The Case for Cloning (Your Startup Disk)

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #402

Do you back up your Mac? If not, you should, but even if you do, backing up may not provide all the protection you need should disaster strike.

Here’s the deal: Time Machine backups are an excellent first step, but if something goes wrong, it could take half a day or longer to get your Mac back up and running. You might need to reformat or replace the hard or solid-state disk, and you will almost certainly need to reinstall macOS. So, it could be hours before you can even attempt to restore your data from a Time Machine (or other) backup, which could take hours itself.

Why you need a clone

The bottom line is this: If having your Mac out of service for half a day or more would harm your business or workflow, you need a bootable clone in addition to a traditional backup (or backups).

If your Mac’s startup disk is causing problems, you can simply restart your Mac while holding down the Option key to summon the Startup Manager, and then select your clone disk and click the little arrow below it (or press Return) to boot from it.

Or, if your Mac is completely dead, you can connect your clone disk to almost any other Mac and boot from it.

Either way, just like that you’re back to work with all your apps and files right where you expect them. And you didn’t waste a single minute reformatting or replacing the disk, reinstalling macOS, or restoring your data from a backup (all of which you can do when you finish today’s work).

Your Mac doesn’t include cloning software; fortunately, I recommend two excellent third-party cloning apps without hesitation.

Two excellent cloning app options

The first is SuperDuper, from Shirt Pocket. The best thing about it (in my humble opinion) is that it’s free, and you can use it to clone your disk for as long as you like at no cost. You can choose to unlock advanced features, including scheduling, scripting, Smart Updates, and sandboxes for $27.95 if you care to (and you should—scheduling alone is worth the price).

The second is Carbon Copy Cloner from Bombich Software, which I currently use every night to clone my startup disk twice (I advocate redundancy). Carbon Copy Cloner costs $39.99 after a 30-day free trial, and (again, in my humble opinion) worth it.

By the way, both programs go beyond mere cloning with support for macOS’s built-in snapshot feature, providing additional options for restoring older versions of files, folders, or disks in addition to creating bootable clones.

Regardless of whether you choose SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner—and you can’t go wrong with either—you be able to create as many bootable clones as you care to quickly and easily.

If getting back to work quickly matters to you, you should be cloning your startup disk at least once every day.

SuperDuper. Shirt Pocket. $27.95.
Carbon Copy Cloner. Bombich Software. $39.99.

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