There are many excellent services for backing up your files, but there are times when you require something a little more secure. You might be transferring your Windows installation to a new drive, or you might just want a complete one-to-one copy in case something goes wrong. In certain circumstances, cloning your hard drive is the ideal option, as it creates an exact replica that you can swap in and boot up right away.
Some backup services, such as IDrive and Acronis, include disk-cloning capabilities in addition to regular file backups. However, in this guide, we’ll be using several free software created exclusively for disk cloning. Check out one of the pricier choices if you want a true backup solution with additional cloning features. However, for one-time clones (such as moving your OS to a new drive), these programs will suffice.
Join Your Secondary Drive
You’ll need two drives for this process: the source drive (which contains the data you want to clone) and the destination drive (which contains the data you want to clone). If you have a desktop PC with both disks installed locally (or cloning to a USB external drive for backup), you’re in luck! You’re all set to move on.
You’ll need an external SATA-to-USB converter, dock, or enclosure to connect your bare disk to the computer if you’re using a laptop with only one drive bay. After you’ve attached your drive, you can begin the copying procedure before disconnecting it and installing it inside.
Most of the time, your destination drive will need to be the same size as, if not greater than, your source drive. If it isn’t, you’ll have to make room on your source disk and resize the primary partition to suit.
Home windows Customers: Clone Your Drive with Macrium Mirror Free
There are many excellent cloning applications available for Windows users, but we’ll be utilizing Macrium Reflect Free (Opens in a new window). It’s free, simple to use, and immensely popular, so it’s difficult to go wrong.
Download the Home Use installer and run it to install Macrium Reflect. It’s just a small program that will download the installer for you based on the licensing type you select. Click the Download button after selecting a temporary destination for these files (I just put them in my Downloads folder).
When it’s done, it’ll automatically begin the Macrium installation process, which you can skip forward to—the default selections should suffice for our needs. Once the wizard has completed, you can safely delete all of the installer files from your Downloads folder.
Begin Cloning Course of
You’ll see a complete list of the disks attached to your computer when you open Macrium Reflect. You have two basic choices: clone a disk directly to another or generate an image of a disk. Cloning allows you to boot from a second disk, which is useful for moving files between drives. Imaging, on the other hand, allows you to save as many full, one-to-one copies of your source disk as the destination’s storage capacity permits, which is helpful for backups.
Select the disk you wish to duplicate and select “Clone This Disk” or “Image This Disk,” making sure to tick the leftmost box if your disk has several partitions.
Select Clone Vacation spot
Choose your target disk in the following window, which will hold your newly duplicated data. Keep in mind that selecting this option will erase all data on the disk, so choose wisely. If the drive contains any old data, pick it and click the “Delete Existing Partitions” button until it is empty.
If you’re cloning to a larger drive, go to the bottom of this window and click the “Cloned Partition Properties” button to expand your main partition to fit the entire disk.
Schedule Your Clone
On the next screen, you’ll be asked if you want to schedule this clone, which is important if you want to image your drive on a regular basis for backup purposes. Because I’m only creating a one-time clone, I’ve skipped this step. You can also store the backup and its schedule as an XML file for safekeeping on the next page, but I unchecked that option because I’m only doing this once for now.
Boot From Your Cloned Drive
Macrium Reflect will then start the cloning process. Allow enough time for this to complete, depending on the size of your hard drive. You should now be able to boot from your cloned drive by selecting it in your BIOS. You can actually keep the second drive connected for future image backups if you’re imaging your drive.
Mac Customers: Clone Your Drive with SuperDuper
For all your cloning needs on a Mac, we recommend SuperDuper. It’s free, easy to use, and has been around for quite some time. To install the app, download it, open the DMG file, and double-click on the icon. (Do not drag it to your /Applications folder, as you would most Mac apps; instead, double-click it to install it.)
When you launch SuperDuper after it’s been installed, you’ll be met by its remarkably basic and intuitive UI. Select the source disk you want to clone from the first menu, next to “Copy.” Select the destination disk you’re cloning to in the second menu—this will completely erase the drive in the second menu, so be sure there’s nothing vital on it! Click the “Copy Now” button when you’re ready. The procedure will start. (Yes, it’s that simple.)
Finalize Your Drive Clone
This may take some time, but after it’s finished, you have two options. If you want to replace your Mac’s internal drive with the new drive (for example, if you’re migrating to a larger drive), you can do it immediately and boot up normally.
Hold the Option key while your Mac wakes up and choose your cloned drive from the boot list. Your cloned disk will be in the same state as your computer during the cloning procedure, so you won’t have to stop working.
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Niamh Murphy, a writer who is always seeking new challenges and pushing the boundaries of what's possible with the written word. I believe that writing is not just about expressing oneself, but about taking risks and experimenting with different forms and styles. I strive to create work that is both innovative and thought-provoking, that pushes the limits of what's possible with the written word. I believe that writing has the power to change the world, and I am honored to be a part of that tradition.