Cloning my Mac’s hard drive to gain some extra space

My MacBook (bought in 2008, unfortunately just before the unibody MacBook Pros were introduced) has always been running with upgraded memory and storage but it was starting to creak.  Performance is okay (it’s not earth-shattering but all I do on this machine is digital photography-related workflow) and it won’t take any more RAM than the 4GB I have installed but I was constantly battling against a full hard disk.

After a recent holiday when I was unable to archive the day’s shots and had to start filling my “spare” (read old and slow) memory cards to avoid deleting unarchived images, I decided to upgrade the disk. I did briefly consider switching to a solid state solution (until I saw the price – enough to buy a new computer), then I looked at a hybrid device, before I realised that I could swap out the 320GB Western Digital SATA HDD for a 750GB model from Seagate. The disk only cost me around £73 but next day shipping bumped it up a bit further (from Misco – other retailers were offering better pricing but had no stock). Even so, it was a worthwhile upgrade because it means all of my pictures are stored on a single disk again, rather than spread all over various media.

Of course, no image really exists until it’s in at least two places (so I do have multiple backups) but the key point is that, when I’m travelling, Lightroom can see all of my images.

I didn’t want to go through the process of reinstalling Mac OS X, Lightroom, Photoshop CS4, etc. so I decided to clone my installation between the two disks.  After giving up on a rather Heath Robinson USB to IDE/SATA cable solution that I have, I dropped another £24.99 on a docking station for SATA disk drives (an emergency purchase from PC World).

I’m used to cloning disks in Windows, using a variety of approaches with both free OS deployment tools from Microsoft and third party applications. As it happens, cloning disks in OS X is pretty straightforward too; indeed it’s how I do my backups, using a utility called Carbon Copy Cloner (some people prefer Super Duper). Using this approach I: created a new partition on the new disk (in Disk Utility), then cloned the contents of my old hard disk to the new partition (with Carbon Copy Cloner); then test boot with both drives in place (holding down the Alt/Option key to select the boot device); before finally swapping the disks over, once I knew that the copy had been successful.  Because it’s a file level copy, it took some time (just under six hours) but I have no issues with partition layouts – the software simply recreated the original file system on the partition that I specified on the new disk.  There’s more details of the cloning process in a blog post from Low End Mac but it certainly saved me a lot of time compared with a complete system rebuild.

Now all I need to do is sort out those images…