How to Clone a Hard Drive

One of the main attractions of owning a desktop computer is being able to upgrade the internals. With more modern storage solutions offering greater reliability and efficiency, it’s no surprise that you want to upgrade to a new SSD.

However, that involves transferring all your data from the existing hard drive to the new hard drive. While there’s no native functionality in Windows, it’s a relatively straightforward process if you have the right hardware and software.

Even if your new drive has a smaller capacity than the old one – a common scenario if you’re replacing your old PC or laptop drive with a modern SSD – it’s still possible to copy data between drives. Just make sure that there is less data stored on the old drive than on the new drive.

There are two ways to clone a hard drive. First, you can buy a hard drive clone, plug in two drives and push a button. This is not the cheapest method and won’t work if the capacity of the new drive is smaller than the old one, but is the easiest method if the drives are of the same capacity or the new drive is larger.

However, our preferred method is to connect both drives to the same PC and use cloning software to copy the contents. First, this is cheaper than buying a hardware duplicator and it also gives you more control over the process. In addition, with the right software, you can also clone a larger capacity drive to a smaller drive.

Can you clone a hard drive in Windows 10?

Yes, but you will need additional software. Microsoft has never included a tool to create an exact clone of a hard drive in Windows itself. While you can copy files from one drive to another, this is not enough – especially if it also contains a Windows installation. All Windows can do is resize or create a new partition.

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To create an exact copy of the original disk, including Windows files plus hidden things you can’t see (such as the partition table and any hidden partitions), you need software or hardware especially.

Copy hard drive

One of the easiest ways to clone a hard drive is to buy a cloning kit. This is a piece of hardware that allows you to plug in two SATA drives and copy content from one to the other.

One example is StarTech’s SATDOCK2REU3 which costs £59.92 from Amazon in the UK or $65.68 from Amazon in the US at the time of writing.

How to clone hard drive

This will accept standard 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives that use a regular SATA connector. You can even buy a SATA-to-IDE (SAT2IDEADP) adapter in case you have an old IDE disk. Maybe you don’t have one that works, as the IDE was phased out years ago.

As mentioned, most cloners will only work if the new drive has the same (or larger) capacity as the old one. That’s a problem if you’re upgrading to an SSD and you can’t afford a drive with more storage than your old hard drive.

How to clone hard drive with software

There are a number of free apps that will clone drives, among them Macrium Reflect Free, but you’ll quickly discover their limitations. If you want the most flexibility and an easy-to-use graphical interface, you’ll need to buy some software.

However, if you haven’t purchased a new hard drive, you should know that some SSDs are available as ‘upgrade kits’ that come with cloning software. Some even include a USB-to-SATA cable so you can clone your laptop’s disk to the SSD without having to take out the old disk and use a PC (this is the only other way to mount the SSD). both drives at the same time).

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The two programs we recommend are Paragon Drive Copy 15 Professional and Acronis Disk Director.

Drive Copy 15 Professional is available now as a one-time purchase for £67.96 (US$79.95) and does everything you’d expect, including copying to a smaller capacity disc by removing subtract the file if there is not enough space. It even supports cloning to a virtual machine so you can work with older apps that aren’t supported in Windows 10.

Paragon drive clone

Annoyingly, you will find yourself unable to buy Drive Copy because Paragon will try to sell you the more expensive Hard Disk Manager 17 Advanced when you click ‘Buy Now’ and the only way to get the app as a standalone product is the Paragon Support contact. Not great, Paragon.

If you can’t be bothered with that kind of trouble, Acronis Disk Director is much easier to buy. It costs £34.99 / US$49.99, so it’s significantly more affordable.

How to clone a hard drive - Acronis Disk Director

How to copy old hard drive to new hard drive

That’s right, if you’ve made it this far, here’s how to do the process of copying the old drive to the new one.

Both drives must be attached to your PC (or laptop). It’s okay if the old one is the one containing Windows: the copy software will restart your machine and perform the copying when Windows is not running.

No matter which application you use, they all use wizards to guide you through selecting the source (old) and destination (new) drives, and then whether you want to clone the entire disk or just some partitions. certain area.

Unless you’re an expert, it’s best not to mess anything up and just choose to clone the entire drive as it is to make sure the new drive works correctly and Windows can boot. normal after you have swapped the old drive. one.

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Assuming the program supports it, you’ll also have a choice of files or folders to remove from the copying process if there’s too much data to copy to the target drive. If not, and there isn’t enough room on the new drive, you’ll have to manually delete unnecessary files from the old drive. Here’s how to free up disk space by finding large files.

When you get to the end of the wizard, you’ll see a summary confirming what you’ve just asked the software to do, and possibly a warning that any data on the (new) target drive will be erased. as part of the process.

If nothing happens when you press the Finish button, it’s probably because you need to apply the changes: that’s what usually sets the motion and restarts your PC. Keep in mind that it can take hours to copy all the data, and if the old drive has any damaged sectors or damaged sectors, it may take longer. Be patient and leave it until it’s done.

If you want more options, we’ve rounded up more
Best drive cloning software.

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