Disk Image vs Disk Clone: Compare and Choose

You can learn the definition of disk image and disk clone and their key difference as well as the operation guide. Keep reading to learn the detailed information.


by Clytze Updated on November 13, 2023

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Definition: Disk Image vs Disk Clone

Disk image is the process of archiving or backing up the entire contents of a hard disk. It is a storage file that contains all the data stored on the source hard disk and the necessary information to boot into the system.  

Disk clone is the process of copying the entire contents of a hard disk to another one, including all the data that enables you to boot from the disk to the operating system. Disk clone is a one-to-one replication of the source disk.

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Difference between Cloning and Coping a Hard Drive

Although disk image and disk clone are both processes of copying disk contents, they have a lot of differences. This article summarizes the key differences for you as below.

  Process Space usage Disk usage Usability Restore
Disk Image A disk image creates a byte-by-byte archive as a compressed file Disk image has the option of incremental or differential backups, and the disk image files are compressed to help save disk space. You can store multiple disk image files on the same disk. Disk image needs to be recovered before you can use it, and you need to use disk recovery tools to help you. If you want to recover the disk image file, you need to put the created disk image on the hard disk and then use an image recovery tool to achieve the goal.
Disk Clone While a disk clone makes an exact one-to-one copy. Disk clone requires more space, as partitions are created immediately on the target disk. And you cannot create differential or incremental clones. In contrast, only one clone can be stored on a disk at a time. Disk clone can be used immediately and you can boot your computer directly from the cloned disk after cloning. If your source disk is unusable, you can replace it with the cloned disk and then boot and use your computer normally.     

Disk Image vs Disk Clone: Which One is better?

After understanding the key differences between disk image and disk clone, how to choose? Which one is better? How you choose between disk image and disk clone depends on what goals you want to achieve.

If you want to backup your disks for continuous data protection, you can choose Disk Image. It allows you to create multiple image files on a disk. And you can choose from a variety of backup methods and backup schemes to protect your disks in all respects. When your disk encounters any problems, you can use this disk backup for recovery. 

If you want to upgrade to a new disk or want to recover quickly in case of disk problems, you are better suited for disk clone. This is because it allows you to create an exact copy of the source disk quickly and easily. After cloning, you can boot your computer directly from the cloned disk. Even if there are any problems with your source disk, you can replace it with the cloned disk in time and use the disk normally.

The Best Free Software for Disk Image and Disk Clone

Whether it is disk imaging or disk cloning, you need to choose a useful tool to help you. The free disk backup and cloning software AOMEI Backupper Standard can easily achieve the goal. It’s both the disk image software and clone image software.

For disk image, it offers several backup methods, among which incremental and differential backups can improve your backup efficiency. And you can also set a fixed frequency to backup your disk regularly, such as Daily, Weekly or Monthly. It supports you to backup disk to different storage devices in Windows 11, 10, 8, 7, etc.
For disk clone, it supports intelligent clone, whether you want to clone from a small disk to a large one or clone a large drive to a small one, it can easily meet your needs. Even if your source disk has bad sectors, it can automatically skip the bad sectors to complete the cloning task. After cloning, you can successfully boot your computer from the cloned disk.

How to Perform Disk Image and Disk Clone Step by Step

Next, you can follow the graphic tutorials below to learn how to perform a disk image or disk clone with this freeware. Before performing a disk clone, please backup the important files on the target disk in advance, because the cloning process will erase the data on the target disk.

Perform Disk Image

Step 1. Download AOMEI Backupper Standard, install and launch the software. Then click Backup > Disk Backup.

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Disk Backup

Except for Disk Backup, it also provides System Backup, Partition Backup and File Backup, you can choose them if you need.

Step 2. Click Add Disk to choose the disk you want to backup.

Add Disk

Step 3. You need to select the destination for your disk backup and then click Start Backup.

Select Backup Destination

Schedule Backup: You can set the fixed intervals to backup your disk regularly, including Daily, Weekly, Monthly, Event trigger and USB plug in. The last two are available in the Pro version.
Backup SchemeYou can select different backup methods based on your own needs and enable the automatic backup cleanup feature to save the disk space.

Perform Disk Clone

Step 1. Open AOMEI Backupper Standard, click Clone > Disk Clone.

Disk Clone

The standard version supports cloning MBR to MBR (system disks) and data disk. To clone GPT to GPT, or clone disks between GPT and MBR, you can upgrade to AOMEI Backupper Professional or higher versions.

Step 2. Choose the disk you want to clone as the source disk and click Next.

Select Source Disk

Step 3. Choose a disk as the destination disk and click Next.

Select Destination Disk

Step 4. Confirm all your operations and click Start Clone. After cloning, you can change the boot order in the BIOS and directly boot your computer from cloned disk.

Disk Clone Start Clone

Edit Partitions: This feature can help you to add unused space to all partitions or manually adjust the partition size if you need. And you can upgrade to the professional version to enjoy it.
Sector By Sector CloneIf your target disk has the same size or larger than the source disk, you can use this feature to clone all sectors, whether they are used or not. It’s very convenient for you to clone a disk to a larger one.   


This article describes the definition of disk image and disk clone, the key differences, and how to choose them. Whether you choose disk image or disk clone, you can use the free third-party software AOMEI Backupper Standard to help you.

It provides multiple backup methods and backup schemes to protect your disk in all aspects. When you need to clone a disk, whether you want to clone a disk to a large or small one, or even clone a disk with bad sectors, it can meet your needs one by one. After cloning, you can successfully boot your computer from the cloned disk.

Besides, it is an excellent restore software that can easily restore not only disk images, but also system backups. Even if you want to restore a system backup to a computer with different hardware, its Universal Restore feature can achieve the goal. You can download this software to discover more useful features.


Clytze · Editor
Clytze, an editor at AOMEI Technology, is passionate about safeguarding your digital world. She dedicates her expertise to empower users like you in data security and recovery. She firmly believes that everyone should have the tools and knowledge to protect their digital assets through computer backup, seamless disk cloning, and efficient file synchronization. Clytze is your trusted guide on the journey to data safety.