How to Clone a Hard Drive Safely
You probably know the importance of backing up your hard drive. (If you don't, read up on it and back up your computer right now!) But it's worth knowing about the multiple backup options available, including one that might sound a little bit like science fiction: cloning your hard drive.
Don't worry -- it's nowhere near as intimidating as it might sound! In this article, we'll give you the scoop on how to clone a hard drive, as well as how to keep your data safe.
What Is Cloning a Hard Drive?
Cloning a hard drive is one of several ways to back up your data. Here's a quick guide to the basic differences:
- Backup: Transfer copies of your files onto a USB flash drive or other storage medium. Use either copy and paste commands or a backup utility such as Apple's Time Machine.
- Disk Image: Create a file (stored on your hard drive or an external drive) with a complete bootable copy of your hard drive, including the OS and settings.
- Cloned Drive: Create an exact one-for-one bootable copy (not a file) of your entire hard drive, including your OS and settings, on another drive.
The big advantage of cloning is that it gives you a copy of your entire system that's ready to roll. Everything will be in exactly the same place, with the same settings and software available.
Why Clone Your Hard Drive?
These are some of the major reasons that you might choose to clone your hard drive:
- You're getting a new computer and would rather not set it up from scratch
- You're upgrading the hard drive in your computer
- You're adding a second or third hard drive to your computer
- You want to have a backup of your hard drive ready to go at a moment's notice
Whatever your reasons, cloning a hard drive can be safe and easy. Just make sure you're following the right steps.
Cloning a Hard Drive Safely
Here are some essential tasks to complete before you begin the process of cloning your hard drive:
- Make sure that your destination drive (i.e., the drive you'll be copying to) has enough storage space for all of your data.
- If you're storing any data on the destination drive currently, move it somewhere else. It will most likely be overwritten during the process.
- Create a backup of any irreplaceable data from your source drive as well in case you make a mistake. For a quick and easy way to do it, just manually copy your most important folders onto a USB flash drive. (Another great reason to keep some bulk USB drives lying around!)
- Make sure your computer is securely plugged into a power source, and don't unplug it until the process is finished. A power interruption could corrupt your data.
How to Clone a Hard Drive: The Basics
The main tools you'll need to clone a hard drive are:
- A disk cloning utility application. Lots of different applications for this purpose are available on the internet, in both free and paid versions. Do some research and find the one that suits you best. If the company that manufactures your drive offers its own utility app, that's usually a good bet.
- An external hard drive with enough space to store the contents of your drive. Your disk utility should be able to tell you how much space you'll need. If your source drive doesn't have many files on it, you might even be able to use some of the larger thumb drive sizes.
- A SATA to USB adapter, if you'll be cloning to a drive with a SATA port.
Cloning a hard drive will be a little bit different depending on which application you're using and which OS your computer is running. However, the actual process itself isn't difficult at all. Generally, the steps will work something like this:
- Connect your destination drive to your computer via USB and/or SATA port.
- Open your disk cloning utility app. Choose the option to clone your entire disk.
- Select the source drive and destination drive. Double-check to make sure you're not overwriting the wrong disk. Click the button that begins the cloning process.
- Wait for the app to clone your disk. This could take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on how full your disk is.
- Test the new drive by accessing the BIOS or UEFI on your machine. Change the settings to boot from your new drive and then proceed with the boot to ensure your drive works the way you want.
Our mission at USB Memory Direct is to give our customers the highest quality custom flash drives to keep their files safe, backed up and easily accessible! Check out our whole selection of bulk USB drives at industry-best prices, or go back to the basics with our guide to how to use a flash drive.