Best Free Drive Cloning Software

toggle-button

Introduction

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.

[show-hide toggle]

 

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: 
5
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).

Read full review...

Macrium Reflect Free  

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


Our Rating: 
4
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.

Read full review...

Paragon Backup & Recovery Free Edition  

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


Our Rating: 
3
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.

Read full review...

DriveImage XML  

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


Our Rating: 
3
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.

 

Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 

Editor

This software review is maintained by volunteer editor AndyR. Registered members can contact the editor with any comments or questions they might have by clicking here.

Back to the top of the article

 

Please rate this article: 

Your rating: None
4.18314
Average: 4.2 (344 votes)
toggle-button

Comments

AndyR Aomei appears to be in the wrong category here. It's in the file-based backup article when it is a drive imaging/cloning application which would fit in this category. Even the review says so: This program does not allow the user to choose files and folders. It's the only program in this category that isn't a file based backup program. Instead Backupper offers fast methods to backup or clone hard drives and partitions with a couple of easy clicks of the mouse.
Hi Remah, I was thinking that also, however said review is quite dated as Aomei does allow you to select files and folders now for backup, though it is primary an imaging program. I am in the process of rewriting some of the reviews and will more than likely move aforementioned program to the appropriate category, Thank you for pointing this out.
Yes with version 2, AOMEI does allow you to select files/folders for backup.
I think it would then be good for this product to appear in both categories with appropriate descriptions.
I'm with Jojo. Some duplication between categories is inevitable, and indded desirable, to ensure visitors can find what they are searching for. MC - Site Manager.
Ok, rather than duplicate the content I shall make a reference to it in the other section outlining the basics, they actually have another imaging product out now that is in essence a very simplified recovery solution for the novice user that I shall be reviewing once all the beta bugs are ironed out.

The write ups do not much discuss the situation of each program with respect to UEFI, GPT, and secure boot--common on recent machines. I read on other forums that these are real issues with some imaging programs.

There is freeware cloning software called "HDClone" from a german company called miray-software.
Does anyone have experience with this freeware HDClone V4.3?

I've been using the free version of XXClone for about 6 years now,... I'm amazed at how it makes a bootable working copy of my main drive onto a second hard drive. It saved my bacon a few times on the old XP computer and now that I've graduated to W7, I plan to use it again. The only difference between the "paid for" and the free version is that the freebie does not do incremental.
Not a big deal for me... as long as I have a mint condition of my OS, that,s all that matters.

Thank You for your recommendation of XXClone. I will add it to the list of software to take a look at.
I've been pleased with AOMEI Backupper and with version 2.0 it has certainly outdone both Macrium and EaseUS. A quick look at the feature comparison of AOMEI Backupper Free and Macrium Reflect Free and EaseUS Todo Backup will let you know why its extremely good. It allows full file, folder, system, disk and partition backups with automatic, full, incremental and differential backups along with high compression technology. It also supports both WinPE and Linux bootable disc.

Thanks for the 'heads up'
Also that Softpedia page, gives a thorough description, which I will save.
Regarding the choice of getting the Pro vs the Standard (is the Standard the free one ?), Softpedia says this -
The Bad
Compared to the Standard edition, Pro does not bring essential features to the table. Most users would not actually consider to pay [price edited out] just for command-line support, backup disk space management and image merging, knowing that Standard is free (we expected more advanced features from Pro). Besides, this price does not cover free lifetime upgrades (that's an extra [price edited out]).

I don't think I need any of those extra features, so would life be simpler (for my plethora of old PCs), if I just got the free one (considering licensing, etc) ?

Rob

Yup I think the Free version covers most what everyone needs

George, Thanks for the info and link. I'd read about AMOEI several months ago but didn't download it at that time. I'll try this one out soon. That is impressive about the free version including incremental and differential backups as well as specific-item backups (folders, files).

The automated scheduler is a feature that's usually found on paid versions of backup tools but it's provided with this free version.

Aomei says 'Free Download'
Normally to me that means 'All Scots should immediately leave the building'
I have written to all world leaders trying to ban that term on the web. No luck so far.
Is it free ?
If so, why don't they say that ?

A wee bit confused,
Rob
PS Could you describe the hoops to go through to get the WinPE CD ?

PPS The Macrium web page had floating images of the software box, obscuring the comparison table. If one turns of style (called 'view as plain text' in some browsers) you can then read the table.

AOMEI Backupper Standard is freeware, there's another Professional version that's shareware. In the freeware downloads page of AOMEI, there are 2 versions, the bigger version includes Linux Bootable Disc Image. Here you've the info about creating Windows PE Bootable disc.

Rob, it's displaying this on the AMOEI page on my PC. It says:

Free AOMEI Backupper Standard 2.0

It's at this 'net site: http://www.backup-utility.com/

I was contemplating to install Clonezilla but I am glad to have come to Gizmo's FREEware site that recommends the Macrium Reflect. I will install and use Macrium instead and just hope that I can use a 128GB USB stick for the back up. Thank you Gizmo!

I've been using Macrium (free ver) for a while with successful repeatable results for cloning and full-HDD imaging. I use it on my 2 PC's at home and my Mom's Desktop PC. I think you'll like it. The user interface, my opinion, is very user-friendly.

I burned the Clonezilla ISO download for a backup clone/image freeware tool. I've only cloned with it once but it worked ok.

Much discussion above, including some from me, about the problems getting a bootable CD with Macrium reflect.

I simply do not have the time or inclination to research and test this, that, and the other workaround to get it solved. I moved on to updating the commercial backup program I had been using.

The purveyors of this product need to get a handle on this, quick, and fix it.

====> OOPS this is a reply to pseudoid <=====

You should be using a bootable CD
Sometimes one must instal the program, to create the CD, BUT from then on you should use the CD.
The only other use that should be made of the installed program, is to browse an earlier image, (say to extract a file).

The free Seagate DiscWizard, is made by/from Acronis.

I have not used Macrium, but if it can create an iso, then the following 'preaching' from me should be applied.
Surely ('Airplane') you'all should have by now settled on your favorite/reliable burning program.
If you have got your act together, then do NOT be allowing other programs to do burns for you.
Instead let them create an iso, and use your reliable program for the burns. And if it offers to Verify the burn, then verify.

Has anyone tried "Redo Backup" with cloning? I recently burned the ISO and booted up with the CD today to look at it and I don't see any option for cloning. I see the Image setup dialog and it appears to work (I didn't run an image yet) but I can't find any option for cloning the Source HDD to a Target HDD.

I looked at the DIsk Utility menu and Accessories, everything that was available but don't see any mention of cloning with this tool.

I have the redobackup-livecd-1.0.4 version CD.

thanks for the recommendation software, such Macrium how they look good, I used to use a commercial program to make backup drive system.

I did a complete system image copy with Macrium Reflect Free Edition of my W7 laptop about 18 months ago,

I tend to do a complete fresh install every 18 months or so. This week I wanted to do a complete factory restore of my laptop, But alas somehow my manufacturers recovery partition (Press F 11 and select restore to factory) has become corrupted.

Never mind I said, I got the option now to go down the Macrium Reflect route, I put in the 18 month previously created rescue disc and..........NOTHING.....ERROR MESSAGE DISC WONT LOAD.

The BKU files(BKU = Back Up)are safe and stored and I believe correctly copied on my external HDD, but I have no way of installing this snapshot out of the box 18 month ago clean fresh BKU including all partitions at the time.

Don't worry I am not asking for help, I have contacted my manufacturer, and they are going to post out some Factory Restore W7 Rescue Discs. (Basically what the recovery participation would of done).

The moral of the story....... if the rescue disc does not work when you want to restore a image then you are in big TROUBLE.

Irony of all Irony while I am waiting for the postman/postwoman I decided to experiment with other programs, The in-built W7 Create a system image and create a rescue disc..... WORKS

Paragon Backup & Recovery 2013 Free Create a rescue disc.....WORKS

PLEASE NOTE...In my tests I didn't actually restore anything and by...WORKS...I mean the Rescue Discs I created are recognised when I try to boot from the discs, and on both occasions when I removed my HDD (Imagine If I Am Installing A Copy To A New Drive) I can follow the instructions up to..........which image would you like to restore.

I get none of this with Macrium Reflect........Including after also RECENTLY burning a new rescue disc......with both options offered Linux and Windows PE 3.1

That's My Experience.....

I HAD the same problems; could not boot on bootable image DVD/CD's and flash drive. Yet, they booted fine on my other older machine. Yet it wouldn't boot on the very machine that created them. The solution - AHCI BIOS option. If this option is on, (which many OS's support) then these cd/dvd, flash bootable images will not work/boot. Check your bios, turn off AHCI (normally associated with SATA/IDE functions) and reboot your restore dvd/cd or flash. It should now work. Also, changing the bios allowed me to boot on flash drive.

ps 1. Don't forget to turn on the AHCI when your done restoring. If your system had it on at time of install, it needs it to run!

ps 2. Don't forget to turn off AHCI when doing off-line image backup as well.

Hope this works for you

Ref:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Host_Controller_Interface

Hi people, I'm not dead yet! I had to leave as editor, but still want to participate. This is a great series of posts on the rescue media, this AHCI issue isn't something I'd thought of or heard about before. The performance boost going to AHCI is substantial, there are few reasons to NOT be using it, and it shouldn't be the issue with the Macrium rescue media, though it seems it could be. AHCI has no effect on the data on the disk, it's a standard, or protocol for the OS and the disk drive to talk to each other. Windows requires a Registry tweak to enable it, which is stupid, and is fixed in WIn8. Once you set the msahci key to '1', then windows can speak 'AHCI', and will still handle IDE, but if the BIOS is set to AHCI and windows hasn't been tweaked, in my experience, you get a crashed boot, usually BSODs pretty early in the boot process. I don't see why it could make a difference doing an off-line backup, assuming you've managed to boot to begin with. And Windows should do fine if the BIOS is set to IDE, you'll just suffer a big performance hit. Remah, that's great info on creating an ISO file, that is almost always how I created rescue media, but that was for convenience, it hadn't occurred to me that Macrium might not be doing good direct burns. It isn't that surprising because I concur with you about how often CD/DVD burns can go bad, it is definitely always a good idea to verify important disks you've burned. Thomas J Thomas, just an FYI, if you get into a desperate situation trying to use the rescue media to rescue your system, one option is to take the image file and the HD to another PC and burn it 'on-line'. And one last note, the built in imaging in Windows is great, works most of the time, MOST! being the important word to stress. You also need windows own created rescue disk, and that one isn't a sure thing either. I've been told by my PC while trying to boot from the rescue media I just created on that machine, that I was trying to use the wrong version of windows rescue media!!! And I've had numerous times where windows just refused to work with the image file it created. All of the programs can have their problems, Macrium has been, for me, the least problematic overall.

kenjur,

Thanks for the AHCI info. I'm running Win 7 x64. My HDD BIOS is set to IDE from the install. I was running a Raid 1 array and that was one reason I hadn't changed my BIOS to AHCI among other reasons.

I've read some articles about issues when the BIOS is changed, after the initial Windows install, from IDE to AHCI, that it can cause some issues with programs, etc. That's one reason I hadn't tried it yet.

That said, thanks again for this info as it explains why my bootable media works well.

Pages