How to Clone a Hard Drive

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One of the most important yet often neglected aspects of owning a computer is its maintenance. Most of us are negligent of the decline in our computer’s performance until it actually starts to affect our work. I am personally guilty of this laxity, but like me, I’m sure you also enjoy the delight of working on a fresh and fully-efficient machine where every response is quick and smooth.

Cloning: An Efficient Way to Back-up a Hard Drive

Among the reasons why computer maintenance isn’t well-attended to is the tediousness of the job. But what if your computer decided to snap, thereby risking all of your data and your computer system as a whole? It’s a sure disaster, isn’t it? Gladly, there is an efficient way to back up your hard drive on multiple storage devices without needing you to copy and paste each file.

The process is known as hard drive cloning. In this article, I will elaborate on the function and the importance of hard-drive cloning. I’ll also introduce you to some methods used for cloning as well as some of the trusted disk cloning software that’ll help make the task quicker and easier.

What is Disk Cloning, and Why Do You Need it?

Disk cloning simply means transferring data from one hard drive to another drive such that both source and receiving disk contain exactly the same amount and type of data. It is as its name suggest – making a copy of an original disk.

You might think why cloning exist when what it basically does is just copying and pasting data. Well, remember that your computer contains systems and partitions. Some of them are hidden too. If you’re not tech-savvy, you may not even know they’re there. When you drag and drop items, you’re only saving files, not the system itself. Also, can you imagine how inefficient the drag and drop method is? Doing this often results in an unbootable system hard drive.

With a cloned hard drive, everything you need for it to work is all copied. It’s really just like getting rid of an old drive and getting a new, highly efficient one. Here are some common reasons why people resort to disk cloning:

  • Making a backup – cloning can be used to back-up an entire disk. When a computer suffers from system failure, virus infection, partition damage, and other related problems, data loss is imminent. To ensure that all your data is secured, you would need to create a backup for it by cloning the computer’s hard drive.
  • Better performance – when a hard drive starts to malfunction, it affects the efficiency of your work. You may want another one that doesn’t make that annoying noise or that has a faster read/write speed. Whatever it is, a new destination drive should be able to resolve issues in your old hard drive’s performance.
  • Upgrading hard drive to a larger one – to meet your storage needs, you may resort to cloning and use a larger replacement disk. Upgrading will mean all new data can be accommodated. Plus, you can ensure a smoother performance as the fullness of a drive can also affect its functioning.
  • Upgrading to a newer version – a decade old drive is pretty outdated and is more likely to have a significantly reduced performance. To ensure that your computer runs efficiently and your data is protected, you’ll have to upgrade an old drive to a newer one with a preferably larger disk space.

Cloning versus Imaging

disk image vs clone

Cloning isn’t the only way to secure an identical copy of your drive; there’s imaging too. Before we discussed the latter, let’s first understand why cloning may not always be the best option.

Hard drive cloning keeps everything needed to boot and run the operating system to another medium. It isn’t exactly created for data protection, but it can do so effectively as well. Cloning is relatively straightforward as all you have to do is to swap the drives. This is why many computer users are attracted to it. The only downside is that it doesn’t allow anything else to the backup drive. Even if you have a 1TB backup drive, yet only need to store 300GB, it makes the entire drive its hive. The extra space then becomes unusable until the data is overwritten.

Imaging, on the other hand, compresses everything into a single large file. It’s like creating a big .zip file minus the .zip extension. The storage device for imaging is just the same as that used in cloning. However, imaging provides better versatility as you can store multiple images in a single drive as long as the storage is sufficient. This makes it a more economical option. The flip side of imaging shows when your primary drive crashes. The image will not be functional in itself; you will have to purchase and install a new internal hard drive. Afterward, you’d have to boot your backup’s emergency boot disc. From there, you can restore the drive’s content from your backup.

Both cloning and imaging are useful ways of backing up your original drive. Cloning allows more efficiency while imaging gives you more versatility in storage. Whatever your choice is, both are extremely useful when properly carried out.

Here’s a short video about cloning and imaging:

Preparations to Make Before Cloning

Before anything is started, there are things to consider when cloning. The first thing is, of course, the destination drive. A destination drive is a backup drive where you will save your data, software, and partitions too. The most important thing to remember when choosing one is that it should be equal to or exceed the storage capacity of your source drive. If this isn’t ensured, your drive will not be cloned.

For a destination drive, you may pick an external drive or a bare hard drive. An external hard drive is a self-contained drive that’s usually connected to a USB. The drive may be a portable drive or a large deskbound drive. Either of them will work just fine as a backup medium. Some even have additional features such as an automated backup software or an encryption. Few of the popular brands on the market are Seagate, Western Digital, Toshiba, Hitachi, and HGST.

A bare drive is the internal drive of a computer that is not yet installed, thus the name. This drive can become your computer’s second drive or can have a separate enclosure. SSDs and HDDs are both viable options for this drive, but you’ll want at least the same amount of memory as your source drive. You would also want to make sure that the connector type and the size of your backup bare drive are the same as the one installed on your computer so they can be easily swapped.

Another good thing to do before cloning is to clean up your drive. In most cases, there are plenty of pictures, videos, or other files in there that aren’t useful to you anymore. This is the best chance to clean up the mess. You wouldn’t want your backup drive to be packed with unnecessary items that’ll only add up to the weight. Keep your drive safe and healthy by performing deleting unnecessary files before cloning.

The final measure I’d like to mention is the cloning software. Cloning is easier nowadays thanks to this software. They simplify and quicken the process of cloning that even first-time cloners can operate. Each software product comes with detailed instructions on how to download, install, operate, and complete the cloning process. Some of the reliable ones in the market are EASEUS Todo Backup, Paragon’s Backup Express (Windows), DriveImage XML (Windows), XXCLONE (Windows), and EASEUS Disk Copy (cross-platform).

Benefits of Using a Cloning Software

Cloning software is used for different reasons. Some people need one to duplicate the configurations of several computers for business. The result is that computers will have an identical setup. The other use of a cloning software is to clone a hard drive and install the latter on a subsequent PC or to store it as a backup. This ensures that even when the original drive snaps, the user will have the data and system intact.

A cloning software also supports the restoration of a backup hard disk with different hardware compared to the original hard drive. Thus, the user can either manually look after the compatibility of the drives or simply purchase a cloning software that will do the job.

When using a cloning software, you can get a complete view of your computer in one interface. The what, when, and where of the backup process are all visible in a single area, so cloning is a lot safer and simpler. Its data migration is considered to be the easiest way to backup or restores a system. However, you need to make sure that you use an intuitive and user-friendly application.

A cloning software is also an efficient way to restore multiple computers. Instead of spending hours configuring each one individually, it does so simultaneously, thereby saving time. Most of them are also safe and secure. The best cloning software on the market features a stringent security system that cannot be easily bypassed.

Cloning a Windows Hard Drive

disk clone on windows

Cloning your Windows hard drive was trickier years ago than now. Before backup software was created, you need to have a background in software systems and general computer functions. This was to ensure that when errors and instabilities occur, you would know what to do. In this day and age, however, everything you need is readily available. These include the original drive, backup drive, software utility, and a good skill in following instructions.

To help you out, here is a step-by-step guide on how to clone your Windows hard drive.

  • Step 1: Download and install your preferred hard drive cloning tool. Although there are paid versions available, the free version is usually sufficient for most users.
  • Step 2: Attach your backup drive to your computer. Remember that the destination disk should have more space than the source drive; otherwise, it won’t completely store the clone.
  • Step 3: Open your hard drive cloning tool and navigate through it. The tool should contain all the disks in your computer with all necessary details such as the available storage.
  • Step 4: Choose the disk you’d like to make a clone by clicking the ‘Clone this Disk’ prompt or a similar one.
  • Step 5: Afterwards, choose the destination drive you want to save the clone to which usually appears on a new pop-up window. Browse through the available drives, and click your backup drive. If you don’t see your preferred destination drive on the options, it means the drive has a smaller storage than the source. Thus, you’ll need a new one and go through the process again.
  • Step 6: Some hard drive cloning tool will prompt you to drag and drop partitions or drive to the destination drive. If so, simply follow the steps and click ‘Next’.
  • Step 7: Preview the changes you’re about to make and if everything looks correct to you, simply click Finish and the cloning will start. Depending on the amount of data, cloning may take a few minutes to a few hours.

Cloning a Mac Hard Drive

disk clone on mac

Mac users have an easier option for cloning than Windows users. They can often clone a hard drive without using any additional cloning software. However, it may take them a long time to clone, thus others still opt for third-party software. If you don’t mind splashing out a few bucks, here is the step-by-step guide to cloning a Mac hard drive using a utility software:

  • Step 1: Attach your desired destination drive to your computer.
  • Step 2: Open the disk utility software by simply hitting command + Space then Enter. The other option is to proceed to User>Applications>Utilities>Disk Utility app.
  • Step 3: As a new pop-up window appears, select the drive you’d like to clone. More options will then appear. Simply click the Restore tab at the top.
  • Step 4: Verify if the original hard drive is listed as the ‘Source’. When it already is, drag the destination hard drive you want to store everything into the ‘Destination field’.
  • Step 5: To start cloning, click the ‘Restore’ button. Remember that if your backup drive has any other files on it, they will be erased before the cloning starts. Make sure that no important file is stored on the destination drive.
  • Step 6: Wait for a few minutes or hours. Then, check if a new clone appears on your destination drive. If it does, you’ve successfully cloned your Mac drive.

Importance of Cloning

No matter how strict we are with taking precautions to take care of our files and drive, the unexpected never fails to surprise. Once in a while, computer users experience data loss and drive damage due to improper formatting, deletion, or virus infection. Certainly, there is data recovery software available that pledge to help users restore lost data. But the truth is; they can’t solve all cases of lost files and can’t be 100% successful in all recovery situations. This is where your skill in cloning a hard drive becomes useful. Cloning will allow you to minimize your losses in effort, money, and time as the unexpected strikes.

Hard drive storage may not be the best way to backup a system as the hard disk could only accommodate one copy of the data. However, this also means you can keep data on different drives. Doing so eliminates the risk of losing it all when one cloned drive fails. In addition, you can perform data recovery on one of these drives if the original hard disk is damaged.

Having two or several cloned drives also means that you can make one a portable drive. Yet, if it is inconvenient to bring a desktop to certain locations, you can clone some data instead on a removable USB or portable drive. This will ensure that your drives and everything in them are safe and that you don’t need to make extra settings anymore since you’ve got everything you need.

Hard disk cloning is a very useful backup method that’s best operationalized in the event of a hard drive failure. When the drive is badly damaged, a file recovery software will not be sufficient. Cloning, however, will copy all sectors instead of only the files. With hard disk cloning, you can go back to the time when your drive is in its best condition with all your important sectors and files.

Final Thoughts

When your cloned drive is successfully completed, you will have an exact copy of your original drive. Now, every single change in the storage of files and programs on your computer will be stored in the clone. If you wish to store your cloned drive long-term before using it, be sure to keep it away from extremes in temperature, powerful magnets, moisture, and static electricity.

For safety measures, you can also have it stored in an anti-static bag then locked in a safe. Do whatever you think works best for your storage. Don’t forget to clone your cloned drive once in a while too!

In this article you could fine best drives to use as clone target.

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