Backups for Photographers – Cloning your boot drive.

The importance of cloning your boot drive.

Backing up your images as a photographer is a no brainer. You should always have three copies your data, one of which is offsite to secure against loss, theft or such terrible events as a house fire and flood. If something was to happen at your home or studio and your PC/Mac was damaged, stolen or even if the hard drive was to fail, you’re left in a pretty crappy situation where you have to set up your system all over again, installing apps, backup systems, Lightroom presets and everything else that comes from having a new computer. Setting up a daily clone of your internal boot drive ( where your operating system is), can save you hours or even days and get you back working in a matter of minutes. As a mac household i can only speak from experience as a mac user, but theres going to be the same apps out there for PC too.


How does a clone of my hard drive help?

So you’ve got a clone of your mac and your Mac has died. The immediate thing you can do is to find another mac, plug in your clone and boot from that instead of the internal hard drive of the mac you are using. Once its up and loaded, you can use the surrogate mac as if it were your own and access all of your data and apps straight away.

Another way in which you can make use of your clone is to migrate everything over to your new mac using Apples own “migration assistant”. This moves all of your data, apps and preferences over too your new mac saving you time and money having to set it up all over again. Pretty cool right!?


How to create your clone.

First you need a hard drive of equal capacity to your internal mac hard drive. We recommend either a USB3 or thunderbolt portable external hard drive such as this one from Lacie, or a more affordable option from Western Digital. Whichever hard drive you use, it MUST be empty and have no important data on it. If there is, back it up first. Theres a few software options out there to make your clone and we’ve settled on Super Duper. The free version of their app is great for one time use, but if you want to keep your clone updated on a daily basis as part of your backup regime, its definitely worth the …. dollars.

Using super duper, select your mac’s hard drive on the left drop down, and the external empty hard drive on the right. For the initial backup you want to “erase, then copy files” in the drop down menu option. If you’ve purchased the full version, you can run the smart update option which keeps your clone updated without having to erase all the data on the drive and copy it over in full, again saving you plenty of time.

Schedule your clone to keep it updated.

Keeping your external clone updated using the smart update feature is super easy. Once youve selected your source hard drive  on the left, hit the schedule button at the bottom and choose when you want your clone to update. We set ours to update every morning but its completely up to you and when your Mac is turned on.

Booting up from your cloned drive.

If you need to get up and running fast and have access to another Mac, unplug your USB/thunderbolt cable and plug it into the surrogate mac that you would like to use. OSX Daily have done the work and given a step by step guide to starting up from your external hard drive –

Moving your data to a new Mac.

If you’ve had to replace your mac, you can use your clone to set up your new Mac in no time. Check out this guide from Apple on “Moving your content to a new Mac”  at

And thats it! You’ve set yourself up with a very useful form of backup that is often overlooked.