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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 2017 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 2017 has been released and it is optimized for Windows 10 and the most recent Mac OS X versions. This version is between 3 times to 6 times faster than the competition. Through the years, True Image has been making it easier and easier to keep your data safe by backing it up. The 2017 version has simplified the process even more. 2 clicks is all it takes to do a full image backup of your entire computer. This version combines the features of the previous versions 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. It easily backs up Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and even Facebook. Gotta keep up with the times. See our full review of Acronis True Image 2017.

Acronis True Image 2017