Ric Ford posts his "lessons from bad Apple experience"

I will never understand why Apple chose the path of not allowing bootable external clones. I’m sure if Apple chose to, they could make a very functional cloning tool to resolve the issues Ric experienced.

For decades our company has relied on clones for (what is essentially) instant recovery from catastrophic failure of disks. We’d simply boot from the clone and be working again in moments. We could move to a new machine, boot from the clone then clone back to the internal drive without the unreliable and agricultural Migration Assistant.

I’m starting to believe Ric has a very valid point. Don’t buy anything non-standard from Apple and keep data storage on the internal drive to a minimum so it can’t be ‘locked away’ by Apple.

To think you can be without a new machine for several weeks - with a real chance of complete data loss - is totally unacceptable.


I’ve relied on the same methods for a couple of decades. It’s unsettling, to say the least, to have this capability taken away. Adding to the problem is that even if your main boot drive is an external, as my M1 Mini’s is, it’s my understanding that you are going to be equally out of luck, in terms of being able to boot and use the computer, if the internal storage goes belly up.

Is this perhaps supposed to be a security feature, given that so many of their models are small and portable and thus easy to steal? Any thoughts on what Apple’s reasoning is?

If that’s how they treat Ric Ford, a retiree might as well give up, especially when the nearest Apple Store is more than an hour 15 minutes away when traffic is light (rarely). Fortunately, at least I can say that it has been a long time since I’ve had an Apple hardware problem.

Another good reason for regular, redundant backups. We have Time Machine and CCC backups (on different drives), with the CCC rotated to our safety deposit box.

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It’s not a matter of allowing or not. It’s not a concern of theirs one way or another. What they are trying to do (with the sealed system volume that creates the problem) is make it impossible for non-Apple installers to modify the system volume. A side effect is that nobody else can make a bootable macOS volume, whether a clone or anything else.

Apple does have a tool that can make a bootable clone, and I believe CCC will use it if you tell it to, but the nature of that tool is such that you must completely wipe and rewrite the destination device. There’s no way to incrementally update a clone, making it much less useful than it might otherwise be.

Of course, Apple could and probably should document this tool and add the bits needed to let disk-clone products use it for incremental backups, but that’s another discussion.

And normally, cloning your data volume should be sufficient. You can make a clean install of macOS either to the internal SSD or to an external SSD, and then migrate your content to that installation.

It’s only when the internal SSD completely fails (as appears to be the case here), that this ceases to be an option, because hidden containers on the internal SSD are necessary for booting even external volumes on an Apple Silicon Mac.

The real problem that Apple needs to fix has nothing to do with bootable clones. They need to make it possible to replace the SSD. This means socketed parts (not a technical problem - the Studio and Pro do it) and allow users to perform the pairing necessary to use them (e.g. via Configurator). Even if they don’t allow third-party flash memory, this would still be enough to make problems like this far less aggravating.


Yes and no. If they allowed machines to boot from an external disk without needing to access the internal SSD the problem would be solved.

I have no particular issue with soldered storage and realistically know they’re unlikely to ever allow changing it. What I do have an issue with is the absolute reliance on that storage to access my data on my machine. If my data gets hosed on this storage and I have a bootable backup I should be able to keep working on that same machine - and not have to wait several weeks to get my ‘new’ machine back.

I don’t use encryption on my machines and the only thing which might persuade me is if it became a condition to being able to boot without the internal SSD. Eg. Apple creates (or allows a ‘certified’) cloning tool. We can boot from an external drive (without the internal) but the data must be encrypted to protect privacy.

Apple had an extraordinary advantage with bootable clones and target disk mode. I know why they took it away, they just did it in the dumbest possible way.

The issue is that you must have the internal drive recognizable and bootable and that the machine won’t boot with a corrupted/failed internal drive. I don’t know if that is an Apple decision or a physical/logical part of the security model. Making a bootable clone is as you say possible…and I personally wouldn’t mind if it was sealed and signed and only updatable if it was the current boot volume…Ric’s problem was that he may have had an up to date external boot volume with an associated data volume that had a current clone…but the machine itself is DOA with a bad internal drive. If that was a deliberate choice by Apple…bad idea IMO unless there’s something I don’t know/understand about the security model.

Good to know this about the Studio. For several reasons, the Studio appears to be what I should have bought instead of an M1 Mini.

Creating a bootable clone is now much more complicated. Ventura was the first OS in a long time (partly because cloning is such a PITA now) that I installed w/o first testing it on an external clone. Definitely the last. I was days cleaning that mess up (a MUCH bigger PITA than cloning would have been).

I have two identical external SSD’s that I installed at the same time. The one I use for cloning is showing 3% more wear… :-{

Yes, but there may be a technical reason for that. I’ve developed firmware for many ARM-based devices (although nothing as big as an M1), and the typical secure boot process is something along the lines of:

  • Public keys burned into the chip’s e-fuses (Apple probably puts their keys in ROM for their chips)
  • The on-die pre-boot firmware validates the attached-flash bootloader via those keys, allowing it to become a root of trust
  • That bootloader then authenticates your OS and boots it.

The on-die pre-boot firmware is usually far too limited to boot from anything other than the chip’s local flash (either on-die or hard-wired to it).

It’s not like a PC, where the lowest-level firmware is a ROM chip on the motherboard, and the lowest-level bootloader is on a storage device.

Now, Apple could’ve designed Apple Silicon do boot in the PC way (or using Open Firmware, like they did on the PowerPC Macs), but that might be problematic with an ARM chip. I’m not sure, but every ARM processor I’ve seen boots this way, so it might require some significant changes to change that.

I disagree with this also. Unlike RAM, which needs to be tightly coupled with the CPU in order to get the performance people expect today, storage is not like that. Even Apple’s integrated flash modules are NVMe devices using PCIe lanes for connectivity.

Apple can easily put that in sockets. And they do on the Mac Studio and the Mac Pro. It’s a design choice, not a technical limit that prevents them from doing it on other model Macs.

I think that’s a side effect of the fact that Apple Silicon (like other ARM processors I’ve seen) seems to need to pull its first stage boot loader from internal flash.

But if that flash storage was replaceable, there would no longer be a practical problem. Apple could (and should) sell you a replacement module, which you can install and pair with the CPU (e.g. via Configurator), which would let you get back up and running from your clone.

They already did this for the Intel Mac Pro’s proprietary flash modules, so they know how. They just need to choose to do it.

Another option (which I think would work just fine) would be to install two distinct flash storage devices. A small SSD (doesn’t need to be very fast either) that just holds the ISC and preboot containers (what you need to boot everything else) and then the full-size SSD (however big you want to pay for) for the macOS container.

The preboot containers are written very very rarely, so it is unlikely that they’ll ever hit their write-limit over the lifetime of the computer. And if the other SSD (with macOS) fails, it won’t take down the preboot containers, allowing you to continue booting external drives.

And that option wouldn’t break Apple’s secure-boot system architecture either.


I’m pretty sure I’m remembering correct, it’s been many years. Ric wrote a column about some issue with Apple, and Steve Jobs emailed him back.

But them days ain’t these days…

Is this really much of a solution? The Ric Ford situation was with a brand-new Mac. So I doubt the cause was anything close to a write-limit issue. So, if a relatively brand-new SSD can fail, so could a separate flash storage device. Perhaps, though, redundant small flash storage drives just for the boot process would be reasonable? My guess is that flash storage failure of two such devices would be extremely rare.

It’s too bad we have no way to know just how rare this is.

Also, I think perhaps the best solution is for Apple to simply provide a like-new replacement under warranty in a reasonably short time rather than attempt to repair a Mac with such a failure. This is what they do with phones. They can refurbish and use the failed Mac as a future warranty replacement, or perhaps sell in their refurbished store later on.

Yeah, something is weird. SSDs shouldn’t fail that suddenly. And then the replacement Mac had its SSD already worn out?

I’m wondering if Apple is putting used flash chips on new computers or got a bad load of chips or something. Problems like this shouldn’t happen. And I’ve usually only seen it happen with no-name trash-quality parts. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing. Who ever checks the wear levels of the SSD on a brand new Mac? At least before this week?

And I’ll be darned if I know why. I’ve been a MacInTouch reader (now occasional) for all of those years, and it is clear to me that Ric Ford does not like Apple, Inc., or Apple products very much. He seems to me to be an ideal candidate for a Dell.


Yeah, he’s been quite testy the last 10 years or so.

I don’t think Ric ever said the SSD failed. The computer failed for some reason, rendering the SSD inaccessible. And he certainly didn’t say the “new” SSD was worn out but that it showed “unexpected and heavy SSD wear.”

I think Ric has a valid complaint about how Apple handled the repair. Besides taking too long to get the computer back to him, because the failure happened so soon after purchase, it’s essentially like Apple sold him a refurbished computer at full price.

I do to…and while other comments have him as ’testy’…I think he’s more of a realist. He’s an Apple, Mac, iPad, and iPhone guy still…but he is different from a lot of the Apple oriented press and websites who tend to gloss over the things that Apple isn’t doing right. Too many of those give them a pass instead of being actual journalists and telling readers that they’re wrong when they’re wrong. Just because we use and like their products…doesn’t mean they do everything right. We’ve seen just recently here a thread about what feature needs to be added or fixed in their various OS’s…but they’re only going to do what they’re going to do and taking them to task for lack of a better word when needed is a good thing.

Apple blew this one…they should have replaced the computer with new or with at least new components…and then doubly blew it by treating a well recognized and respected person in the Apple tech arena poorly instead of ‘better than the average Joe’.


I guess I feel kind of testy too, when a major investment feels more and more like a lesser of evils.

Among those that like Apple products I see two main camps. Those that are mainly interested in getting the best product and those that are interested in seeing revenue/gains maxed. And lately, those two have often stood in direct conflict.

Frankly, if Apple is doing great biz wise (like charging vulgar amounts for necessary mem/disk upgrades), but their product isn’t attractive (eg. TV+), they’ve lost me. There’s plenty of other good investments I can get into, but there’s no other great computing platform I’d prefer to switch my work (let alone private life) to. I’d like to think it’s possible to be a Mac fan without having to become an Apple cultist. Apple can and does do wrong. IMHO the people who dare point that out when it happens are more beneficial to Apple and its betterment than the fanbois who just keep on cheering no matter the circumstances.

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I think anyone who uses the spelling “fanboi” loses all credibility.+

+but really here we go again. What earthly value is there in an APPLE GOOD APPLE BAD discussion? Other than in raising @ace blood pressure, which is probably too low, distance runner that he is **

**fanboi? :man_facepalming:

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My brother-in-law popped in today.

He said his 2022 16" MBP is currently at Apple having a motherboard replacement. The machine wouldn’t charge properly. The magsafe connector wouldn’t locate fully and was unreliable and sporadic.

He booked into the Genius Bar where they took it away and “tried to connect power directly to the board” and reported that this was also unreliable. They’re not sure what the issue is, just that is doesn’t work so will need a new board.

He has no idea how long it will take to be returned but it is being done under warranty.

Ironically, his wife has just bought a new MBA. Her previous machine (2017) had been sent in for its 3rd monitor replacement. It had also had 2 motherboards and a battery fail. They said if it was a newer machine they would have offered a replacement because of the poor history and they offered her the repair price off a new machine (and she kept the old machine). She’s going to use it as a spare with an external monitor and keyboard.

I can remember when Apple products were considered ‘premium’ and their quality control was great. Touch wood, my M1 MBP has been great.

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