By Teresa / Last Updated February 20, 2020

Why clone HDD to external drive?

Cloning hard drives is becoming more and more common for the millions of Windows computer users globally. People are choosing to clone their internal drives to their external ones for a variety of different reasons. Below we will summarize some of the top reasons why user clone their drives in Windows.

  • Clone internal hard drives to external hard drives. Some users prefer to backup their PC to external drive in order to protect their data, however, the backup will need to be restored before they will be able to access the data. Cloning the drive (rather than backing it up) solves this problem.

  • Clone a HDD to an external SSD to upgrade the disk. Cloning the system drive to an SSD helps users who are migrating their operating system and applications to new disk. All of the contents including the partition table, the MBR (master boot record), and the registry will be cloned to the target disk and as a result the user won’t have to reinstall their system.

  • Partition layout. Transferring a hard drive to an external hard drive to have an identical partition layout.

So, what tools do you need to help you easily copy a hard drive to an external drive?

The best way to clone a hard drive to an external hard drive

Windows doesn’t include a built-in cloning feature in its range of backup tools; therefore, we must turn to third-party cloning software. AOMEI Backupper Standard Edition is a free specialist disk cloning program that allows users to clone their hard drives to external ones (such as SSDs, USBs, and external USB drives) in a few simple clicks. AOMEI Backupper even enables users to clone from larger hard drives to smaller ones using the Sector by Sector Clone function and the Intelligent Clone function as long as their drives are big enough for the cloned data.

AOMEI Backupper, provides you with the option to optimize your SSD during the cloning process, especially useful for when you clone your HDD to an external SSD drive. AOMEI Backupper is free to download, and importantly it doesn’t include ads, and supports Windows 10, 8, 8.1, 7, Vista, and XP.

Clone hard drive to external drive via freeware step by step

To clone a laptop hard drive to an external hard drive, please connect the external drive to your computer using a USB to SATA adapter. If you have a desktop PC, you can directly install the external drive into one of the hard disk bays.

Step 1. Install and launch AOMEI Backupper Standard. Click Clone and then select Disk Clone.

Clone HDD Disk

Step 2. Select your HDD as the source disk.

Choose HDD

Step 3. Select the external drive (USB drive, SSD, or other drive) as the destination disk.

Choose External Drive

Step 4. Check the operation summary and if you are happy click Start Clone.

Clone HDD to External Drive

Step 5. If the need arises, replace the cloned external drive with your hard drive.

Helpful Tips:

  • If you want to clone every sector on the hard drive, check the Sector by sector clone box. Make sure that the target disk is larger than or equal to the source disk, otherwise it will only clone the used part by default.

  • If you want to migrate operating system to SSD, then you should check the SSD Alignment box to improve your SSD’s performance.

  • Cloning will overwrite the target external drives data and files, so you should backup files that are important.

  • To resize the partitions on the destination disk, you can click Edit Partitions and choose one of the features. The last two features are only available in the professional version, if you want to use these features please upgrade to the Professional edition.

Edit Partitions

  • This version only supports cloning disks with the same partition style, such as, cloning a GPT disk to a GPT disk and vice versa. If you need to clone a system GPT disk to an MBR disk or migrate a system MBR disk to a GPT one, we recommend that you upgrade to AOMEI Backupper Professional Edition.

Please be aware that the length of time the cloning process takes varies from drive to drive, if you have a large drive with lots of data the process may take slightly longer. If you want to boot the system from the cloned external drive, be sure to change the boot sequence in the BIOS to make the external drive the priority.


AOMEI Backupper Standard Edition helps you clone HDD to external drive with just a few simple clicks. It is crammed full of useful features and functions for managing your system, it enables you to clone boot drive to SSD, backup your system, backup your PC to an external hard drive, clone partitions in Windows 10, and more! Why wait? Why not try it now!