Maybe you have decided to upgrade to a bigger or faster hard drive or you want to make a bootable CD or DVD. It isn’t as simple as copying and pasting your data to a new drive.
You could choose to image your drive, which would also work much the same as cloning. The problem with imaging is the downtime. It takes twice as long as cloning does. Imaging is the better choice when it comes to creating a backup and restore.
Why Would I Need to Clone My Hard Drive?
There are a number of reasons that it may become necessary to clone your hard drive. Here are some examples:
Hard Drive Upgrade
Upgrade without having to reinstall all the applications and operating system.
If all the data you have stored is important, then a backup is imperative. All you need to do is clone the information onto another drive.
Cloning can help you quickly transfer data stored on one disk to others, like migrating from an HDD to an SSD.
If you’re cloning a disk that has Windows installed on it, it will transfer the OS without the need to reinstall.
Cloning and Imaging: What’s the Difference?
Both disk imaging and disk cloning will achieve the same objective in that they copy all of the contents of a hard drive.
Neither of these processes involve copying or pasting. Doing that would only transfer the files, not the data used by the hard drive to find and access them.
Cloning a disk is the process used to copy the whole of the information on one hard drive to another. This will include all the information that allows you to boot the OS from the drive.
When you use a cloning program, you would create an identical copy of a hard drive onto another drive. The cloned drive is a fully operational drive and can replace the existing drive.
When you boot the cloned drive, all the information will be identical to that of the original drive at the time of cloning. So, if something bad happened to the original drive, the cloned one could be used in its place.
This better represents the process of making a backup of the drive. Imaging creates a storage file of all of the data on the original drive. It also contains the information that is required to boot the system.
For the hard drive to work, the image has to be applied to it. Installing the image files won’t restore the hard drive. To do this, you need to use an imaging program.
Imaging differs from cloning as you can store more than disk image on a hard drive whereas cloning it is only one. You can also store disk images on flash drives and optical media such as CD/DVD.
Can You Use Windows to Clone a Hard Drive?
The simple answer to that question is no. Windows does allow you to copy files between drives. The problem is that if the file contains a Windows installation, copying won’t be enough.
If you want to make a copy of the original disk, you will need to use some dedicated hardware or software. To include Windows and the hidden things we don’t see, like partitions and partition tables, Windows alone can’t help us.
Hardware for Cloning
If you have decided you want to clone your drive using hardware, then you will need to invest in a duplicator. You can buy them online at places like Amazon, for around $60.
Duplicators will usually accept the standard 3.5 inch or 2.5-inch drives that use a SATA connection. If you have one of the old IDE disks, you can get an adaptor for SATA-to-IDE.
Most duplicators will only operate when using a drive of the same capacity or higher. So, if you’re considering upgrading to SSD, you may be wiser making the choice to use the software. A larger capacity SSD may prove expensive.
Software for Cloning
Using software to clone a hard drive is the cheapest option. There are even free options that can be sourced online. However, you often tend to find that the free versions come with limitations. You have to upgrade to the full paid version in order to access everything.
So, if you want an interface that is easy to use, as well as flexible, you need to consider spending some money on the software.
Some SSDs are sold as upgrade kits, and they include the USB-to-SATA cable as well as the software. This means you don’t even have to take the old hard drive out of your laptop and attach them both to a PC. Simply plug it into the laptop with the cable and use the software included.
If you do need to use some software, here is a list of those that are currently being recommended as the top options:
This software has been around for years and provides a reliable, low-cost service. It has a great reputation and gives you cloning and imaging for free.
Acronis Disk Director 12
It offers much more than just cloning. It provides a good line-up of software for all kinds of disk management, such as:
This will cost you around $50 for a single license or $80 for three PCs.
EaseUS Todo Backup 11.0
Even the free version offers some great services. There is a great lineup of cloning and backup activities.
It offers a tier for home users at $30 for a single license, which also includes an Outlook recovery and backup.
Business users can purchase the workstation tier for $40 for a single license. This provides all the normal benefits, plus the added features of:
Macrium Reflect 7
Features of the free tier include:
The workstation tier has some extra features, which are:
Paragon Drive Copy 15 Professional
This software covers the whole selection of disk duties, including:
Cloning in Action
When you have the new drive hooked up to your PC or laptop, you will then launch the cloning software. The software wizard will get to work, guiding you throughout the process.
Firstly, you should select the source and the new drives. You then choose to clone either a full drive or just certain partitions.
For the new drive to be bootable, it is important to remember to select the full drive.
Depending on the software you have chosen, you may get the opportunity to select the folders and files you want to leave out. This is a great feature to have if there is too much to copy from the old drive.
Following all this, you usually get the option to choose if the data’s integrity is verified or not.
It is recommended to check this option as verified, even though it adds extra time for completion. This way you will know the clone was completed properly before the new hard drive is used.
With only a few simple things, you can easily clone your own hard drive without the expense of sending it to a shop. All you need is a new hard drive, a cable and some software.
Doing it yourself means it costs you much less, allowing you to put the money you save towards a better hard drive. Easy as 1–2–3.
Most software walks you through the whole process with ease. Your new hard drive will be up and running in no time. Some say it can take you less than an hour to do it.
Cloning a hard drive is probably not as complicated as you thought it might be. Now you should have all the information you need to know, in order to complete the process with ease.