I'd like to know if is possible to make a full, bootable, and restorable image of an entire Yosemite installed system, (that is, with all installed apps and settings) without using a commercial software like Carbon Copy Cloner (which is no longer free, indeed).

I found those threads: Creating a OS backup image for an easy restore on a new system and How do I make a bootable USB flash drive a Mac?

but both seem to propose recipes to create a bootable OS X thumb drive along with a set of basic tools, while I require a method to perform a full image of my installation.

Thanks a lot.

  • I presume u can create a bootable drive with a clean .dmg and rsync the difference. No guarantees, but I don't see how it would not work. Commented May 24, 2015 at 15:03
  • Sorry but I'm a mac newcomer. Let me ask for details: you are suggesting to create a .dmg image of the installed system with disk utility. Ok, I'll google to see how to do it. But once that image is created, how can I make it bootable, and how can I restore it? Also, what do you mean about rsync-ing the differences? Thanks.
    – MadHatter
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 15:08
  • DL yosemite from App Store, install it onto a flash drive. Now u have a pristine and operational system. rsync is a command-line copy&paste. It can spot the difference between you current os and the new os, and override the new os with files from current os, thus creating an identical copy of the current os with correct file permission etc. Commented May 24, 2015 at 15:14
  • This way u can not only create a copy of current os at one point in time, u can also keep the flash drive up 2 date by adding and subtracting files Commented May 24, 2015 at 15:18
  • This is very interesting, and I'm digging into the rsync man page. But what about the other method, imaging with the Disk Utility? Thanks.
    – MadHatter
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 16:11

1 Answer 1


I think this is what you are meaning.

In terminal type in sudo dd if="/dev/disk0" of="/volumes/<volume>/image.img"


Entering this command wrong could render your computer useless.


disk0 is the hard drive of your Mac and <volume> is the name of your external drive and image.img is the name of the file you will create

To restore go to internet recovery and swap the if and of arguments.

This will also backup any partitions you have on your computer. This means if you have boot camp setup it will also backup and restore windows too. Bonus!

I am not responsible for any damage that you cause to your system when entering in this command. Research the use of the dd command if you are not sure how this works before proceeding.

  • I would not recommend this approach; if the target volume is smaller than the source, you wind up with unusable space; if the target is smaller, it won't restore properly. Also, the image will include all blank space (and fragmented files, etc) from the source. I'd strongly recommend using the Apple tools (see @Redarm's comment) or DeployStudio instead. Commented May 24, 2015 at 21:28
  • While I don't think I'll go with the infamous dd (too dangerous), nonetheless I'd like to know how restore an image created with dd. Thanks.
    – MadHatter
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 0:03
  • @MadHatter To restore just swap the if and of.
    – iProgram
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 8:11
  • 1
    While I prefer to not accept this answer, I invite all of you to upvote it: it's useful information.
    – MadHatter
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 14:37
  • 1
    Got it :-) I don't blame you, just your method has some potential downsides expecially for unix newcomers. Nonetheless, as I said, useful to know! Thanks.
    – MadHatter
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 15:40

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