How To Clone Your Hard Drive
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how to clone a hard driveCopy the entirety of one hard drive to another. It’s called cloning, and it’s an important process if you want to replace or upgrade the primary hard drive in your computer. Cloning isn’t the same as backing up. When a drive is cloned you have a perfect copy of everything that was on it – the operating system, the software and all of the files included. When you clone a hard drive you recreate its entire environment, partitions and all.

Why clone a drive? Sometimes it’s because you’re current hard drive is failing. Sometimes it’s because you want to upgrade to a bigger drive. And sometimes it’s to ensure you have a complete and total backup of your work environment should something go terribly wrong.

We’ve covered quite a few free tools for cloning hard drives here at MakeUseOf. There’s Clonezilla, a free advanced hard drive cloning tool Clonezilla - Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software Clonezilla - Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software Read More based on Linux. There’s also Redo Backup and Recovery Back Up Your Entire Hard Drive With Redo Backup & Recovery Back Up Your Entire Hard Drive With Redo Backup & Recovery Easily make a copy of your entire hard drive . Don't just back up your data: back up all of your software, your settings and everything else by cloning your entire hard drive. Redo Backup... Read More , which allows you to back up any drive in its entirety. Personally, I like to use Parted Magic, a complete hard drive toolbox Parted Magic: A Complete Hard Drive Toolbox On One Live CD Parted Magic: A Complete Hard Drive Toolbox On One Live CD Take control of your hard drives. Whether you want to edit your partitions, clone an entire drive, check SMART data or otherwise manage the way your computer's data is organized, Parted Magic is the tool... Read More to clone drives. This Linux-based live CD does everything Clonezilla does but also offers a GUI and a plethora of other tools for hard drive partitioning and maintenance. No home should be without a copy, and it’s free, so download it now.

Cloning a drive with Parted Magic isn’t extremely difficult, but it’s also not completely intuitive. If you regularly call yourself “computer illiterate” please do not attempt this. Ever. Consult a technically minded friend or find a professional.

If you like getting your hands dirty and learning things, though, you can totally handle this. Let’s work through the process, step-by-step, and clone a drive together. The process I’m outlining here uses a live CD, and should work for Windows, Mac and Linux users (or anyone combining the three systems in any way).

Step One: Prepare The Drives

Just to be perfectly clear about terminology, your “source drive” is the drive you want to make a copy of. Your “destination drive” is the drive you want to copy everything to.

You’re going to need both your source and your destination drives to be connected to a computer in order to clone. Assuming your source drive is already in your computer, simply install your destination drive to your second hard drive slot. If you don’t have a second hard drive slot, or otherwise can’t install your destination drive, use a USB adapter – these are easily found online if you don’t have one handy, or ask a techie friend if you can borrow one. They’ll know what you’re talking about.

Once your source and your destination drive are connected to your computer it’s time to get the software we need, so keep reading.

Step Two: Burn & Boot Parted Magic

Before we begin we need a bootable copy of Parted Magic, so head to PartedMagic and download the latest ISO file. An ISO is a virtual CD which you can easily burn to disk in Windows, Mac or Linux. You typically need only to double-click or right-click it and the option to burn to disk will be presented.

how to clone a hard drive

Windows XP users: check out ISO Recorder [No Longer Available].

If you don’t have a CD drive, or want to simply avoid using a CD for the job, don’t worry – you can boot from a USB key. Using uNetBootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More you can write the ISO to a flash drive you can boot from.

Now you need only reboot your computer and boot from your CD or flash drive. How to do this varies depending on your computer, but there are usually on-screen instructions immediately after you turn on your computer. Consult your computer’s documentation if you need help.

Once you’ve managed to boot Parted Magic you’ll be presented with a desktop you’re not familiar with:

clone hard drive

Don’t panic, this is easy to use. Use the partition editor if you’d like to make any changes to your partitioning, or just advance to the next step.

Step Three: Clone!

Okay, it’s time to clone the drive. Double-click the “Disk Cloning” icon on the desktop and you’ll be presented with a text-based interface in a window:

how to clone a hard drive

Don’t panic! The process isn’t that hard. Read everything carefully; use the arrow keys to navigate, the space bar to select things and the enter key to confirm your choices.

Regarding your first choice – cloning to an image is great for a backup and generally considered safe; cloning directly to another drive is the fastest way to completely copy one drive to another.

This cloning software is based on Clonezilla, so read this article if you want more details about usage Clonezilla - Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software Clonezilla - Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software Read More . Basically, follow the steps and tell the software what to do.

A quick note on drive names: if you’re a Windows user you will not see the “Letter names” that you are used to (C:\, D:\ etc). Instead you will see names like this – SDA1, SDA2, SDB1. These seemingly archaic names are followed by the actual name of the drive (ie, WINDOWS).

To explain the numbering system: the “SD” stands for storage device. The letter after that lets you know which physical drive a given partition is on. The number after that letter lets you know which partition is being talked about. You’ll probably be able to determine which drive is which based on the names of the partitions and their sizes, but pay attention, you could potentially delete all of your files forever if you don’t.

Check out this documentation if you’re at all confused, but generally just follow the steps and accomplish your goal.


There you have it, you now know how to clone your hard drive. You’re now ready to completely back up your hard drive.

Do you know of a better tool or process for the job? Share in the comments below, along with any thoughts you have about Clonezilla or Parted Magic.

Oh, and a quick note about a problem I recently ran into. If you’re cloning from a large drive to a smaller one, you need to shrink the partitions so that they’ll fit, deleting any partitions you don’t want to keep in the process. It sucks, but it’s true. Check out this PDF on the process if you’re having trouble.

Explore more about: Clone Hard Drive, Computer Maintenance, Hard Drive.

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  1. John
    March 15, 2016 at 2:39 am

    Nice article, good info, only one problem.

    Article says 'Parted Magic' is free, I just checked, it isn't (~$9 minimal, no free DL)

    So, that make the entire article not very useful, can someone please explain this to me?


  2. Shreenivas
    January 19, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    I had locked my 1tb hard disc by bit locker and was not Abel to open my hard disc can I open and get back my files by cloning plzzz help me

    • Justin Pot
      January 19, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Sadly cloning your drive now would only recreate your bitlocker problems on the new drive. :(

  3. Anonymous
    October 26, 2015 at 3:46 am

    I don't know if it has been mentioned but there is a very powerful Windows utility for cloning drives, or just partitions, with lots of other backup options. It will even let you resize the partitions to your liking in case the destination drive is of a different capacity than the source drive. Best of all, it's free.
    AOMEI Backupper.
    I've been using it a number of times over the years and can't recommend it enough.

  4. Anonymous
    August 20, 2015 at 8:46 pm

    I want to clone me almost dead hard drive on a USB flash drive and then put it in a new computer. By the way my source computer is running Windows 10 Home (64 bit) and I don't want viruses on it. The destination drive is running either 8.1 or 10 Home (Both 64-bit) (I haven't decided yet what computer I want to get)

    • Justin Pot
      August 20, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Hey Aidan, cloning Windows rarely works well for a lot of reasons, not least of which is Microsoft's copy protection. I'd suggest just copying the files over to your new computer instead.

      • Anonymous
        August 25, 2015 at 1:03 am

        Thing is, I found out I can't sell the computer, so I I'll just upgrade the hell out of it.
        Is there some sort of online cloning thing? If not what I want to do is put an SD drive or USB flash drive, clone it to the drive, swap the hard drive, and put it back in.

        • Anonymous
          August 25, 2015 at 1:05 am

          *Insert a SD or USB drive to the computer

        • Justin Pot
          August 25, 2015 at 2:53 pm

          There's no online cloning tool, the steps outlined above are what's most likely to work. If you're upgrading that much hardware, though, Windows might not work anymore when you're done even if cloning goes perfectly. Just a heads up.

  5. nut
    March 13, 2015 at 1:30 am

    thank you

  6. nut
    March 12, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    if i create an image on an external hard drive, will that format the external hard drive? or will that just save a file on the external hard drive that i can later use to format and restore another drive?

    for clarity, i need to copy one internal drive to another, but i can only boot with one internal drive in at a time. i want to run clonezilla from a USB drive to create an image of the source drive on an external drive (which has things on it i need to keep), then turn the computer off and swap the internal drives, then recover the image from the external drive on to the new internal drive, leaving the external drive as it was.

    is that how it works?


    • Justin Pot
      March 12, 2015 at 9:14 pm

      This tutorial explains how you can copy an entire hard drive to another hard drive, replacing any files on it. But Clonezilla also allows you to create an "image" of your hard drive, which you can then restore onto another driver. So yes, you can do what you're outlining here, but the process will be a little different than what is outlined above.

  7. Leandro Toledo
    December 10, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Hi, thanks for your post. I was wondering if you could help me with something. Let me explain it:

    I have a 128GB Corsair SSD on my pc. However, there's less than 1GB free now. So I bought a 512GB Corsair SSD. I'd like to know if I can clone the 128GB to my 512GB and replace the old one - 128GB by the new one - 512GB.

    There'll be no other hardware change other than the SSD itself. I'm hoping this could spare me of the hassle of installing everything again on my new SSD.

    Is there any risk of incompatibility?

    I'm not a computer illiterate but I'm no expert either.

    By the way, my OS is Windows 7 64-bit.

    Thank you!

    • Geekosaurus
      September 14, 2017 at 6:23 am

      A good summary. if however it still scares you I'd suggest buying a twin Hdd caddy provided your comfortable with removing your hard drive. Buy a twin HDD caddy (type hard drive cloning caddy into Google) place your old drive in one slot and your new drive in the other and hit clone. just make sure your new drive is the same size or bigger than the old drive. I did it for 3 of my PCs and a laptop using old HDDs and slim drives onto SSDs
      Worked a charm. super quick if you're changing from 128 SSD to a 256gb SSD.

  8. Chris
    April 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    I've been using my 150gb hard drive for about 8 years now. I think it's about time to back it up, just in case . Thanks for showing this tutorial.

    • Justin Pot
      April 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      Wow, you're a lucky guy so far. Glad you're backing up now, though – luck like that can't last forever.

  9. José Leandro
    April 14, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Hello Justin

    I've just used your tutorial to clone my HD (160GB) to a new and bigger one (500GB), the problem is that after the cloning process the new HD only shows 160 GB like the old one, how can i solve this? Many thaks in advance.

    José Leandro

    • justinpot
      April 14, 2013 at 1:05 pm

      Cloning creates a partition of the same size, but you can expand the partition using GParted (Partition Editor on Parted Magic's desktop). Don't delete the original drive before you do, though!

  10. sean
    April 13, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    sorry i redid this again, the first time was in wrong spot, but i have a gm5084 with a ide hard drive and i want to get a sata hard drive, my mobo has 2 sata ports can i clone from my ide to the new sata harddrive?

    thanks for replys sean

    • justinpot
      April 13, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      Not sure what a mobo is. Motherboard? If so, this shouldn't be a problem – connect the new drive, boot from CD and clone the full drive to the empty one. IDE/SATA shouldn't matter. Good luck.

      • sean
        April 15, 2013 at 5:12 am

        yes motherboard, cool ty for reply.if it doesnt work ill just wipe the drive and do a fresh install as last resort. practice makes perfect.

        thanks sean

  11. maria cater
    March 4, 2013 at 2:34 am

    i cloned my hard drive with minitool partition wizard

    reaccy cool

  12. Benzaminwatson
    February 28, 2013 at 3:20 am

    For massive cloning clonezilla is best but the only problem that it consumes lot of time and ofcourse it can't create bootable copy of your Mac drive. So, if one wants to create bootable clone of his drive should go for tools like: Stellar Drive Clone, CCC etc.

  13. Brian Burke
    November 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Justin, regarding your alternate solution on the site, I think that's a dead end too. I asked the author why I would only get the "Grub" prompt when restarting and this was his reply: The method described in this post will only boot an OS that has a loopback.cfg compatible with grub for booting ISOs. In general this means every OS has to be prepared for this special scenario. Ubuntu comes shipped with everything necessary. An alternative to PartedMagic (that works with Ubuntu) might be gparted.

    So I'm still on the hunt for a way to get PM onto USB for Macs. I know I can use a CD, but in my experience, CDs take forEVER to boot from.

  14. Márcio Guerra
    November 8, 2012 at 3:30 am

    Very nice! Needing this stuff! How did you guessed it? Ehehehe!

    Márcio Guerra

  15. jarne skegge
    November 8, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Question for anyone who knows, or thinks they know. I have a Netbook that I recently bought and I going to put a Linux based OS like Easy Peasy on it. Obviously, I would like to back the whole darn thing up. The only spare hardrive I have is a 13GB...too small for what I need.
    My newly aquired desktop, however, has plenty of memory...can I clone the Netbook drive to the hard-drive on my desk top, or would this....or would the "clone" replace everything on it, leaving me with a ruined desktop?

    • Justin Pot
      November 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      You sure can! If you have a shared folder on your computer you can clone to an image over the network using Clonezilla. Just make sure both computers are on the network before you start and you should be able to pull it off.

      • sean
        April 13, 2013 at 8:15 pm

        I have a gm5084, my mobo has ide right now and i want to get a sata harddrive, my mobo has 2 sata ports on mobo, can i clone from my ide to the new sata?

        thanks sean

  16. Bob
    November 7, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Seagate have a good free program called Discwizard which I have used a couple of times. It creates a bootable disk. At least one of the discs must be a Seagate or Maxtor but it may work with some others too.

  17. Ted Sterling
    November 6, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I am cloning from a large drive to a smaller one (SSD). Could you explain what additional steps I have to Take? How do I shrink the partitions so that they’ll fit and delete any partitions I don’t want to keep. Great Job!

    • Justin Pot
      November 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      The PDF I linked to in the conclusion explains much better than I could. Here's the link again:

      I used this myself last week and it worked perfectly, though I needed to try a couple of time. :)

      • Brian
        November 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        I just noticed this on the unetbootin site: Note that resulting USB drives are bootable only on PCs (not on Macs).

        I'm not a computer genius, so I wonder, does this make it unusable for Macs?

        • Justin Pot
          November 7, 2012 at 4:11 pm

          Probably. I found this alternate solution:

          [Broken Link Removed]

          I'm kind of new to Linux on Macs, I should write something up.

        • Brian
          November 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm

          Thanks, Justin. For some reason my Mac won't open the file. The plot thickens...

        • Justin Pot
          November 7, 2012 at 4:40 pm

          I will investigate further later in the week. Keep us posted.

        • Brian
          November 7, 2012 at 5:19 pm

          I'm getting closer. I got to the Grub prompt only. Trying it again.

  18. Anonymous
    November 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    I might be posting this too late, but regarding a Mac, are there any additional concerns with 10.7+ having a recovery partition? I heard that some (most?) cloning apps don't also clone the recovery partition.

    • Justin Pot
      November 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      So far as I know, if you clone the entire drive, the Recovery Partition will come along for the ride.

  19. Leigh Holing
    November 6, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Since I started with my online business I earn $62 every 15 minutes. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don't check it out.

  20. Boni Oloff
    November 4, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I think someone in the MOU Answer ever asking about software that can do clonig harddisk, i hope he have read this article you made.

    • Justin Pot
      November 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      If you stumble on that thread again you can always provide a link!

  21. Anthony Monori
    November 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks. I feel like my HDD is starting to die, and I'm really considering backing it up before I lose everything.

    • Justin Pot
      November 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      Clone your entire system and the moment of panic will be short: all you'll need to do is install the new drive and you'll be set. I've got a backup drive for my media center ready to go pending its inevitable death.

  22. salvador hernandez
    November 2, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    great article, thanks for putting this out. i will be referring back to it.

  23. John Schmitt
    November 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I NEVER clone my drives to another drive. I ALWAYS clone/backup to an image file. What if the drives are the same size and you clone the wrong way?

    • Justin Pot
      November 6, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      It's worth being careful, for sure, but there are ways to tell which is which.

  24. vivek u
    November 2, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Good information

  25. Mac Witty
    November 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Being a mac user cloning is a familiar thing and a pain relief if anything goes wrong with your harddrive or installation (and easy to create with e g Carbon Copy Cloner or Superduper)

    My question is will it be the same on Windows that you can boot on the harddisk with the clone and just continue to work with all settings? That you can take the clone to another windows machine an start it up and work there.

    Sorry my questions might be stupid but I have asked Windows user about cloning and they seems not know what I'm talking about

    • Justin Pot
      November 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Moving from one hard drive to another in the same computer isn't really a problem, much like on a Mac.

      Moving from one computer to another will be. This is because of drivers (OS X includes drivers for all Macs; doing that for PCs would be crazy) and because of licensing (Microsoft doesn't want people cloning drives to copy Windows; Apple doesn't care because you already paid for a Mac).

      I hope that answers your question.

      • Mac Witty
        November 2, 2012 at 4:45 am

        Yes it did!
        Thank you Justin for answering

  26. Grr
    November 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I have been using Windows7 System Backup for a while.
    Works good for me.

    Earlier also tried Acronis True Home.

    • Justin Pot
      November 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Always good to have options. Thanks, Grr.

  27. Nikhil Chandak
    November 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    seems to be amazing
    & useful also
    thanks for sharing to us

  28. Brian
    November 1, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    Good article. A couple questions. 1. Is there a reason the instructions started with using Parted Magic and shifted to Clonezilla in step 3? 2. I'm using OS X. Can that OS copy the ISO onto a USB instead of me using UNetbootin? I never put an install disk on CD because it takes forever to boot.

    • Brian
      November 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      Forget my first question. I just noticed that Clonezilla is built in to Parted Magic.

    • Justin Pot
      November 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      I don't believe OS X can natively copy the disk, though I may be wrong. uNetBootin works on Mac, though, and isn't complicated to use.

  29. Efi Dreyshner
    November 1, 2012 at 10:22 am

    There are a few more ways and utilities that doing it.
    But Parted Magic is one of the best!

    • Justin Pot
      November 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm

      And Parted Magic is useful to have around for much more than cloning drives.

      • Efi Dreyshner
        November 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm

        Of course.
        As a computer technician, I always have a Parted Magic CD.
        The advantages of Linux system, plus the tools that I need (:

      • David Harrier
        November 1, 2012 at 6:11 pm

        Is Prated Magic the same thing as Partition Magic? I have used Partition Magic before, and am suppressed that nobody mentioned it.

        • Justin Pot
          November 1, 2012 at 6:16 pm

          Partition Magic died years ago, sadly. Parted Magic is an open source project with lots of different tools for everything from editing partitions to testing the health of your drives to cloning.

  30. Sebastian Cork
    November 1, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Just in time for storing in my bookmarks collection. This article will be useful once I purchase a SSD for my notebook.

    • Justin Pot
      November 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Note that cloning to a smaller drive can be complicated, but the PDF linked to above helped me figure everything out.

      • Sebastian Cork
        November 1, 2012 at 9:07 pm

        Thanks Justin, for the tip. I'll keep that in mind when the time arrives.

  31. Danny
    November 1, 2012 at 6:30 am

    EaseUS Disk Copy is much simpler.
    Just clone the whole drive 1:1, Remove the old drive, then stretch the partition using EaseUS Partition Master Home Edition in Windows once you boot up on the new drive :)

    • Justin Pot
      November 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      Good to know!

    • Eric Thieszen
      November 1, 2012 at 9:10 pm

      Another vote for EaseUS, I have used it many times when setting up my computer i install my esential programs on the c drive and clone it. When my computer slows down due to crapware and test ware I can easily restore everything to original state without having to reinstall my main programs.

  32. Tarek Ramadan
    November 1, 2012 at 6:18 am

    very useful thanks

  33. Michael Jan Moratalla
    November 1, 2012 at 4:29 am

    great thanks for this

  34. Félix S. De Jesús
    November 1, 2012 at 3:16 am

    I really tried that... The consequence, Like a Dummy, I erased all my data and re-install Windows Again :/

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      November 1, 2012 at 4:41 am

      Hope you don't lose precious data.

  35. jasray
    November 1, 2012 at 12:06 am

    How can this possibly work if one is to take the cloned image to a new computer with different hardware, a different BIOS, different drivers, network card, etc. Isn't it basically disc imaging. And Clonezilla's typically use is to image multiple computers at one time in a lab setting. Neither program can be used to for an "easy install" to a new computer . . . or am I missing something?

    • Justin Pot
      November 1, 2012 at 12:35 am

      I don't believe I said you could take the cloned drive to a new computer; it's more for upgrading the hard drive in your existing computer.

      But this is sort of possible; it depends on the OS. Most Linux distros should be able to adapt, but with Windows there will be licensing complications, and driver ones. Not recommended.

        • Justin Pot
          November 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm

          Not saying it's impossible; just saying complicated will arise.

        • Omotayo
          March 27, 2013 at 8:52 am

          could it be the same process and as easy as described cloning a laptop hard driver to a desktop hard drive?

        • justinpot
          March 27, 2013 at 1:30 pm

          Omotayo: probably not. I personally wouldn't even try.

  36. Burt Philp
    October 31, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    This is a good tool, but may be a little disconcerting for a Windows user as apps like Clonezilla has a non-GUI interface. And frankly, the instructions are not obviously clear.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      November 1, 2012 at 4:40 am

      It's exactly why the writer stated, 'if you're computer illiterate, don't attempt it by yourself'.

    • Justin Pot
      November 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Mac users will be disconcerted as well, but I'm yet to find a better balance between ease of use and flexibility than Clonezilla.

  37. Besian Cato
    October 31, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    a must know for every IT specialist

    • Ken Gaming
      November 7, 2012 at 3:30 am


  38. Alex Perkins
    October 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Great if you're moving to a new computer.