How to Clone Windows 7 Installation to New PC or Hard Drive
written by: Donna Buenaventura•edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 11/27/2010
Is it time to upgrade your hard drive or computer but you want to clone or copy the entire Windows 7 installation? Check these free and commercial programs to clone a Windows 7 installation to a new computer. Find out what you should do before deciding to create an exact image of Windows 7.
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Clone Windows 7 Installation to New PC
To copy a disk or to clone Windows 7 installation to a new computer or larger hard drive is easily done using free or commercial software. Some backup and partition manager software includes disk copying or functions to clone the entire hard drive or partition with a Windows 7 installation.
Cloning is done not only when you want to upgrade a home PC with Windows 7 to a larger hard disk, but is also the method used by OEM vendors and IT administrators to deploy an exact copy of Windows 7 to many identical computers. In this article, we'll list the software or tools to consider using when you decide to clone Windows 7 to a new computer.
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Notes Before Cloning Windows 7 Installation
OEM version of Windows 7
An OEM version of Windows means the copy of Windows should be installed only on the same computer. If you are upgrading to a new hard drive, you should not have problems re-activating the cloned Windows 7 when the hard disk has been replaced. However, if you are cloning Windows to a new computer with a different motherboard and other hardware, you will need a second license or product key.
Hard Disk Size
It is important to note that the new hard drive is the same or larger size before you start cloning a Windows 7 installation.
Volume Shadow Services (VSS)
Ensure that the Volume Shadow Copy service in Windows is running properly because most cloning or disk imaging software uses this service to properly clone a Windows installation. Ensure that you have installed the latest fixes for Windows to take advantage of fixes for components or services in Windows.
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Free Software to Clone Windows 7 Installation
The following software provides an option to clone or copy the hard disk or a partition with a Windows 7 installation so you can use it in a new computer or new hard-drive:
DiscWizard - An OEM version of Acronis True Image with cloning functionality. Seagate customers should try this before using other cloning programs.
DriveImage XML - Using Volume Shadow Services (VSS) to image a Windows installation. It's free for personal use and includes an option to restore an image to a new hard-drive.
EASEUS Disk Copy - A reliable disk image or cloning program to clone Windows 7 to a hard drive that is the same size or larger.
Macrium Reflect - An option for Disk Imaging is available in the free edition so you can create an exact image of Windows 7 installation. It can image the entire disk even if it is in use by Windows.
The Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) for Windows 7 - The free kit from Microsoft that includes ImageX to image a Windows 7 installation. Most PC vendors have stored an image of WIndows using ImageX. Example: If you have a Dell computer, locate factory.wim in another partition which you can use already to deploy a Windows 7 installation to a new hard drive.
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Commercial Software to Clone Windows 7 Installation
Some end-users prefer a commercial clone or imaging software to take advantage of support and more function in a backup or disk imaging software. Below are the most widely used program that you may consider for cloning Windows 7:
Acronis True Image - This is not only a full backup program but also features Clone Disk to copy the entire HD.
Norton Ghost - Like True Image, Norton Ghost is the oldest and popular program to backup and clone a Windows installation when upgrading the hard drive or moving to a new computer.
O&O DiskImage - DiskImage 5 Professional makes images of the entire hard-drive or desktop.
Paragon Drive Copy - The cheapest but effective cloning or disk imaging program in the market.
Image credits: Screenshot taken by the author. Disk Copy and True Image screenshot, http://www.easeus.com and http://www.acronis.com