How to Clone a Hard Drive


 How to Clone a Hard Drive

There are plenty of great services that can back up your files, but sometimes you need something a bit more bulletproof. Maybe you're migrating your Windows installation to a new drive, or perhaps you want a complete one-to-one copy in case anything goes wrong. In those cases, your best bet is to clone your hard drive, creating an exact copy you can swap in and boot up right away.


Some backup services, like IDrive and Acronis, have built-in disk-cloning features, supplementing to the normal file backup. We'll be using some free tools designed specifically for drive cloning in this guide, though. If you want a true backup solution with supplemental cloning features, check out one of the paid options. But for one-off clones (like if you're migrating your OS to a new drive), these tools will be all you need.


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Connect Your Secondary Drive

Connect Your Secondary Drive

For this process, you'll obviously need two drives: the source drive (with the data you want to clone), and the destination drive (where you're cloning that data to). If you have a desktop computer and both drives are installed internally (or you're just cloning to a USB external drive for backup), great! You're ready to continue.


If, however, you're using a laptop with only one drive bay, you'll need an external SATA-to-USB adapter, dock, or enclosure to connect your bare drive to the computer. Once you've connected your drive, you can go through the cloning process, then disconnect it and install the drive internally.


In most cases, your destination drive will probably need to be as large as, or larger than, your source drive. If it isn't, you'll need to free up space on your source drive and shrink the main partition down to fit. (You'll probably only need to do this if you're migrating from a hard drive to a smaller SSD; we have a separate guide on that process here.)



Windows Users: Clone Your Drive with Macrium Reflect Free

Windows Users: Clone Your Drive with Macrium Reflect Free

Windows users have lots of great cloning tools available, but we'll be using Macrium Reflect Free. It's free, easy to use, and widely loved by many, so it's hard to go wrong.


To install Macrium Reflect, download the Home Use installer and start it up. It's just a tiny tool that will download the actual installer for you, based on the type of license you want. Choose the temporary folder for these files—I just put them in my Downloads folder—and click the Download button.


Once it's finished, it'll automatically launch the Macrium installation wizard, which you can click right on through—the default options should be fine for our purposes. You can safely delete all the installer files from your Downloads folder once the wizard has finished.

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