I have a Mac Pro which came with just one partition. I would like to seperate work and home use.

I was wondering if I could backup the current installation, wipe and partition the drive into two, and restore the original macOS installation into both the partitions, effectively using the licence twice on my Mac.

Is this even possible and allowed?

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It is easily possible to partition the drive and perform two (or even more) separate installations of macOS to keep home and work use separate.

No license violations whatsoever are involved in this act.

However, this approach is generally taken, only when you wish to run two or more different versions of macOS on a single machine at the same time. (For e.g. to run or develop an app on different major versions of macOS).

In your scenario, a highly recommended approach would be to create two separate user accounts instead of performing two different installations of the exact same operating system.

The following is a discussion listing drawbacks of the original approach (which could be entirely avoided by taking the aforementioned recommended approach):

  1. Wasted disk space: Partitioning and installing two copies of the same operating system will unnecessarily end up eating precious hard disk space. Almost all the operating system and app installation data would be duplicated and twice the amount of storage will be used.

  2. Management cost: You will have to separately update and manage two copies of the same operating system and installed apps. This is a repetitive and time consuming process.

  3. Context switching: To switch context between work and home profile will require you to perform a full restart. You'll have to close the open apps and files in one profile even if you want to switch to the other profile momentarily for a small task. With 2 user accounts, the context switch is very easy, quick and won't require you to quit any running apps or close any files.

  4. 3rd party software license: Some 3rd party software license may not allow such multi-user use and may require purchasing a separate license. While in the recommended case, only a single copy of the app can be installed and shared between the two accounts. (this can again vary from app to app depending on how it is licensed, but you'll be better off in most cases.)

  5. Difficulty in sharing data: It may be difficult to share user data (if required) across profiles, especially if you opt to encrypt the contents of drive. However with the recommended approach, you can have a shared folder and seamlessly share data between the two accounts.

  6. Limit of scalability: If a similar need for further segregation arise in future, the process will be really cumbersome involving taking backups, creating multiple partitions, installing more copies of the OS and apps and restoring data, which could soon go out of hand. On the other hand, with the recommended approach, you can simply add/delete a new user account within a few seconds.

All the above hassles can be avoided simply by creating two separate user accounts one each for work and home use. The data is kept segregated along with any OS and app level configurations. Any app will need to be installed only once and will be automatically available in other user account(s) (any app specific data and configuration will be kept segregated). You will also have the option of keeping an app private to a user by installing in ~/Applications directory instead of /Applications directory.

You can choose to make all the user accounts as Administrators and they will have access to all the system level settings. Each account can even be configured with a separate Apple ID. Each account can in effect act as a standalone macOS installation, remaining ignorant of the existence of the other user.

This setup can accomplish your desired goal in a highly manageable and scalable manner.

If you have other concerns and priorities where the aforementioned limitations doesn't apply, it is perfectly fine and easy to partition your hard drive into 2 (or more) partitions and have more than one simultaneous installations of macOS.

  • thankyou Nimesh for such an in depth answer I appreciate you taking the time. The points you make a very valid and make perfect sense, but im still not sure if this is the correct appraoch for me. Let me explain.... One of the partitions needs to be very secure, and only have a limited number of apps installed. It will also only be connected to the internet as and when required for security reasons. The other partition will be an everyday one where anything can be installed and connected to the internet as much as I like. Would you still recommend the two user approach give the above ? – Bat Aug 10 at 17:54
  • As I mentioned in the opening statement, the desired approach is perfectly doable. Understanding from your case, it appears you have other concerns/priorities, where you are not constrained by the discussed limitations. There is absolutely no harm in having two separate parallel installations. In-fact the points discuss should have placed you in a better position to take a firm decision IMO :) – Nimesh Neema Aug 10 at 18:08
  • @Bat I have also updated the answer. Please refer to the updated edit. – Nimesh Neema Aug 10 at 18:13
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    After taking a Time Machine backup, I'd boot into recovery, partition the disk, perform installation of macOS in both of them one by one and then restore from Time Machine backup one by one. – Nimesh Neema Aug 10 at 19:06
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    Excellent answer by Nimesh. Some music production studios I know have arrived at the same two-separate installations on one machine, or have two separate machines, one of which is never physically connected to an intra or internet. The reason makes sense when one witnesses at the audio engineering level the ultra low latency, rock-solid stability, better app performance from less bloat, and greater data integrity which is achievable. Latency for audio alone sold me on the idea, and I witnessed firsthand the superlative performance of the BSD scheduler and kernel under the hood. – Francis from ResponseBase 2 days ago

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