Living with a Mac without a bootable clone?

Since the bootable clone era appears to be over, I’d like to ask fellow MPU members what if anything we are losing.

Years ago we opened up 3 family MBPs, removed the HDDs and replaced with SDDs for increased speed and storage. Part of the process involved cloning HDD to SDD. All went well. However, with a bootable clone on hand, it was always possible to boot from the clone right away if there was any failure of the internal storage.

My 2010 iMac had 2 failed internal HDDs under warranty. In the case of the second failure, it took weeks to get the replacement HDD. I could have paid for a different HDD and received it right away, but the warranty repair required a specific part that was experiencing supply chain issues. Those supply chain issues were apparently the cause of the second failure as well, since manufacturing issues were reducing quality when I had the HDD replaced the first time. While the machine was waiting for the warranty repair I wasn’t allowed to take it home and use it with a bootable clone. Very frustrating.

The situation could be much the same with a new MBP that can’t boot from external storage. There’s no way to continue to use the MBP in the short term in the case of an internal storage failure. Instead you have to send it for repair and do without it till it gets back.

In summary, in the olden days, having an MBP + bootable clone meant you could instantly recover from internal storage failure and continue working, buy a replacement part in your own time and replace it when convenient. Now we can only get MBPs that turn into paving slabs if the internal storage fails. SSDs have different probability of failure than HDDs, but some of us will remember MPU cofounder Katie getting an MBP whose internal storage died suddenly and had to be replaced.

What’s best practice to manage this risk without a bootable clone?

My method is to have a second device that I can use for work. Namely, an iPad.

If my main Mac goes down, it would immediately get sent in for repair and I’d make do with my iPad Pro.

If I had the tremendous bad luck to have it fail when I was on deadline that required an application or workflow not available on iPad, then I’d get a loaner from Apple through their business program – or, worst case, buy a new Mac, finish the job, and return it within 14 days.

I don’t have many jobs like that, so I figure this is a reasonable balance. If I did a lot more design work, I’d have two “work” Macs at all times.


This page and others on the Carbon Copy Cloner website should help. It has been updated for Big Sur and Monterey.

Frequently asked questions about CCC and macOS Catalina | Carbon Copy Cloner | Bombich Software


As an iPad first person I have to agree with @margaretamartin. As the owner of a M1 MBA I can tell you I have successfully created a bootable clone with the latest version of SuperDuper. Twice.

I used a Samsung T5 as my target both times. I also tried with a external spinning drive but could never get it to work.

My current SD license doesn’t work on the latest version so I did my tests with a free unlicensed copy.

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We’re not there yet, but it’s close. SuperDuper and Carbon Copy Cloner both can make bootable clones.

A 2010 iMac and a 2020/2021 Mac are very different things, because SSDs, having no moving parts and generating almost no heat, are much less likely to die as HDDs did.

That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. I suspect it will eventually happen to a prominent podcaster or YouTuber who will get fantastic news coverage from the tech press, and lots of articles.

It could happen to me or you, even if we’re statistically anomalies, that won’t prevent it from being frustrating, but I suspect it will happen a lot less over time. I would guess it will happen even less on Apple Silicon-based Macs, again due to thermal reasons.

My recent experience with Apple service has been that it takes a day for them to get the device, a day to fix it, and a day to return it. Of course, supply chain issues could make it take longer, but in the end, there’s not much we can do about it.

The only real defense is a second device, which isn’t as good as a bootable clone, and will be cost-prohibitive for some people. It’s why I have a Mac mini and a MacBook Air, and all of my important files live in Dropbox, plus multiple backups.

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When my iMac failed I did have a second much lower spec Mac that did what I needed to do but less conveniently. Even today there’s a lot that can’t be done on an iPad.

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I have two Macs I use, a M1 iMac and an older MacBook Air. Everything is synced via iCloud. If one died I would just switch to the other. I can also do a lot of things on my iPad. I still use CCC for non-bootable backups but no longer feel the need to have them bootable. I can use them to reload a system via migration utility.

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I manage to use 2 devices, one Mac pro and an Ipad in case, my plan B. Both are synchronized via iCloud (as well as with my iPhone-so I have everything handly). So far I’m ok. :smiley:

OK I must have missed the message somewhere

Why are bootable clones no longer possible?

Here’s a different CCC article from May: Beyond Bootable Backups: Adapting recovery strategies for an evolving platform | Carbon Copy Cloner | Bombich Software

" An Apple Silicon Mac won’t boot if the internal storage has failed

What did come as a surprise, however, was a very subtle logistical change noted in a Product Security document published in February(link is external) regarding the new Apple Silicon Macs. A footnote at the very end of the document notes that, regardless of where the boot device is physically located, the boot process is always facilitated by a volume on the internal storage. The lightweight operating system on that volume (“iBoot”) evaluates the integrity of the boot assets and authenticates the OS on that external device, then proceeds with the boot process from that external device. What does all of that mean? In theory it means that Apple Silicon Macs cannot boot at all if the internal storage fails. Lacking a Mac whose internal storage I was willing to damage to prove this, I contacted the authoritative experts within Apple in April and they unambiguously confirmed that that is the actual result – you can’t boot an Apple Silicon Mac if the internal storage has died.

Apple has made clear that they will continue to support “external boot” on Apple Silicon Macs, but the reality is that it will be more limited in what it can do. If you were making your backups bootable in case of hardware failure, then that’s an extra logistical chore that you can now retire from your backup strategy."

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This is my strategy too, especially since Apple repair times are… well not on par with others. Repairs for my Macs typically take at least a week and have taken several months. I depend on my Mac(s) for work and a day without a machine isn’t an option for me.

Since 2007 not a single of my Mac failures has been related to storage, so while bootable clones are great for testing purposes their value as a business continuity mechanism seems limited to me. (That’s not to say that they’re not of great value, only that I don’t rely on them for this purpose)

What failures have you had? I went through several iMac motherboards when I was doing a lot of 3d.

I kindof want to sell my old 2012 15 rMBP to find an iPad purchase, but my wife keeps reminding me that it’s my best device for continuing to do work on if my M1 MBA was to suddenly meet a tragic fate.

If an out of warranty Apple Silicon Mac with a storage failure can’t run from external storage, then being able to quickly buy another is almost as important as having a good backup. If I wasn’t sure I could do that I’d make sure my data and critical applications were all cross-platform.

Thank you

Suppose I want a bootable clone so that after fixing or replacing my Macbook, I can restore all the settings/permissions/etc as they were previously.

I think this means I would be able to use a bootable backup for that purpose - correct?

I believe that all of the data and settings I would want to restore to a new Mac are being backed up when I perform a Carbon Copy Cloner backup of my Data volume. A new System volume containing the Mac operating system software would come with the replacement hardware that I purchase. I would not need a bootable backup to get back up and running.

However, with a bootable backup, I should be able to plug in the backup disk, boot up, and be back in business immediately without the substantial delay of having to restore my data – with one big caveat – the M1 Mac’s internal drive must still be functioning. And if that were true, why would I need a backup of any kind? This reduces the usefulness and need for a bootable backup.

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Where are MacOS Secuirty and Privacy settings stored?

My memory is that the system settings for the Mac Security and Privacy pane have default values after I set up a new Mac and restore all of my user data. So the best I can say is that those settings are not stored with my stuff on a backup drive. Also, anything like installing a kernel extension that requires a restart in recovery mode and use of the startup security utility will not be saved or restored by a Data volume backup.

OP asked what if anything are we losing without bootable clones. My take:

  1. No loss in terms of backups/restores. Non-bootable will work just fine for this.

  2. The importance of a bootable backup in terms of reducing downtime is not as important for many people as it was in the pre-cloud era. And a bootable clone doesn’t really reduce downtime if you plan to repair your machine: you would still need a second machine to run the bootable clone from while the broken machine is out for repair.

  3. Huge loss as we move into the hard-to-repair/economically unfeasible to repair machine era. Example: My 2017 27" iMac with a failing fusion drive. Repairable, but a pain to do myself and expensive to pay someone to do. I made a bootable backup onto a Samsung T5, and I’m running the machine from that now. I didn’t have to pump money into an Intel machine until I decide to upgrade (money I would definitely not get back on resale of an Intel machine now that we are in the Apple silicon era), and I can repurpose the SSD when I do upgrade. I will miss having this option and the savings that come with it. Using an external bootable clone to extend the life of a computer with dead internal drive also reduces e-waste, so there is the loss of that environmental benefit.

Losing all the privacy/security settings would be a big deal - tons of apps require such settings.

It seems much easier to restore from a “bootable” copy after a replacement or repaired machine is available.