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Transferring your data to a new drive.

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:

  1. Choose a Source (the drive you want to copy).
  2. Choose a Destination (the drive you want to write to).
  3. 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!

Whether you’re backing up your data or installing a whole new drive, OWC has the know-how to help you get it done right!

OWC Chris S.
the authorOWC Chris S.
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  • Here’s the better question I’ll be facing shortly: I have two user accounts on my current 24″ iMac with one drive. Later this week, the iMac I ordered with an SSD and 2TB HD will show up.

    How do I move the second user account to the HD using migration assistant? As far as I can tell, there’s not an easy way to do this.

    • Actually, when you are able to select which applications and such you’d like to Migrate over, there should also be an option select which accounts you want to bring over. When I recently swapped over machines here at work, that is how I did it.

      As I recall, there is a little disclosure triangle that allows you to select/deselect the different accounts.

  • For a “perfect” copy, one has to use something that duplicates the drive at the sector level like CopyCatX. This can be vital when transferring applications that use more advanced methods of copy protection or activation.

    Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper!, which are both awesome programs and I use frequently, are file based copiers that can make bootable copies of disks. (And they deliberately don’t copy some files that don’t need to be copied when duplicating a disk.)

    Carbon Copy Cloner and/or SuperDuper! are all most people will ever need. They are great for keeping a working backup of your current drive or migrating to a different drive.

    If you’re looking to make an *exact*, perfect duplicate, there are other programs that will accomplish that. But that is not the most common need.