Choosing the best cloning software is not an easy task, especially if you’re a total “noob”, but don’t worry, as today’s article will help you with the basics, as we’ll provide you with the “tl;dr” version; on top of that, we’ve already scouted the “interwebz” and brought you the best disk cloning software of the current year. To begin with the obvious, let’s see about a crash-course in cloning software 101.
What is it?
Cloning software is basically the easiest way in this universe to make an exact copy of your hard-disk/SSD by creating a 100% identical and uncompressed/unarchived replica of a given drive, whether we’re talking about your systems’ HDD/SSD or another/unrelated drive.
Don’t confuse cloning software with disk imaging though. Cloning software keeps intact all your installed software/system-data, so you won’t have to go and re-install all that stuff when, let’s say you’re upgrading your SSD with a bigger one and so on and so forth. This feature comes particularly handy if you’ve lost (expensive) software/games keys/licenses.
As far as backup software goes, disk cloning is pretty similar to disk imaging, as both are going to copy your hardware contents, but they do it in a different way, i.e. the latter creates an archived version of your HDD/SSD contents (you’ll also have to install a fresh OS in order to use it), while the former creates a 1 to 1 exact and fully functional copy on a different hard drive.
How to Choose the Best Cloning Software
Truth be told, this is not an “exact science”, but to keep it simple, you’ll have to factor in a few things, like speed, ease of use, price and security. In regard to speed, everyone wants their software to run as quickly as possible, i.e. to copy the contents of your HDD or SSD to another drive in the shortest amount of time and as hassle-free as possible (the same goes for defrag software by the way). Most importantly, if you’re going to execute disk-cloning procedures on multiple machines at once, look for software that specifically allows that, instead of being forced to do it individually, which is time-consuming and rather boring.
When it comes to user-friendliness, you must consider the “noob factor”: the simpler the “cloning procedure”, the better, especially if you’re not very tech-savvy. A help-wizard feature would surely help in this regard, and also a clean UI (user interface) would be nice to have, especially when it comes to complex stuff like cloning software. Price is always a big factor, whether we’re talking about disk partition software, games or cloning software.
For example, it would be pretty dumb to spend your hard-earned money on expensive cloning software when there’s freeware like Clonezilla that would perfectly fit the “bill” (pun intended). Joke aside, there are situations when premium (as in paid) software is a must-have, especially in business/corporate environments where everyone is looking for the best toys money can buy. And here security comes into play: enterprise-grade cloning software comes with data protection features, which include encryption and anti-malware options (read ransomware protection).
With all these in mind, let’s check out the best cloning software currently available in no particular order.
Best Hard Drive Cloning Software
The Best Freeware
Clonezilla is the Godzilla of cloning software, and the best thing ever invented in the backup software niche, due to the fact that it’s absolutely free of charge, which makes it hugely popular in Nerd World. This free and open source cloning software also allows disk imaging and is incredibly light on resources.
There are two versions of the software available: Clonezilla Live, which is aimed at home-users and works great on a single computer, and the business-oriented SE version, which can clone software on more than forty machines simultaneously. Speaking of sheer speed, there are users reporting restoring rates of 8 GB/min, which is kind of impressive. Clonezilla supports multiple file systems, GPT/MBR partition formats and can clone various OS’es, including Minix, NetBSD and Chromium. If you’re already familiar with Debian/Linux, you’ll absolutely love this venerable piece of cloning software.
- king of freeware
- runs from optical media (DVD) or USB drive
- allows cloning, portioning and disk imaging
- very fast restoration speeds
- supports both Windows OS and Linux OS
- not the best UI, but we’re being picky
Acronis Disk Director
The Best Cloning Software for Windows 10
Acronis Disk Director is a high-quality piece of software, but comes with a big caveat: it’s a Windows-only kind of a deal, i.e. it only works on Bill Gates’ plantation. If you can live with that, Acronis makes for one Hell of a disk cloning suite, among other cool things, such as formatting, creating or labeling partitions, resizing, splitting and merging of volumes, disk recovery included.
You can format your disk (s) in basically any format known to man, including FAT32/16, NTFS, Ext3, Exts, Linux, Reiser3 or SWAP. All “current era” Windows versions are supported, starting from Windows XP and ending up with the malware currently known as Windows 10. Unfortunately, there’s zero support for Linux or Apple ecosystems. Unlike Clonezilla, Acronis will cost you almost fifty bucks for a single PC license, or $80 for 3 machines.
For corporate environments, you have the workstation license with a retail price of $80, which includes free updates and 1-year tech support.
- supports a plethora of disk services and multiple formats
- easy to use
- lots of backup tools
- compatible with Acronis True Image
- supports UEFI
- free demo available
- kind of expensive
- Windows only compatibility
- demo version is very limited
Paragon Drive Copy
The Best Hard Drive Cloning Software
If you’re looking for the paragon of cloning software, it doesn’t get much better than Paragon Drive Copy (pun intended). Joke aside, Drive Copy is yet another excellent cloning tool which is actually a small part of Paragon’s comprehensive disk management utility suite, namely the Hard Disk Manager. However, if you only want to clone your drive, you will end up saving money in the process by buying Drive Copy only instead of the whole suite.
Using Drive Copy allows you to clone the whole drive or just a partition if one so inclined, which is a pretty cool feature to have; and speaking of cool features, Paragon’s brain-child also gives you the ability to make a virtual clone of your OS, which can be run stand-alone/independently on a different PC. There’s also a recovery media builder included in the cloning software suite that allows you to create a recovery operating system which can be used to boot a non-bootable machine for example. The bad news is that a license for 1 PC will cost you almost $40.
- allows you to clone the whole disk or only a partition
- you can clone to a smaller drive
- permits creation of a recovery media file
- well designed help wizard
- ergonomic user interface
- comes with wiping/disk partition tools
- you can clone your desktop on a USB drive
- you can resize partitions via disk cloning
- kind of slow
- rather expensive for home users
MiniTool Partition Wizard Free
Great Free Cloning Software
Minitool Partition Wizard is yet another example of a free market solution delivering free cloning software to home users, proving once again that the best things in life are free. Okay, there’s also a paid version, the Minitool Partition Wizard Pro respectively, which comes with additional bells and whistles, but who needs that, right? So, what do you get for free? Obviously, since we’re talking about disk cloning software, you can clone an entire disk using this baby, but on top of that, you get some extra goodies.
To begin with, the MiniTool Partition Wizard Free is a powerful partition manager, helping you with managing partitions/disks, align SSD partition, check file system, convert MBR to GPT, and, first and foremost, migrate your operating system to another HDD or SSD and/or clone an entire disk. If you’re a Windows home user, MiniTool Partition Wizard Free is an excellent choice, as the software supports Windows 10, Windows 8.1/8, Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP, as well as regular HDDs, SSDs, SSHD, external HDD, USB Flash Drive, SD card, Hardware RAID and Dynamic Disk.
- excellent for Windows home users
- supports FAT12/16/32 exFAT NTFS Ext2/3/4
- easy to install
- friendly and intuitive user interface
- many data recovery features
- allows restoring lost partitions
- has portable mode
- built-in space analyzer
- free version can’t manage dynamic disks
- works on Windows only
The Complete Cloning Software Solution
Macrium Reflect is a very popular cloning solution for both personal (especially the free version) and commercial/enterprise use. On top of cloning, Macrium Reflect also offers disk imaging and free backup in the free edition for home users, as well as thirty-day trial editions which allow you to test all the cool features available in the commercial version.
Essentially speaking, Macrium Reflect is a very easy to use and high-quality direct disk cloning software, and the free license also covers business use, which is awesome for small companies. You can fully restore non-booting systems with the free version, as well as schedule backups or create live images of your OS. Moreover, you can add security features like backup-encryption and ransomware protection, but that would cost you extra. And if you’re wondering about file systems, Macrium Reflect supports FAT 12/16/32, exFAT, NTFS, HFS+ and ReFS.
- the free tier version is more than enough for disk cloning/disk imaging
- easy to use and intuitive user interface
- well designed help-wizard
- supports incremental cloning
- lots of features
- efficient and solid backup
- malware protection
- supports Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP plus Linux
- none really for the free edition
Daemon Tools Lite makes for a hugely popular disc emulation software, which is aimed primarily at helping you create virtual drives on your PC. Regarding our topic, Daemon Tools is not exactly cloning software per-se, but it can work just the same, as it allows you to emulate up to 4 DT + SCSI + HDD devices, and also enables you to mount virtually all types of images.
Since we are talking about cloning software here, arguably the best feature of Daemon Tools Lite is the Virtual HDD thing, which creates a VHD backup (virtual HDD) of a physical HDD partition, thus helping you keep your files safe. Also, you can create a bootable image of your OS and load it on a bootable USB drive, which can be password protected. On top of that, you get an iSCSI Initiator feature, which gives you access to remote images (virtual and physical drives, including VHDs).
- you can use unlimited devices simultaneously
- fast emulation
- supports up to 256 HDD drives (mount VHD)
- file encryption provided by default
- excellent Windows cross-platform integration
- can create images from discs, files of folders
- the full version is not free
EaseUS Todo Backup
The Best SSD Cloning Software
As its name suggests, the EaseUS Todo Backup is designed to be primarily a backup software solution; however, the free version also comes with a drive cloning option, which is a nice thing to have in a freeware bundle. And the best thing is that despite the fact that it’s free, the drive cloning thing comes with zero compromises; drop of a hat for EaseUS in this regard.
Besides being free as a bird, Todo Backup comes with full support for Windows OS ranging from the venerable XP version to Windows 10, as well as hardware RAID, UEFI boot, and basically all types of SSDs and HDDs. The only downside is that the free version doesn’t allow cloning a larger disk to a smaller one, but if you really need that one, you can always cough a few bucks and get the Partition Master Pro. To make a long story short, EaseUS Todo Backup really delivers in the cloning software department, as the free version offers all the cool features (more than most actually): disk cloning, system cloning and partition cloning.
- free tier delivers more features than most
- complete functionality
- excellent user interface
- focused on simplicity
- free trials on the paid versions
- wide range of backup modes, including scheduled/full/incremental
- supports both clone and migration
- great value for money
- lacks Linux support
Symantec Ghost Solution Suite
Enterprise-Grade Cloning Software
Last but not least, we have Symantec’s Ghost Solution Suite, which makes for an interesting piece of software coming from a sacred monster in the industry, provided you’re obsessed with security in an enterprise environment. Obviously, the suite is not free, being aimed primarily at IT professionals working in midsize/enterprise organizations, but speaking of features and functionality, you’ll get a lot of bang for the buck, including peace of mind.
Besides disk cloning, this high-end software suite allows you to deploy an OS image to countless PCs simultaneously, and it also works on most platforms, including Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
- professional grade cloning software solution
- saves time in multi-user environments
- has all the features in the world
- can migrate to the latest OS as well as deploy software
- offers strong encryption (DoD-standard security level)
- requires training to use it properly
- not suited for “civilian” use