By Jessie / Last update June 15, 2022

Make an Exact Copy of Hard Drive in Windows 11: Clone vs. Backup 

If you want to make an exact copy of your hard drive in Windows 11, backing up a drive and cloning a drive can help you. They both copy data from one drive to another. But they still have differences. When backing up a drive, most users prefer to keep the files they want, such as documents, photos, videos, music, etc.

While cloning a drive is the complete cloning of everything from one disk to another, including the operating system, computer settings, installed applications and all data. So, you can use the cloned hard drive to boot your computer. After booting, you can use your computer just like before.

Hard Drive

How to Make an Exact Bootable Copy of Hard Drive in Windows 11

It's disappointed that Microsoft does not have disk cloning software, thus you can turn to third-party software for help. AOMEI Backupper Standard is such software that can help you clone hard drive to another one. And you can enjoy the following advantages in it: 

  • Secure boot: It allows you to directly boot your computer with the cloned hard drive after cloning.
  • Intelligent clone: By default, it will only copy the used sectors, so you can clone a larger HDD to a smaller SSD if you need. At the same time, it will skip bad sectors. 
  • Live Clone: The cloning task can work in the background so that you can use your computer normally during the cloning process.
  • Multiple storage paths: You can not only clone disk to a hard drive but also SSD, external USB drive, NAS, Cloud, etc.

And all the operations are based on an intuitive interface, so users can understand it easily and quickly. Please download it before cloning. This software applies to Windows 11/10/8/7/XP/Vista. For server user, please try AOMEI Backupper Server.

Download Freeware Win 11/10/8.1/8/7/XP
Secure Download

Then you can follow the steps below to make exact copy of hard drive in Windows 11. Before that, you need to backup your important files on the target disk because all the data will be removed after cloning.

Step 1. Make sure your target disk is connected to your computer, whether it’s via a USB to SATA adapter, or it’s in a disk bay within your cabinet (for desktop PCs), and ensure it can be detected. Then, open the software and click Clone > Disk Clone.

Disk Clone

Note:

  • If you want to only copy Windows to new hard drive, you can use System Clone in the professional version.

Step 2. Choose the original hard drive you want to clone as the source disk. 

Select Source Disk

Note:

  • All the available disk will be displayed and you can see its disk type (MBR or GPT). If both of them are GPT disks or different, one is MBR and the other is GPT, for example, you need to upgrade to the professional edition or higher version to enjoy it.

Step 3. Choose the other hard drive as the destination disk.

Select Destination Disk

Step 4. Confirm your operations and click Start Clone to make exact copy of hard drive in Windows 11. If your target disk is an SSD, you can tick SSD Alignment to make the disk’s reading and writing speed faster.

Start Clone

Notes:

  • Sector By Sector Clone: It will clone all sectors, whether they are used or not. Even blank or logically bad sectors will be cloned.
  • Edit Partitions: When your target disk is larger than the source disk, it allows you to change the partition size automatically or manually. Also, you convert the destination disk to MBR or GPT disk, depending the disk type of source disk. All of them are available on the professional version.

Boot your computer from the cloned hard drive in Windows 11

After the cloning is completed, you can follow the steps below to modify the boot sequence and then boot your computer directly from the cloned disk.

1. Restart your computer, remember not to remove the cloned hard disk from your computer. Then press F2, F12 or Del to enter the BIOS setting.

2. Find the boot menu and set the target disk as the first boot order, then press F10 to save the changes and exit the BIOS.

Bios

3. The computer will automatically start after you press F10, this time it will boot directly from the cloned disk and you will be able to use your computer as before after booting.

Traditional Way: Backup System and Restore It with Built-in Tool

If you don't want to install extra software, you still can use built-in tool to backup system and then restore it to new one. If you want to backup entire hard drive, you need to select other non-system partition manually.

We recommend that you backup to an external hard drive to make it more secure. You can get started by following the graphic tutorial below.

How to Create System Image

Step 1. Press Win+R together to open the Run window, then type control and hit Enter. Then, click Backup and Restore (Windows 7) under System and Security.

Step 2. Click the Create a System Image link on the left.

Create System Image Windows 10

Step 4. Select the external hard disk as the system image destination and click Next.

On A Hard Disk

Step 5. You will see the list of the backup drives and the EFI system partition, please confirm them and click Start backup. Then wait for your computer to complete the process

Backup EFI System Partition

Step 6. After completed, you will be prompted to do a system repair disc that requires CD/DVD as a storage device. If you don’t have a CD/DVD, you could create a bootable USB with built-in tool Recovery Drive or third-party media creator because you need to use the bootable disk to boot the computer if cannot boot.

Create A System Repair Disc

How to Restore the System Image to Another Disk

You need to boot the PC into Advanced Recovery with a bootable USB drive. Please navigate to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > System Image Recovery. Connect the external drive, and choose to recover the PC. The Windows System Image Recovery process will use your system image and then start the restoration.

System Image Recovery

Summary

In this article, you will learn how to make an exact copy of hard drive in windows 11 with disk cloning software - AOMEI Backupper Standard, and then you can directly boot from the cloned drive. Also, you can use Windows built-in tool to do so, but it only backup system instead of entire disk. It allows you to manually select other non-system partitions, but you cannot restore the entire disk.

Thus, It's suggested to use AOMEI Backupper and clone hard drive directly. By default, it clones only used sectors, so you can easily clone large HDD to smaller SSD. Also, you can easily clone drive to larger drive with its advanced featuer - Edit Partition. Either way, You can boost the performance of SSD disk.