It wasn’t until I was listening to Marketing Over Coffee last night that the subject for this week’s Backup Reminder crystallized, but the idea started with a question from Loyal Reader and Mac user Mike Van Horn:
When we buy a new Mac, the first thing we do is to “clone” the old model we are replacing. Makes an exact copy of whatever we select on the old computer, including applications with needed registration codes. Is this an example of a “hardware independent restore?” We’ve never done this with an intervening hard drive. It may have to go from one start up disk to another.
(It’s actually not me who does this, but Matthew my Mac guru. But there’s just a simple keyboard command he uses upon initial startup of the new computer.)
It’s been a while since I owned a Mac (System 7.1), but John Wall and Christopher S. Penn reminded me that it’s easy for Mac developers to create “hardware independent” products, because there are so few possible hardware variations in Mac land. Apple makes all the hardware and determines all the specifications. If you’re developing something for the Mac, you know pretty much all the possible combinations of hardware that your software might have to deal with. Apple strenuously discourages people from running the Mac OS on anything but a Mac.
Windows, on the other hand, does not have “native” hardware. Anyone can manufacture computers for the Windows operating system, and darn near everyone does. That means people who develop disk imaging software have a real challenge in creating a product that works reliably for everyone. As the Ur-Guru said in his comment on last week’s post:
The problem with restoring an image is drivers. Anything with specific drivers can/will fail. However, sometimes you get lucky and Windows sorts half of it out. You end up with a semi messed up OS with drivers failing left and right and being replaced but it does sometimes work.
Hence the differing experiences of Mac and PC users in this area. The Mac owners can gloat about it, but it’s simply a fringe benefit of Apple’s hardware monopoly.
So how do you clone a Mac? I found some instructions online in (of all places) the theoretical biophysics department at Urbana-Champaign. Apparently all you need is a FireWire cable and Carbon Copy Cloner, a freeware product for the Mac. You start the target Mac in FireWire Target Disk Mode, hook up the cable, mount and reformat the target disk with Disk Utility, run Carbon Copy Cloner, unmount the target disk, and reboot the machine. Voila! Your new Mac is now a duplicate of your old Mac.
For bootable Mac backups, you can also use Super Duper (extolled by Christopher S. Penn in MOC 48 as a digression from a discussion on backing up your “house list”). You can get a free version with limited functions or pay $27.95 for the full version. This is chump change in comparison to most Windows disk cloning programs.
I’m in no position to tell you which of these two options is better, since I don’t have a Mac to test them with. (Anybody who wanted to provide me with one would, of course, be welcome. Bloggers are allowed to accept bribes.) If you’re a Mac user, I recommend you download them both and try them out. When it’s that easy to make workable drive images, you really have no excuse not to.