What Is Disk Cloning?
Disk Clone, also called Disk Copy, is to make a simple and direct copy of the original disk, including all things on it, the operating system, applications, files/folders, documents, videos, etc as well as all settings (partition number, file system, etc).
Thus, it can be used to upgrade or replace disk, particularly useful in the following situations:
Upgrade hard drive to a larger drive or new one. This usually happens when your disk is aging or runs into problems, such as, low disk space.
Migrate all data from your old HDD to a new SSD so as to improve computer performance.
Make a duplicate of your HDD/SSD as a backup.
Disk Clone vs. Disk Backup
Sometimes, Disk Clone is very similar to Disk Backup. Both of them can help you upgrade or replace the disk, but they still have some differences:
- Disk Backup is to copy everything on the original disk to an image file, which greatly reduces any unwanted access. But you need to restore the backup image to a new hard drive before upgrading or replacing the old drive. And it requires a middle device to store backup image.
- Disk Clone directly copies data from one hard drive to another. No middle device or restoration process is needed.
Now you have a basic understanding of clone vs. image disk. Then, let's talk about when you need to use Disk Clone or Disk Backup:
>> If you just want to copy your computer configuration for a rainy day, choose Disk Clone.
>> If you want the fastest way to upgrade or replace disk, choose Disk Clone.
>> If you don't have an extra device to store backup image temporarily, choose Disk Clone.
>> If you want to protect your data continuously by schedule backup a disk, select Disk Backup.
>> If you want to move Windows 10 to new computer with dissimilar hardware, select Disk Backup.
If you are looking for the best free Windows disk clone software, please continue to see below.
Best free disk cloning software for Windows 10/11
AOMEI Backupper Standard, as the best free disk cloning software for Windows 11/10/8/7/XP/Vista, can help you copy a disk successfully and ensure secure boot. Also, you can still use it to clone a specific partition. Learn more about AOMEI Disk Clone feature below.
- Intelligent Clone: It allows you to clone only used sectors from one hard drive to another while skipping bad sectors, thus you can easily clone a disk to smaller SSD or clone a disk with bad sectors without any obstacle.
- Sector by Sector clone: It allows you to clone all sectors of a disk to another including the recovery partition, so you can use it to clone hard drive to larger drive, or move system reserved partition to new hard drive etc easily.
- SSD Alignment: This feature makes full use of 4k technology that can help you improve the performance of SSD disk.
- It applies to clone all kinds of HDDs and SSDs, regardless of disk size, disk interface, and its brands, such as, clone large HDD to smaller SSD, clone HDD to Samsung SSD, clone SATA SSD, clone NVMe SSD, etc.
- Multiple disk brands support: It support cloning Windows 10 to external hard drive, SSD, network drive, NAS, etc. This also applies to previous system.
How to use AOMEI Backupper to clone a disk in Windows 10/11
Here we will use AOMEI Backupper Standard Edition as an example to show you how to perform disk clone step by step. Before we start, you need to download, install and open this software on your computer.
Here are the detailed steps about how to clone a hard drive:
1. Select "Clone" from the left-hand side menu and then select "Disk Clone".
2. Select the source disk that you want to clone. Click "Next".
3. Select the destination disk to which the source disk will be cloned, and click "Next".
Warning! The destination disk will be formatted and all of the existing data will be overwritten! Backup important files beforehand.
4. Preview the information of your source and destination disk. In the lower-left corner, set desired advanced settings as follows.
a) To adjust the size of the partitions on the destination disk if it's larger, you can select the "Edit Partitions" option. It supports 3 options and only the first one is free. The other two options are available on the professional version or advanced.
Copy without resizing partitions: Do not make any changes to the partition sizes. If you use this option, there may be some unallocated space on the destination disk after disk clone. In this case, you can use free partition manager or Windows Disk Management to resize or allocate drive letters for the unallocated space.
- Add unused space to all partitions (available in the paid version): The destination disk partitions will be automatically resized to fit the entire disk, appropriate for the disk size. This feature is especially useful for disk clone from a smaller drive to a larger one. All partitions on the destination disk will be automatically resized in the same proportion to fit the entire disk space. As a result, you can make full use of the disk space.
Manually adjust partition size (available in the paid version): Manually adjust the partition size by dragging a slider bar. With this feature, you can simply select and modify the size of every partition as your requirements.
b) Sector by sector clone: This feature requires that the destination disk size must be equal to or larger than the source disk, and it will need more cloning time and disk space.
c) SSD Alignment: If you are cloning hard drive to an SSD (Solid-State Drive), we highly recommend you check this option for optimizing the performance of the SSD.
5. Finally, click "Start Clone". Wait for the process to complete and then click "Finish".
To ensure the destination disk is accessible after cloning, you should install the target disk internally after cloning. Note if the source disk and target disk are of different types (one uses MBR mode and the other uses GPT mode), you have to modify the boot mode in BIOS/UEFI when you boot from the target drive.
If the destination disk is locked by other programs or applications, then Backupper will request the computer to be restarted so as to execute the disk clone operation in "Restart Mode".
If “Sector by sector clone” is selected, the “Edit Partitions” option is unavailable. and for encrypted disk, Backupper will use the “Sector by sector clone” mode by default.
If there are non-NTFS or FAT32 partitions on the source disk, Backupper will use “Sector by sector clone” mode to clone these partitions.
The time to complete a disk clone task depends on the size of the source disk. Besides, the following aspects can also influence the operation speed: USB connection, bad sectors on the source or target disk, old computer configuration, etc.
The Standard Edition only supports cloning system disk from MBR to MBR. If you want to clone GPT system disk to MBR, migrate MBR system disk to GPT, or move GPT system disk to GPT, you could consider upgrading to higher editions.
Disk Clone doesn’t support dynamic disks. Please use System Clone or Partition Clone options to clone a dynamic disk.