Clone External Hard Drive to Another External Hard Drive Mac

Can you clone an external hard drive to another external hard drive on your MacBook Pro, MacBook Air or iMac?

For Free?

And without paying for cloning software?

Yes you can.

And you can find out now in this post how.

Overview Of Cloning Your External Hard Drive To Another External Hard Drive On Your Mac

1. Open up Disk Utility.

2. Click the Drive you Want Cloned on the Left.

3. Then Click Restore.

4. Pick the drive you want to Clone.

5. Click on the Restore button

Is This Article For You?

Yes if you’re a normal everyday user of a Mac.

When you’re not deeply technical. But you’re prepared to learn and be walked through and shown the steps.

This post is for you when you need to clone an external drive onto another external hard drive using your Mac.

When you want a straight forward way to clone and you’re happy enough to do your cloning as and when you need to.

This Article Is Not For You If ..

You want to take hour by hour or minute by minute clones of your external drive.

Or you want to clone your external drive across your network.

Or you need to automate your external hard drive cloning.

If you need to do one of the above you could think about:

Buying yourself a RAID setup to mirror your drive.

Or specialist software.

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What You’ll Get From This Article?

You’ll learn how to use a piece of freely available software on your Mac called Disk Utility.

All it takes is a bit of knowledge and an external hard drive to create your clone onto.

Before You Clone Your External Hard Drive

What are you going to need?

Sounds obvious, but you’re going to need

1. The drive you want cloned.

2. A second external drive. Your second drive doesn’t have to be a hard drive. It could just as easily be a SSD (a solid state drive).

Not got one yet? Check out this list.

3. You’ll need both drives plugged into your Mac.

Ideally you should see both external drives on your Mac’s desktop. Look for your drive icons. They’ll look something like this.

External Drive Icons On Desktop
External Drive Icons On Desktop

4. Remember cloning overwrites everything on the destination drive. This is the drive you’re cloning onto.

So be happy there’s nothing on the drive that you want. Or copy it off first somewhere else.

5. And it’s a good idea to refresh your Time Machine backup of your external hard drive. Back up your external drive with your files on ahead of starting the cloning process. Just in case. This document here will show you how.

6. The drive you want to clone onto must be formatted for a Mac. This means it’s already formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. This file system is also known as HFS+.

And when you formatted the drive you formatted it with GUID Partition Map scheme.

Not formatted the drive? Or you’ve idea how to format the drive you want to clone onto. Then go over to the document here on the site and you can learn how.

But before you go:

1. When you format your drive in preparation for cloning onto leave it untitled.

Or give your drive the name ‘No Name’.

2. The name will be over written in the cloning process anyway.

3. Have the external hard drive you’re cloning onto the same size as your original drive. If your original external drive is nearly full. Then you’ll need an external drive that’s larger.

Need to format the external drive you’re cloning onto now?  It only takes a few minutes. Go here and you can learn how.

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How To Clone An External Hard Drive To Another External Hard Drive On A Mac

1. Have Your Mac Powered On.

And your two drives connected to your Mac.

2. Open Up Disk Utility.

You can find Disk Utility from a finder window.

It’s inside your Application’s folder. Inside your Applications folder you’ll see your Utilities folder. Disk Utility is in there.

Or you can use spotlight search.

Spotlight Search Symbol
Spotlight Search Symbol

Type in Disk Utility.

Click to start up Disk Utility.

Disk Utility In Spotlight Search
Disk Utility In Spotlight Search

3. Click On The Drive You Want Cloned On The Left

You’ll now see all the drives connected to your Mac. They are listed on the left hand side of the Disk Utility window.

The first drive on the list is your Mac’s internal drive. You’ll see it’s listed under the Internal heading.

Under the External heading are all the external drives connected to your Mac.

Clone Disk Utility StartUp Screen

In this example you’ve the drive called W which is the drive with all the files on it. The one we want cloned.

The empty external drive we want to clone onto is called No Name.

It’s already formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system. If you haven’t done that already, find out how here.

Click on the No Name drive.

Clone Disk Utility Select Drive

This is important.

Be sure you’ve clicked the correct drive. Your empty drive. The one you want to clone onto.

4. Then Click Restore.

Yes, I know it seems strange to select the Restore option. But that’s what you use.

Clone Disk Utility Select Restore

5. Pick The Drive You Want To Clone.

In the next window you pick your drive you want to clone.

In this example the drive with our files on is called W.

Disk Utlity Choose Clone Drive

Check and double check. Your Disk Utility window helps you. There’s a prompt telling you which drive will be erased and replaced.

6. Click On the Restore button.

Bottom right of the Disk Utility window.

Clone Disk Utility Confirm Restore

7. That’s it.

Disk Utility is away creating your clone.

Disk Utility creates your clone copy block by block.

It’s reasonably quick. And depending on how large the external hard drive you’re cloning it could take a few minutes.

Disk Utility Doing The Restore

You can have yourself a latte till its done.

Click done when it’s completed.

And now you’ll see that both your original external hard drive. And your cloned external hard drive have the same name. They’re now exact copies of each other.

Clone Disk Utility Done

YouTube Video How To Make A Perfect Clone Disk On Mac OS

Want to watch a video showing you all the steps? You can take a look at this 2 minutes 34 second YouTube video. You’ll see how easy it is.

How To Make A Perfect Clone Disk On Mac OS

Video Credit: addictedtomacintosh

What Is The Point Of Cloning An External Hard Drive?

And the related question;

How is this different to copying and pasting your files? Or dragging and dropping your files to an external drive?

Copying and pasting, writes your files at the file level. You’ll create a copy of your files yes. But not a copy in its exact location.

And if you’ve hidden operating system files on your external hard drive. Or hidden directories they won’t be copied.

And internal links, that may be absolutely necessary for the software you’re using. You’ll get those links copied but they won’t be in the exact place on the drive your software expects.

Copying and pasting is fine for individual files and directories.

And even your Time Machine back will be fine as a copy of your files 90% of the time.

But when your Time Machine backup isn’t enough.

When you’ve an external hard drive running a particular application software. Then you’ll find a software backup just won’t do.

Then you’ve reached the point of needing a clone copy.

A clone is a block by block copy of one drive onto another, creating a near exact copy.

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Why Clone An External Hard Drive Using Disk Utility?


1. Disk Utility is inbuilt into your Mac’s operating system. So is there freely for you to use.

2. Disk Utility has always been able to create clone copies. It’s called Restore. A bit confusing but once you know …

3. It’s a really good idea to create a clone copy ahead of any major operating system update.

Because if an update breaks your Mac. Or a piece of vital software you’re using. Then you can revert back to the previous operating system version from your clone. You just go through the process in reverse.

4. You’d clone your drive when what you want is an exact copy of that drive.

Say you have an external drive that you’ve partitioned. And each partition stores particular files.

Your photos on one, movies on another partition and a third partition as a shared drive between a Mac a Windows PC. A clone is the perfect answer if you want an exact copy of that external hard drive.

5. Cloning is fast. Faster than taking a Time Machine backup.

Paid Mac Cloning Software

Here are a couple of the most popular paid third party software solutions. They’ll also allow you to clone your Mac’s external hard drive to another external drive.

You’d use these when you need to clone often. And you want to create clones on a schedule.

When you want to backup over a network then you’ll need a different option to the  software supplied on your Mac.

With both these software solutions you’ve a trial period before you buy. Download and check if the software does what you want. And if its easy enough for you to use the software.

SuperDuper – is sold by a company called Shirt Pocket.

Carbon Copy Cloner – is sold by a company called Bombich Software

Last Words

And there it is. You now know how to clone an external hard drive to another external hard drive on a Mac for free.

If after reading you think that what you really want is a backup using Time machine.

You can Time Machine backup an external hard drive onto another external hard drive. Here’s an article that tells you how.

And if you need is to clone your Mac’s internal drive boot drive. Then check out this post.