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How-to: Clone / Image a Computer

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After a fresh install of Windows, hardware drivers, and productivity software, consider creating a system image to serve as a restore point. So should you ever need to reformat the computer or migrate to another hard drive in the future, you have a nearly clean slate to go back to without having to deal with installing the drivers and software again. Here, we go over how to image a computer as well as cloning storage drives.

Windows System Image Backup

Windows 7 and Windows 8 have built-in system image creation and restore functionality, which allows you to return to a previous state should you need to reformat and restore Windows. It can also be used if you need to migrate to a new and larger storage drive. Follow the directions below to get create an image using the Windows System Imager tool.

  1. Using the Search command, open the File History program.
    step 1
  2. In the program, click on the System Image Backup option near the bottom left.
    step 2
  3. Decide where you want to save the image. You cannot save the image into the same drive being imaged. Once you have decided on a location, click Next.
    step 3
  4. Click Start backup to make the image.
    step 4

After the drive image has been made, you can create a bootable disc that contains system recovery tools which allow you to restore the system using the image you created earlier. Insert it into your optical drive and restart your computer. An option to restore from a system image backup will be available.

Third Party Programs

Aside from using the System Image Backup utility in Windows, you can also use third party programs such as Acronis True Image, Macrium Reflect, or Clonezilla. They offer more robust cloning and imaging capabilities that go beyond what Windows provides, such as making 1:1 copies of drives.

For instance, with Macrium Free (pictured below)  you can create/restore system images and clone drives without having to restart Windows. Simply have a source drive and a destination drive connected to the computer and start the process in the program.

macrium1

Drive Duplicators

If you do not want to deal with installing software or dealing with image files, you can also use hard drive duplicators such as the Aluratek AHDDUB100. No need to install software, just plug a source drive and an empty drive into the device. Once the drive has been duplicated, you can put the new drive into another machine and it will be ready to go. Drive duplicators can simplify cloning to just pressing one button.

Installing operating systems, drivers, and software can be a chore, so knowing how to image a computer can save you time. For SMBs, using system images in the deployment of new systems allows for hardware to be set up and ready to go quickly. Certainly a useful tool when you may need to repeat the process often.

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How-to: Clone / Image a Computer - HardBoiled
Article Name
How-to: Clone / Image a Computer - HardBoiled
Description
Have a computer image on hand is useful when you need to repair or migrate a Windows installation. We go over how to image a computer in Windows.
Author
Wallace Chu

Wallace Chu

A self-professed tech hipster that loves computers and music. Uses an iPhone ironically.

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