There are many ways to clone a drive on Mac OS X, but none quite as simple and effective as Carbon Copy Cloner. It's our top pick for disk cloning utilities because it gets the job done any which way you need.
Carbon Copy Cloner
Carbon Copy Cloner has long been one of our go-to applications for creating bootable clones of our Macs' startup drives. Together with Apple's Time Machine, the two apps can be the key to an effective backup strategy for almost all Mac users.
Platform: Mac OS X
- Create an exact clone of any disk
- Create a bootable backup of your Mac OS X boot drive
- Easily migrate files from one disk to another
- Supports block-level disk-to-disk clones (this basically means it copies everything faster, as file-to-file copy can take a bit longer)
- After the first backup, you can sync changes to quickly update your backups
- Archive old and deleted versions of files
- Back up to a hard drive, network share, or disk image
- Schedule backup tasks hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly
- Configure backups to occur when you plug in the backup drive
- Back up to another Mac on your network or somewhere else on the internet
- Super-simple interface makes it easy to use
- 'Cloning coach' helps new users learn to make the right choices when cloning a drive
- Disk image backups can be encrypted
- Backups are compatible with Apple's Migration Assistant, so you can use a cloned drive to migrate to a new Mac
Where It Excels
Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) is great because it's easy to configure, it gets the job done quickly, and you can pretty much set it and forget it. Cloning a disk can be as simple as selected a source disk and destination—whether that destination is another hard drive, a disk image, or a network share. From there you just click the 'Clone' button and CCC does all the work. If you don't want to backup an entire drive, however, CCC can handle incremental and partial backups as well. It can also sync files between two drives, and you can choose to archive old or deleted files or just keep the backups completely identical. If you want your disk cloning and backups to be almost completely hands-free, you can schedule backups or tell CCC to start the backup process when a specific disk is connected to your machine. Basically, whatever you need it to do it can handle and it will get the job done fast and easy.
Where It Falls Short
Free Disk Cloner For Mac
CCC really has no downsides. Unless you like the crazy interface and restore features of Time Machine, or prefer something with a more simplified online backup option (like Crashplan or one of these syncing file services), maybe you'll want to try something else. But CCC can backup to drives anywhere on else on the internet and you can use backups to restore old versions of files—just not as elegantly as you might with other software. Everything it does it does well, so there's little to complain about.
The main issue we now have with Carbon Copy Cloner is its price. It went from free to $40, which is kind of a big jump. It's still our favorite app, but we'd like to see it somewhere around half the price. As much as we love it, it just doesn't do enough to justify $40. The upside, however, is you can still download the older version for free. While it isn't supported in Mountain Lion, it appears to be working fine. This may not be the case forever, but for now it it isn't a problem. If that ever changes, we hope the price drops to something a bit more reasonable because we'd love to support the software.
Super Duper is probably the most obvious alternative to CCC, but it'll cost your $28 if you want to unlock all its features. It is a capable drive cloner free of charge, but to get features like scheduling, scripting, smart updates, and more, you'll need to pay the fee. We feel this alone makes CCC a clearly better choice, but some prefer Super Duper and you may, too.
Best Disk Cloner For Mac
ChronoSync will run you $40 and give you a very comprehensive feature set. While it's certainly capable of cloning and syncing drives, it's definitely a full-on backup utility that can handle things like complex file comparisons, data filters, and pretty much anything you could need. If you need a backup and cloning app that can do practically everything, ChronoSync should do the trick.
Disk Utility, which is built in to Mac OS X (just see your Hard Drive -> Applications -> Utilities folder), is technically capable of cloning a drive. While it copies file-by-file, rather than block-by-block, it can generally get the job done so long as you're not trying to clone the disk you booted from. While we'd highly recommend using CCC instead, seeing as it's also free, if you're in a pinch and can't download another app this is an option that will always be available. So is the dd command, which is a better choice if you're comfortable messing around in the OS X command line.
Got any other disk cloning apps you love? Share 'em in the comments!
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