I have a Mac which can't boot up (it sees the prohibitory sign when it's turned on). I am going to do a clean reinstall of macOS on it. I want to keep the data somewhere, of course, so I don't lose all my files.

Since the Mac is damaged, do I need to make a clone of the drive (using Carbon Copy Cloner) or will a simply copy and paste of the drive to the target drive from the Finder do? I don't need the copied data to form a bootable drive, as it is damaged anyway. I just want to keep the personal files and folders intact, and perhaps the applications as well so I know what I had installed on the drive.

P.S. I'd rather not use CCC or any external programs if that's possible. I'm running macOS off a USB drive and it's incredibly slow, so third-party software is merely a hindrance.

  • Although I've posted an answer to your question, as an aside have you actually tried any troubleshooting for the damaged Mac issue you have? You may be able to resolve that rather than doing the clean install.
    – Monomeeth
    Dec 7, 2016 at 23:03
  • Yeah, I tried nearly everything! It's pretty much bricked at this point. Thanks for the suggestion though.
    – K. Johnson
    Dec 7, 2016 at 23:16

2 Answers 2


If you have a functioning copy of macOS running from a USB you can still set up Time Machine to backup your internal drive to the target drive. This would be your best option to ensure you're capturing a full backup, alhough of course the first backup will take quite some time. However, just copying and pasting all your data would also take some time.

You could just do a copy and paste within Finder from your internal drive to target drive, but you do risk missing data that you may not want to lose. For example, if you use the default macOS Mail app, all the emails etc are stored in the User's library folder.

  • Thanks for the answer! About the User library folder – if I did a copy and paste, it wouldn't be copied over? Are hidden files not copied over? Then I might just use TM or CCC.
    – K. Johnson
    Dec 7, 2016 at 23:17
  • Just to clarify, my main concern is that most people won't think to copy the User library folder (either it's hidden so they don't know about it) or they overlook it. However, you can copy this across manually (although depending on your setup you may be prompted for an Admin password). Either way, as long as you can see the User library folder (i.e. it's not hidden) you should be able to copy it and the OS will generate an error if there's anything it won't let you copy, so you'll know about it.
    – Monomeeth
    Dec 7, 2016 at 23:21
  • However, my suggestion would still be to use TM, especially if you're wanting to reinstall the same apps again, as it will make that process a lot easier for you after the fresh install.
    – Monomeeth
    Dec 7, 2016 at 23:34
  • All right, thank you again very much for the help!
    – K. Johnson
    Dec 7, 2016 at 23:35
  • If your disk is corrupted I think time machine will fail
    – mmmmmm
    Dec 8, 2016 at 9:29

Using disk Utility’s restore function, you can clone a drive. It is a built in app in the utilities folder inside of the applications folder.

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