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Cloning a hard drive in Windows 7

Cloning a hard drive is an especially useful thing to do if you wish to replace your existing hard drive. I recently did this and upgraded from my 7.2K 1TB Western Digital drive to a 120GB OCZ Agility 3 SSD (it was absolutely worth it by the way!).

This is how I did it…

I used a really useful tool called Reflect. It is quite tricky to find the free version of it these days, but to help you out here is a link: Macrium Reflect Free Edition. I’ll do my best to keep the link updated…

When the download is complete install the software. I tested for viruses and it is clean. It also seemed to run very smoothly on my Windows 7 workstation. Fire the program up and you’ll see that it scans your drives to work what you currently have connected to your computer.

Now you need to connect the drive which you wish to clone to (the new drive) to your computer. You could do this by opening your computer up and connecting it internally, or you could use a USB external drive mounter, something like this: Startech External Hard Drive Dock. Either way attach the device and power your computer back on, if you shut it down.

When it comes back open up My Computer to see if the new drive is detected. If it isn’t you may need to format it and create a simple volume. To do this follow the guide, “Creating a simple volume on a new hard drive in Windows 7”. If the drive is there you can go back to the Reflect program you installed and open it up.

Your hard drives, including the new one, will be listed when the program opens up. Left click on the drive you wish to clone, then click on the Clone this disk button underneath the drive. This will start up the disk cloning wizard.

Now select a destination drive to clone to, this will be your new drive. Choose your new drive from the list that appears after clicking the ‘Select a disk to clone to’ link. When the drive is selected click Next. This will begin the cloning process. Follow the rest of the options through to complete the disk cloning.

Depending on the size of the drive and how it is connected to your computer it make take around an hour.

You can now open up My Computer and view the contents of the drive. It should be exactly the same as the source drive that you cloned. Now if you are cloning a drive for backups you can stop here, however if you are cloning a drive in order to replace an old drive, you will need to change drive letters in order for your installed programs to continue to work correctly running from the cloned drive.

Go to Start button -> All Programs -> Administrative Tools -> Computer Management. Then Storage, and Disk Management.

Right click on the blue volume block of the disk you cloned from (the source) and from the options menu select Change drive letter and paths.

Now click on the Change button.

Then choose the new drive letter. I went with X for clarity when doing this.

Now repeat the process for your newly created clone drive (destination drive) but choose the original drive letter of the destination drive, probably C or D.

The Disk Manager will ask you to restart your computer for changes to take effect; do this now. When the computer comes back online you should see that the drive letters have swapped over. You can shut your computer down again and remove the old drive from inside the computer.

Now when you turn the computer back on again you will be able to run any programs and access data that may have been on a secondary drive without any problems. A good example for me was Steam; games were installed on my D drive which I cloned to a new SSD.

59 Comments

  1. Russell Russell

    Hi Joe

    I have a new Lenovo P50 with samung SSD with windows 10 and want to install windows 7. If i clone my windows 7 from another O/S onto an external hard drive, how do i clone this back to my new laptop, write over the existing windows 10?

    • joe@grdnr.io joe@grdnr.io

      Could you not just run a fresh install? What’s stopping you from doing that?

  2. paul paul

    hi Joe I have cloned my 80gb hdd to a 250gb hdd it is only coming up as a 80 gb and not a 250 gb

    • Joe Gardiner Joe Gardiner

      Yep, that’s correct. Now you need to resize the partition using the Windows disk manager.

  3. Just wanted to say Thank You! Very well written worked no problem.

    • Mark Mark

      Not quite there….. Did everything to the letter. When I came to change the source drive letter I got a warning; ‘some programs that rely on drive letters might not run correctly. Do you want to continue?” I clicked on “Yes”.

      The virtual disk manager said “The parameter is incorrect”

      Any ideas?

      Cheers, Mark

  4. Jon Jon

    Joe, thanks mate. I’ve been researching the web for a solution to cloning and making a backup to my PC. Your the 1st with a REAL answer.

  5. Pat Courtney Pat Courtney

    Great article Joe thank you. I downloaded the reflect software and cloned my old 5400 120gb to a similar sized new SSD via the USB port. I selected the Forensic setting instead of default Intelligent for the clone. It took about 2 hours total and I didn’t have to do any drive letter re-assigning. It has transformed the laptop

  6. Hugh Hugh

    Interesting article, thanks Joe.

    Now this may seem the wrong way around, but I want to ‘clone’ my Dell tablet (Win7Enterprise) to an ultrabook with an SSD (Win7Home).

    Can I go direct from one machine to the other? Or go via intermediary external HDD? i.e. tablet to HDD, then HDD to ultrabook?

    I’m happy to entirely replace whatever is on the ultrabook with what’s coming over from the tablet – everything.

    Will Reflect work for this?

    cheers

    • Joe Gardiner Joe Gardiner

      Yep, Reflect should be able to support either method!

  7. demto demto

    Can anyone help ?

    I have a desktop computer with a 240 GB solid hard drive and Windows 7.
    Everything is working OK.

    In the past I have had a hard disk failure and reloading Windows and my programs onto a new hard disk is very time consuming so I bought a conventional usb hard disk drive to clone my existing drive to.

    All seemed to go well and the Reflect program says the cloning was successful.

    Now comes my problem. If I go into the BIOS and instruct the computer to boot
    up from the usb hdd it tries to do it but when it gets as far as “starting windows”
    it attempts to do so but doesn’t go any further. Instead it reverts back to the BIOS and tries to boot up again. This course of events just goes on repeating itself and it never does boot up to Windows desktop.

    I have tried all this with my original SSD still in the computer. There is also
    a setting in the BIOS if you are using a ssd drive and it is set to AHCI and I did this when I installed my SSD.

    If I look at the contents of my usb hdd I see a list of files. These appear to be the
    same as the page shown if I click the ‘computer’ page of my existing SSD C drive. I have the idea that if I ever had to replace my SSD again I would install Windows first and then paste the files from the usb drive to the new SSD, but I dont know if this would work, somehow I doubt it.

    Perhaps I am expecting too much in hoping the Windows program would also clone and my usb drive would boot up to the Windows desktop? I just dont know what to expect so if anyone can help I would be very grateful ..Thank you.

    • Joe Gardiner Joe Gardiner

      Are you trying to boot the USB drive from the same computer you cloned from?

    • Richard Richard

      Did you ever solve this? I have the same problem – cloned my 500gb hdd to a 1tb, using a sata-usb cable. It went through fine.

      However before I go through process of swapping hdd’s (Acer Revo, so not straightforward!) I tried to boot from new hdd whilst it was still connected to computer via the sata-usb cable, it gets to ‘starting windows’ then stops and reboots again.

      Any thoughts anyone?

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