Having a backup of your computer’s hard drive is very useful. Imagine that you have to sell your computer, but you don’t want to spend an entire day burning DVDs or reinstalling software, and you don’t have an external hard drive that you can copy your information to. What do you do in this scenario?
Well, you make an exact image of your hard drive on a blank disk and you just pop it into your new computer. It’s as simple as that. There are a number of programs that allow you to clone an entire drive and use it later on, and if you’ll ever be in this situation, you’ll know what to use.
Decide if you want a Clone or an Image
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There are two ways in which one could make an exact copy of a drive. While each of them will get the job done, there are some differences between them that you need to be aware of before you proceed, so that you know exactly what you end up with at the end.
A hard drive clone, like the name suggests, is an exact copy of your drive. Every folder, every file, every option is exactly the same. This method is very useful for those that have a new computer and they want to upgrade their hard drive or just sell off the the old one.
Making a clone of the drive will copy everything to the new drive, including free space, so when you plug it into a new computer, apart from some hardware drivers errors (assuming your new computer has better components), it will be exactly the same.
Note: The Hard Drive that will be your destination drive must be equal or bigger than your source drive for this process to work
On the other hand a hard drive image is not the same, is this option will take a virtual snapshot of your hard drive and it will compress all the information in an image file that can be burned to a DVD or stored on a storage device. It is important to remember that the image file will compress only the information on your drive and it is not readily usable, as it will require you to restore information from it.
How to Clone or Image your hard drive
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As mentioned before, there are many products that allow you to clone your hard drive or make a image file for backup purposes. Most programs offer both of these features, but now that you know what they are, you can choose those that offer the feature you want.
In terms of features, these programs will allow you have some control over the cloning/imaging process. First off, they will have an option of copying free space or empty folders, so you will have the same configuration on your destination drive.
Note: Most if not all of these programs will use the same terminology: Source Drive is the drive that you will clone, and Destination Drive is the drive that the clone will be copied on to. Be very careful and select these drives properly, as a mistake here will most likely overwrite your OS.
Other features that these programs will offer is the possibility to use the drive that is being copied while the process is active or to copy the partitions you created rather than toss all the files into one single partition.
Before you start making a clone of your hard drive, make sure that your destination drive is installed and picked up by your computer. If everything goes well, all you need to do is fire up your cloning software, select the source and destination drives carefully and correctly and check the other options that the software might offer. Once everything is set up, start the process and wait for your hard drive to be cloned.
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In terms of software, you have at your disposal some pretty good tools that you can use to either clone your hard drive or make a drive image and store it locally or on a backup drive. Here are some suggestions of software you can use:
- Norton Ghost
- Acronis True Image Home
- EaseUS Todo Backup Free
- DriveImage XML V2.44
- ShadowCopy V2.02
- Macrium Reflect
- Redo Backup and Recovery
- Parted Magic
- Carbon Copy Cloner (Mac OS X)