I am going to setup a bunch of MacBooks Pros with the same settings. I could go through every Mac and install all the programs but here is what I would like to do.

I would like to setup one Mac with the appropriate settings and programs. Then clone the drive to an external hard drive and then just restore that drive to each and every MacBook.

I am completely new to this and have messed about in Disk Utility for hours without getting this to work. I have also read a lot of articles online that are way too simplified.

I actually managed to make an image file of the drive and restore it, but this makes the Mac un-bootable. Basically the Mac gets stuck in an eternal boot loop.

Could someone with experience please give me a mini tutorial on how to clone one Mac to multiple Macs with an external hard drive?

2 Answers 2


On the Mac that you wanted to clone

  1. Connect an external Hard Drive to your Mac.
  2. Open Time Machine in System Preferences and setup the backup of your system.

    This may take some hours depending on your type of external drive.

On the other Mac where you want to transfer that clone

  1. Shut down the system
  2. Connect the Time Machine backup disk created earlier
  3. Power on Mac whilst holding the Command + R buttons. This will take you to recovery.
  4. Choose Restore from Time Machine backup and press Continue.

This will make an exact clone of the first Mac. For other systems also follow the same steps.

  • A migration assistant restore from Time Machine will be a very close clone, but not an exact clone. In most cases, this won't matter, but saying it's an exact clone isn't entirely precise.
    – grg
    Jun 21, 2017 at 20:32
  • We are not using migration assistant here, we are restoring whole drive as it is. In the case of migration assistant it clones only users home folder, but using Whole systems Time Machine Backup restores everything. Jun 23, 2017 at 10:06
  • Unfortunately this is easily slower by factor of 10 or more compared to working with dd or any other form of disk images, as TimeMachine does the whole operation on a file-by-file basis also it does a lot of crunching to figure out the correct version for each file as the data structure in a TimeMachine backup is capable of storing multiple versions of each file. TimeMachine is only viable for emergency use, when the time it takes to restore is secondary concern, as the main goal is to be able to restore at all. For a planed cloning operation it is suboptimal, despite being kind of convenient. Feb 7, 2022 at 8:57

Use dd to make a clone of your drive.

dd will make a bit for bit copy (meaning an exact copy) of the drive; so whatever you have on the source, it will be exactly replicated on the target. One caveat is that your target must be the same size or larger than the source.

Before you begin you will need to know what your disk identifiers are. Open Terminal and type diskutil list to get a listing of all your connected devices. Find the drive attached to USB and make a note of it's identifier; it will be /dev/diskX where X is some integer.

  1. Make an image of the source drive. Using dd make an image and save it to your Desktop to be reused for each clone. I will be using disk5 and your Desktop as examples. Be sure to change these values to whatever is specific to your environment.

    sudo dd if=/dev/rdisk5 of=~/Desktop/source.img bs=1m

    This copy process may take a while depending on how large your drive is and how fast your USB connection is (USB 2.0 or 3.0). Once the process has finished, remove your USB source disk and replace it with a target

  2. Create the target from the image.

    sudo dd if=~/Desktop/source.img of=/dev/rdisk5 bs=1m

    Once that has finished, remove the newly created disk and install in your Mac

  3. Repeat Step 2 as necessary

You will notice that I used the disk identifier /dev/rdisk; this is not a typo This allows you to access the "raw" device (direct access to the actual disk itself). This enables faster access to the device.

Recommendation: IMO, I wouldn't use a MacBook Pro to do the imaging (steps 2 & 3). Personally, I would use a desktop PC (Mac Mini works as well) and connect the drive to the secondary SATA port; it will make the process go much, much faster. Using a cheap PC with FreeBSD or Linux (I prefer FreeBSD), you can use the exact same dd command to image the drive.

  • It seems, somehow I made it work with just Disk Utility, but it was a hassle. Next time I will try your solution and come back to accept your answer if it works.
    – Arete
    Jun 22, 2017 at 9:24
  • You can use DU, but like you said it was a hassle. Cloning multiple drives for deployment is getting into Sys Admin territory and this is a good practice for that type of activity
    – Allan
    Jun 22, 2017 at 11:45
  • In step 1, how can i select which partition on the disk I would like to store the image on?
    – Arete
    Jun 22, 2017 at 12:05
  • Use the identifier diskXsY which means disk X slice Y. So if you want the 2nd partition on the 3rd disk, you would use disk3s2
    – Allan
    Jun 22, 2017 at 12:29

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