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I have about 20 computers at the office that I wanted to have identical installations. Some are iMacs, some are MacBook Pros, some are Mac Pros.

I have one install that I love. Has every piece of software, every driver. And its stable. It’s an iMac. I’d like to clone an image of that HDD to other computers.

Do MacOS installations configure to the specific machine it’s on, or does it install a nearly identical version of the OS on every machine and adjust drivers depending on what’s attached?

How modular is the OS after it has been installed?

Will that actually work? Will that be stable?

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Short answer

Generally what you want to do should be fine, however there are some considerations (see long answer below).

Long answer

In years gone past macOS installations were configured as part of the installation process specifically for the hardware it was on. However, for quite some time now this is no longer the case. So, doing what you want should be largely possible, although you may have some minor issues that are inherited. For example:

  • I have seen situations where the computer name doesn't reflect the actual computer of the installation, although this doesn't pose any actual problems as numerals are typically appended at the end to distinguish between computers on the network
  • some software may not work initially as the software is simultaneously installed on multiple machines and therefore exceeding the software license

Another factor to consider is that not all versions of macOS will run on all Macs. For example, let's say the installation you love is on a 2015 iMac that's running El Capitan 10.11.6. If you clone this and then try to use it on a 2017 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, it won't work because Macs cannot run on any version of macOS that is earlier than the version that shipped with the Mac originally. This is managed via the firmware and there's no getting around it.

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