Aseem Kishore , Twitter: Computer Tips Creating a good backup of your computer system involves not only backing up all of your data, but also backing up all Windows and system files when they are in a working and stable state. When a hard drive crashes or the Windows operating system becomes corrupt, it would be preferable to not only be able to load back your data quickly, but also to load back the entire OS with all of your user settings, bookmarks, installed drivers, installed applications, and more.
A good way to have both things taken care of at once is to create an image of your hard drive. If you hate computers and want the simplest process possible, then go for commercial software. Otherwise, read on for some great freeware apps for cloning your hard drive. It has a slew of features and is very reliable. I believe Paragon is the only freeware one I mention here that supports differential backups. I would rather they just strip it down to the bare minimum and if I like the program, I might be interested in purchasing the more feature-full version.
Here are a couple of the major features of this program: The one thing to remember though when restoring an image is that the partition you are restoring to needs to be of the same size or larger. You cannot restore to a smaller partition size than the original. Macrium Reflect Free Macrium Reflect Free is another popular free utility for disk imaging or disk cloning. The layout is also easier to navigate and understand. You can clone a disk or image a disk. Cloning is better if you want to move everything on one disk to another hard disk, i.
Imaging a disk can be scheduled whereas cloning has to be done manually. You can then restore the images to the same hard drive, a replacement hard drive or even to a new computer, though the last option will require a paid version of Macrium to restore to the new hardware.
The restore process is fairly straightforward and if you get confused anywhere, they have tutorials for creating images, restoring images, troubleshooting problems, etc.
Again, like Paragon, they want to upsell you to their paid versions, but the free version worked just fine for me when performing a backup and restore. Using the free version, you can only recover to the same disk or a new disk on the same machine. You can restore using their WinPE bootable media and it works as expected. I also found EaseUS Todo backup to be very easy to use, especially when following their online guides. Clonezilla is basically a live CD that you boot from and then work with from there.
That right there will be reason enough for most people to choose something else. Performing a clone and restore in CloneZilla was a bit more work than I had expected and it certainly had many pitfalls for novice users.
Thankfully, they have some documentation with step by step instructions for performing common operations. Again, this is a great tool for advanced users only. Those are my favorite 5 tools for cloning or imaging a disk in Windows. If you have another suggestion not mentioned here, feel free to post it in the comments.
Founder of Online Tech Tips and managing editor. He began blogging in and quit his job in to blog full-time. He has over 15 years of industry experience in IT and holds several technical certifications.
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