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I use my computer for work in software development. I have a new client that wants to install some special security software on my mac but I don't want to get that installed on my main operating system. To solve this problem I was thinking to install a second macOS system on a different volume.

The problem with that is that I need to spend a lot of time setting up all the software and configurations I use for development in the new volume. So I thought it would be great to just duplicate my main volume and be able to pick to which of the volumes to boot when I start.

I couldn't find how to "duplicate" the volumes to have an exact copy of my main fully configured operating system but completely isolated from the other operating system...

Any clue? Is this even possible?

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  • The way I know how to do it is quite slow, but effective: use dd on the command line Aug 10, 2020 at 3:35
  • There’s more to booting a Mac than just making a volume bootable. There are additional volumes the it boots from (EFI volume). You can install a second install of macOS on the same drive, but have it share the same volume? No.
    – Allan
    Aug 10, 2020 at 6:49

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The easiest way to do this is with a commercial tool like Carbon Copy Cloner, which, as you can guess from the name, will do this easily. It is primarily targeted at making backups, but it can definitely do what you want in one step if you have the empty volume ready.

The free way to do this is to make a complete Time Machine backup, install macOS on a new, empty partition, and when setting up the new OS installation, you will have the option to restore from a Time Machine backup, and you restore from the one you just made. This is a lot slower, as it involves making 2 copies of your current drive and the macOS install takes time, but it is free and leaves you with a Time Machine backup.

Note that you do not want to make an exact copy of your current drive the way a low-level utility like dd would. You want the new drive to have its own UUID, for example, so that tools can tell the 2 drives apart. Also, macOS now (Catalina) is actually 2 partitions, a read-only one with System files and a read-write one with User files, and you need to set that up properly. Plus the Recovery Partition is a third partition. You want to use specialized tools that know about and handle these kinds of special needs for creating a bootable macOS drive.

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