Chapter 14. Mac OS X Bare-Metal Recovery

While Mac OS X is similar to other flavors of Unix in many ways, the topic of backups is one where the differences stand out. Some of the available tools are the same, but familiar tools may not be the best choices. Also, as with other operating systems described in this part of the book, the methods used to record critical metadata and to boot from the recovered disk differ. Following the format of prior chapters, this chapter will show you how to make a simple and inexpensive backup of a Mac OS X system for use in bare-metal recovery.


This chapter was contributed by Leon Towns-von Stauber. Leon has been using and administering a variety of Unix systems since 1990 and has followed Mac OS X since purchasing a NeXT workstation in 1991.

How It Works

The following sections outline a procedure you can use to anticipate and conduct a full recovery of a Mac OS X system, without needing to install the OS first. The sequence is generally the same as on other platforms.


A great time to test this procedure is right when you receive your new Mac, and you haven’t yet put any data on it.

You first prepare for the recovery:

  1. Attach backup media to the system.

  2. Back up the important metadata.

  3. Back up the operating system with a native utility.

Then, when bad things happen, you perform the recovery:

  1. Boot from alternate media.

  2. Partition, and format the new root disk.

  3. Restore the operating system information.

  4. Set the system to boot from the new root disk.

We’ll start ...

Get Backup & Recovery now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.