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Clone VS Image: What's the Difference? Get the Answer Now!


Decide to back up your computer so as to protect data from ransomware attack or avoid data loss? Looking for ways to make a backup for Windows 10/8/7 computer but don't know which one should be used, disk cloning or imaging? Take it easy! This post will walk you through some information about clone VS image.

Overview of Backup Methods

"Hello Everyone,
Can u help to explain these two things, image VS clone.
-Which one that we should use to prevent hard drive failure or Windows stop working?

- eightforums

As is well known, clone and image are two types of backup methods for computer protection by creating an exact record of your drive. All the files on your drive along with the master boot record and everything required for Windows to boot are included. Once there is something wrong with your hard drive or Windows operating system gets corrupted hopelessly, a clone or image backup can get your computer back to work quickly.

Well then, when should you image a hard drive or clone a hard drive? What's the difference between image and clone? When you search "clone VS image" in Google, you will find some users also have a doubt about this topic. Now, the following is some information about these two backup methods. Keep reading.

Clone VS Image

① Defining Terms

  • What Is Hard Drive Cloning?

    What does disk cloning mean? Perhaps you are looking for the answer. In a nutshell, it refers to the process of copying all the contents including Windows boot records, files, settings, and programs on your hard drive to another disk. Moreover, an exact same copy of the source disk is created via sector-by-sector mode, no compression. Namely, the contents of the destination disk are identically same as the source disk. Once your hard drive fails, you can remove it and use the target disk containing the copy of source disk to replace it immediately, and no data loss appears.

    clone drive

  • What Is Hard Drive Imaging?

    When it comes to disk imaging, it is like creating a large compressed file of your drive. And all files needed for Windows to run, as well as everything you have stored on your hard drive, will be compressed to an image.

    Due to the compression nature, you can save multiple images on your hard drive as long as there is enough disk space. Usually, external hard drives are chosen. Through disk imaging, multiple full backups, incremental backups, and differential backups can be saved on one disk to better keep data safe. But note that the image file can only be used by the program that created it.

    Tip: What's the difference between these three types of image backup? Read this hot article - 3 Types of Backup: Full, Incremental, Differential - MiniTool

② Scenarios for Hard Drive Cloning and Hard Drive Imaging

Now, after knowing "clone VS image" in definition aspect, now let's get the scoop on disk imaging VS disk cloning in usage situation aspect. Please choose the proper one based on the actual needs.

  • When to Clone a Hard Drive?

    Actually, disk cloning is selected to upgrade a disk to a larger or faster drive. In other words, if you want to move all contents on your source disk to another disk for more storage space or a better performance, cloning will be the easier solution. You only need to plug in the target drive, run a hard drive cloning software and do the job.


    Besides, disk cloning makes a lot of sense to replace a damaged disk. When a disk failure occurs, the target disk can be used directly to replace the source drive. As for system disk cloning, you are able to boot your computer from the target disk in the event of the OS disk failure. This can minimize the downtime. In one word, cloning is great for speedy recovery.

  • When to Image a Hard Drive?

    Hard drive imaging offers you greater flexibility while backing up a computer. As mentioned above, several images can be saved on a sufficiently large external hard drive. This makes it easier and more economical to back up multiple computers or save several backup versions of the same disk. But only one clone can be saved on a drive.

    More importantly, imaging offers you many backup options, for example, incremental backup and differential backup, which can record how the data of your disk changes day by day. To sum up, disk imaging plays an important role in most situations since it is more flexible and takes up less storage.

    By reading "clone VS image" section, you know clearly the difference between image and clone. Maybe now you are curious about how to clone a hard disk or create an image backup in Windows 10/8/7. Follow the guide in the following part.

How to Clone a Hard Drive in Windows 10/8/7

To make a successful disk cloning, you should ask a third-party program for help. Which one should you use? Here, we recommend using MiniTool programs - MiniTool ShadowMaker and MiniTool Partition Wizard, which are gaining a great popularity from users worldwide.

img1 MiniTool ShadowMaker

MiniTool ShadowMaker, a dedicated free backup software, is developed to create an image backup. Besides, it has another important feature called Clone Disk, enabling you to copy all data from a disk to another disk for disk upgrade or hard drive replacement. Don't hesitate! Free download this hard drive cloning software for a try right now!

Step 1: Launch MiniTool ShadowMaker Free Edition which has been installed by you. Then, enter a small window to choose one computer to manage.

local backup

note Tip: Which section should you choose for the disk cloning, Local or Remote? The Free Edition of this disk cloning software only allows you to back up the local computer in Windows 10/8/7. Thus, click Connect option on the left side. As for remote backup, please use its Beta Edition.

Step 2: Next, please choose Clone Disk feature which is located in Tools page.


Step 3: Then, a small pop-out window appears and you should choose a source disk and a target disk for the disk cloning by clicking the corresponding section.

a) In most cases, to choose a system disk as the source disk is a good option.
b) From "clone VS image" part, you know disk cloning takes sector-by-sector mode. Hence, please make sure there is enough disk space on your target disk so as to hold all source data.
c) After completing the selection, click OK button. Then, a warning appears telling you all target disk data will be destroyed. Consequently, ensure no important files are saved on this disk or back up them in advance.


Step 4: Now, MiniTool ShadowMaker is performing disk cloning operation. Please wait patiently. In the following figure, you can see the option Shut down the computer when the operation is completed. Check it when there is a need.

clone progress

If this option is not checked by you, you will receive the information window, as shown below:


After the disk cloning, both source disk and target disk are exactly identical. As a result, Windows operating system marks one disk as offline. If you aim at backing up disk, just shut down the computer, and remove the target disk. If you want to keep both of them, you can enter BIOS and change the boot order to boot your Windows 10/8/7 computer from the target disk.

img2 MiniTool Partition Wizard

MiniTool Partition Wizard, another professional PC cloning software, can provide a help for you in cloning a hard drive. It is an easy-to-use and full-featured tool and is compatible with Windows 10/8/8.1/7. There are two features you can use to make a disk cloning effectively: Migrate OS to SSD/HD and Copy Disk. The former is suitable to only transfer OS or copy system disk to another hard drive. The latter can help to copy system disk as well as a data disk. Here, we choose the latter as an example. Firstly, please download and install MiniTool Partition Wizard Free Edition.

Step 1: Run this free hard drive cloning software and then choose Copy Disk feature in the left action panel. In addition, you can choose this feature from the toolbar or the right-click menu.

copy disk

Step 2: Next, determine which disk you want to choose as the target disk to save the source data. Similarly, cloning process will overwrite the target disk. Ensure no important files are on this disk.

target disk

Step 3: Select one copy option based on your need. Besides, check Use GUID Partition Table for the target disk if you want to clone disk to GPT. But this feature is included in the Professional or an advanced edition.

review changes

Step 4: Then, this cloning software will inform you how to boot your computer from the target disk. Just do it when there is a need.

Step 5: Execute all operations by hitting Apply button.

How to Image a Hard Disk in Windows 10/8/7?

In "clone VS image" part, you know imaging is more flexible for computer protection because of its compression nature and supported backup types. Well then, how do you image a hard drive? To back up your computer, you had better use a piece of professional backup software. Here, MiniTool ShadowMaker, hard drive image software, is well worth recommending since it allows creating an automatic backup, full backup, incremental and differential backup for the Windows and hard drive.

Step 1: Launch this image backup software in Windows 10/8/7 and then click Connect button in the Local section.

Step 2: Then, you will enter the Home page where you should click SET UP BACKUP button if no backup is created yet.


Step 3: In Backup tab, you see this program has checked system partitions to back up by default. To back up a hard drive, please click Source section, select a disk (strongly recommend system disk ) and then check all disk partitions.

recommend Hot article: How Can You Make System Image Recovery in Windows 10?

disk backup

Step 4: Enter Destination section, select one storage path for the disk image. Here, you had better back up your hard drive to a partition of an external hard drive. Or, you can back up disk to Shared Folder by adding network path, username, and password.

backup destination

Step 5: Then, you will go back to the Backup tab. In the lower left side, you see two features - Schedule and Scheme. The former allows creating an automatic backup and the latter enables you to create an incremental backup as well as disk space management. Just click one to make advanced settings depending on actual situations. Finally, click Back up Now button to start the operation.

backup now

From the above contents, you know MiniTool ShadowMaker is really helpful for computer backup since it supports not only disk cloning but also disk imaging. Disk imaging VS disk cloning, no matter which one you want to use, this free backup program is your good option. Get it now via the following button.

Bottom Line

Let's just recap what's been introduced. In this post, we briefly show you two backup methods: clone VS image and you clearly know the difference between image and clone. Simply speaking, cloning disk is the most suited way for upgrading the hard drive. And disk imaging is suitable for back up OS, files and hard drive regularly and you can store multiple images on a hard drive. Next, we also walk you through how to clone a hard drive and image a hard drive in Windows 10/8/7.

Now, it is your turn to choose one method to back up your computer. If you have any questions about using our software, please tell us by sending an email to [email protected] or leaving a comment below. Also, any suggestions of backup methods are welcome.