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To Clone or Image? That is the Question


The question has been asked whether to clone a hard drive or image a hard drive.  This is honestly how the question was presented.  We thought our faithful readers might enjoy the phraseology.

To clone or not to clone?
To image or not to image?
These are the questions that plague us mere mortals when faced with the reality that our personal computing devices are mortal too.
One may ask, "What the heck is the difference?"
They both backup our feeble machines.
They both restore data.
So tell me, oh soothsayer from the town of byte, why would I want to clone a hard drive when I should image the drive, or versa visa?
Life was so much easier when we use to carve all our important information into stone!

I guess the questioner was in a Shakespearian mood.  The answer is not a simple one.  Cloning or imaging all depends on what you want to accomplish by the process.

Purpose of Imaging Hard Drives

Imaging a drive is more for backing up purposes.  The best way to use the computer imaging process would be to take an image of a healthy computer, copy that image file and put it in a safe place, then set up an incremental backup on the original image. 

The purpose of copying and saving the original image is in case you incrementally backed up a virus or some other form of scumware on the original image.  If that happened, you would still have the original image for restoration purposes without having to reinstall Windows and all of the other applications that have accumulated on your hard drive. 

Purpose of Cloning Hard Drives

Cloning a drive actually clones the entire contents of the drive to another drive or partition and does not create an image file.  Cloning a drive is useful to upgrade your hard drive or clone a failing drive to a new one.  The only issue with cloning is that you need to have two physical hard drives in the same computer (unless you have an external USB hard drive enclosure on hand). This review shows how to clone a laptop hard drive with a hard drive enclosure.

During the cloning process, you choose which drive you want to clone.  If you accidentally pick the new empty drive, and clone that to the original drive, you will totally overwrite all of your data.  No getting it back, it’s gone.  Been there done that – once.   This is why I recommend using the hard drive imaging process to upgrade a hard drive.  It adds an extra step but it is a safety measure as well. 

The Confusion

You can clone a hard drive using the imaging process. This is where the confusion may set in and the question arises about whether to clone or image. Acronis True Image 2016 includes the cloning and imaging utilities. 

If you are upgrading your hard drive to a larger one, or replacing it due to the original drive starting to fail due to a physical failure, cloning is the easiest method to complete that task.  All you have to do is put the new drive in the computer as a slave or secondary drive and clone the old drive to the new one.  Once the process is complete, switch the new drive to the primary and you are good to go.  I can’t stress this enough; make sure you know which drive you are cloning so you do not overwrite the original drive. 

You can also accomplish the same task by imaging the old drive to an external drive and then switch internal drives. You can then use the Acronis boot CD or bootable USB drive to restore the image to the new drive.  This is the recommended method of cloning if you are not quite sure what you are doing because it reduces the risk of any accidental data loss.

Recommended Hard Drive Cloning and Imaging Utilities

Acronis True Image 2016 has been released and it is optimized for Windows 10 and the most recent Mac OS X versions. This version is up to 50% faster than the competition. This version combines the features of the previous Premium version which includes dynamic disk support and Universal Restore allowing you to restore data to a different PC even if it has different hardware. Wi-Fi support has also been added when backing up to the Acronis Cloud even to a bare-metal PC. The Media Builder has also been simplified as has the Entire PC Backup scenario. A True Image 2016 coupon code will be posted when it becomes available. See our full review of Acronis True Image. Save up to $50 on Acronis True Image 2016 products during the Acronis Summer Sale!

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Acronis True Image Cloud is Windows 10 compatible and is a great tool to use if you plan on upgrading to Windows 10. Acronis True Image Cloud combines local backup and cloud backup for an extra level of security. It includes support for mobile devices allowing you to backup and recover all your pictures, videos, contacts, events from Android devices, iPhones, iPads, and Windows tablets.

Simply take an image and back everything up to the cloud or a local backup if you prefer. This version of True Image comes with unlimited cloud backup and universal restore so you can restore a PC image to totally different hardware. You can now restore your computer from up to 10 previous states in Mac, and up to 20 states in Windows. It has an Online Dashboard allowing you to manage multiple computers and mobile devices so you can restore your PC or Mac Anywhere, Anytime with True Image Cloud. See our Review of Acronis True Image Cloud. Save 10% on Acronis True Image Cloud with Coupon Code: BUYACRONIS1016 Does not include upgrades.
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Image or Clone - Any Thoughts?

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