How To Make a Bootable Hard Drive Clone With SuperDuper!

We Mac users like to scoff at our PC-using peers, what with our lack of viruses, spyware and Internet Explorer. But when it comes down to it, our beloved Macs are simply computers, sharing nearly identical innards as the PC. Though we hate to admit it, our systems can become sluggish and frozen, our memory can become corrupt, and our hard drives can fail. SuperDuper! is an application from Shirt Pocket to help us through those tough times.

SuperDuper! is an extremely simple backup solution for your Macintosh. With a few simple clicks and a bit of patience, you will have yourself a fully bootable carbon copy of your hard drive. What this means is, when and if your hard drive should fail, you can boot from the backup file and run Mac OS X, your files, data, settings completely in tact, just as it were.

Today we’ll walk you through the whole process from start to finish!

Step 1: Format the Target Drive

You’ll want to use a dedicated external hard drive to create the backup. SuperDuper! suggests a FireWire drive, but a USB connection will work just fine (keep in mind, PowerPC-based Macs cannot boot from a USB drive). Before you get started with the backup, you’ll want to format the drive in a Mac-compatible format.

Open Disk Utility. Select the backup drive and click the “Partition” tab. Set the “Volume Scheme” to “1 Partition.” Click “Options” and select “GUID Partition Table” (for Intel-based Macs) or “Apple Partition Map” (for PowerPCs). Give the drive a name (such as “SuperDuper! Backup”) and set the format to “Mac OS Extended (Journaled).” Apply the changes and confirm the actions.

Step 2: Choose Your Drives

The SuperDuper! creators suggest you quit all running applications, including hidden background daemons. To do this, log out of your account and log back in while holding down the “Shift” key – this prevents any application from automatically launching.

Open SuperDuper! and select your Macintosh HD from the “Copy” drop-down menu. Select your backup target drive from the “to” drop-down menu. Select “Backup – all files” from the “using” drop-down menu – this will create a carbon copy of your entire hard drive.

You will be unable to select any drives that have not been properly formatted, so if you’re confused as to why your drive isn’t displaying in this step, check you followed the procedure exactly in step 1!

Choose what you want to backup and where you want to back it up to.

Choose what you want to backup and where you want to back it up to.

Step 3: Choose Your Options

Click “Options.” Do not enable “Repair permissions for Macintosh HD” (leave it un-checked). Select “Erase [Backup Drive Name], then copy files from Macintosh HD” from the “During Copy” drop-down menu – this option ensures the drive will be bootable (Note: this is the only option in the free, unregistered version).

You can optionally set what you would like to do when the process completes (shutdown, restart, eject the drive, etc.) from the “On Successful Completion” drop-down menu. Click “OK” to save the options.

Erasing the drive before copying your files allows SuperDuper! to set the proper boot settings.

Erasing the drive before copying your files allows SuperDuper! to set the proper boot settings.

Step 4: Copy Now

Click “Copy Now” to begin the process. That’s it, you’re done. Optionally, you can schedule the backup(s) for a future date by clicking the “Schedule…” button. You can set the weeks and days of the month to start the backup process, as well as the time of day.

It will take a significant amount of time to create the copy of your hard drive – the time will vary depending on the speed of the drives and size of your Macintosh HD. A progress bar will indicate the percentage completed.

When finished, you will be notified of the successful complete and you will have a fully bootable, exact replica of your Mac’s internal hard drive.

Set it and forget it with SuperDuper’s scheduling options.

Set it and forget it with SuperDuper’s scheduling options.

Booting from the Backup

When (if) the time comes to utilize your SuperDuper! backup, booting from the copy is fairly simple. With the drive connected, you can select it as the “Startup Disk” within System Preferences – when the computer reboots, it will automatically boot into the SuperDuper! backup.

If your hard drive has completely failed and you cannot access Mac OS X at all, you can hold down the “Option” key during boot up. This will present you with the available boot drives, simply select the SuperDuper! backup and hit “Enter.” The system will bypass the internal hard drive, booting directly off the external backup.

It’s worth doing this as soon as your backup is finished, just to check that it worked correctly. Don’t leave it until the worst happens and you desperately need the backup copy to test things out!

Why Use SuperDuper! ?

You’ve no doubt heard of Time Machine, a little utility built into the Mac OS X Leopard (and later) operating system that allows the user to create incremental back ups of their hard drive. With this built-in functionality, why would ever have a need for SuperDuper! ?

The primary functionality of each utility is a bit different. Time Machine allows a user to travel “back in time” to recover that accidentally deleted TPS report or family photo. It also allows for users to restore previous versions of files – don’t like the changes you made to that Photoshop document? No problem, revert it to an earlier copy.

SuperDuper! on the other hand, allows users to create fully bootable images of their drives. These images can boot on any machine, without hassle (and regardless of CPU) – meaning you can use your SuperDuper! backup to access your data while using a friend’s computer.

This is especially handy if Apple is in the process of replacing your failed hard drive and you are without your machine. SuperDuper! offers a bit more flexibility than the Apple utility, filling in the gaps that Apple’s often too-simplistic take on things can create

The truth is, the two work great in tandem – and even the developer bills SuperDuper! as “the perfect compliment to Time Machine.” Also, no harm can come from being a bit extra cautious, especially if your Mac is your lifeline!