I am going to upgrade my MacBook Pro hard-drive, but before doing so I'm trying to figure out how to restore OS X on it. My DVD drive doesn't work so I cannot re-install from the DVD.

I have a recent Time Machine backup, is that enough to restore the OS? And in that case, what would be the procedure? Also, in case the Time Machine restoration fails, is there any way to re-install OS X from a USB or external hard-drive? Any suggestion would be much appreciated.

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    It would help to include the model of Mac you have and the current build of OS X you are running. Without these, we are severally limited in helping you. – user10355 Dec 28 '13 at 21:12

Yes a Time Machine (TM) backup is sufficient; you don't need to "install" the OS and then restore the backup. However you will need a copy of the OS at least and that can definitely be placed on either a USB stick or external HDD. The OS media contains the utilities you'll need to restore the TM backup. Example here.

(edit for clarity) Depending on how new your MBP is, more specifically which version of OS X you have, you may also have a built in Recovery that has all the tools you need to do this as well.

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    You don't need a copy of OS X. From Lion up, OS X installs a Recovery Partition that can be accessed during boot for a full system restore. – user10355 Dec 28 '13 at 11:48
  • I had an old MBP and I indeed needed a copy of OS X on USB stick (it seems any version that supports TM will do), from which I could restore my TM backup. Thanks for the info, without this I would have been stuck trying to restore the backup. – laurent Jan 1 '14 at 19:02
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    Most of the recent versions of OS X actually let you boot to the Time Machine drive, then restore it to the local hard disk. No need for a recovery partition or OS installation media. Just hold down Option at boot for the boot selection menu. Also, as this is a portable, I'd recommend formatting the target drive as HFS+ Encrypted. – Patrick McMahon Jan 8 '15 at 20:27

If you have access to the OSX installer (on the AppStore) you are better off installing the system on your new drive (just fire the installer and specify the external disc as a target). This will install the rescue partition that other methods may skip. Then you can boot from the new drive and import your data either from the old drive or from a time-machine backup (using Migration Assistant).


Just restored my macbook pro late 2011 13" running 10.7 off of nothing more than a time machine backup and it worked fine, even with a blank internal.

Remember to format your new drive with disk utility using the mac journaled file system.

Make sure your external drive is powered and on before you boot, then press option while booting.

Select time machine, format the new drive, and restore.



For some reason it wouldn't boot from my Time Machine backup. (Maybe I didn't partition it with a GUID partition table?) It just flashed a disk with a question mark after trying to boot from the partition with the TM backup.

So I created a Mavericks install disk on my other computer, and booted from that disk. I was a little worried that it wouldn't create a Restore partition on the new hard drive if I just selected "Restore from Time Machine backup onto disk", so I opted to do a Mavericks install onto the new hard drive. Then, during Mavericks' opening sequence, they give you the option to copy everything from a Time Machine backup. Voila!


if you really like to have 1 to 1 the same it's better to copy the disk than to use Time Machine. With time machine it works like this at first it does a proper new os install the copies the files from these Folders back to your disk.

/Applications /Users/* /Library/*

so if you use something like homebrew, macports or fink or any other terminal tools witch install them selves in /usr/local/bin they will be lost.

Also things like changes made by lion tweaks and candybar etc. will be lost.

Also self made permission changes on System folders or icon changes on these folders may get lost.

For a 1 to 1 copy you can use a os x install usb stick or any live linux stick with gparted on it.

then clone the whole disk (including the hidden restore partition).

now boot into the new disks restore partition and run a disk permission verify/repair and if needed also a disk verify/repair so you know your os on the new disk works all fine.

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    TM doesn't lose anything. Even items installed by homebrew are restored. It also doesn't perform a "clean install" and merely copy a few folders back. I'm not sure where you're getting your information but it's horribly wrong. – user10355 Dec 28 '13 at 11:47
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    @cksum i haven't got this information i had to learn it the hard way on my own. I changed the disk on my MacbookPro and thought like you and many others that it would be enough to just use TM to bring back my System on the new Disk, i was horribly wrong or perhaps the Restore from TM didn't work correct (but three times in a row) ? so i think it is as i said. – konqui Dec 29 '13 at 10:51
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    I can confirm I've just done a full restore from Time Machine and it restored everything, including the homebrew tools. – laurent Jan 1 '14 at 19:00
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    @Deesbek maybe (can't validate this anymore this was on Leopard which was the First OS with TM i think) - As i can remember some of my customized Icons (Candybar) weren't there after the Restore and also some of my manually set File/Folder Rights get overwritten and last but not least it screwed up my homebrew installation (files were there but wrong Permisions) - I really can't say if it was cause TM in it early days was a little buggy or if it was my external HDD - So anyway when your TM Disk Fails it's always good to have a 2nd Backup. Just in Case you know what i mean ;-) – konqui Oct 28 '14 at 5:53
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    @konqui you should specify in your answer you mean Leopard. Agreed always, always good to have a second backup. – Deesbek Oct 28 '14 at 6:45

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