the target to complete the migration.

Time Machine You can migrate a source mac to a new target with Time Machine. This has problems. Some hidden files and directories are not copied, such as your personal .cpan directory for Perl. Also, Time Machine backups are frequently interrupted. If your last backup was incomplete, it will not use previous files for a complete migration. Not recommended unless it is all you have.

You run Time Machine both from the source to make the backup then from the target to bring in the backup. You can also use Migration Assistant to import a Time Machine backup onto the source.

-- No matter which method you choose, programs that use your MAC address as a test of being on one machine may fail. MS Office uses MAC address for copy control, VMWare uses MAC address for each VM, etc. You will need to put your serial number and proof-of-purchase into some of these.

Best of luck!

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When installing your new Mac, you can use the Migration Assistant to move all of your data, settings, and applications to the new Mac. You can even do this when the new Mac is already set up. Migration Assistant is located in /Applications/Utilities/

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Make a new disk image in Disk Utility - save it to an external USB hard drive. Perform a Restore using the physical hard drive to the virtual image.

You can then use that image to restore onto the new hard drive.

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This isn't really what I was looking for since I want a software package that will make an image to an external drive that I can move to another mac. – Daniel Sep 25 '10 at 1:48
@Daniel Disk Utility is still a fine solution for what you need. It's built-in, free, and can clone entire devices to other devices or to/from a disk image file. – Spiff Sep 25 '10 at 3:11

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