By Jessie / Last update December 13, 2021

Cloning Hard Drive VS Backing Up Hard Drive

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 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 Exact Copy of Hard Drive in Windows 11

If you are still troubled about how to copy a hard drive to another hard drive, don't worry, this article will introduce you 2 methods in turn. You can use Windows built-in tool to make a backup and then restore it to another disk, or you can simply choose a free and reliable third-party cloning software to help you achieve the goal. You can choose any of them according to your needs.

Method 1. Backup Hard Drive and Restore It

The first method is to use Windows built-in tool Backup and Restore to make an exact backup of your hard drive in Windows 11, and then restore this backup to another hard drive. 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.

Type Control

Step 2. Under System and Security, click Backup and Restore to open it.

Backup And Restore Windows 11

Step 3. Click the link on the left Create a System Image.

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

Method 2. Clone Hard Drive with Third-party Software

If you consider the first method is a little bit troublesome or worry about the instability of the built-in tool, you can try the second method, which is to use third-party professional backup software to help you clone the disk directly. For example, AOMEI Backupper Standard, which can clone not only disk but also system and partition for free. It also has the advantages below.

  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • Different system: In addition to the latest system Windows 11, this software also supports cloning hard drives in Windows 10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista with just a few simple clicks.

And before you start the cloning process, you should do some preparation work.

  • 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.
  • Backup your important files because all the data on the target disk will be removed after cloning.
  • Download the free and professional cloning software AOMEI Backupper Standard and install it.
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.

Step 1. Open the software and click Clone > Disk Clone.

Disk Clone

Notes:

  • The free version only supports cloning MBR system disks and data disks. If both your source disk and target disk are GPT disks or you want to clone between GPT and MBR, you can upgrade to the professional edition or higher version to enjoy these features.
  • If you want to only copy Windows to new hard drive, you can use System Clone in the professional version.

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

Select Source Disk

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.

Start Clone

Notes:

  • Edit Partitions: When your target disk is larger than the source disk, it allows you to change the partition size automatically or manually. And you can enjoy this function in the professional version.
  • SSD Alignment: If your target disk is an SSD, you can tick this option to make the disk’s reading and writing speed faster.
  • Sector By Sector Clone: It will clone all sectors, whether they are used or not. Even blank or logically bad sectors will be cloned.

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.

Step 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.

Step 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

Step 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.

Summary

If you want to make exact copy of hard drive in windows 11, you can choose to use Windows built-in tool to backup it first and then restore it, or you can select a free and professional cloning software like AOMEI Backupper Standard to help you clone the disk directly.

I would recommend you to use the second method because it is not only easy and safe, but also allows you to boot your computer after cloning. And you can use your Windows system and installed software directly as well as access all your data at any time.

If you are a Windows server user, you can try AOMEI Backupper Server. And you can download the software to explore more useful features!