How to clone a disk in Windows

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Updated: 03/01/2018 by Computer Hope

If you want to make an exact, byte-for-byte copy of a disk, you can clone it to another disk. Disk cloning copies everything on the disk, including its partitions and filesystems.

When is cloning useful?

Cloning is useful when you want to copy a system disk — the disk containing your operating system. All installed software, documents, and configuration is cloned, including low-level data such as the master boot record, which is required to boot the computer.

Cloning may be used to create an replica of a system disk, which can be used as a replacement if the original disk fails.

Terms used in these instructions

In the instructions below, we use the following terms:

Warning: All data on the destination disk will be destroyed when the clone is written. There is no way to undo the clone. Therefore, make a backup of any existing data on the disk before selecting it as the destination of a clone operation.

Requirements

Requirements for cloning disk-to-disk in Windows:

Disk capacity

The capacity of the destination disk must be at least as large as the source disk.

Software

Special software is required to perform a cloning operation. Several free cloning software packages are available for Windows, including:

In this article, we use the free edition of Macrium Reflect. It’s robust, intuitive to use, and the free version supports system disk cloning. The first thing we’ll do is walk through the installation.

Example: Clone a disk

To install Macrium Reflect Free, first download and run the download agent. The agent downloads the installer, which installs the software on your computer.

Follow these steps to download and install Macrium Reflect Free.

Download Macrium Reflect

  1. Download the Macrium Reflect download agent at https://www.macrium.com/reflectfree. Locate the executable in your download folder, and run it.

Screenshot: Download agent executable.

  1. In the download agent, click Download.

Screenshot: Click Download to download the installer.

  1. You are prompted to install the WinPE (Windows Preinstallation Environment) module, which is used by Macrium Reflect for some operations. To proceed, click Yes.

Screenshot: Click Yes to intall Windows Preinstallation Environment module.

  1. The agent downloads the installer. By default, the installer runs automatically when the download is complete.

Screenshot: Run the Installer executable when the download is complete.

Note: If you decide to run the installer later, you can find the executable in the folder where you downloaded the agent, in a subfolder named Macrium.

Screenshot: The installer executable is located in a the folder where you downloaded the agent, in a subfolder named Macrium.

Run the Macrium Free Installer

  1. Click Next twice to launch the installer.

Screenshot: Click Next twice to launch installer.

  1. Accept the license agreement, and click Next to continue.
  1. Choose which edition of Macrium Reflect Free to install, “Home” or “Commercial.” If you’re not using the software for a business, choose Home.

Screenshot: Choose edition to install.

  1. Optional step: Register your e-mail address to receive news and updates about Macrium products.

Screenshot: Optional: register your e-mail address.

  1. Finalize your installation options. You’re given the option to install ViBoot. ViBoot is an optional component, not required to make a clone, so we do not install it here. More information about ViBoot is available at Macrium’s website. Click Next to continue.

Screenshot: Finalize installation options.

  1. Click Install.

Screenshot: Begin installation.

  1. When the installation is complete, click Finish.

Screenshot: Finish installation.

  1. Before the installer exits, you are asked once more if you would like to register your identity with Macrium. Registration is not required.

Reflect is now installed. By default, it will launch automatically.

Use Macrium Reflect to clone a disk

  1. In the main Macrium Reflect UI, With the “Disk Image” and “Create a backup” tabs selected, locate the source drive to clone. Select it by clicking it once. Beneath the selected disk, the option Clone this disk is listed. Click it now.

Screenshot: Select a disk, and click Clone this disk.

Note: In this example, our source disk has several partitions: two Windows partitions (the system partition, and the recovery partition), and three Linux partitions. Your disk may look different. You may only have one, two or three partitions. Regardless, the instructions will be the same, because in this example we are cloning the entire disk.

  1. The Clone window opens. Verify that you have the correct source disk selected. Then, click Select a disk to clone to.

Screenshot: Click Select a disk to clone to.

All eligible destination disks are shown in a drop-down list. Select your desired destination disk.

Screenshot: Select a destination disk from the drop-down list.

  1. When we perform the clone, we will overwrite the entire destination disk. If the disk contains data, its partitions should be removed, clearing the slate for the cloning process. To specify that they should be deleted before cloning begins, select each partition in your destination disk one at a time and click Delete Existing Partition. Note that the partitions will not be deleted until the configuration is complete and the clone operation begins.

Note: If your destination disk has no partitions, you can skip this step.

Screenshot: To erase the destination disk before cloning, select each partition on the destination disk, and click Delete existing partition

  1. With all partitions marked for deletion on our destination disk, the disk looks completely gray (see image below). In the source disk (on top), make sure all partitions have a checkmark. (You can un-check any that you don’t want to clone. In this example, we’re cloning everything.) Then, click Copy selected partitions.

Screenshot: Beneath the source disk, click Copy selected partitions

  1. The source partitions are now displayed in the destination disk, indicating that they will be cloned. Any extra space at the end of the disk will be unallocated. (You can allocate it later if you like. See Optional: allocate remaining space for more information.) Click Next to continue.

Screenshot: Source partitions are displayed in the destination disk. Click Next.

  1. Reflect allows you to schedule this clone to happen regularly. Doing a Reflect can be useful if you want to perform the clone operation weekly or monthly as an automatic backup. We do not configure a schedule in this example. Click Next.

Screenshot: Optional: schedule this clone to happen regularly.

  1. Macrium Reflect gives you the option to save your configuration to a file, which can be opened later to reload the same settings. This option is optional, but recommended. You can use the default file name. Click OK to begin the cloning process.

Screenshot: Finalize options, and save your configuration if you'd like, then click OK.

  1. You’re warned that changes are about to be written. This is your last chance to abort before deleting your destination drive and creating the clone. When you’re ready to start, click Continue.

Screenshot: Last chance to abort before deleting destination drive. Click Continue to proceed.

  1. Cloning begins. Depending on your system hardware, and the size of your disks, this will probably take between 15 minutes and an hour.

Screenshot: Cloning in progress.

  1. When the clone operation is complete, click OK.

Screenshot: Clone complete.

  1. Review the details of all completed operations. Click Close when you’re done.

Screenshot: Review operation details.

Optional: Allocate remaining space on destination disk

If your destination disk is bigger than your source disk (as in this example), the remaining space is unallocated by default. It is not partitioned, it does not have a filesystem, and you can’t use it for anything yet.

You can allocate this space, providing you with an additional volume on your computer, with Windows Disk Management.

  1. Launch Disk Management from the Power User Tasks Menu. To open it, press Win + X (hold down the Windows key and press X) or right-click your Start Menu icon. Select Disk Management.

Screenshot: Open the Power User Tasks Menu by pressing Win + X, and select Disk Management.

  1. In the Disk Management window, your partitions are grouped in rows, where each row represents one disk in your computer. Right-click the unallocated space on your destination disk and select New Simple Volume.

Screenshot: Right-click the unallocated space in your destination disk and select New Simple Volume.

  1. The New Simple Volume wizard opens. Click Next.

Screenshot: Click Next to begin the Simple Volume wizard.

  1. Specify the size of the new volume. To use all available space, leave the default value unchanged. Click Next.

Screenshot: Specify volume size.

  1. Assign a drive letter for your new volume. You can use the default value, or choose any available letter from the drop-down menu. Click Next.

Screenshot: Choose a drive letter for the new volume.

  1. Choose Format this volume, NTFS, and Default allocation size. Enter an optional Volume label — a name for your volume. It can be anything you want, up to 32 letters and spaces. Then, choose Perform a quick format. (Be advised: if you don’t choose Quick Format, the operation may take a very long time.) Click Next to continue.

Screenshot: Specify format options and Volume label, choose Quick format, then click Next.

  1. To commit your changes, click Finish.

Screenshot: Review selections, then click Continue

  1. The new volume is shown at the end of your destination drive. If you’d like to view details about your new volume, right-click it and choose Properties.

Screenshot: Right-click your new volume and select Properties.

When you’re done, close the Properties window, and close Disk Management.

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