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I need to make a complete copy of the mac HD.

Due to a school policy the mac has to be formatted this monday, before the summer. However, I don't want to lose my programmes and files. The programmes are the most important. If I don't let them format the mac they'll keep it and send me a ~1000usd bill, + the value of the mac if they don't get it back.

It's a 2009 macbook pro running 10.6. After the format it will be running 10.8. I want to make a copy of the current 10.6 system, format and install 10.8, make a copy of 10.8, format and install 10.6 and restore the old system. I'm running bootcamp with a windows 7 install on it and though it would be nice to keep that one as well, it's not a must.

I haven't got a firewire cable or another mac with the needed 160GB available. I do however have a windows 7 machine with plenty of space.

Would a plain cp / /volumes/other-computer-name/folder/path in terminal work? Would it restore the files correctly?

How can I get the mac back to the way it was before the format?

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If you have to return the computer and you only have a Windows machine what good will an image of the system be? You won't be able to use it. If you are running Windows 7 on the machine you can simply network two Windows machines together and create the system image on the Windows 7 machine. Just be sure you create an image of the entire hdd. –  Ramhound Jun 4 '13 at 12:32
    
I'll get the mac back after it's been formatted. –  Filip Haglund Jun 4 '13 at 23:00

2 Answers 2

You can boot from a liveCD or pen drive and and then use dd and netcat to copy the whole drive to another computer. Then after the system has been formatted you can reverse this.

There are quite a few posts on how to do this on Stack exchange. The OS in question is often something else than OS X, but the actual contents of the drive you are backing up do not matter. It is all raw data to dd.

However there is a not quite so minor legal matter.
A common reason why schools wipe leased student computers is because of licensing issues. Usually the school will install a lot of school related programs which you are only allowed to use as long as you are a student. When you graduate you stop being a student of that school and the license is no longer valid. The school must make an attempt to remove these programs.

It can do so by logging into your computer with an admin account, uninstalling the programs one by one, or by simply reformatting or reinstalling the computer. The latter is much quicker and if a school has to do this for all students then this is the preferred option.

It is also quite likely that you agreed to this before you got the computer (check the the small print in the agreement).

If all this is correct in your case then you can try the following:

  1. Check which programs are installed.
  2. Check which programs are legal to keep.
  3. Uninstall all programs for which you have no legal license after this summer.
  4. Go to to the IT/helpdesk/servicedesk which would normally format your drive and tell them that there is no longer any school software on the laptop. Depending on the person which helps you you may get to keep the current set-up.

I have done such work in my student time when we still handled out pentium-1 laptops with 16 MB RAM and windows 95. When a student stopped studying we were required to do such wipes. However if a student already had installed Linux and no trace was left of the original windows installation and accompanying software we did not reinstall the factory image. The goal was already accomplished. No need to bother the student by forcing yet another reinstallation.

Your mileage may vary with the expertise of the helpdesk. Some will just try to follow the rules. Other will see the intent and will try to be helpful. I was lucky enough to work in a place with relative skilled people who could think and who followed the intend of the procedures.

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I'm getting DVD's with the school software such as iLife, as well as the licenses. We also used free software like vbox, debian, ubuntu and so on. I have no idea why we need to format the computers, but I think every mac has to be "sold" with the latest version of os x (according to the agreement), and a format is their preferred way of doing so. I have asked the IT-guy, but he cannot ignore his orders from the head master without risking his job. Also, I'm the only admin on my mac. Only my account and the root account (that I chose the password for) are active. –  Filip Haglund Jun 4 '13 at 22:59
    
In that case one of the backup methods I liked to as dd and netcat might help. It is a very raw way of making a backup, but it works, it only uses free software and you can restore it on an identical machine (read: the same mac you get back). Alternative are something with timemachine (no personal experience, so no detailed help from me) or swapping the harddrive. School then reformats the swapped drive, you go home and swap back for the old disk. –  Hennes Jun 5 '13 at 8:59

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