Clone hard drives for free: Freeware Clonezilla

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It suddenly takes a lot longer to start Windows and you see a blue screen more often or your hard drive sounds strange? Then it’s time to move quickly to a new hard drive before all data is lost.

Clonezilla: Clone Your HDD/SSD

Or is your old HDD too small or too slow for you and you want to switch to a fast SSD with little effort? We will show you how you can clone your hard drives conveniently and free of charge with the freeware Clonezilla.


Detect hard drive damage early

Most of the time, when your hard drive is dead, it’s too late to rescue your data. Then only extraordinary special tools or sending the HDD or SSD to a laboratory that specializes in data recovery will help both are often very expensive variants. Hardware faults are often announced long before the final crash.

Most users usually do not worry about what a complete data loss means. As a rule, the operating system and software can be reinstalled more or less quickly, but private files such as documents, pictures or videos are then permanently lost.

However, with a little time and the right free software, you can protect yourself from this.

There are numerous signs that your hard drive is about to fail. If the HDD makes loud clacking or scratching noises, it won’t be long before the final crash.

The whole thing looks different with SSDs, since they work differently, usually nothing is heard here. In contrast to an HDD, an SSD actually says goodbye from one day to the next an indication can be an increased temperature development.

However, there are indications that announce permanent damage to both device classes in advance. These include, for example, that Windows keeps crashing, files are not saved and copied correctly, a blue screen is displayed when booting or Windows wants to permanently check the hard disk for errors. All of this indicates an impending crash.

You can obtain initial certainty by reading out the so-called SMART values of the hard drive using freeware such as CrystalDiskInfo Portable, GSmart Control or HDDExpert. SMART stands for “Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology” a technology that monitors the health of the hard drive.

The problem is that the values monitored by SMART can sometimes vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. It is therefore all the more important to be able to interpret the results correctly or to have them presented by the software accordingly.

One tool that works particularly well in this case is GSmart Control. Strictly speaking, this is not its own software, but only a graphical user interface for the detailed Smartmontools, which are difficult to use, especially for beginners. In combination with the graphical user interface, the tools are very easy to use.

HDD Back Up

After you run the GSmart Control-Software has downloaded, installed and started, the software searches for existing HDDs and SSDs and it also recognizes USB sticks and external hard drives, but these cannot usually be checked. Now select one of the recognized disks from your system and start the information window with a double click.

The tool then gives you detailed information about your HDD or SSD in six tabs. The first tab “Identity” is particularly important.

The last item here is the “Overall Health Self-Assessment Test”. If you read the words “Passed” here, everything is in order with your hardware. If you want to be on the safe side, you can subject your hard drives to three different test procedures in the last tab called “Perform Tests”.

The two other tools CrystalDiskInfo Portable and HDDExpert also work in a similar way to the GSmartControl presented above. In contrast to GSmart Control, you can also use CrystalDiskInfo Portable to check external hard drives for their health.

Regardless of which software you work with, should you encounter problems, then in the following chapter we will explain what you have to do to protect your data from possible loss.

Clone Hard Drive: How to Use Clonezilla

With the free Linux distribution Clonezilla, you can create an exact 1: 1 copy of the entire hard drive with just a few settings and in a short time including all partitions, files and of course the Windows folder.

Then extract the clone onto a new hard drive and continue working as if nothing had happened. By the way, Clonezilla is also perfect for moving your data from an old HDD to a fast SSD.

Using the software is assuming a little training and relatively easy. Depending on the system, you need the 32- or 64-bit version and the version for UEFI or BIOS computers. As a rough guideline: PCs that were built before 2011 usually have a BIOS, while later computers can have UEFI.

With a little trick you can check whether your system is running via BIOS or UEFI. Press the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + R and then enter “msinfo32“. Windows now collects all information about your system and then displays the relevant information on the first page under “BIOS mode”.

Once you have downloaded the correct version, you must either burn the ISO file to a blank disc or copy it to a USB stick using a tool such as Rufus or UNetbootin.

You also have to set the boot sequence in your UEFI settings so that the stick is first booted. You can find out how this works in the description of your mainboard. Once you have done this preliminary work, all you have to do is insert the USB stick and start the PC.

After a short start phase, the Clonezilla menu appears immediately. Select the first point here if you want to clone a hard drive or partition. Next you decide on the language, the keyboard layout and start the main functions of the software or work on the basis of the shell level. Beginners should stick to the first option in any case, because then you will be guided through a simple text menu.

If you would like to create an image of an HDD or SSD or a partition, then choose “device-device” in the first window. In the following screen, beginners stay with the “Beginner” or “Beginner” option, while power users deal with the second option (“Expert”) and can set all parameters themselves there.

Next, choose whether you want to clone an entire hard drive or a single partition and specify the source and destination drives, and the software will take care of the rest.

If you clone an HDD with a Windows system to an SSD, you have to pay attention to some special features. So you cannot avoid the expert option here, as you have to make some presets that are only possible here. Activate the following points:

  • -e1 auto
  • -e2
  • -j2
  • -r and
  • -v

If bad blocks on your HDD are the reason for cloning, you should definitely activate the “-rescue” option. If the hard drives are faultless, you can skip the subsequent test and repair feature.

However, you must use the first option “Use the partition table of the original disk” in the following window. You can answer the following security questions in the affirmative. Now you have to take over the boot loader and then the cloning process will start.

If the new HDD or SSD should be larger than the old one, you have to use GParted now. The tool can also be started from the USB stick. Select the new hardware here and adjust the size of your new HDD / SSD using the “Change / move size” option.


Tip: The two tools MiniTool Partition Wizard 11.6 and Paragon Backup & Recovery 17 Free in the Community Edition do a similar thing and also work under Windows 10 during operation.

If you prefer to rely on professional purchasing software, you should consider purchasing Acronis True Image 2020. The software received the grade “very good” in test. In addition, you can try the tool for 30 days before you have to make a purchase decision.

However, the clone function is not available in the trial version. But you can make a full backup of your system and transfer it to another hard drive or partition.

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