Copying large amounts of data from an old drive to a new one on macOS using rsync

Whenever you buy a new hard drive, the question comes up:

How do you copy a huge amount of data from old drive(s) to the new one reliably and quickly?

Dragging files and folders in Finder is not a good option, because if something goes wrong, you will have no idea what went wrong and where it went wrong. And there is no way to resume a previous copy. 

rsync to the rescue!

Using Terminal, you can copy a bunch of drives with this simple command:

sudo rsync -vaE /Volumes/SOURCE /Volumes/DESTINATION

IMPORTANT: Make sure to replace “/Volumes/SOURCE” with your source and “/Volumes/DESTINATION” with your destination (tip: you can drag and drop a folder into the terminal and it’ll insert the path to that folder)

Another important note: there is a difference if you add trailing slashes to the source path. Check out the link below for more information:

What does it do?

  • sudo – run rsync with all permissions (superuser)
  • rsync – rsync is a utility for efficiently transferring and synchronizing files
  • v – increase verbosity
  • a – archive mode (copy permissions and symbolic links)
  • E – preserve executability

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