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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 include 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 2015 has just been released. The hard drive backup and imaging program still has all of the useful features as before with some great improvements including virtual hard drive support and the Universal Restore feature which allows you to restore an image to dissimilar hardware or a virtual machine.  See our Full Review of Acronis True Image. True Image now supports Windows 8 and includes an online backup solution to keep your files safe, secure and available. Save 25% on Acronis True Image Unlimited! Get ready for the Windows 10 upgrade by imaging and backing your PC locally and to the Cloud, Sale Priced at $74.99!

Order Acronis True Image 2015 $49.99
Image or Clone - Any Thoughts?

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