use e.g. Carbon Copy Cloner to clone your boot drive to the external, then clone the clone back to the new drive when your Mac returns.
everything will be there.
Recently went through the same situation. I cloned the iMac using the SuperDuper!.app free version that only allows a complete and identical clone to the external drive or other Mac. Was so impressed with the results that I then bought the full version so that I could do incremental updates without needing to wait the length of time for a full rewrite.
When my wife went on a business trip we cloned her 24" iMac to a MacBook Pro. Believe me, the clone was identical. She works her computer intensely and if anything had been out of place I would have heard about it.
Hope that helps.
John, just to add a few thoughts...
Use the free version first. Initially, you'll have to go through the full cloning to start with anyway. And, that way you can try it to see if it matches your needs.
And yes, the SuperDuper! clone can be launched and operated from the external drive completely independently so you might check and see if the speed of your USB/Firewire connection is adequate for normal usage. My guess is it will be.
One last thing I can think of is that with SuperDuper! you can clone back to any new internal drive that you might install in the future, because the SuperDuper! app is cloned over with everything else.
Again, hope that helped.
Nearly ready to buy the external hard drive now, just need to investigate somehow if I can get away with an USB2 drive, or does it have to be firewire. My mac is Intel duo. Superduper! recommends a firewire (have already downloaded the free version), but have anyone out there got away with booting from an USB external drive on an Intel Duo machine after cloning ?
USB should be fine for general computer use, but media may add a little too much for the sustained rate that USB2 provides. In a previous career I did a lot of video editing. Firewire was much preferred in that task because of its stability at higher rates. I can see why the SuperDuper! people might suggest it.
When I cloned the wife's iMac, I had replaced the HDD on the MacBook Pro with a USB pocket drive that I've kept the original MacBook's installation mounted on. I've booted directly to that external drive, so you should be okay if you can make the clone across the USB. When I cloned the wife's machine I booted the MacBook Pro with a fresh HDD in Firewire target mode and connected it as an external Firewire 800 drive. Firewire 800 is much faster, but you'll need the cable and everything to be right.
Firewire has a better reputation among people running a lot of media from their drive. I would suggest that you try and get an external drive kit that can support both. I think your iMac supports both firewire 400 AND firewire 800 along with the 3 USB2 ports. I'm guessing based on my wife's 24" imac. The fastest would be the Firewire 800, but that standard is about to be pushed aside in both cases.
Hope that helped.
To Chris and everybody else contributing,
I have gone for a Lacie Quatro 2 Tb external hard drive, and a separate Firewire cable from Amazon.co.uk with the drive costing about £186 and the cable £7. Next step is to clone, and learn how to boot up from the Lacie. I know SuperDuper recommended Firewire, and saw some other websites did too. So will see how I go, in the next two weeks. Thanks for everybody's input.
Regards from John
To mount the clone, you will:
- Mount the Clone drive by plugging in the Firewire cable and any power supply for the external drive, but there is no need to open it at this point, then,
- Go to System Preferences (located under the Apple menu in the upper left corner of your Desktop)
- Select the "Startup Disk" icon in the System category
- Highlight the external clone's drive icon
- Select Restart
When your iMac restarts it will ask for any password you might have used to protect the original machine's drive. Enter that and you will reboot into the clone disk every time afterwords until you select another Startup Disk under System Preferences.
As always, hope that helped.
Thanks for the advice. Just a quick question for you, will my Mac ask for the master password ? I have got an issue with that password as it is forgotten. I have tried holding down the Alt key during re-starting, and selecting my external drive but encountered more issues that way, having to force-shut down with the power button, a few seconds after sucessfully logging in.
Anyway am afraid to do the above, without knowing the master password.
Regards from John
Will my Mac ask for the master password?
John, that would be my guess, sorry.
In my case my master authorized administrator user password and my user password are one and the same.
If, for instance, my machine did not normally ask for a password after a complete restart, I would assume I had never set a system administrator's password.
SuperDuper! may be getting the system to ask for a password that really may have never been set. In that case my guess would be to leave the password box empty and just hit enter.
Hope that helped.