Is it possible to "re-clone" a modern mac laptop (i.e. no removable hard drive) from an external (non Time Machine) hard drive?

That is, I'm about to buy a new Mac laptop for the first time in 5 years, and I'm reviewing my backup strategy. I've typically kept an up to date external hard drive with a recent version of my machine cloned (via a program like SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Clone), and if I ran into hard drive failures I could just pop the cloned drive in my laptop and be back up and running right away (restoring files from between the last clone and failure for other, external backup sources)

It's my understanding modern mac laptop don't have removable hard drives -- it's all SSD chips permanently attached to the mother board. It's also my understanding Thunderbolt doesn't have an equivalent to Firewire's target disk mode.

So, if my new Mac laptop fails and Apple gives me a replacement laptop (or I buy a replacement laptop), is there a way to take this fresh machine and re-clone its hard drive so it matches what's on my external backup drive? Or am I left manually copying files from my backup?

2 Answers 2


I think the 'modern equivalent' of your anticipated disaster recovery scenario could still be done by CCC, with caveats.

Receive new machine, ready with Recovery partition & brand new OS, clone CCC boot partition back to new boot partition. Assuming parity with machine/drivers etc, i.e. like for like, then I foresee no issues.

The same maybe couldn't be said if the new machine was different, newer - as you cannot anticipate the new architecture - for that you'd need Time Machine, to be certain.

  • How would I "clone CCC boot partition back to new boot partition"? Can I do that from Disk Utility? Or would I need to load up the mac in some sort of recovery mode? Or something else. That's the part I don't understand (and avoided until now with the simple hard drive swap) Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 18:43
  • Actually, I've aways had another partition/drive could boot from, to restore the CCC - that might be an issue, or you could make a bootable 'rescue disk, with only OS & CCC - something i've never tried, so idk if it would work.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 18:45

I believe that ALL current Mac's with should run in Target Disk Mode for FireWire or ThunderBolt. You may want to verify this for your specific models since there have been a few systems that lacked TDM.

Both systems should be able to run the version of Mac OS that you are cloning. And old version of OS will not always be able to run on new hardware. Very minor OS versions differences can be very significant here, since sometimes new hardware gets its own minor version.

The worse case as far as amount of time required would be to clone your old system to a USB external hard drive, and the attach that to the new system and boot off it it. Then clone to the new internal SSD.

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