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What does Cloning a Disk Do?

Disk clone, also known as hard drive cloning, is a process to make an exact copy of all sectors of the source disk to the target disk, including operating system, partition layout, drive letter, system reserved partition/EFI partition(for GPT disk), recovery partition, customized settings, installed programs, personal data, etc. No matter what the disk is a system disk or data disk, you could both create a disk clone easily.

Clone hard drive

Except for Disk Clone, System clone is another popular system imgration method, known as Windows operating system migration, will move only system partition with Windows installed and all the boot related partitions, like system reserved partition, recovery partition, EFI system partition (if it exists) to the target disk.

If you want to perform data migration, you can choose the third cloning method, it's partition/volume clone, which refers to copy all data on the selected partition/volume to destination partition. And the volume clone is usually used on a dynamic disk.

Disk Clone vs System Clone: Which One You Need

Both Disk Clone and System Clone feature can help when you want to migrate operating system to HDD/SSD while ensuring a secure boot. And it still can avoid reinstalling Windows and applications when your computer fail to boot. But which one you need to use in different scenarios? Here are some suggestions about it.

4 Disk Clone Scenarios | Need to Clone Hard Drive 

1. Hard Disk Upgrade: Hard disk comes along with your desktop or laptop will run out of its space sooner or later. At this time, you need to upgrade hard disk from old small disk to a larger one for big capacity by cloning HDD to SSD, and vice versa, etc. 

2. Make a Duplicate Disk: If all the data on the current system disk are important, it is necessary to do a full backup of the source disk by cloning hard drive. Thus, you can restore your data quickly in the event of a disaster. Also, if the original hard drive is damaged, you could replace it with the cloned hard drive with exactly the same configuration as before.

3. Data Migration: It can help to quickly transfer all the data on a disk to others, such as the Windows operating system, installed programs, system settings, personal files, videos, etc. Meanwhile, a copy of original hard drive can greatly avoid data losses due to computer failure.

4. Data Recovery: In order to avoid secondary damage to the hard disk during data recovery, it is necessary to clone the disk and then restore what you want from the cloned disk.

2 System Clone Scenarios | Need to Clone System Partition 

1. OS Transfer only: Cloning only system partition is a quick way to migrate OS to new hard drive or SSD. Also, it's a great idea to enjoy both excellent performance and big capacity by using SSD for OS and HDD for storage.

2. Smaller target disk: Sometimes, users want to clone hard drive to smaller SSD to get a better performance, but the cloning may fail if you use Sector by Sector clone to clone all sectors of a hard drive. At this time, it's a wise choice to clone OS only.

Best Free Hard Drive Cloning Software for Windows

As best free disk cloning software for Windows 10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista, AOMEI Backupper provides disk clone, system clone(supported by professional verion) and partition clone, and enables you to clone hard drive to another HDD/SSD without breaking off the running operating system (called "Live Disk Cloning"). That is to say, it can clone disk while you are working on the computer.

By default, this disk clone software just clones the existing data (the used sectors) on the disk. If you would like to clone all the sectors on the source disk, whether it is used or not, please try the "Sector by sector clone" option. If your target drive is an SSD, you could use "SSD Alignment" to accelerate the reading and writting speed of SSD. By the way, this feature can still extend SSDs' lifespan.

This hard drive cloning tool also helps you make bootable media when the Windows refuses to boot or you don't want to load operating system while cloning. Of course, it will be ok if you don't have any media, you can simply add Windows 10/8/7 recovery environment entry using AOMEI Backupper Recovery Environment. 

How to Easily Clone a Hard Drive with AOMEI Backupper?

AOMEI Backupper allows you clone hard drive with different size in Windows 10/8/7/XP/Vista, like:

  • Clone hard drive to larger drive to get more storage space and better performance.

  • Clone larger disk to smaller disk, like Clone larger HDD to smaller SSD, clone larger SSD to smaller one, etc. 

But there is a precondition. That is the space on the destination disk is able to accommodate all the valid data on the source disk. If there is not enough space on the destination disk, AOMEI Backupper will calculate and inform you that: The selected disk is too small, required the disk size at least: ** GB when you select the disk as the destination.

Then, let's see the detailed steps to clone disk as follows(take clone hard drive to SSD for example). First of all, please download this free tool, install and launch it.

Download Freeware Win 10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

If you want to clone hard drive to external drive, please connect it to your PC beforehand. And if it's not initialized, please intialize it in disk management before cloning.

Graphic Guide:

This graphic guide will show more details about how to clone a hard drive. Go on and check it.

Step 1. To clone a hard drive, select "Disk Clone" option under the "Clone" tab.

Disk Clone

Step 2. Select the source disk (Disk0) which you want to clone, and then click "Next".

Select Source Disk

Step 3. Select another drive or SSD as destination disk (Disk1) where you want to clone source disk to, and then click "Next". 

Select Destination Disk

After that, you will be prompted the destination disk will be overwritten or deleted, so it's suggested to backup files ahead of time. If not, your data will go after cloning.

Backup Data First

Step 4. Confirm the settings, and then click "Start Clone" to clone HDD to SSD safely.

Start Clone

★Helpful tips
✍The "Sector by sector clone" option is also available and allows you to clone all sectors on source disk no matter they are used or not to destination disk while cloning disk to larger disk. If you clone large hard drive to smaller SSD, DO NOT choose this option.
✍If you are cloning hard drive to an SSD, it is recommended to check the box before "SSD Alignment" to optimize the performance and lifespan for SSD.
✍If you clone a small disk to a larger disk, you can click the button of "Edit Partitions" to make the  target drive show full capacity. There are three options for you to resize partitions so that you can use full capacity on the destination disk, and two of them are for advanced operations.

Step 5. Click "Finish" when all the disk cloning operations have been done.


In fact, disk clone is also called "Disk to Disk (Disk2Disk)". There is a similar function-Disk Imaging, which can store all the data on a disk to an image file. That is the so-called "Disk to Image (Disk2Image)". AOMEI Backupper can realize Disk2Disk as well as Disk2Image. It can backup your disk to an image file so that you can restore your disk in the future.


★ All data on the destination disk will be overwritten or deleted after the cloning finished, so please back up important files ahead of time.

★ In general, the disk that contains the current operating system cannot be used as the destination disk. To complete that for special purpose, you can create a bootable disc and perform cloning in WinPE mode.

★ If the destination disk is a dynamic disk, you have to convert it to basic disk without losing data first. Or you can turn to "System Clone (supported by AOMEI Backupper Professional)" and "Partition Clone" feature for help.

★ If you have both SSD and HDD disk, you could consider using SSD for OS and HDD for storage. It makes full use of the advantages of SSD and HDD.

★ The Standard edition only supports cloning MBR system disk to MBR disk. If you want to clone a system disk from MBR to GPT, GPT to MBR, or GPT to GPT, you could consider upgrading to AOMEI Backupper Professional.

★ To clone disks on any computer, you may use AOMEI Backupper Technician or Technician Plus to create portable version

Video Guide:

This is a quick navigation to the entire process of hard drive clone. Compared with the graphic guide, it is more intuitive and easy to understand. You can check it before cloning.


Boot from Cloned Hard Drive 

If you're cloning the disk that installs operating system, it is suggested to restart your computer and continuously press a specific key (usually F2, F8, F12, Del) to enter BIOS Setup -> Boot, then set the cloned disk as first boot device in BIOS or replace the old hard drive with the new drive directly to boot from the cloned drive. 

Change Boot Order BIOS