Why clone internal hard drive?
There are different purposes for a hard drive cloning under different situations. The need of cloning internal hard drive varies from situation to situation. Here are two of most common purposes:
For data protection
You can simply clone internal hard drive besides creating a backup. Unlike backup strategies, which need to restore or mount the backup before you can use or view the files in a backup, cloning a drive is a relatively simple and straightforward because all the data on the source disk will be cloned to the destination disk including hidden partitions.
By the way, throughout the cloning process, the source disk that needs cloning stays intact, so you do not need to worry about losing data for cloning a hard disk. If the source disk is a boot disk, then the cloned disk stays bootable.
Upgrade hard drive to a larger or faster one
You can use a cloned drive (destination disk) to replace the source disk, and since solid state drives (SSDs) provide enormous speed and they are growingly cheap, many users decide to clone hard disk drive（HDD）to SSD to get better performance. As there is no guarantee when a hard drive will fail, it is always a good shot to make a clone of your hard drive as a precaution.
What do you need to prepare for internal HDD cloning?
To perform a hard drive clone, firstly, you need a computer running Windows 10/8/7. Secondly, you must prepare another drive SSD or HDD as the internal hard drive replacement to receive the clone.
Thirdly, you must connect the destination disk to your computer. If it is a desktop, you can install on your computer, so you need a SATA cable and a SATA power cable.
If it is a laptop that does not have a second drive bay, you need a SATA-to-USB adapter to connect the drive externally. Of course, if your laptop has a second drive bay, then you can install a second HDD or SSD on your laptop or connect it externally via USB port.
Fourthly, you need hard drive cloning software to do the clone. Choosing a right hard disk cloning software may save you a lot of time and efforts. Finally, you need a screwdriver and some screws if you want to open your computer and fix the destination disk on your desktop.
That is, it. You may also hear that cloning a hard drive needs a bootable disk to perform the clone without loading Windows and shrink the partitions on the source disk to fit the cloned disk. However, with the freeware recommended here, you will not need these extra steps and a bootable CD or USB disk.
Free hard drive cloning software for Windows OS
If you search the internet, you can find much freeware that can clone HDD to SSD or another HDD. Here AOMEI Backupper Standard is recommended for its intuitive interface, reliable performance, and multiple functions to manage hard drive.
You can use this software and launch the clone task within Windows, and of course, it also allows you to copy a hard drive from bootable media. When you want to clone a large disk to a smaller one (SSD in most of the case), AOMEI Backupper will automatically shrink the partition on the clone drive to ensure all partitions including hidden recovery partition are cloned, leaving no changes to your original disk.
For SSDs, it has an extra choice to optimize the performance of SSD. Besides, AOMEI Backupper advanced editions also allow you to copy a system disk to another with different partition style while keeping the clone disk bootable, which means that you can use it to clone MBR disk to GPT disk and vice versa. If you do want to clone boot disk between MBR and GPT, be aware that you must change boot mode before you can boot the clone disk since MBR disk requires Legacy-BISO based mode and GPT disk requires UEFI boot mode.
How to clone the internal hard drive step by step?
To clone a hard drive in Windows 10/8/7, you only need a few clicks with AOMEI Backupper.
1. Download and run this free hard drive cloning software.
2. Under “Clone” tab, select “Disk Clone”, which will clone the entire hard drive.
3. Click on the hard drive that needs cloning and click “Next” to continue.
4. Click the hard drive to receive the hard drive clone and click “Next”.
5. Check the "SSD Alignment" option if the target disk is an SSD. Then, click on “Start Clone” to start the cloning process.
Tips: If you want to clone OS only to the destination hard drive, or clone internal disk between GPT and MBR partition style, please upgrade to AOMEI Backupper Professional and use System Clone feature.
Usually, in an hour or so the cloning process will be complete. The specific time varies depending on how large data need to be transferred. While waiting, you can still use the computer to do other things.
Besides cloning internal hard drive to protect your data or upgrade hard drive, you can also use Backup and Restore feature of AOMEI Backupper to achieve the similar result. Speaking of backup, you can also restore backup to dissimilar hardware without booting issue.