How to Clone OS X to SSD On Your Mac?

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You have decided to buy a flashy, excuse the pun, SSD for your Mac. Maybe you have already bought one!? Whatever may be the case, you must know that most of the increased potential that your Mac’s SSD can deliver can be delivered only if you move your OS X installation from your Mac’s HDD to your SSD, so OS X runs out of your SSD and not your conventional HDD or spinning hard disk.

This tutorial will show you a step-by-step guide about how to clone your hard drive or OS X partition onto your new SSD.

First of all, here is a very pleasant surprise that you might have not been anticipating. Your Mac’s hard drive can be cloned onto an SSD using just Disk Utility, yes, just Disk Utility, a utility module that comes default in your Mac’s OS X.

That should allow you to breathe easy, now that you don’t have to worry about using suspicious third party software to get the job done.

Steps to clone OS X to SSD on your Mac

1. First of all, you will have to connect your SSD while the HDD is also connected. This can be done with the install kit that would have included SATA or USB cables. If your Mac doesn’t have an extra internal bay, you can just position your new SSD close to your Mac so you can temporarily clone your HDD onto your SSD, before completely substituting your HDD

2. Boot up your Mac like normal and open up Disk Utility.

OS X 10.4 and higher –  Utilities – > Disk Utility

OS X 10.2x through 10.3 x – Installer – Open Disk Utility

3. Choose your old HDD from the devices listed in Disk Utility

4. Click on the partition tab

5. Does your new SSD have the same storage space or more storage space than your old HDD? If you answered “Yes”, please skip to step number 8

6. Resize your OS X partition so it is either  the same size or less than your SSD’s capacity

Example – If your HDD is 1 TB in capacity and your SSD only has 512 GB capacity, you must resize your HDD OS X partition to 512 GB or less (preferably less)

7. To resize, simply drag the adjustable box on your partition to a point where it shows the size you desire

8. With all these changes made, keep both your hard disks connected and shut down your Mac

9. Restart your Mac and press the Option key

10. Wait for Boot Manager to open up

11. Select “Recovery-10.x”

If your OS X is a version older than Snow Leopard, you will have to select “Installation CD” instead of “Recovery-10.x”

12. Choose Disk Utility from the on screen options

13. Select your start up disk or your HDD OS X partition once inside Disk Utility

14. Choose the Restore tab

15. Click and drag your Mac’s HDD with the OS X partition to the field that says “Source”, in a drag and drop motion

16. Click and drag your new SSD partition to the field that says “Destination”, in a drag and drop motion

17. Click on restore at bottom of screen

18. Restart your Mac

19. When it restarts, press down the “Option” key

20. Wait for Boot Manager to open up

21. Choose to boot from SSD

22. Wait for a successful restart

23. If your restart was successful, your OS X cloning was also successful

24. Shut down your Mac and remove your HDD or go to system preferences and make your SSD the default boot up disk, if you want to keep both your SSD and HDD

25. Enjoy the burst in performance speeds, especially with the way OS X reboots your Mac from your new SSD!

Please ensure that Time Machine doesn’t run in the background when you begin the cloning process with Disk Utility.

Once you have successfully cloned OS X to run out of your SSD, you can change your SSDs partition sizes or create additional partitions as you like.

This method cannot be used to clone all of your HDDs partitions. In other words, if you want user installed apps, programs and data files to also be cloned, you will not be able to use Mac’s Disk Utility module. You will have to use a third party solution. We plan to write a post about that in the future as well.

Please understand that your SSD partition will typically need to be larger than the OS X partition on your HDD. This is because, when you set a partition, not all of the allocated disk space is available as free disk space. Some space will get allocated to write some system information that can then ruin your cloning process. When in doubt, always go with a higher capacity SSD.

Moreover, just like traditional hard disks, SSDs also generally work at their best when part of their storage capacity is available as free disk space.

If you found this tutorial useful to move OS X from HDD to SSD on your Mac, please drop a comment so others can see that these are working instructions 🙂 Also, if you have additional tweaks or more efficient ways to clone your OS X, please comment about those as well. We look forward to hearing about it.

Lastly, if you still haven’t made your SSD for Mac purchase, we would recommend that you check out the link just given to you, to learn more about the best Mac SSDs available in the market now.

About the Author
Michelle, author at Mach Machines. A tech lover and an insatiable latte drinker. Michelle blogs about improving the personal computing experience.
  1. Ammar Reply

    Many thanks for these instructions. The Disc Utility has a slightly different interface in El Capitan but that wasn’t a big deal.

  2. Craig Reply

    I can’t click on partition tab….what now?

  3. passerby Reply

    Thanks for the write-up.

    Still good as of April 2016.

    Apple seems to keep making it harder every couple of years, so watch out.

  4. hertfordshire web designer Reply

    I coulld not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!

  5. fayek Reply

    i guess the screenshots never happened 🙁

  6. Jacob Reply

    I just did this to my GFs Macbook and it worked out great. Could have used a screenshot for selecting the source and target disks – the same once were there several times, figured it out quite fast though, but might confuse lesser techy people.

    A side note to first time Macbook mendlers: the hdd in a Macbook (at least the 2009 one) is mounted with very small umbraco bolts instead of normal ones, but they can be removed and reinstalled with a regular plier and some care.

    • Michelle Smith Reply

      Hi Jacob

      Thank you very much for your comment. We are really glad that our instructions were of help to you. Thank you for the pointer on using screenshots. We will try to do that right away. It could definitely make the post easier to understand. Have a great day! – Michelle

  7. Donald Kepler Reply

    Cloning Mac drive is a good way to keep your entire Mac in your pocket. Although via disk utility Mac drive can be cloned but that will not be a bootable clone. So there are many reliable software like Stellar Drive Clone, CCC etc. for creating a bootable clone of Mac OS X with in few clicks.

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