There are many PC backup solutions available to protect your important data, both online and offline. One such backup solution is to create an exact copy of your storage drive using cloning software.
A cloning software will create an exact copy of your storage drive bit-by-bit to a new storage drive, so you can continue using it without needing to reinstall Windows or any other software.
Let’s see how disk cloning can be useful for you and the best cloning software in the market to make this process easier for you.
Why clone your storage drive?
Cloning the storage drive is mainly used for two purposes, to have an exact backup of data or migrate to a new storage drive. If anything ever happens to the data in your first drive, you can boot from the other drive and continue as nothing happened.
As for cloning, a storage drive creates an exact copy of the drive; you can use it to migrate to a different drive. For example, if you have a slow HDD and want to upgrade to an SSD, then cloning software will make it a snap to move everything from your HDD to SSD.
- Cloning makes it easier and faster to move to the backup storage as you don’t need to reinstall OS or configure settings.
- You can install the same operating system with custom data and configuration on multiple computers by cloning multiple storage devices.
- Data of multiple computers can be easily managed and quickly restored in case of any corruption.
- The cloning software isn’t needed to be installed on the other storage drive to use the backup.
- As it creates an exact copy of the storage drive, cloning takes too much space than other backup solutions.
- You must have another storage drive to backup data, can’t make backups on the same drive.
- Full cloning must be done to update any new changes (in most cases); differential or incremental backup isn’t possible.
Now that you know why you should use cloning software let’s see the following Windows cloning software.
Acronis Disk Director
Acronis Disk Director is among the complete disk management tools that offer both drive management and cloning features. As it’s a Windows-only cloning tool, it supports file systems, including FAT32, NTFS, FAT16, Ext2, Ext3, Reiser3, SWAP, and Linux.
While cloning gives you full control over what data you would like to clone and even manage partitions right from the interface. You can create new partitions, split/merge them and label them without using any other software.
It can also be used as a recovery tool to recover volumes that got accidentally deleted or corrupted. There is a whole lot more you can do with it, like creating a single volume from multiple drives, convert a disk from basic to dynamic, create bootable media, optimize drive space, and much more.
And for $49.99 for a single license, I believe Acronis Disk Director offers way too much compared to other paid tools. But of course, if you won’t need the other disk management features, it would be redundant.
If you are interested, you can give the Acronis Disk Director Demo version a try. It’s a fully functional version, but it only supports disk volume up to 10GB.
I will not say it’s the best cloning software on this list, but it’s definitely the most comprehensive cloning software that you can get for free.
Clonezilla is an open-source cloning software that comes with two versions, Clonezilla live and Clonezilla SE. Clonezilla live is for the home users to clone to a single storage drive, and Clonezilla SE is for enterprises to clone up to 40 computers simultaneously.
The software supports almost all file systems, making it possible to clone Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and even Chrome OS. It is also not limited by partition type, so you can clone MBR or GPT partition using legacy BIOS or UEFI. The data can be secured with AES-256 encryption if needed.
Its interface might not be very intuitive, but if you only need to clone a single drive, the process is simple. Although cloning to multiple computers or using multicast can be a bit difficult for novice users.
Price: Free | Features list
EaseUS Todo Backup
If you want both a backup tool and a cloning tool, then EaseUS Todo Backup is worth buying.
It actually has a solid free version as well, but unfortunately, it’s only limited to creating backup images; you can’t clone storage drive with it. However, the paid version does a great of cloning and lets you clone the OS, a partition, or the whole disk. It has dedicated options to move the system drive to a new storage drive and boot there, which is great if you need to move OS from HDD to SSD.
You can also clone your current OS to create a bootable USB drive and use your system from anywhere. Other than cloning, it’s backup solutions are also quite comprehensive. You can create file backups or whole system image backups and encrypt the data for protection. The backups can be saved online and offline in the same storage drive, external drive, FTP server, NAS, or cloud storage.
The software also comes with a very functional 30-days free trial version that offers most of the premium features but with a slower backup/restore speed.
Paragon Drive Copy
Paragon Drive Copy lets you create either a full drive clone, partition clone, or simply an operating system clone. This tool is actually just a tiny feature of the main Paragon Hard Disk Manager. Fortunately, it is available as a standalone purchasable software at half the price, so you won’t have to buy the full software if you only need the cloning functionality.
Drive Copy gives you complete control over which data you would like to clone and which to leave. It works on both MBT and GPT partitions and comes with some basic partitioning features to perform basic tasks like merging or splitting partitions.
If you are new to cloning and not looking to take out your wallet, then I’ll recommend you Macrium Reflect.
It may not be as powerful as Clonezilla, but Macrium Reflect free version is very comprehensive while being user friendly. The free version is available for personal and commercial use and lets you create backup images or full disk clones. You can also schedule backups using different schedule templates.
Although the free version works fine for backups and whole disk cloning, you’ll have to get the paid version (rather expensive) if you want more features. The key feature that you will get with the paid version is using their Rapid Delta Cloning technology.
This makes it possible to use the differential backup method on a cloned storage, which is impossible to do with other software. Therefore, if you need to update the cloned storage drive, then Macrium Reflect will only update new changes instead of creating a completely new clone. However, both storage drives must have an NTFS file system for this feature to work.
Other than that, the premium version also lets you encrypt backup data and protects you from ransomware.
AOMEI Backupper also offers a reliable free version that can handle both backups and cloning. As far as cloning is concerned, you can either create a full disk clone or partition clone in the free version. For creating the operating system clone, you’ll have to upgrade to the pro version.
The free version also contains almost all the required backup and restore features. You can create system backup, partition backup, file backup, incremental/differential backup, sector-by-sector backup, and much more.
Most other pro version features don’t affect cloning functionality, so the free version should be good if you don’t need to clone the operating system only. Although if you want more control over backup images, then the pro version lets you split/merge backups, real-time sync data, mirror sync, create event-triggered backups, filter file types, encrypt backup images, and backup/restore dynamic disks.
I really liked that AOMEI Backupper also offers customer support (working days only) even for their free version, which is rare to see for other software.
Iperius Backup paid version does a great job of cloning by letting you create customized clones on both storage drives or virtual machines. You can create a whole disk clone, partition clone, or system clone; there are also dedicated options to clone and start a virtual machine system.
This can be extremely useful if you want to run your current system in a virtual environment to avoid risks.
Other than cloning, the software lets you create backup images and keep them updated using differential and incremental backup system. The backup can be saved both online and offline, and you can also compress and encrypt the backup if needed.
If you are not versed with the disk cloning process, I recommend you give AOMEI Backupper, or Macrium Reflect a try. Both have reliable free versions with a user-friendly interface, making the cloning process easy for you. However, Clonezilla and Acronis Disk Director are your best bet if you want comprehensive cloning software, whether free or paid.
Alternatively, you may backup your computer to the cloud.