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I had a major hard drive failure, so I have replaced the HDD on my MacBook mid 2012 13" model with another 1TB. I was running latest version of "Mojave" MacOS.

I go to restore from the time machine (TM) backup and I am being told that it will only now restore to an SSD drive because APFS systems can only be restored to SSDs. I wasn't even aware that my Time Machine was doing backups in APFS.

So I am really stuck here. Is this Apple's very unsubtle way of telling me to buy a new MacBook with an SSD drive to be able to keep using TM backups and other system features? Like planned obsolescence? Or have I done something wrong? The full message that comes up when I do the CMS + R recovery boot and try to restore from TM:

The system can't be restored onto this disk because APFS systems can only be restored to internal SSDs. Reinstall MacOS on this disk and then use Migration Assistant to transfer data from your backup instead.

  • Did you try what it said? Install the OS first via Internet Recovery, then migrate from Time Machine as part of the initial setup. – Tetsujin Jun 21 '19 at 8:19
  • I did try that and it failed. Strangely enough, I attempted internet recovery mode and then tried a TM restore and it worked! Just that my keychain login entry was screwed when I logged in my account and computer now just freezes/hangs. – Ryan Coolwebs Jun 22 '19 at 6:20
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    That is odd, because TimeMachine can only do backups onto HFS volumes at the moment: support.apple.com/guide/mac-help/… – n1000 Jun 24 '19 at 9:35
  • @n1000 tell me about it! I ended having to create a new Admin account and moving all the files over. Such a mess dealing with all the configurations and such. My Apple ID is now also messed up and does not want to sign in. On my minimac, no issues though. Right now, I think I'd completely jump to Linux if it wasn't for developing in iOS. – Ryan Coolwebs Jun 24 '19 at 15:48
  • Sorry to hear. So the sentence "I wasn't even aware that my Time Machine was doing backups in APFS." seems to be wrong. Maybe ask another question about the issues that you encountered with the Migration Assistant. In the past I have been quite impressed with the good job it did migrating my data. – n1000 Jun 24 '19 at 15:54
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Similar issue.

"The system can't be restored onto this disk because HFS systems can't be restored to space sharing APFS volumes. Reinstall macOS on this disk and then use Migration Assistant to transfer data from your backup assistant."

I think the "accidental" disconnect from Time Machine backups due to HFS/APFS incompatibility was intentional.

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i suffered same problem but took me only a while to realise a solution, Just use 2 external hdd usb connectors and connect both the Backup HDD and new HDD simultaneously, then boot the macbook into internet recovery then take it from there. It worked for me and i was able to restore to my new 1TB HDD. NB: I didnt use internet recovery cos i already have a third hdd around that had macos installed so i just booted it into recovery mode after inserting it inside the macbook. Another suggestion is always keep a backed up recovery boot on a small USB stick, i have Recovery Partition on a 2GB pendrive and i can always boot into recovery with it

  • Hi Kofi Leo, welcome to Ask Different. When you say a hdd hub, do you mean an enclosure? Please clarify in your answer. Thanks! – Jaime Santa Cruz Jan 12 at 20:03
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If you cannot get more than 1 exeternal connectors just remove the new HDD from the MacBook and insert the time Machine backup inside instead then connect the new HDD via external and boot into internet recovery and go from there to restore your OS to the external HDD... that should work too

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