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Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

​I'm looking to BackUp my whole hard-disk, to 'Image or Clone'. But, which one is the most effective.
So, from the top. Macrium-Free, had a look: scary stuff. I soon realised, that a USB FlashDrive wouldn't have enough capacity. But then, there was an indication, not to use a USB-Stick, because it wouldn't boot the PC. Utilise, a partition; equally, something external ? What to do ? Currently, confused: 'STUCK'.
Any 'Quick-Start' info would be appreciated. The whole 'Manual', looks incredibly confusing.
What I'm looking to do is, have a 'clean' copy, mirror, image, clone; which ever term is correct, most efficacious, to having an alternate, loadable, hard-disk, safely elsewhere. Sorry, to be so diverse; but, it's all a little confusing, and I'd like to get it right, first time.

"It's That Man Again."
The SynicalSurpher. AK.


Kudos5 Stats

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?


I use both methods for my periodic HDD backup routines.  I posted regarding Cloning & Imaging in a couple of threads over at Bleepingcomputer.com (links at the end of this post) that may help with describing the differences between Cloning & Imaging and what I do periodically to backup my HDD's.

Bottom line is that Cloning & Imaging (full-HDD Imaging) accomplish the same results but the processes & steps required differ from one another.

Cloning refers to copying the contents of a HDD onto a 2nd physical HDD that is usually of equal sized capacity or larger than the original HDD.

Most articles regarding Cloning refer to the original HDD as the 'Source' HDD and the copied HD as the 'Target' or 'Destination' HDD.

Both Cloning & Imaging have pro's & con's to their methods, depending on one's preference.  I use both methods on my 2 Win 7 PC's.

Many PC users use Imaging more than Cloning as it provides a more flexible result.  Imaging creates a file, usually compressed from its original size, onto a Destination storage drive (ie, an external HDD, etc), that allows the user to store multiple copies of the Source HDD on another storage HDD in file formats.

For example, some PC users Image their HDD's daily, weekly, etc.  If the user for various reasons needed to roll back the PC to an earlier point in time, they could select the Image from several stored Image files from specific points in time.

I keep several Images on an external HDD to provide redundancy in supplementing my Cloning routine.  I prefer Cloning (every 2 weeks) as my short-term HDD backup method since I have a couple of spare HDD's and I have 'hot-swap' SATA Trays in my PC Desktop tower so swapping HDD's is fast & convenient.

I usually Image about every 2-3 months as Imaging for me is providing a redundant backup in the event a Cloning process fails.  That is a rare occurrence for me (2 out of ~190) but it can happen.  With Cloning, one needs to follow a couple of rules, or rather avoid a couple of things during the Cloning setup & process steps to insure successful Cloning results.

Regarding your mention about USB, Windows doesn't allow booting into their OS (ie, running Windows on your PC) from an external USB storage device).

Given that, you may want to consider purchasing either an external HDD or a 2nd internal HDD for storing your HDD Images.

I use a 'Docking Station' when I Clone my Laptop PC as my Laptop has an eSATA port so that reduces my Cloning time (vs USB transfer rate time). 

I use Macrium (free ver) for my Imaging routines & Acronis (2011 ver) for my Cloning processes as Acronis clones my PC's faster than Macrium's Cloning process.

I Clone & Image from my boot media CD's (often referred to as 'rescue' or 'recovery' media).  It's not required but I prefer Cloning & Imaging outside of Windows.

Regarding your hardware requirements for Cloning/Imaging, you'd need either an external HDD or another internal HDD that can be converted to an external HDD via a Docking Station or a SATA/USB Adapter Cable.




Windows 7x64 Home Premium OEM Ver / MoBo: ASUS P7P55D-E / CPU: Intel i5-650 / RAM: 16 Gb Corsair DDR3

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

I'm guessing this is your HDD.  If so, yes, you can use that for your Image storage device. If you have your original cabling that goes with the HDD (power adapter, USB cable), you're all set to Image your Source HDD.

I'd connect it to your PC and insure that it's being recognized by your OS (I'm assuming you're running Windows).

Once you've verified that it's a working HDD, then you can Image to it via Macrium or other disk imaging software tools.  There are many available and most have a free version you can download from the 'net.

I've used Macrium and Clonezilla freeware in addition to my paid Acronis software.

If I recall, one of my previous links in my 1st post has some screencaps of how to go through the Macrium Imaging setup screens.

Once you navigate through it the 1st time, it'll be a breeze after that.

One thing I like to do, is to first create my 'target' folder on my Imagine-storage device before starting up my Macrium software.

For example, Here's a couple of screencaps from my 'Computer' explorer screens showing what my Image-storage HDD looks like.  I use the Imaging date for my folder names.  Macrium will create the Image file within the selected folder with their software's file extension type.

Windows 7x64 Home Premium OEM Ver / MoBo: ASUS P7P55D-E / CPU: Intel i5-650 / RAM: 16 Gb Corsair DDR3
Kudos1 Stats

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

I use Macrium and don't find it confusing if you just work from the graphic display:

This image may look complicated because I have several hard drives in my computer including a new smallish SDD drive which is my main Windows 7 operating system and then installations of Windows 10 and Windows 8 that I can also boot to for support purposes as well as a clone of my main Windows 7 drive before I installed the SSD just in case it went wrong!

Yours is much more likely to have one hard drive partitioned into a tiny partition that Windows uses in the background, a partition for recovering your system back to factory condition (which may be hidden) and your main partition which is what you would make a backup image of.

Just one question -- how large is the drive in your computer and is it divided into partitions like mine or much simpler. Oh yes, which version of Windows are you running?


I know this will read complicated but it's only because I've tried to cover everything! "Don't be fright!"

If you look at the image above, you can see there are both image and clone choices in the left column or where my mouse pointer is.

An Image is just a copy of the partition you select and nothing else and to restore it you open Macrium again and choose Restore from the Command Bar at the top.

Clone in principle makes an image of then entire Drive whether it has one or more partitions on it AND it includes other data stored on the drive so that from the Clone you can in the extreme take an empty drive (say you had to replace a drive) and put back onto it all that was on the original drive including making it bootable again.

You are right that in practice you cannot boot from a USB connected external storage drive (although there can be exceptions to this under certain circumstances but ignore this!) so what you do is make the Clone your external hard drive (if it is large enough) and then having made the bootable Macrium recovery drive say on a thumbdrive (it does not take a very large drive) you put that thumbdrive in your PC USB slot and restart the computer doing whatever you have to do to boot to that bootable thumbdrive.

What you then see looks like Windows and Macrium Reflect and from there you can select the Clone image and put back what you originally had.

But assuming you have not lost everything on your computer drive and have to replace the contents or the drive it is much less complicated to make an Image and then if something goes wrong but not with Windows itself you just start up Macrium Reflect and select Restore to put back onto the partition you imaged what you had previously saved -- but not that it does replace what you have today with what you had when you made the image.

So most people may make a Clone image when they want to replace a hard drive and then make regular images as backups -- Macrium Reflect offers you choices of the kind of update you make to previous backup images: either to make a completely new backup image or to make a new smaller image that only contains what has changed so that to restore you have to include the original and the changes.

I prefer to make a completely new one since the downside of the one with changes is that if any one of the changes is flawed then you can't restore anything.

I make an image of my hard drive in about 15 minutes and restore it in about the same time.

My advice would be to plug in that 1TB hard drive and just make and image of the hard drive in your computer just to see how simple it is.


Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

"It's That Man Again."
Hi Scoop8.
​Still confused by the processes.
I've had a look in my spares. I've an unused 1T Iomega 'Select' 'Desktop Hard Drive' USB-2. Is this suitable for the Disk-Image Store ? Or does it come under the, don't use a BIG USB STICK rule. Am I required to buy more kit ?
The bottom-line is; if my PC becomes infested with nasties, I want to reload the whole system, back to clean.

The SynicalSurpher. AK.

Vista 32 Bit  / C drive 74.5GB / E drive 73.0GB. Simple is best !

Kudos1 Stats

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

I'm guessing this (link is external)is your HDD.  If so, yes, you can use that for your Image storage device. If you have your original cabling that goes with the HDD (power adapter, USB cable), you're all set to Image your Source HDD.

I'd connect it to your PC and insure that it's being recognized by your OS (I'm assuming you're running Windows).

If it is a normal internal hard drive and your PC is a laptop or you don't want to get involved with opening up your desktop and so on, then you can get a very cheap unit that enables you to plug a "raw" hard drive into a USB port and access it (but not as I said to boot from it).

I have one and find it invaluable not only when replacing a hard drive but access an internal hard drive on a computer that won't boot up and finding out if the drive and contents are OK or not.

This is the unit I have an earlier model of


and it's a life saver since you can plug in all different kinds of hard drive, IDE, SATA, laptop/desktop needing 12 volt power/SSD and mine even copes with a DVD drive unit I think!

There are plenty of other sources 

Kudos1 Stats

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?


As Hugh mentioned, you can obtain any SATA/USB Adapter Cable to convert any internal HDD to an external storage HDD or you can use your existing 1T Iomega external HDD.

Regarding the USB-stick issue. I may have this incorrect but you may be conflating the use of a USB Flash Drive to an external USB HDD.

In other words, you could use a Flash Drive for Image storage but due to storage capacity limitations, it's not a viable option vs a larger-capacity external (or internal) HDD.

As mentioned previously, I use a large (4T) external USB HDD for my Image storage requirements.

Regarding Cloning, or copying files, folders, etc, a Docking Station can be a useful addition to our PC accessories.   Here's mine (Amazon link) :

Thermaltake St0005u SATA External Hard Drive Docking Station

I like these types of Docking Stations since they include an eSATA interface.  Rear view of the item showing the USB & eSATA interface ports:

Here's the cabling that comes with the unit, including the USB, eSATA cables & Power Adapter:

Regarding reverting your PC back to a point in time prior to the arrival of undesired intrusions, ie, malware, etc, into your Source (Windows OS) HDD:

That will work (in most situations) providing you know the point in time at which such intrusions first became present on your HDD.  This is one reason I like to have several Images from different points in time to provide choices in rollback times in the event of such intrusions (or other reasons, such as bad downloads, user error, Registry edit issues, etc).

Regarding size considerations for your Image-storage device, that will depend on the size of your Source HDD in your PC.

For example, I have a 1T HDD as my Source ("C") HDD in my Desktop PC.  My typical Image file size usually runs somewhere around 80-90 Gb.  So I decided to buy a large 4T storage HDD that contains my Desktop, Laptop, and a family member's Desktop Image files so I'll have plenty of storage space available for storing multiple Images of all 3 PC's.

Windows 7x64 Home Premium OEM Ver / MoBo: ASUS P7P55D-E / CPU: Intel i5-650 / RAM: 16 Gb Corsair DDR3

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

photo308 aka Tommy Handley?

Please lets keep it as simple as possible! I would not get into more complicated and perhaps more flexible methods of cloning and imaging until you've mastered making the files where you want them and checking that you can restore from them.

Certainly use that external HDD if it's big enough. Please do answer how large you hard drive that you want to clone/image is and also what version of Windows you are using -- Windows 10 has got imaging built and I understand it's better than 7 or 8 was.

But I still recommend and use Macrium Reflect because of the bootable thumbdrive you can make from it that contains what is called WinPE10 which is a stripped down version of Windows that can be fitted on a thumbdrive and so, when your computer crashes, you can stick the thumbdrive in, boot up to the thumbdrive and then set about restoring your image from where you have stored it -- eg the external HDD you mentions.

You cannot do that without an external bootable drive such as the Macrium one; even the clone needs something external to put it back onto a drive.

The bottom-line is; if my PC becomes infested with nasties, I want to reload the whole system, back to clean

Back to clean usually means just the operating system as on the machine when delivered and is a good thing to do but it then involves reinstalling all your programs and data files.

If you restore the clone it is only as clean and uptodate as when you made it. So if you make a clone now, how good a condition is your present system?


Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

​Thanks to all, for the info.
I'm still none the wiser, as to the actual hardware I'd need, or the methodology. All looks a bit 'techie' ?
Thanks all the same.

"It's That Man Again."
The SynicalSurpher. AK. 

Kudos2 Stats

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

Hi photo308:

I'm a newbie to Macrium Reflect Free so Scoop8 and huwyngr will have to jump in if I post any incorrect information.

Generally speaking, you would create a cloned drive if you wanted to swap out your entire hard drive - for example, if your hard drive had a mechanical failure and crashed or if you wanted to exchange your old hard drive for a new hard drive (e.g., a faster SSD or HDD with more storage space) and wanted to get up and running quickly.  I've never cloned my hard drive but I believe you can clone to a second hard drive installed inside your computer or to a removable hard drive enclosed in a caddy.  It sounds like Scoop8 uses a Thermaltake docking station to connect an external hard drive to his laptop (see his comments <here>).

Most users use Macrium Reflect Free to create full disk images, which are similar to a Windows restore point but are more like one giant zipped file of your entire hard drive.  You can save multiple disk images on backup media (e.g., a "regular" removable 500 MB or 1 TB USB hard drive that is not bootable) and if your system is ever infected with malware or your Windows operating system is damaged you can use one of those disk images to restore your entire hard drive (including your Windows OS, installed programs and personal files) back to a previous date.  Most free disk imaging software will only allow you to backup a full disk image and these large files can quickly fill up your backup media if you image your hard disk on a regular schedule, but some free programs allow you to you to create smaller differential or incremental backups once you have created your first full disk image (note: Macrium Reflect Free has the option to create differential backups).  See the Macrium blog Techie Tuesday: Image or Clone? for an explanation of the difference between clones and full image backups, as well as differential and incremental backups.

If you google "Macrium Reflect Free tutorial" there are lots of good tutorials to get you started .  I've provided links below to three, although the How-To Geek tutorial is my personal favourite.  Most of these tutorials begin with instructions on how to create rescue (recovery) media e.g., a 2 GB bootable USB thumb drive or CD/DVD with Windows PE installed and Macrium pre-loaded.  The current Macrium Reflect Free v6 allows you to add the option for a Macrium Recovery to your computer's boot menu so you can restore a disk image without physically inserting rescue media (older versions couldn't use the system drive and reload a full disk image at the same time and always required bootable rescue media) but Macrium still recommends that users should run their Rescue Media Wizard to create bootable rescue media just in case your Windows OS is badly damaged and you can't boot up your computer from your system drive.
   How-To Geek:  How to Create an Image of Your PC Before Upgrading to Windows 10
   TechRadar:         How to Use Macrium Reflect Free to Back Up Your PC
   Geeks to Go:     How to Create an Image Backup with Macrium Reflect
32-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 * Firefox v51.0.1 * NIS v22.9.0.68 * Macrium Reflect Free v6.3.1734

Kudos1 Stats

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

btw ~ active Macrium Reflect thread on Wilders



Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?


Excellent post.

Regarding Cloning, you're correct.  One can use a variety of SATA interface hardware, ie, Docking Sta's, SATA/USB Adapter Cables, to clone HDD's.

Regarding Source & Target HDD orientations, I've cloned successfully using both location combinations.

For example, I have a built Desktop PC & a Toshiba Laptop PC (both on Win 7x64).

I've cloned with the Source HDD installed internally, ie, remaining in the Laptop, and with the Source HDD located externally.

From what I've read regarding Laptop cloning recommendations, it's generally advisable to clone with the Target HDD installed in the Laptop but I've never encountered any cloning issues using either Source/Target orientation combination.

I've had the same results with my Desktop PC, cloned with the Target HDD installed and externally located.

That said, I have read elsewhere that when cloning Lenovo® laptops (perhaps some), it's necessary to install the Target HDD in the Laptop to insure a successful cloning process.  I don't understand why that would be a required HDD orientation though.

Regarding Macrium, as you mentioned it does have the cloning option available as well as Imaging.

I use both Cloning & Imaging for full-HDD backups as the end result is the same, a duplicate HDD although there are exceptions with Cloning to this statement, one of which is losing Windows Restore Points when cloning in 'block' or 'intelligent' modes.  That's the case when cloning with Acronis®.  I haven't tested that with Macrium's Cloning process.

The reason I prefer Cloning as my frequent (every 2 weeks for me) HDD backup plan is that I can access my PC HDD's easily on both my Desktop & Laptop PC's.

The other reason is, as you mentioned in your post, I like the speed of swapping out HDD's for troubleshooting, or verifying a Target HDD, vs performing an Image-restore process.

I test both methods periodically to insure that the processes are working and that my boot media ('rescue'/recovery media) will boot into their platforms and so that I can insure that I have a proven 'bare-metal' recovery path that's been tested to work without encountering any surprise issues (ie driver issues, etc).

For example, I'll do a Restore process using my latest Macruim Image, to a blank unallocated spare HDD & boot up & run Windows for a short time to verify the recovery path.  I only do that once every 4 months or so since I've never encountered a situation where one of my Macrium Images failed to recover/boot up.

I also test a cloned Target HDD occasionally but having only encountered 2 clone failures* in about 190 cloning process (among 3 PC's over a few years time), I only test a Target HDD once every 5-6 cloning processes as, excepting for the 2 failures, the Target HDD's always boot into Windows without issue.

* The 2 Cloning failures were interesting as they involved Disk Signature conflicts but not in the usual case (where the PC user tries to boot into Windows with 2 identical HDD's connected to the PC.  That's definitely a 'don't do that' with Cloning steps). With both failures, Windows never saw the 2 HDD's simultaneously during bootup as I always Clone booted into my Acronis® CD (Linux).

The surprise that I encountered was that the 2 failure events rendered both the Source & Target HDD's unbootable.  It didn't affect recovering my PC as I rotate 2 HDDs when I clone and I installed the 2nd cloned HDD and was up & running ok within a couple of minutes.

However, the encounter was surprising in that I'd always thought that the Source HDD, assuming no power interruptions, user interrupts or cloning process errors, would be unaffected by a cloning process as it's being read (& not written to) during the process.

My guess is that Windows (or perhaps Acronis®, which is the Cloning tool I use) will somehow render the Source & Target HDD's' Master Boot Records unbootable when a Disk Signature collision is detected during the Cloning process.

I repaired the Source HDD's Master Boot Record using a couple of commands within 'bootrec', from the CMD prompt by booting into my Windows Repair media.

The experience did dispel my previous belief that the Source HDD won't be affected when Cloning the HDD.

The workaround is fast though, in preventing that future scenario from occurring.  I use the Windows 'diskpart' utility to prep my Target HDD as the diskpart 'clean' command will write zero's to the Master Boot Record, effectively nulling the existing Disk Signature value within that sector thus eliminating the Signature conflict possibility from occurring during the Cloning process.

Windows 7x64 Home Premium OEM Ver / MoBo: ASUS P7P55D-E / CPU: Intel i5-650 / RAM: 16 Gb Corsair DDR3

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

Way too techy for me, too !

Windows 10 Home X 64 Norton Security Premium Current
Kudos2 Stats

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

F 4 E:

Way too techy for me, too !

Hi F 4 E:

The How-To Geek tutorial How to Create an Image of Your PC Before Upgrading to Windows 10 was recommended to me when I first started using Macrium Reflect Free and it's a good place to start if you've never imaged a hard drive before.  This tutorial has step-by-step instructions on how to back up a disk image and takes you through the entire process, from what hardware you need (I already had an external 1 TB USB backup drive I use for backing up important personal and media files and only had to purchase a cheap USB thumb drive for the rescue media), to creating the bootable rescue media for emergency recovery, to creating your first backup image.  The second half of the tutorial is devoted to restoring a disk image - something most users should only have to do if disaster strikes (e.g., your Windows OS is corrupted by malware) and you need to recover your entire hard drive.

If users ever want to clone their disk (e.g., copy their hard drive bit-for-bit over to a brand new SSD or HDD) with Macrium Reflect Free then How-To Geek has a separate tutorial titled How to Upgrade Your Existing Hard Drive in Under an Hour.
32-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 * Firefox v51.0.1 * NIS v22.9.0.71 * Macrium Reflect Free v6.3.1734


Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

Thanks, Imacri. I'll bear that in mind.

I DO have my drives backed up to external media with system images, and I do have emergency boot disks.

I just haven't ever attempted to clone a drive !

Windows 10 Home X 64 Norton Security Premium Current
Accepted Solution

Re: Disk Image or Disk Clone ?

I just haven't ever attempted to clone a drive !

I have not cloned a complete physical hard drive but I have used Macrium Free to clone (which is the word Macrium use although some purists (not here) would disagree <g> ) a single partition containing a bootable drive to a new drive, a smaller unused SSD in this case.

I had reformatted it just in case but it booted up fine once I reset the drive letter to match the drive letter the original had been on -- it's a multiboot system so not all active drives are C: -- which in this case was E:

I used the bootable USB version of Macrium running under Win10PE


When/If I've time I'll try and come back and get to actually helping the OP to do something quite simple despite the valuable hi-tech information added to this thread! I mean the latter statement since there's a lot I want to follow up but life keeps on getting in the way!


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