Best Free Drive Cloning Software



What I consider to be two of the most important factors when choosing drive imaging software is Ease of Use, and Reliable Image Creation and Restoration. Quite simply the software has to be able to do its intended task without fail every time as if it can not then it defeats the whole objective of creating an image backup in the first place and believe it or not there is software out there that is great at performing the actual backup images and providing the ability to mount and explore them without problems, but lacking in any easy way to actually perform a recovery with said images. If the software is capable of reliably performing those tasks in a timely manor then all the better, if not then personally I have no problems with waiting a while longer and knowing for a fact that the backup or recovery process is going to be a success.

Drive or disk imaging has now become a must-have tool for the majority of users both novice and advanced alike mainly because of its ease of use in most circumstances and the convenience it provides.

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Rated Products

Most of these programs now include both WinPE and Linux recovery environments, the difference being in WinPE you usually have a GUI that looks the same and has all the same features and options you would see whilst running the program from within Windows itself. The Linux environment is somewhat limited whilst it looks the same. Generally you only have the backup and restore options available and in most cases in the event of HDD failure that is all you need.

AOMEI Backupper  

A fast and easy way to perform backups on a regular basis or on the fly.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)

If you're looking for a fast and easy way to perform backups on a regular basis or even on the fly then AOMEI Backupper offers exactly that. If you like to get in and configure every setting possible pertaining to creating a drive image then you are better off choosing and alternative imaging program. May I say this is actually my imaging program of choice after using all the others off and on for years. Not that there is anything wrong with the others, it's just that with AOMEI I am not bombarded with multiple questions. I can just click a few times and be confident that it is going to do what I expect it to do without the possibility of me accidentally selecting the wrong crucial option during recovery (yes I have done that a few times in the past and even invited some new cuss words post broken system restore).

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Macrium Reflect Free  

Offer nearly complete control over how you wish to re-instate your backup images.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)

Overall the program does its intended job efficiently, however running into licensing validation issues can leave you with some serious problems in an emergency... The software on the face of it is user friendly enough but as I also stated in my test unless you fully understand what you are doing you may think you have a working system image but later come to find out you do not! Macirum in my opinion is for the more advanced user rather than the novice as it does offer you more or less complete control over how you wish to re-instate your backup images whilst still being user friendly.

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Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition  

A user-friendly backup solution with wizards and fully featured recovery media.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Private/Educational use)

Overall Paragon does its intended job differently to the others and left me kind of wondering what the outcome was going to be during the recovery process, having said that yes it completed without a hitch in a timely fashion. There is so many features in this program that you can see yet are unable to use in the free version, to me that just makes it all feel bloated. Is this for the novice or the advanced user? It is easy enough to use and the wizards provide plenty of instruction if needed, so yes it does appear to be novice user friendly. I do feel though that the more advanced user would get a little frustrated with having to use said wizards all the time.

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DriveImage XML  

An easy to use and reliable program for imaging and backing up partitions and logical drives.

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Private/Educational use)

Despite those two... "inconveniences", the program is very solid and in personal experience not so long ago it was the only program that was able to create an image of a failing 500GB HDD that had many bad sectors coupled with read/write arms that were "sticking". Windows refused to copy any data from it; the end result was that 90% of the data contained in the image was usable after Drive Image XML completed its task... I won't tell you how long that took. I will leave that to your imagination, but like I say it was the only program out of many that could work with that drive... So if you have a situation like that this is the software you need.

Read full review...

Other Options

There are a few different options for users that are looking for a good free drive imaging solution and some of the most reliable options are offline programs.

  • PING (PartImage Is Not Ghost) is the choice that stands out above the rest for me. Most offline solutions can be kind of intimidating and hard to figure out at first but PING is almost too easy as it leads you through the steps needed to create an image one by one and offers a short explanation of some of the options available.

    The program can create incremental backup images and will save you significant time in doing so. It can also backup and restore the BIOS and it can create a bootable restoration disk to make restoring your backups that much easier. The software was developed to offer a free alternative to the very popular Norton Ghost and over the years it has gained a better set of features than Ghost making it a great choice for anybody.

  • Clonezilla is the other free offline software that stands out to me. Although it can be complicated upon first use it is a very good program and probably the most popular offline free drive imaging application.

    It contains a beginners mode with all of the advanced options selected for you and all you have to choose is the partition or disk to backup and the location to save it which can be a USB drive, CD/DVD, or network share. The expert mode can be really confusing if you are not sure of what you are doing and generally the beginners mode should suffice for most users. The program can perform a disk to disk copy or just the regular disk or partition image backup but it is slow in doing this taking almost thirty minutes to create an image of an 8 GB partition.

    However, Clonezilla does come in different packages, you can get it with the G-Parted boot CD or with UBCD (Ultimate Boot CD) which contains several other programs on one CD making the possibilities even greater.

Some hard drive manufacturers offer free software utilities to owners of their products to aid them in such tasks as diagnostics, disk management, and installing new hard drives. Of those tools made available a couple of manufacturers are offering free disk imaging software for users of their drives to use as long as they own the drive.

  • Owners of Seagate hard drives are eligible to download and use the Seagate Disk Wizard tools. Disk Wizard is essentially a slimmed down version of Acronis True Image that is available for free.

  • Owners of Western Digital hard drives also have a great option for disk imaging. Western Digital offers the Acronis True Image WD Edition which is much the same as what Seagate offers to its users.


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I agree. I had to use my 2nd DVD/CD Burner to get a working bootable WinPE (3.1) CD with the Free version.

I also burn with Imgburn and I use Verbatim media. I also burn dedicated CD's for each PC so I have one for my Desktop PC and another on for my Laptop in addition to one for a family member.

All of mine are WinPE 3.1 CD's and I have verified 2 of the 3 PC's with a full-disk image and recovery to my spare HDD's.

My first attempt with the Linux CD didn't work out, wouldn't boot on either of my PC's but I tabled that for now since my WinPE CD's all boot up ok and have been tested.

The only issue that I'm having is that neither WinPE boot will recognize my SATA/USB Adapter Cable's HDD. I think that's due to the Adapter Cable being USB 3.0, even though USB is backward-compatible.

Since my USB 2.0 Enclosure does work with the Macrium WinPE CD on my Laptop, I'm wondering if that's the issue with that Adapter Cable.

I have version 5.2.6433 (x64) loaded on my PC at present. That's the version I used to create the WinPE 3.1 CD's on both PC's.

The thing I have noticed, on both PC',s is that the free version doesn't seem to load all of the drivers when building the ISO for the burn.

I asked some experienced Macrium Free users and they said that this isn't a problem and they have seen this as well when creating the WinPE Rescue media. As long as the ISO build contains the drivers necessary to communicate with the required interface items on the PC, then it should work, according to what I've read elsewhere about using the Free version's Rescue media.

Normally, and in this case, the version of USB cable makes no difference for a USB 2 enclosure. The 4 pins for USB 2 are the same whether the cable is USB 2 or 3. The USB 3 capability is provided by an additional set of 5 pins at the rear of the connector. Your problem will probably be because any SATA/USB combination cable or adapter is not officially supported by the SATA or USB standards. In fact it is officially excluded and discouraged. So you use them at your own risk. Personally, I wouldn't use one because troubleshooting becomes more difficult. Yes, WinPEReflect won't load all your Windows drivers. But you can add other drivers when the WinPE disk is running. WinPE Reflect can search disks and the Internet.


Thanks for the info about the SATA/USB Adapter Cables. I ordered a 3.5 SATA Enclosure to use for my Desktop PC when testing and backing up with Macrium.

Hi all, new here and a basic "Cloner" for a couple of years. I've recently begun to use Macrium Free to learn the "imaging" part of the scene.

[Commercial reference removed]

Most of my HDD's are Seagate "Barracuda" product-line drives. I'm running Windows 7 x64 with a 1 Tb HDD on my Desktop PC.

I don't custom-partition. Both of my PC's, Desktop & Laptop are the standard 2-partition Windows install HDD, "Sys Reserved" and main partitions.

I recently downloaded Macrium Free 5.2.6433 and attempted to burn a bootable WinPE 3.1 CD. After a few attempts, I created a bootable CD. During the ISO build, the program queried me for drivers missing, need to add, etc. After seeking advice from some veteran Macrium users at the Win 7 forum, I chose the "continue without loading drivers" option. The missing driver was 1 USB driver but after booting up, that driver wasn't required for offline backup operations.

I processed a couple of full-disk images and tested the Recovery process on my Desktop PC without problems. My spare HDD accepted the image Restore and booted into Windows ok.

I've run an image on my Laptop but haven't tested the Restore process yet.

I tried to clone with Macrium by following a method in several YouTube tutorials by dragging/dropping both partitions into the "Destination" HDD. Since the MBR partition was included ("Sys Reserved"), I'd expected the resulting Target HDD to be bootable upon testing it after the cloning process completed.

The Target HDD didn't boot. I got the usual "System error, hardware change detected", etc, messages when booting. I checked the usual things, BIOS boot priority, HDD detection, etc.

I tried the cloning process again, this time ticking the "Entire Disk" box in the Macrium setup screen, instead of ticking the 2 partitions' boxes.

For the "Destination" HDD, I ticked the HDD icon located on the left-hand side of the setup screen.

After the cloning process completed, I tested my Target HDD and this time, success. It booted up Windows and I exercised it a little, launching apps, etc.

The confusing part of the Macrium cloning setup screen, for me, was that when I ticked the "Entire Disk" box, that automatically ticks the 2 partitions selection boxes.

That would seem to be identical as what I originally attempted, but apparently there's something in the Macrium program that requires the user (or in my case) to tick the "Entire Disk" box and let the program auto-select the partitions.

Bottom line is that I've successfully booted from the WinPE Rescue CD on both of my PC's and processed an image recovery and a cloning process with my Desktop PC.

I found the Macrium Gui screens to be user-friendly and a little easier, for me, to navigate vs Acronis with the exception of the cloning setup as I mentioned previously.

As with anything, once one successfully navigates a product's setup steps, future setup's will be no problem to process and complete successful results.

I began taking and restoring images with Norton's GhostPE. I used it frequently for some time, and it never let me down. For a long time I've been creating images with Macrium Reflect. I've never restored one but given the sterling reviews I felt comfortable knowing the images were there should things go wrong. It happened very recently that I did need to restore a saved image. First, the Macrium-created rescue disc failed to boot; I think checksum error was mentioned. That should have been sorted at the time the disc was burned. The disc was stored carefully, and was in pristine condition. Then, having been forced to reinstall Win 7 (just to the point of First Use for speed) - the only way I could get access to the program and with it restore my saved image, I ran Macrium and restored the image. It failed, too. It said it had done the business, and gave no errors, but after a reboot, Windows told me that a file was missing, and wouldn't let me boot. I had no choice but to do another reinstallation of Win7, along with the tedious necessities of changing personal settings, reinstalling all my software, and suffering the installation and annoying reboots of hundreds of huge Windows Update files - the very reasons I wanted an image restoration program. I do not trust Macrium - it let me down the one time I needed it. I'm still looking for a reliable program, and the only thing one can do, really, is read reviews, but that didn't help me with Macrium. I've just created a backup with Win 7's own routine, and created a rescue disc - I'll let you know. The only thing that Macrium was good for, and for which I am grateful, was the fact that I could, and did, trawl the image file and was able to recover several important-to-me files. Just saying.

crank, has Parted Magic become shareware? I visited the Parted Magic site, and found that there is a new version available now. I went to Downloads page, but I can't find anywhere to download the ISO from. Softpedia shows Parted Magic as shareware.
From the front page of the site: "Parted Magic is free software. To find out what that means, read this:" That said, see for the whole story. I'm not sure what to think about this. In short, after losing his job, the developer tried for some time to live off of what he could get in donations, unfortunately, it just wasn't working. With tens of thousands of downloads, he couldn't average his modest $1,200 a month minimum to live on. This, really, is even less than modest, it's embarrassing to me that the community doesn't support his incredibly useful package at even that low a level. On the other hand, it is also very unfortunate to lose the ability to download the CD form wherever you might find yourself in need of it. Plus, Looking at the latest updates, there are some v v nice additions, like working with windows secure boot now. I just purchased and downloaded the CD, I was given an email with a link that leads to a page at, no indication of how long it will remain available to me, and that isn't good. We'll have to see how this shakes out, I contributed to the program earlier, I'll continue downloading new updates as it's too useful a product not to have the latest versions in my toolkit, but some of its magic has parted I'm afraid, no matter how reasonable the asking price, no matter how worth it it is.
Thanks for that link, crank. It's sad to see a good free software now going payware. What's more sad was to read that people were selling copies of that free software on ebay, and the developer himself was not getting a dime for it. That's really sad indeed.

As a replacement for Microsoft SteadyState I prefer a reboot and restore to pristine each time approach to drive imaging so I don't have to do tons of security hoop jumping or bother with AV etc. My data is encrypted on another drive and I save anything I download to a USB stick and that badboy gets scanned before anything goes on my data partition. They can throw what the like at me (metaphorically) a quick reboot and I'm back to perfect. Of course you need to protect your MBR as there is a slight chance some cad or bounder will sneak in when you unfreeze to do updates).

So useful when the FBI come knocking at the door.

I now use Reboot Restore RX from Horizon DataSys, a leading developer of instant restore applications for Windows-based PCs. In March they released a fully-functional freeware version called Reboot Restore Rx. Using their patented RollBack technology, Reboot Restore Rx reduces PC maintenance costs and complexities associated with managing public access computers. Apologies I copy pasta'd that. But It's good news as it's slick and intuitive; I detest software from history and non intuitive GUIs. My first love was about 12 years ago and it was fantastic. Again it hardly took any longer than a normal boot time. It was called [edited out] I think but they have loads of different ones now but DriveClone is the only free one.

Another very well reviewed prog is ToolWiz Time Freeze, basically the same.

I do realize the lines are still very blurred between disc imaging, reboot and restore and virtual systems but they effectively achieve exactly the same thing. And one could, of course, use a reboot and restore in exactly the same way as disc imaging, just as and when one wanted. I think it's worth knowing what's out there and looking at the different features as we all want something different from our computer.

Thank you for the info, it's an interesting product. And Anupam, this isn't directed, as near as I can tell, at solely virtualized environments. It seems more akin to sandboxing, or even running with a LiveCD, you may think you are on a regular system, but reboot, and it's as if you were never there. It's aimed at too specialized an audience for this category. Without extensive testing, I don't know how easily you could make it work as an imager/cloner, other than re-baselining before every reboot/shut down, and that doesn't sound very practical to me. I do like the idea, it's just not a good fit here. I don't think we need to delete this comment, it's informative and helps broaden our visitors knowledge base about other technologies out there. I most definitely concur with your closing sentence, that is a good mind-set, but we do need to keep to not mentioning non-free products in general, that is who we are.
Thanks for your comment. But, I am afraid, it's not in the right section. You are talking about virtualization software, whereas this review is about disk imaging, and drive cloning software. Both are essentially different. Disk imaging/cloning software allow you to keep an image/copy of your system stored somewhere, which you can install that image later on anytime. On the other hand, virtualization software do not keep any copy, and so you cannot restore your system on demand. The only common thing you can say is that they both return system to a previous state, but otherwise, they are very different. So, I am afraid, your comment will be deleted from here in due time. Sorry. Also, we have strict rules that do not allow mention/suggestion/posting about commercial software, this being a freeware site. Please don't post about them, however good they might be.

Before reading my description of what I am doing/needing, this is the question that I will be asking -
Do all of the programs mentioned here (that have bootable CDs) suffer from the same Win 8 problem - “Selected boot image did not authenticate"

A friend has a new HP 650 Notebook PC which is running Win 8 (not 8.1) 64bit
They are hating all the popups (probably UAC), and wish me to prevent them.
It is my first contact with Win 8, and I am not liking it.
I managed to unintentionally remove the Desktop app choice large Metro button, and have not figured out how to put it back.
So I figured I better create an image before I mess up anything else.
I attempted to use the latest Seagate DiscWizard bootable CD, and came up against the "Selected boot image did not authenticate" preventing me from booting into the CD.
Did some Googling, and found that I have to get into the bios, and switch on Legacy mode.
Did that, and I am creating a backup now. I will then Validate it.
I slightly suspect that my next attempt to get back into Windows 8, may entail me switching Legacy off again.
I am nervous that using the image for a recovery one day, may not be as easy as I am used to ?
Do all of the programs mentioned here (that have bootable CDs) suffer from the same Win 8 problem - “Selected boot image did not authenticate"

PS Is my problem a HP problem OR a Win 8 problem OR a combination of both ?

Let me answer the PS first, that's easy, yes. The machinations and mechanisms behind your problem run deep, and are related to my belated revising of this review in light of Win8 changes. There are security measures built into the BIOS now, with the UEFI BIOS's that most PCs come with now, that aren't particularly transparent, and OEMs and MS, and etc are happy to confuse further to further their own interests. The culprit here is 'Secure Boot', and how and how well various OS's support it. Only some linux distros do at present, so most if not all current Rescue-type live-boot systems will not function if the UEFI BIOS is set to it's normal mode of operation. I don't want to tell the story of installing linux to dual-boot on my HP laptop, it might make my head explode to re-live the horror. If you want to experience the amazing boot-speeds that Win8 and UEFI offer, I think you have to NOT be in legacy mode, but to run non-UEFI aware OS's, you have to be in legacy mode. HP has done it's usual and mucked with it all in it's own special way and so makes it even harder to suss out what's up. And MS is possibly using secure-boot to lockout non-MS OS's as per SOP for monopolies. I'm moving to anew place soon, gonna raise me up a crop of mental floss, maybe it'll help me absorb all this new regime of BIOS we've entered and I'll be more helpful. If you aren't confused yet, you're not paying close enough attention. Hope this helps;)

would be nice to see a review of Redo Backup and Recovery

I looked at them quite a while back and wasn't all that impressed, but will check them out again, their page looks very promising. Products change, as do minds. Thanks for your input.

How do you get the free Macrium?
When I download it and run it it says "Standard, Professional, and Server".
No "Free" anywhere in installer.

I just downloaded and ran the installer, it pops up a window that has the free-version pre-selected. I just changed our link, it had broken. Please try again, it sounds like you got the standard version download.

Thanks for the followup. I'm glad to be mistaken.

Whoa! What happened to Maximum Reflect? My present installer is 37.2 megs in size for version 5.1. I just tried downloading 5.2 from Reflect's and Major Geeks sites and I'm presented now with a 180 meg download after downloading the 2.2 installer. Reflect's site says the 32 bit version is 41.7 megs. I'm lost. I'd have to leave my computer running for two days or more to download Reflect as I have dial-up. I was prepared for an 6 hour download for the 32 bit. Is it me or did anyone else notice this?

My download is 43MB, plus 174MB for the Windows AIK and Windows Kits (this last is the windows 8 extension of the AIK). You don't need the AIK if you can forgo the WinPE rescue environment. There is an 'Options' button that allows you to restrict the download to only the program. If you already have the AIK, there isn't much utility to re-download it. Not much help, but it's the best I can do.
Macrium now present a sort of unified installer, which presents you with the options to download and install its different versions. It will be better understood with the images give on their download page, here: When it runs, you should choose "Free" from the option of "Select Installation Package". This will download the appropriate setup for free version. Also, if you want to keep the setup file, and not install it immediately, you should uncheck the check box for "Run installer directly after downloading", as shown in the image. I like this technique of Macrium Reflect, which is different from other online installers. Macrium give you the option to download only the setup, to your chosen download location, which is great. Other online installers do not allow you to save the setup, and require you to install the software immediately. I hope this helped.
I like their method also, not the usual force-feeding-for-dummies that is the norm. Also, they update frequently and it's as simple as clicking 'Okay' and the update is downloaded and installed, and it's a patch, not a full program re-=install. The only caveat I have with doing this in this case, is that if someone is downloading for someone else, depending on who has what version of windows, they might get an incompatible version of the program downloaded. I don't know what happens for a linux user like the case here. I don't have a linux machine, virtual or otherwise, to test this with, very unusual for me [But I am running a pfsense virtualbox system as the router for my mini-LAN-in-a-hotel-room, that should preserve my geek-cred for the moment)

EasyBCD requires a facebook account to be able to download the software. That isn't mentioned in the article and even after doing the mandatory like it would still not let me download. Macrium Reflect keeps pointing me to a 2mb installer instead of the 40mb or so whole file...thats fine if you are on a windows pc somewhere but I'm on a linux one trying to load up a thumbdrive with software for someone else. In both cases very frustrating.

Addendum: The EasyBCD download link was broken, it's been fixed, there wasn't ever a requirement to like them on FB even though the wording there implies it and with the link broken, it definitely appeared FB liking was a requirement. I'm very happy not to have to start shunning such a useful tool
Thank you for pointing that out, that is new, and extremely unfortunate. While I have a FB account, it's been a while since I logged on, the irksomeness is too much. You can download it from here: It's really an incredibly useful tool, but I may desist in recommending it. As to Macrium, I'm not sure what to tell you, this kind of thing bugs me too, you can get the download if you can proceed with the initial step in installing, but you need to do that from that someone else's PC, or one like it. If they're worth it, you can always do it with virtualbox, but that might be going too geek and too much trouble. If they can get online, it isn't a problem, the install will proceed like any other install. That's all I got right now, if I think of something better, I'll post it here. Thanks again for the heads-up.
Macrium's online installer is different from other online installers, as you have pointed out. When I saw it first, I thought, oh no, here goes another one. But, I noticed that it gives the option to download only the installer, which is accessible to you, and you can save it where you like. This is fine by me. All I want is a setup, using which I can install the software at any given time. Other online installers force you to download the software and install it immediately, and they also do not allow you to save the setup file. I am fine with the online installer by Marcrium in the present form.

Without at least incremental or differential backup, Macrium would not be suitable for me.

I have tried out Paragon B&R Free this last week and even took the rather nervy decision to test out not only backup but restore of two machines.

Both worked perfectly and the speed of operation was very impressive.

Whilst Paragon has differential backup, I would prefer incremental.

I have tried out Aomei Backupper today and it was extremely fast in backing up my system.

Whilst it does support incremental backup, on running this immediately after a full system backup, where I would expect almost 0 bytes of backup, I had an additional file of 320Mb.

Even more odd was that when I then booted using their WinPE option using a flash drive, running an incremental backup again, with no changes to the system whatsoever, it generated a 900Mb additional file.

There are a few quirks to Backupper and it seems some potential bugs too, so whilst it does seem to have promise, I would not yet trust it in a restore situation.

Paragon has at least proven itself where it is really needed, so I'll put up with the additional space created from the differential backups (unless somebody can confirm that I could in reality delete all differential files bar the most recent on the basis that each backup has all changes since the last full one?)

We appreciate your input. I've had numerous anomalous behavior with incrementals and differentials, including at least twice having the image be way larger than the disk itself. I imagine there are certain files that get copied every time, maybe some bookkeeping type things, I don't know. As to the differentials, yes you can, but I wouldn't delete all of them, multiple backups is always safer, so if you don't need the space, keep'em around until you do.

Macrium saved my bacon!

I have a hard drive that is dying in my HP Netbook with Windows 7 64bit. I tried to clone it to a new hard drive with several other cloning tools, including the top ones mentioned here and with the software that comes with the Apricorn Notebook Drive Upgrade Kit. NONE of the other programs worked, they either hung or estimated many, many hours.

I ran the free version of Macrium Reflect Free and in a little over three hours I had a perfect copy of my disk, including all partitions, NTFS and FAT. I swapped drives and it booted up the first time. Wow, was I relieved! I now have a dependable computer again and can now save a full backup all my data without worrying about my drive dying midway through the process. Fantastic!

* When the process was complete the program generated a dump file and said that there was an error...but everything seems to be working fine.

Thanks for sharing your positive experience, ya gotta heart, dude. The more reports we can accumulate, the better advice we can give, and unfortunately, there's going to be a bias for reports of failings. As I've said before, I've done so many images with most of these that I've seen them all fail and all work beautifully, and more often than I'd like, can't figure out what went wrong when it does. I wish I could give you some idea about the dump file, but I don't remember seeing one myself. Macrium will clone a system drive from within that booted system, and that can be extremely helpful, it sounds like that is what you did. Thanks again for the comments, and remember, you should still image with another program at least every few times, just to buy you that extra margin of safety.