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Hard Drive Cloning Guide: Ghosting, Mirroring or Copying Content

written by: Steve McFarlane•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 5/13/2011

This article is a step-by-step guide on how to clone a hard drive.

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    Cloning a hard drive is an efficient way of transferring the contents of one drive to another. This method is often used to switch hard drives without necessitating the reinstallation of applications and the operating system. When the process is complete all the documents, music, pictures and programs will be placed on the new drive using the same file structure and configurations as before. In this article we outline how to clone a hard drive 1 to 1.

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    Some Precautions to Take Prior to Cloning a Hard Drive

    Before getting started, you must ensure that the hard disks (both the source and destination) are installed and working. It is recommended that the source disk be made the primary disk on the controller when it is installed. This is to help you easily identify which is the source and which is the destination disk; especially when both disks are of the same size, it is quite easy to get the two mixed up. This is not such an issue when you are dealing with a new installation, but where the Some Precaution to Take Prior to Cloning a Hard Drive source disk contains important information, every precaution should be taken to prevent a mix-up and data loss.

    Bear in mind that everything that is stored on the destination disk will be lost after you copy the hard drive one to one. Therefore, you must move all the files that you intend to keep from the destination disk to another location. You can actually copy the contents of the destination disk to the source disk so you’ll have those files after you are finished cloning the drives.

    Also ensure that the destination drive has enough space to take everything that is being copied to it. While the destination drive can have a smaller capacity than the source disk, it must at least have enough space to take all the files that are on the source disk. If this is not the case the disk cloning process will fail.

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    How To Clone a Hard Drive 1 to 1

    The actual steps for copying an entire hard drive to another will vary depending on the tools you are working with. First of all, you will need a disk imaging/ghosting software tool. While there are great shareware products on the market, it is quite easy to find solutions to clone a hard drive for free. In any case here are some popular disk cloning software suggestions: Acronis True Image Home, Easeus Disk Copy How to Clone a Hard Drive 1 to 1 and Drive2Drive.

    1. The disk imaging and cloning process should go like this:
    2. Start the disk clone software tool.
    3. Start cloning wizard.
    4. Specify the destination and source disk, being careful to double-check that you didn’t make a mistake.
    5. Press the start button and wait for the process to be completed.
    6. Once the process is complete, double check the destination disk to ensure that the process was completed successfully.

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    The Difference Between Copying and Cloning a Drive

    While the two terms are often used interchangeably, copying files involves simply making duplicates of files without necessarily replicating the directory structure or the configurations that are associated with those files. On the other hand, cloning a hard drive is a very efficient way to create a copy of a hard drive and its contents. The cloning process preserves the directory structure and the configuration settings that would make the file or associated programs function the same way they did in the original location.

    Once a hard drive is cloned to another, the computer user shouldn’t notice a change in the way the operating system looks or behaves, except for performance gains or losses that would result from using different hardware.

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    • Source, Author's own experience.
    • Image "How to Clone a Hard Drive 1 to 1."
    • Image "Some Precautions to Take Prior to Cloning a Hard Drive."