What is Disk Cloning Software?
Disk Cloning software is specialist PC software used to create an exact (1:1) copy of a computer hard drive onto a secondary hard drive. Being an exact copy means that the operating system, any installed applications and all user data are also copied to the new drive in the process.
Such software is especially useful when adding new hard disk drives to a PC, for example, when adding a new, larger hard disk to a PC the existing drive contents can be copied over exactly as it is to the new drive. This means that the system will continue to work exactly as it did before on the old hard disk (but with more disk space).
There are many varied applications scenarios which might require disk cloning software, these include the upgrading of hard disks, the migrating of a PC to a new SSD drive, the re-provisioning of a PC with a clean install of Windows within a business environment and the returning of a PC to its default state ready for resale.
Does Cloning a Hard Drive Copy Programs?
Yes, this is one of the main reasons disk cloning software is so useful, but lets consider a common example. One of the biggest problems with acquiring a new PC is that all user data must be migrated over from an older PC and any Windows applications must also be re-installed. This is often time consuming and potentially costly if the installation media for the application is unavailable resulting in a re-purchasing of the application.
With disk cloning, as we have already discovered, the entire system as it currently stands (the OS, all user data and any installed applications) can all be moved over to the new PC with very little fuss.
Does Windows 10 Have Disk Cloning Software?
No, Windows 10 does not currently have a built in disk cloning tool (as of Jan 2020 at least). This means if you wish to clone a hard drive then third party software must be used. This is not too much of a problem, however, as you see below I have collated some review of my favourite free disk cloning software! This means when you are ready to clone your dive you can do so at very little or zero cost should you require.
Disk Cloning vs Disk Imaging
In the process of researching disk cloning software you might have seen the term disk imaging mentioned also? These two terms are sometimes (incorrectly) used interchangeably when in fact they both perform different functions:
Disk Cloning is the process of making an exact (1:1) copy of a physical hard disk to a secondary physical hard disk. During this process the data is moved directly from the source disk to the target disk and not stored anywhere in the mean time.
Disk Imaging is often incorporated into backup software and is used to make an image backup of a PCs hard disk to a single file. In other words the entire disk is copied, compressed, stored within a single file and then stored somewhere on another disk as part of a backup set.
I think the confusion comes from the fact that whilst disk cloning could be used as a form of backup, disk imaging could equally be used to create a clone of a hard drive.
For example, if I created an image backup of my entire hard disk using disk imaging backup software and then changed my hard disk for a new one. Once the new disk is installed I could recover the entire disk using the image backup I took earlier (assuming I had some emergency boot software to boot into first and perform the recovery). This would have the same net result as simply cloning the existing disk directly.
Likewise, I could add a second hard disk to my system and clone my original hard disk to this secondary disk in order to keep it as a “back up” hard disk. Should I ever need to recover my PC to its original (cloned) state I could then clone the secondary disk back t my primary disk.
Of course, both of these methods would work but it is often simpler to stick to image based backups and direct (disk to disk) cloning for their intended purposes.
Can I Move Windows 10 to an SSD Drive?
Yes, Windows 10 will run absolutely fine on a solid state drive (SSD). SSDs have become very popular in recent years due to the increased operating speed they offer as well as the continuously deceasing costs as the technology becomes ever more affordable. If you are running Windows 10 on an older (mechanical) hard disk I would strongly recommend looking into an SSD upgrade as soon as possible!
Our favourrite Disk Cloning Software:
1. MiniTool Partition Wizard Free (v11.6)
MiniTool Partition Wizard is a free to use disk cloning and disk partition management tool which runs within Windows. All of the basic disk partitioning tools are included in addition to full disk cloning support (including built-in support for optimising SSDs).
This means with Partition Wizard you can clone your existing hard disk for free and the application will automatically resize and (if necessary) optimise for use with an SSD. A great free disk cloning option which ran flawlessly during my testing!
You can download MiniTool Partition Assistant for free by clicking here!
2. EaseUS Partition Master Free (v13.8)
Partition Master is a very impressive (and free) disk cloning and disk management tool from EaseUS. The cloning of both individual partitions and entire disks is made easy thanks to the specialised cloning tool on offer. This tool allows for any cloned disks (or partitions) to be automatically resized to accommodate a larger target disk and (if necessary) automatically optimised for use on with SSD drives.
Finally, in addition to disk cloning some other great tools are included such as a secure drive cleaning tool, file system and disk surface integrity checking tools and secure wiping tools to permanently erase an entire partition or disk.
3. AOMEI Partition Assistant (Free)
AOMEI is a very reputable outfit and produces some great backup and utility software, this includes AOMEI Partition Assistant which is a very powerful and free to use disk management utility.
Containing many useful features including disk partitioning tools, data recovery tools, secure data wiping tools and of course tools for cloning entire hard drives Partition Assistant is a great addition to any PC. Included within this offering are some great disk cloning tools which make cloning disks and partitions easy by automatically resizing partitions and (if necessary) optimising for SSDs during the cloning process.
AOMEI Partition Assistant can be downloaded for free by clicking here!
4. Macrium Reflect 7 (Free Edition)
Reflect 7 (Free Edition) is the latest free disk imaging software from Macrium, a company with a great reputation for producing solid and reliable disk cloning software.
This free edition is a slightly cut-down version of the premium Macrium Reflect 7 Home version, it does, however, allow for direct disk to disk cloning in addition to making ad-hoc image based backups of disks to a file. This includes automatically resizing partitions and optimising for SSD drives when applicable.
Macrium Refelct 7 (Free Edition) is 100% free to use, both commercially and by individuals and can be downloaded by clicking here!
5. DriveImage XML (v2.6 / Free)
DriveImage XML is a free to use disk cloning tool for Windows. It is noticeably lightweight and can be configured for both disk cloning and creating image based backups of hard disks.
Whilst perhaps not the easiest of tools to use it remains a solid, well tested choice which makes disk cloning quick and reliable.
DriveImage XML is 100% free for non-commercial use, it can be downloaded by clicking here!
6. CloneZilla LiveCD (Free)
Clonezilla is a free and open source disk imaging and disk cloning application which (unlike most other disk cloning software) runs exclusively from a live CD or Live USB drive.
Clonezilla has many applications including that of cloning a physical disk to another, making an image backup of a disk or partition to a file and is also useful in deploying new PC hardware thanks to the included networking and server options.
Clonezilla can be downloaded for free by clicking here!