How to Clone a Hard Drive on Windows

Don't start again, carry on with all your old files and folders

What to Know

  • There are many great tools available to clone a hard drive on Windows. We recommend Macrium Reflect.
  • Cloning works better when moving over to a new hard drive or SSD compared to moving to a brand new system. 

This article covers how to clone a hard drive on Windows 8.1 and 10 and includes information you should know about the process before beginning.

How to Clone a Hard Drive on Windows

Moving to a new drive or system can be a real hassle if you have to start from scratch, reinstalling all your favorite programs and applications, and copying over all your data. But it doesn't have to be.

There are a number of great tools available to clone a hard drive on Windows, but the most easily accessible free application is Macrium Reflect. You get greater support and a faster cloning process with more features if you pay for it, but the free version works just fine.

Download the Home version from the official website and install it before beginning to clone your hard drive.

This method works on Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.

  1. Plugin the new drive that you want to clone your data to. How you connect this drive to your computer will be determined by the cords and ports available on the drive. In most cases, it's USB-to-USB.

  2. Run Macrium Reflect Home.

  3. You'll see a selection of drives and partitions that make up your PC's storage. Select the drive you want to clone the data from.

    Macrium Reflect
  4. Select Clone this disk underneath the selection of partitions.

    The clone this disk option in Macrum Reflect
  5. In the next window, select the Destination drive by selecting Select a disk to clone to. Then choose the drive you want to clone your hard drive to.

    Where to select a disk to clone.
  6. If you want to delete all the information on the destination drive, select Delete Existing Partition from the destination drive. Only do so if you're happy there's nothing there worth keeping.

    The Delete Existing Partition option.
  7. Make sure Copy selected partitions when I click 'Next' is ticked, then select Next, or Finish to begin the cloning process.

    Finalizing the cloning selections.

Depending on the speed of your drives, this process can take a little while to complete. Give it enough time, though, and your hard drive will be cloned and all your data ready to use on your new drive.

Why You Should Clone Your Hard Drive

There are two main methods of transferring your data to a new drive. The first is to format it, add a new partition, install your operating system of choice, and move your data over manually. This results in the cleanest of installs, as there are no extraneous applications, folders, or other files that you might have forgotten about. Old drivers are no longer present either, which can cause stability and performance issues.

Depending on how much data you want to move over and which applications you have to reinstall, the process can take quite some time and you need a modest amount of technical knowledge to do it correctly.

The second method is cloning a drive and learning how to clone a hard drive can make the whole process quicker and easier. The cloned data will bring with it any problems you experienced on the software front, but a faster drive will be able to handle any performance or fragmentation problems much better than an older, slower one.

Should You Clone Your Computer?

Cloning works best when moving over to a new drive, be it a hard drive or SSD, though it can technically work when moving to a brand new system. If you just need to backup your data, consider a cloud backup service or external drive instead, as that's a much less laborious process and provides additional protection for your information.

If you're moving to an entirely new system, you will need new drivers to support the new hardware choices, so it's important to take that into consideration to avoid stability and compatibility issues.

Before you begin the process of cloning a hard drive on Windows or macOS, you'll need a drive to clone your existing install too. The best hard drives and SSDs don't cost as much as they once did, so whether you need large capacity or fast data access, there's something that should match your budget.

Things to Consider Before You Clone

Whether you want to copy a hard drive or clone one entirely, there are some things you want to take into account. The first is making sure to pick the right new drive. If you want greater capacity, hard drives are still the best option on a cost per gigabyte basis, especially at the multiple terabyte level.

If you want performance, however, SSDs are much more preferable and can lead to a revitalizing experience, whether you're using macOS or Windows. And cloning to an SSD is much the same as a hard drive.

It's also worth remembering that cloning a hard drive to a new PC may not be possible due to driver conflicts. If you're replacing everything in your system, it's advisable to perform a standard data copy to the new drive, instead of cloning.

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