Cloning/imaging my Mac
July 5, 2012 2:14 PM   Subscribe

I think I am going to replace my Macbook Pro's hard drive. I would like to check that this cloning/imaging backup process I have in mind makes sense.

For a variety of reasons, I think I am going to have to get my Macbook Pro (mid-2009 13 in model) hard drive replaced. It has a 60 GB Boot Camp partition with Windows 7, installed from my university's software library when I was still a student there, running on it. Otherwise it runs Lion, which I downloaded online from the App Store; the machine shipped with Snow Leopard.

My concern is in replacing the hard drive, I have Windows software that I don't think I even have the key for anymore (because I downloaded it when I was a student using university privileges) as well as Microsoft Office on both OS X and Win 7 (also downloaded legally when I was a student -- access keys long vanished. This will teach me to keep better track of them!)

It seems like cloning the hard drive would make the most sense. I've done some reading of previous threads and this is the process that seems to make sense to me:

1. Purchase a new external hard drive.
2. Download Carbon Copy Cloner onto my current Macbook on OS X. Follow CCC instructions to create a bootable image of my current OS X partition, on the new external HD acquired.
3. Download Winclone and follow instructions. This will create an image of the Win 7 partition on my Mac, on the new external HD acquired.
4. Before I replace the original HD in my Macbook, plug in the external HD and attempt to boot from the clone that CCC just made, to test that it works.
5. Take the computer in, have the hard drive replaced.
6. Once I get it back, turn on the Macbook -- it will be essentially a new machine and so I'll have to go through the setup steps.
7. Download the CCC software onto the new Macbook. Then plug in the external HD, go through steps to erase the laptop's new HD, and then clone the external HD back onto the new laptop HD.
8. Follow instructions to move the Winclone-created image on the external HD back onto the Macbook.
9. Disconnect the external HD, turn on my Macbook and everything will be identical to what it was before?! (I hope...)

I'm reasonably confident with computers, but given the expense and data at hand, I want to make sure I have a good understanding of the process before I begin buying hardware/software. I think I understand well steps 1-5, but it's steps 6-8 that I want to make sure I understand correctly.
posted by andrewesque to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Step 8 is where I think this might not work. Macbook's bootloader (i.e. the thing that gives you a choice to boot in Mac or Windows, following your installation of boot camp) is fussy about Boot camp being in place. Also, cloning programs sometimes balk at cloning a disk that is running an active OS, and also maybe cloning a disk that it is, itself, living on.

I would suggest this method: backup, but do not clone, all the users on the Mac that you want to keep. Clone the Windows side as you wish to a third location.

Swap the HDDs.

Setup OSX on the new (still blank) HDD. Restore your users from backup. Restart to complete that process.
Run Boot Camp, and partition drive. when it comes time for you to switch over and install windows, instead now you want to image the new Windows partition with the image from the last HDD.

I suggest getting a third location that can hold A) Mac backup without becoming a total time-machine-- is this possible? B) backup and System image from Windows Partition, C) WinClone clone-attempt of Windows partition. D) Mac Clone.

One of these things (for each) will likely work.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:46 PM on July 5, 2012

If I'm reading your question properly, you want to simply have the exact same setup you have now, except with a new, probably larger, hard drive.

If that's a correct assessment, I suggest using Clonezilla, a bootable linux-based CD that you can download for free to make a device-to-device bit-for-bit clone of your hard drive. If you get the Parted Magic live CD, it comes with Clonezilla and another program GParted that can be used to resize your partitions to fill up the new hard drive. Gparted supports both HFS+ and NTFS filesystems.

The advantage of doing a device-to-device clone is that the cloning is done on a lower level than the filesystems and even the partition table. Your master boot record is also copied along with everything else. You should be able to do do the clone, swap the hard drives and boot right up.

Do back up your data, and do be careful with doing this, but it's not all that difficult. Both programs that I mentioned have documentation on their websites that should help you get started. By the way, cracking open a Macbook isn't very hard either. YouTube is polluted with videos on how to do this.

Good luck!
posted by circleofconfusion at 6:51 PM on July 5, 2012

BTW, if you use Time Machine, you should be able to just swap in the new drive, initialize it, and do a restore to the new drive from the backup, thus effectively turning the new drive into the old drive. Just did that with my Mini the other day after the old hard drive started flaking.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 7:29 PM on July 5, 2012

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