How-To: Clone Windows Hard Drive with Macrium Reflect
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It is of absolute importance that you back up your Windows hard drive. Hard drives can fail at any time, and while some give an obvious warning, others will fail even without a clear warning. This tutorial is for Windows users looking for the most cost effective ways to clone their Windows hard drive using open source software, such as Macrium Reflect Free Edition.
This is the first part of a tutorial series on cloning and restoring Windows-based hard drives. In the upcoming series, you will learn some more advanced cloning concepts, such as deploying the reference or cloned computer to computers with different types of hardware configurations.
How to tell if your hard drive is failing
Bear in mind that this tutorial will only be helpful assuming your defective hard drive is still working and completely bootable. This is a very important requirement; it means you still have time to perfectly salvage the data and programs installed using a disk cloning process.
You will know that your hard drive is starting to be defective if you notice the following:
During the booting process, Windows always checks the disk for errors, and there are indeed errors found or a sector damaged. You need to see the check disk report at the end, because that is important.
During the booting process, your BIOS returns the error: “S.M.A.R.T.status BAD, backup and replace.”
Your hard drive sporadically spins during start up. This requires pressing the power button a lot of times until the BIOS will start to pick up.
You hear a clicking or abnormal sound from the hard drive.
Your computer locks up randomly, and when you restart. To check if this is hard disk related, you need to go to Start -> My Control Panel -> Administrative tools -> Event Viewer -> Double click “System” and then double click the error (red x) to read the error description causing the lock up/hang. If you see something related to disk error, this could be the sign of a hard drive starting to go bad.
The Windows blue screen of death might not be directly related to hard drive, but sometimes it is, especially if it shows an error with something related to NTFS partition.
Disk cloning: basic background
Disk cloning is the process of creating an exact replica of the reference hard disk. The only thing that might be different is the brands of the hard drives or their sizes.
There are certain requirements for source and target hard drives to ensure the best performance in cloning, as well as to avoid any cloning-related issues. Cloning is the best form of hard drive backup. If you make a clone and the hard drive fails, you can simply buy a new hard drive and restore the disk clone image to the newly-purchased hard drive, after which things will go back to normal again.
Lots of computer technicians still do not know the importance and application of disk cloning. Instead, they will suggest one of the following:
Wiping out the problematic hard drive by reformatting it. Bear in mind that reformatting the drive cannot solve errors related to the hard drive's electronics, so this is not a permanent solution, and the hard drive will still fail soon.
Copying only important files to an external hard drive, removing the problematic hard drive and replacing it with the new hard drive...and then reinstalling Windows XP or 7 on the new drive, including drivers, etc. It means starting all over from scratch.
This is a very inefficient approach for the following reasons:
It will take a lot of time to redo the installation of all applications. In most cases, you will find that you have lost the installers and have to look for them again.
You will need to update Windows from the start; this will mean a lot of work and down time for your computer, especially if you are using it for work on a daily basis.
Cloning creates an exact replica of the problematic disks (sector by sector). This means that everything will be restored in an instant, so you will not need to install Windows again, or go into the process of finding the installers, drivers, etc.
If your computer is storing very important information (applications, data, etc), it is recommended that you clone the hard disk once a month to have a fully-working backup in case of an accidental hard drive failure.
Install Macrium Reflect Free Edition
This tutorial will use Macrium Reflect Free Edition to clone your Windows hard drive. This is a free software application that can do the same thing as proprietary disk cloning software (e.g Acronis, Norton Ghost, etc). Some advanced features are not included in the free edition, but it handles the very basic cloning tasks very well.
Install it on your Windows operating system. Once installed, launch the software by going to Start -> Macrium -> Reflect -> Reflect. Macrium reflect will then scan the computer for attached physical hard drives.
If you see any warnings (like "you have not created a rescue disk" or something similar), just ignore them and close. You should see a list of hard drives, such as the one shown below:
When you see the list of hard drives without any serious errors (except the minor warnings stated earlier), then you have successfully installed Macrium Reflect.
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