Make An Exact Copy of Your Hard Drive

One of the most frustrating moments for any computer user is when your computer has crashed, all else has failed to work, and you forgot to make the restoration CDs (or DVDs) that came with your PC. The restoration CD (or DVD) option is your last ditch solution to fixing your PC when all else has failed. The restoration CDs (or DVDs) typically restore your system back to the day that you purchased it. Some manufacturers’ PCs provide an option to perform (initiate) the restoration process by hitting a key during the computer’s startup that will initiate the restore process by using files stored in a hidden partition on the computer’s hard drive. The restoration process varies from PC manufacturer to manufacturer and if you have a home brewed system, the restoration is typically a reinstall of the operating system using the operating system discs that you purchased. The whole point to this is just that you make sure you have a plan in the event disaster strikes… AND, BELIEVE ME IT WILL !

The problem with the restoration processes provided is that you are in for some work. I’m talking about reinstalling your software, performing your Windows updates, virus/malware software updates, personal customization, bookmarks, emails, etc… Most of the time when you have resorted to a complete restoration or reinstall of the operating system you will lose your valuable data that you may have saved over the months and even years.

One option to avoid all of this, and reduce the workload, is to use disk imaging software and a good external hard drive. Disk Imaging Software is software that you install on your PC and use when your computer is in a healthy state. The disk imaging software is engineered to make a backup (disk image) of an exact representation of your hard drive (or partitions) at the time you perform the imaging process. Don’t be fooled into thinking that your everyday backup software can make an exact copy of your hard drive and partitions. It can’t… The Windows operating system is like a living organism that is constantly evolving and changing when you start it up. Your typical backup software apps are unable to capture those changes. As a matter of fact Windows will not allow you to make a copy of certain critical system files without special software. Your typical backup software is great for backing up your personal files (such as pictures, documents, etc.) and should be used on a daily basis in addition to the imaging software that can be used on a less frequent basis.

As you well know, the What’s On My PC blog specializes in locating FREE software options.  In this case of disk imaging software, the FREE app that I use and recommend is the FREE Edition of Macrium Reflect

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Using Macrium Reflect™ Free Edition you can create an exact image of partitions on your hard disk for easy hard disk upgrade or complete/partial system recovery

Key factors to using imaging software, such as Macrium Reflect, is that when you perform the backup of your system it is critical that your system is in a healthy state and that you have an external source (with sufficient space) to store the image file.  Even though Macrium Reflect offers other backup media options to CD or DVD media, I suggest you use an external drive. Besides, the external drive will serve you in performing your normal daily backups.

Another important factor to using Macrium Reflect is that the first thing you should do is create a Rescue CD. This option is available in the Macrium Reflect software under the “Other Options” menu selection. The rescue CD is used to boot your computer and restore your computer from the image file when disaster occurs.

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For FREE imaging software, Macrium Reflect is a great option for home-based users and is comparable in performance and appearance with that of its’ commercial counterparts. Macrium Reflect is also regularly updated to meet the needs of the ever changing Windows operating system.

Features of the FREE Edition of Macrium Reflect:

Absolutely free! No strings! The only free XP, Vista and Windows 7 compatible disk imaging software with BartPEand Linux based recovery options.

  • Create a disk image whilst running Windows using Microsoft Volume Shadow copy Service (VSS).
  • Image to Network, USB, FireWire drives and DVD.
  • Built in scheduler.
  • 32 bit and native 64 bit versions.
  • Industry leading compression levels and speed.
  • Linux based Rescue CD with Network access and full GUI. Only 6.5MB in size!
  • Built in CD/DVD packet writing engine. Supports packet writing to DVD DL media with Windows Vista.
  • HTML log files.

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25 thoughts on “Make An Exact Copy of Your Hard Drive

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  1. Rick,

    There’s a ton of software that a user could label “my computer’s best friend”. But, I have no doubt, that after a system or hardware failure, which, as you rightly point out WILL occur, a typical user would soon discover that Macrium Reflect takes first place in the “computer’s best friend” category.

    An essential piece of software. Hard to believe it’s still free.

    Bill

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  2. Bill,

    It is hard to believe that it is still FREE… I have been using Macrium Reflect for quite awhile and have been very pleased with its’ performance.

    As always, I welcome your comments…

    Rick

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    1. Pochp,

      Keep in mind this is an imaging application and not your typical everyday backup application. Also, is a good idea to have an external drive to store the image on.

      As always, a pleasure to see you here.

      Rick

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    1. Arafat,

      Macrium definitely has saved my butt a couple of times. I also like the fact that the backup imaging process is pretty fast compared to some of the other products I have tried.

      Thank you for commenting…

      Rick

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  3. Good stuff—I’ve been searching the web for something like this. It’s true that your normal programs are incapable of restoring all your changes and making a complete back-up. I used an external hard drive to save my files just in case, but this solution seems way better! I’m eager to try it out, thanks!

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    1. Tune Up,

      I use Macrium to supplement my regular backups. I usually perform a daily backup with my regular backup software; then run Macrium once a week.

      Thank you for dropping by. I always like to see a top gun app, like “TuneUP”, making an appearance here!

      Rick

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  4. This sounds pretty good if I was a geek. However I am just a bit further along than an end user.
    It looks like I will need to buy a good external drive first and then download Macrium Reflect. I hope it’s as easy as you make it sound…

    Thanks
    Joe

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  5. If I were to buy a second HDD and an enclosure, is there a way I could make a copy that I could just swap out should my main drive fail?

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    1. Justin,

      What I would do is use the second HDD to store an image of the hard drive in your computer. Windows 7 actually has an imaging program built in or you could use a third party program such as Macrium Reflect (which is FREE) or Acronis (which is PAID). Once you have an image and let’s say your HDD in your computer fails, you are going to have to buy a drive anyway. Install the new drive and then use the image to restore the data on the new drive. I currently maintain an updated image of my PC at least once a month and do a separate backup (daily) of my personal files and folders (such as photos, music, docs, videos, etc…). Always maintain a backup of the personal files… Reason I say that is I have found that when my computer goes nighty night, I usually just reinistall the OS and then restore my personal files.

      Rick

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    1. Gordon,

      I just visited the Macrium Reflect site and it appears that it has been made to run on XP, Vista, Windows 7 (32 and native 64 Bit) only. Now that does not mean it will not work. I would contact the developers to get an absolute answer on this.

      Rick

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  6. I have a middle aged Dell Dimension 9200 desktop computer running XP, which came with 2 HDD’s set up in a RAID configuration. Would the Macrium Reflect software make an image of the total package so that I could restore to a single new HDD in the event that one of my existing HDD’s failed?

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  7. I want to upgrade to a larger hard drive. I do not, however, want to reinstall everything. While reading your blog entries, it sounds as if this would be a great option for me to use in making a fully working replacement drive. All I would like to know is; after I have created the image on the external HD, Do I install the new drive and then re-install the image on the new drive? My experience level is low but I am careful and try to do my homework before I start to make changes. Any direction would be helpful. Thanks

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