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Last year before Catalina was released, I tried to perform a disk image of my boot drive of Mojave (macOS 10.14) on a new computer before updating and customizing it. I have done this for years to preserve a certain state of macOS installation for future re-use. BUT this time with Mojave, I kept running into many errors. So how can this be done? Is this no longer allowed by Apple?

To be clear, looking for a solution using with Disk Image Utility only, not third party tools.

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  • What were you imaging with? I've done dozens of successful clones using Carbon Copy Cloner, though I've never tried with Apple's own built-in structure
    – Tetsujin
    Aug 24 '20 at 20:28
  • Sorry, I should have clarified that I am trying to do this using with Disk Image Utility as I have done MANY times before. I actually KNOW the answer but I am prevented from posting because of 2 past posts that were not formatted correctly as per site rules that are NOT clear. SO I'd actually really like share my answer if I am still 'answer banned'. I have the ONLY CORRECT answer for this (NOT using 3rd party tools) Aug 24 '20 at 20:32
  • (believe I know because I have searched the internet HIGH AND LOW for months). I actually solved this LAST YEAR and would like to share my results to help others. (Some one else has this same question). I have THE answer. Several others on this site have the same question...I'd like to offer a valid answer. Aug 24 '20 at 20:36
  • Ok...I'm going to post my reply here in the comments...hopefully that will work in the meantime... I found the one and ONLY solution but it IS possible to create a RELIABLE disk image of APFS drives, and in particular of BOOT drives. It was not easy to figure out. The ONLY path to make a viable re-usable disk image formatted as APFS is: 1. First create a blank image file formatted as APFS and Read/Write (requires pre-determining size of image file). Aug 24 '20 at 20:40
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: The image (destination) cannot be stored on the same drive or partition (source) from which you are going to create the image. 2. use Restore from <volume> to clone to newly created image file (Highlight destination <volume> then click [Restore] button and select Restore From <volume>. 3. convert image file to Compressed format (Image > Convert). ONLY THEN do you have a reliable APFS image, especially w/bootable macOS. I have done this repeatedly and it works fine. Aug 24 '20 at 20:41
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I FOUND THE SOLUTION to using Apple Disk Utility to create RELIABLE disk images of APFS drives. The ONLY path to make a viable re-usable disk image formatted as APFS in 3 simple steps is (though finding the solution was not simple to figure out nor straight-forward):

  1. First create a blank image file formatted as APFS and Read/Write (requires pre-determining size of image file). IMPORTANT NOTE: The image (destination) cannot be stored on the same drive or partition (source) from which you are going to create the image.

  2. use Restore from to clone to newly created image file (Highlight destination then click [Restore] button and select Restore From .

  3. convert image file to Compressed format (Image > Convert).

ONLY THEN do you have a reliable APFS image, especially w/bootable macOS. I have done this repeatedly and it works fine. The important distinction with this solution is that it not only creates a valid disk image, the image can then be used to re-create a boot volume, which is after all, the point of this.

ANY other options/paths, are greyed out, yield "Resource busy" or "image is not APFS format" errors or produces image that is not reliable. Even using Apple Internet Recovery tools/boot was the same.

NOTE: you do NOT need to do ANY of this using Recovery tools. You can do this from a live boot of macOS drive. If you do not have a destination to store the image file other than the same internal drive, you can create a partition large enough to store the image file, using Disk Utility. And yes, you can partition macOS boot drive live.

CAVEAT: Tested only using Mojave 10.14.4 on 2019 27" i9 iMac w 40GB RAM and 512GB SSD (no T2 chip), so YMMV.

Apple needs to fix Disk Utility to work straightforward like it used to but with better support for APFS.

HTH.

BTW, I posted original answer in the open forum here: https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/mojave-and-hfs-it-can-be-done.2125194/page-2#post-27595211


In my search for an answer to the above question, I could not find the correct answer... several threads on this site and others give the WRONG answer, essentially, "it is not supported" or "it cannot be done"... This is the WRONG answer.

In the answer section I post the CORRECT answer, which I discovered through a lot of experimentation. This corrects the answers provided at each of the links below, which are all wrong:

Create a disk image for recovery

"Create disk image" disabled

How to Make Bootable APFS Volume From Disk Image (for this thread you need the equivalent terminal commands to do what is described above).

The info provide by @grg (in the first thread) is not correct. Even in the image provided it shows that you cannot create an "Image from SSD" because it is greyed out. Even booting into Recovery does not accomplish the desired results in that answer...

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  • Not working on Catalina. Jan 15 at 15:06
  • I do not have Catalina. That is a shame if that is so. If/when I get Catalina, if I find a solution, I'll try to remember to post here again. Jan 17 at 9:49
  • In Catalina you can't copy the image into a partition but you can copy it into a physical external disk. Jan 19 at 6:36
  • So just to be clear, are you saying that the above mentioned procedure fails at step 2. "use Restore from to clone to newly created image file" ? If so, what error or symptom do you encounter? Jan 20 at 7:46
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Not sure if this works on earlier versions but in Monterey I just had to enable disk utility in the full disk access permissions tab in security and privacy. Then I was able to make a disk image of the apfs container on my external drive and mounted it successfully.

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