Every so often, someone will ask me about transferring data from one drive to another. Whether they’ve just upgraded the hard drive in their computer or they’d like to make a backup of their drive, there’s often a question of the best method of making a copy of their data.
As OWC Angela brought to light here amongst the OWC Blog team, the most common way would be “cloning”—a process which many people know nothing about.
In case you’re one of those who don’t know what that is, simply put, “cloning” is the process of making an exact copy of the data from one drive on another. The result is a bootable drive with all the information and preferences as the original.
This process is very handy if you want to:
- Make a “snapshot” of your hard drive at a particular point in time or interval as part of your backup plan.
- Set up many computers with identical settings and software (such as in a computer lab)
- copy all the data from your boot drive to another drive
The process, actually, is quite simple. Once you have picked out the piece of software you’d like to use (I happen to like Carbon Copy Cloner by Mike Bombich, which comes with all our storage solutions), all you need to do is:
- Choose a Source (the drive you want to copy).
- Choose a Destination (the drive you want to write to).
- Start the Cloning Process.
Of course, because there are a number of different programs, the method for performing each of these steps varies slightly. Fortunately, we have this overview of several popular cloning programs and how to use them.
By following the instructions listed there, you’ll have a perfect copy of your hard drive in no time.
Sometimes “perfect” isn’t always best.
One of the most notable things about a clone of a drive is that it is a perfect duplicate of the copied drive. It’s great for making regular backups – my setup here at work makes a full clone daily as a backup.
Sometimes, though, a perfect copy can be a double-edged sword.
Over time, a lot “junk” tends to collect on your hard drive – preference files for applications you no longer use, log files, et cetera. Getting rid of those files can free up a considerable amount of space on your drive. Rather than picking out which files you want to keep and which ones to delete (and praying you don’t get rid of something important), there is an easy way to do this.
If you’re running Mac OS X 10.4 or later, you can use Migration Assistant to transfer your important data to a newly-installed drive, while leaving the cruft behind. It’s really easy to do, and we highly recommend this method over a straight clone when performing a hard drive upgrade. You don’t even need to go too far to find out how to do it; we’ve got a nice, step-by-step guide on how to do this kind of transfer, too.
It may take a little longer than a simple clone, but you wind up with a fresh installation of the OS, but with all your apps, files and preferences. It’s like the best of both worlds!