By Ivy / Last Updated February 26, 2020

Can I clone a hard drive with Windows 10 on it?

“I have a computer with Windows 10 preinstalled. But the hard drive for my computer run out of space and I want to clone Windows 10 (including OS, installed app, drivers, etc.) to external hard drive. Can I clone entire Windows 10 to an external hard drive and boot from the cloned drive? Any kindly advice will be appreciated.”

Why clone Windows to an external hard drive?

For cloning hard drive in Windows 10, 8, 7, different users may have different reasons. Here, I’ll introduce you the common used reasons for this operation:

  • Upgrade old disk. If you use a computer for a very long time, your disk is old and fragile, and you need to replace your HDD with a new one.

  • Keep a backup for disaster recovery. Cloning a hard drive can be regarded as a backup, especially when your system or disk run into issues, because of system crash, virus attack, and human error, etc.

  • Need a larger disk. If you receive low disk space warning on your computer, you need a disk with larger capacity. In this case, cloning Windows 10 to external hard drive with a trust and reliable software is a great way. After that, you can boot your computer from the cloned drive to boot your computer.

  • Get higher performance. For game users, higher performance is very important. To achieve this goal, you can choose to clone Window hard drive to SSD.

  • Avoid reinstalling Windows. Reinstalling Windows is time-consuming, because you need to install OS, installed program, drivers, etc from scratch. What’s worse, your personal data will go forever. Besides, there are some users who even don’t know how to reinstall Windows. In this situation, cloning will be a better choice.

What is the best software to clone a hard drive?

Since Windows doesn't provide a direct way to clone your system, you can either choose to reinstall Windows or clone hard drive. But reinstalling is a waste of time, you’d better use a disk cloning software.

Here, I highly recommend you AOMEI Backupper Professional. It’s one of the best disk cloning software, which allows you to copy Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, XP to external hard drive in a few simple steps.

Then, I’ll introduce you the advantages of this software:

  • Clone hard drive with different size: This software allows you to copy only used sectors with intelligent clone, so you can not only clone disk to larger disk but also clone larger drive to smaller drive.

  • Clone hard drive with different partition style: Some software only allows you to clone hard drive with the same partition style, such as, clone GPT disk to GPT disk. But, in this software, you can clone GPT disk to MBR, and vice versa.

  • Edit Partitions: If you are cloning disk to larger disk, you may need this feature. Because this feature can adjust the partition size of target drive without leaving unallocated space.

  • Sector-by-sector clone: This feature is used to clone all sectors of a hard drive, so that your computer can successfully boot from the cloned drive. If you are cloning larger drive to smaller drive, please don’t tick this option.

  • SSD Alignment: This feature is designed for SSDs to get higher performance. It can accelerate the reading and writing speed of SSDs, so that your computer will run smoothly.

Example: How to clone Windows 10 to an external hard drive?

Before cloning hard drive for Windows, you need to do some preparations:

  • Connect the external hard drive with your computer.

  • Backup files to external hard drive before cloning. because the external hard drive will be overwritten finally. If there are any important files, you will lose them.

To clone Windows 10 to external drive, use the following steps:

Step 1. Download, install and open this utility. Select “Clone” and “Disk Clone” in the main page. To clone only OS, you can click “System Clone”.

Choose Disk Clone

Step 2. Select internal hard drive for Windows 10 and click “Next”.

Select Mbr Disk

Step 3. Select the external hard drive you prepare and click “Next”.

Select Gpt Disk

Step 4. Click “OK” to continue this operation.

Backup First

Step 5. Tick the setting you need and then click “Start Clone”.

Preview Clone

Tip: This software also supports cloning external hard drive to external hard drive in Windows 10, 8, 7, XP, Vista. You just need to connect both external hard drive to computer via USB cable, then follow the steps above.

How to boot from cloned hard drive?

After cloning, the process is half done. All you need to do is to replace the old disk and see if your computer can boot from the cloned drive.

To boot from the cloned hard drive, follow the steps below:

Step 1. Open the drive bay. Shutdown your computer, plug out all power, remove the hard drive bay cover with a screwdriver.

Step 2. Take out the original hard drive. Unscrew the screws holding the hard drive, then take out the existing hard drive at an angle(eg: 30 or 45 degrees).

Take Out Original Hard Drive

Step 3. Installed the external hard drive back into your computer.

Step 4. Change boot order after replacing hard drive and boot from it. Turn on your computer, hit the specific key in the initial screen (usually F2 or ESC) to access BIOS, go to the boot tab and use “+” to move the external drive to the first option, then press “F10” to save the change and boot from the cloned drive.

Written in the end

Cloning Windows 10, 8,7 to external hard drive is very easy if you use the best disk cloning software like AOMEI Backupper Professional. It supports cloning not only to a larger disk but also a smaller one. And it has an intuitive interface, so users can understand all the steps easily and quickly. Besides, it will interrupt your work and you use the computer as normal.

Besides, this utility also offers you many flexible backup solutions, for example, automatic backup. If you are a Windows Server user, AOMEI Backupper Server is helpful.