The mac with two brains
November 12, 2007 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Can I back up / clone my Mac HD to an external HD then swap the Main and external drives?

Powermac G4 running OS X 10.3.9.

In a move about 2 years ago I lost most of the disks for this machine, including not only some of my programs, but also my System OS disks.

This computer runs like a champ and I pretty much have all the files I need backed up to DVDs.

The main HD of this machine is starting to get a little whiney and making noise. So we all know that this HD cant be long for this world. Normally, as Ive done before, I'd back up my files, replace the drive, reinstall the OS and the programs, no big whoop.

But since i dont have my System OS disks and a few of my program disks, thats not an option.

I do have a newish external HD that is basically empty (and I dont care about the files on it), and is bigger than the Mac's main HD.

What I'd like to do is make an absolute copy of my main HD on the external HD, then physically swap the two drives (take the external drive out of its enclosure and put it into the Mac), theoretically having a new HD in the machine with all of the same OS, programs... blah blah blah, right back where they were.

Is this a pipe dream, or is it actually feasible? If it's possible, how does one go about it?

Thanks, all!
posted by sandra_s to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper! will both do this very easily. You can even just do it with Disk Utility.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:01 AM on November 12, 2007

Before swapping the disks, boot from the external clone first to ensure it's perfect. Run through your apps and check to ensure your docs are there.

I did this once and, for some reason, everything was OK apart from the fonts. Maybe some were missing or maybe some key file wasn't there.

It can be a little screwy.
posted by deeper red at 9:07 AM on November 12, 2007

Yes, you can do this. (And I've done it in the past as an alternative to reinstalling when changing drives.) I used Carbon Copy Cloner to do the dirty work.

Deeper red's suggestion is a good one; boot from the drive and take a quick test drive before you swap over.

The only thing that may give you issues is that I'm not sure whether CCC will completely duplicate a disk if you're currently booted from it...I think it will, and I don't recall having to boot from a CD to make it work, but I might have.

Anyway, proceed cautiously, and you should be OK.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:27 AM on November 12, 2007

I have used SuperDuper! to do this. To accomplish what you want, I would buy an internal HD and a bare enclosure. Then do a full backup with SD (or CCC), test it, and then take that drive, remove it from the enclosure and get it into the laptop. Test again, and then I would install the older HD in the enclosure and use it for non-essential things until it dies (if it is indeed on its last legs).
posted by mikel at 9:31 AM on November 12, 2007

Yes, I did this on my Macbook last week using Carbon Copy Cloner, a bare disk and an enclosure.
posted by jessamyn at 9:36 AM on November 12, 2007

Using CC cloner is how I upgrade my powerbook HD. Works on the boot disk just fine.

Font issues can happen if you use suitcase and the new HD has a different name than the old HD. Make 'em match and you'll save a headache.
posted by cccorlew at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2007

Yes, it's possible, but one caveat: Make sure your internal and external have the same physical interface. Your Mac (and internal drive) has an ATA interface. It's possible your external has a SATA interface. I think you can determine this by hooking up the external and running System Profiler.
posted by adamrice at 10:13 AM on November 12, 2007

FOLLOW UP: cmd+opt+shift+del to boot from external firewire, right?
posted by sandra_s at 10:33 AM on November 12, 2007

It doesnt matter about interface at all. Take a bare enclosure (FW/USB2/eSATA/whatever) drop the new drive in, format it using Disk Directory, buy (I am not sure off the top of my head if the trial version does it all) a copy of SuperDuper, clone the drive to the new one, and you should be good to go.
2nd making sure the new drive boots the machine.

I do the above all the time (but I use Carbon Copy Cloner because I usually have both drives hooked up to a 3rd machine)

best of luck.
posted by ShawnString at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2007

FOLLOW UP: Ok, got the external cloned, but I cant get it to boot (I'm not sure if im using th correct key command at the right time) arrgh :-)
posted by sandra_s at 10:38 AM on November 12, 2007

ShawnString: I'm not talking about the external interface on the external drive, I'm talking about the interface inside the box. Yes, there's more than one possibility, and yes, it does matter. Sandra_S already has a drive that she's talking about using. It needs to fit.
posted by adamrice at 10:44 AM on November 12, 2007

FOLLOW UP: No Dice. Here is exactly what I did/

1) using Disk Utility I completely erased the External drive, I accepted the default "untitles" as the name.

2) Using CCC I Cloned the Main HD to the External HD

3) I attempted to boot from the external (cmd+opt+shift+del) wouldnt take it, it booted form main HD

4) Swapped the drives, tried to boot, got the question mark folder

5) put old main HD back in, boots like normal, but of course it is still the old HD. I can mount the external HD (which is back in the enclosure) and view the entire dirve, which consistes of only th cloned info)
posted by sandra_s at 11:12 AM on November 12, 2007

Hold down the option key while booting to get the nice clickable window. Other key options are just not worth remembering.

Check the options in CCC. I believe you need to check a box to make the new copy bootable. I'd check but I can't boot up CCC without an external drive which I don't have right now.

CCC is a bit of a bear, UI wise.
posted by chairface at 11:25 AM on November 12, 2007

I always lose fonts when I do this too, even when I copy the Library/Fonts and ~/Library/Fonts folders. I even lost fonts upgrading to Leopard. No idea.

Anyway I'd do this directly with Disk Utility, also, and be sure to format the new drive as bootable.
posted by rokusan at 2:47 PM on November 12, 2007

HUZZAH You all rock!!

Everyone , and i mean everyone, contributed something that led to this working 100%!!!

XO to you all!
posted by sandra_s at 4:57 PM on November 12, 2007

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