How To Create a Bootable Backup (Clone) Of Entire Hard Drive

“There are two kinds of hard drives: those that have crashed and those that are going to crash.”

What do you do after you’ve experienced the trauma and misfortune of a hard drive crash or a malicious virus’s destroying it? Without a suitable backup, a lot of time may be lost. This type of problem is definitely the source of a great deal of lost productivity.

By far the best backup for your laptop’s hard drive is an exact, bootable copy (clone). Then, if the hard drive crashes, you don’t have to wait for a replacement for the hard drive, and you don’t have to reinstall the operating system, the drivers or the applications! I keep all of my data that changes every day on an 8GB flash drive with a backup on the laptop’s hard drive, so, in the case of a hard drive crash, I wouldn’t lose anything!

Norton Ghost, which I had been using previously to clone my laptop’s hard drive, doesn’t work for cloning Windows 7 hard drives, so I had to find something else. On various Internet forums I remembered often hearing Acronis recommended. Then I found the following:

That cinched it! Acronis® True Image Home 2010 is definitely the way to go! It’s almost completely automatic and almost totally fool proof!

The Tutorial

In order to always have at least one bootable backup of my laptop’s hard drive, I obtained the following items:

1. A local computer repair shop gave me 2 brand new SATA cables for free!

2. I purchased two extra hard drives which are identical to the hard drive in my laptop (an Asus U20A). This required me to remove the hard drive from my laptop in order to find out the exact make and model.

3. I installed a program called Acronis True Image Home 2010.

4. I purchased an eMachines ET1331G-03W desktop PC from my local Walmart.

The laptop hard drive that I am cloning is 320GB, and it contains only one partition: The partition containing Windows XP. The desktop computer that I am using to do the actual cloning came with Windows 7.

I also used the Acronis software to clone the desktop’s hard drive. The method for doing so is basically the same as the procedure outlined below, but it’s slightly more complicated. Since I was cloning the hard drive that Windows was running on, the program had to shut Windows down while it was doing the cloning. Therefore, the program reboots itself into something like DOS mode, but it’s still very easy since everything is automatic. It’s much easier than having to boot up from a CD in order to get the job done!

The entire procedure described below took less than an hour for a hard drive containing about 158GB!

Here’s how I did it:

1. I removed the hard drive from my laptop.

2. I plugged the 2 (red) SATA cables into the desktop computer’s motherboard.



3. I plugged a power connector and a SATA cable into only one of the hard drives, the one which I took out of the laptop. (This may be done after the desktop computer is booted up.) This hard drive appeared as drive E, which I duly noted.



4. I plugged a power connector and a SATA cable into the target hard drive. This hard drive had already been a backup of my laptop’s hard drive, so Windows 7 placed it Offline because of a “signature conflict.” Therefore, I had to use Disk Management to put it online. I did this by clicking Start, right-clicking Computer and then selecting Manage. Then I clicked Disk Management. I then right clicked where it said Offline, and selected Online. I also right-clicked where it said NTFS and selected Delete Partition…, in order make the target drive easy to tell from the source drive.



5. Using a 3.5″ to 5 ¼” adapter, I had previously relocated the desktop computer’s hard drive to the location designed for a 2nd optical drive. This freed up a SATA drive power cable that is long enough to reach the 2 laptop hard drives when they are placed on top of the outside of the desktop. (Very convenient.) Note: The handy soft rubber laptop hard drive enclosures that you see in the picture came with 2 USB to SATA adapters that I had purchased previously.



6. I ran the Acronis True Image Home 2010 program, and clicked Clone Disk after first clicking

Tools & Utilities.


7. I allowed the selection to default to Automatic and the clicked Next.



8. I selected Disk 8 temporarily in order to positively identify it as the target (empty) hard drive.




9. I selected Disk 2 and then clicked Next.




10. I selected Disk 8 as the target hard disk and then clicked Next. (Not shown)

11. I clicked Proceed.



12. If you want, you can now click Hide to turn the process into an icon on the right side of your Task Bar. You can even close down the main Acronis window.


13. Done!


14. I took the target hard drive and installed it in my laptop. It booted up just fine, and everything worked exactly as before! Now my former laptop hard drive became a backup hard drive.

15. I wrote today’s date on a sticky note and stuck it to the new backup hard drive for future reference.

The next time that I backup my hard drive, I will use, as the new target drive, the hard drive which has the oldest date.

Previously, I’ve used DriveImage XML and Norton Ghost with limited success. Sometimes the cloning worked. Sometimes it didn’t. I’ve used Acronis® True Image Home 2010 dozens of times, and each time was a complete success! Using Automatic mode, it completely takes the guesswork out of making clone copies of hard drives.

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