All hard drives have a shelf life before they become unusable, and your data is irreparably lost. You might decide to get a new computer and make a file backup with Backblaze, only to forget to transfer that one crucial project on your new hard drive before it gets lost. And for some people, making a full HDD backup can be stressful and difficult. But with making a clone from your hard drive, all those worries are a thing of the past.
We’ll show you how to clone a hard drive effortlessly. Technology has evolved enough that data backup is not the stuff of nightmares anymore. It is, in fact, merely a few mouse clicks away.
Defining an HDD Clone
First things first, let’s differentiate between hard drive cloning and doing a file backup. Every approach to preserving your data has its benefits and shortcomings.
When you make a backup, everything is dependent on files. You make a copy of your critical system files to another hard drive or storage device, which is very different from a hard drive cloning. This way, you can backup one file, several files, or the entire system.
Most used operating systems come with backup software, Windows with a backup utility, and macOS with the Time Machine functionality.
When you make a hard drive clone, you create an exact copy of your whole system to an alternative hard drive. Everything is copied identically from files and operating system data down to disk partitions and boot data. You’ll be able to start the system from the cloned drive immediately and check for performance lags with a PC optimizer.
There is a significant difference between making a disk clone and imaging a disk. While both copying methods make an exact duplicate of your drive, disk imaging makes an extensive compressed file, or an image, of your drive.
The cloned drive uses an uncompressed copy of a hard drive. After disk imaging, you restore this file to make your drive usable again. The disk image file can be pretty large, which is why it’s usually saved to an external or cloud drive, such as iDrive, or pCloud.
Setting Up the Cloning Grounds
Make sure you have everything ready before you clone a drive, thus saving yourself from frustrations later down the line. The aim here is to make a one-to-one copy of your drive that you’ll be able to start on a computer from the get-go.
The most important thing you’ll need is an alternative hard drive to carry the data from the cloned drive. You can use an external drive or another internal hard drive. Depending on the type of hard drive, make sure you have a USB to IDE/SATA adapter.
When learning how to completely clone a hard drive, you must consider that you don’t need to use the same hard drive type to make a successful copy. You can make a hard drive clone from an NVMe to a SATA drive and vice versa.
It will only impact the file transfer speed. Traditional hard drives are capped at 100MB to 150MB when copying large files. Their transfer rate is reduced for smaller files, which can make drive cloning last for hours.
The next thing to be mindful of is the drive’s size. Since we are making a copy that is identical in structure and size to the original drive, you’ll need the second drive to be of higher capacity than the source drive.
As you discover how to clone a hard drive, you’ll find out that you need to clone the entire disk along with its partitions. It is why you should always ensure that you have a big enough alternative drive.
For simple data backup, you could use data loss prevention software. However, to clone a hard drive fully, you’ll need dedicated drive-cloning software. These apps are straightforward and powerful to use, and most come with a free version that has everything we need.
If you are a Windows user, the Macrium Reflect Free will do the job admirably. macOS users can rely on SuperDuper! Paid software will typically have more options for drive copying and quality of life improvements than free solutions.
Make sure your source drive is formatted and that you remove all unnecessary data. You have to make the device that will carry out the drive cloning processing seamlessly. You can do this by performing a full format of the recipient drive before starting the cloning process.
Also, delete apps and programs that you don’t use from the drive that’s about to get cloned. Remove the data duplicates and temporary files. Doing this will reduce the amount of data that needs to be transferred over and make the cloning process a bit quicker.
Making a Drive Clone on Windows
We’ll show you how to clone a pc hard drive using a step-by-step process. For starters, download and install free cloning software. For this guide, we have used Macrium Reflect Free.
Before you open up the Macrium Free, check if you have plugged in the disk that will hold the cloned drive. You’d be surprised how many users make this oversight.
Activate the app and take some time to introduce yourself with the interface layout. It might seem daunting at first but worry not. The upper part of the main window lists your internal hard drives and their partitions. This bit of information is crucial when learning how to clone a hard drive in Windows 10.
In this case, the 500GB SSD drive is split into four partitions. Don’t worry if you see one or two smaller partitions you are unfamiliar with, such as “1-EFI” and “4-None”. They tend to range between several hundred megabytes and a few gigabytes in size. Just as you may find hidden data when looking at data visualization software, hard drives can have hidden partitions too.
They are known as Windows recovery partitions and are used for the Windows repair utility. They also hold the data necessary to boot up your system. You have to include these partitions into your cloned drive to complete the process. The cloning app also gives you the option to unselect drives you don’t wish to clone.
The best way to clone a hard drive is to select the “Clone this disk” button and then click the Select a disk to clone. At this time, you can also click the Delete Existing Partition if you haven’t formatted the drive already.
Once you hit the OK button, the cloning process will begin. How long this takes depends on the size of the original drive that we are cloning and the copying speed of both disks.
Once it’s done, you can safely remove the cloned drive and plug it into another computer. It will boot up and will be usable immediately.
Cloning Hard Drives on Mac
Making a cloned drive is a similarly straightforward process on the macOS. There are plenty of cases where knowing how to clone a hard drive might come in handy. We’ll focus on a couple here. Your original drive might get hit with ransomware or other cyberattacks, or it might start to become defective and show bad sectors.
Luckily, the remedy is simple enough.
Clean up your source drive from unnecessary files. Then insert the external disk into your Mac. Start by downloading and installing the SuperDuper! app. During the installation, you need to give the app complete access to your system.
SuperDuper! will launch System Preferences after installation. Select the lock and insert your password. Click on the plus symbol, scroll through the listed applications, and click on SuperDuper!.
Note that you can clone the hard drive to an SSD on a Mac with the app, start it up, select the empty field beneath Copy, and choose the second disk. Click the Copy Now button and arm yourself with patience as the cloning procedure starts.
When the app creates the cloned drive, you can use this drive as a boot drive. Hold down the Control keyboard button as you boot up your Mac and choose the newly created boot disk. Or you can plug it into another Mac and start it up.
Relying on a Hard Drive Duplicator
There is a third way to make a cloned drive, which is also the easiest way to clone a hard drive – using a device called a hard drive duplicator that will take care of the cloning process for you.
The device will cost you $30 or more, depending on its configuration. These devices can clone drives separately and are meant for users who cannot connect a second drive to laptops or desktop PCs. A hard drive duplicator is perfect if you want to avoid dabbling with the complexities that even the best hard drive cloning software carries.
Most hard drive duplicators have support for SATA and USB connectivity. They usually give you the option to wipe your hard drive. It’s not a great method for learning how to clone a laptop hard drive or a desktop drive within Windows, though, as no user input or assistance is required.
You only need the original drive and one or more drives that will hold the cloned data.
Calling Upon Control Panel for Cloning
Suppose you don’t want to use third-party disk cloning software, and you are using Microsoft Windows. In that case, you can use its system image utility to clone a disk effectively. Note that this only lets you run a backup then restore a chosen drive on the same machine. You can’t use it as a backup on another hard disk or system if it was created this way.
Our tips on how to clone a failing hard drive on Windows 10 begin with the Start Menu. Open the Start Menu, then select or type in the Control Panel to activate it. In a new window, choose the System and Security option, followed by the Backup and Restore, then click on the Create a system image.
You’ll just need to follow the guide, and you’ll have a local image ready in no time.
Does cloning a hard drive copy the OS?
Yes, it does copy the OS exactly how the user installed it on the original drive. You will have to re-log to your Windows account to use it.
How do I clone my computer’s hard drive?
Please follow our guidelines on how to clone a hard drive for more information.
Is cloning a hard drive legal?
Cloning a disk is legal as long as you legally own the data on it. For example, suppose you have an operating system license for one machine. In that case, it is legal to clone it to a new PC, but only if you stop using the license on the original device.
Is it better to clone or image a hard drive?
Cloning, in general, is a better and faster option if you want to replace a bad drive. Otherwise, imaging is a better solution.