Dumb Question (possibly) about Cloning and Imaging Disks

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  1. Posts : 302
    Windows 10 Pro (x64) 21H1 (OS Build 19043.1165)
       #1

    Dumb Question (possibly) about Cloning and Imaging Disks


    Okay, here's the thing.

    For years, I have been cloning the hard disks whenever I get a new PC or update the OS to a newer version (e.g. XP > Vista, Vista > W7, W7 > W10). I used to use Acronis True Image which always did what I wanted without fuss until earlier this year - when it wouldn't (the actual details don't matter).

    Folks on this forum seem to prefer Macrium Reflect (and I started using it too when I tried it and it did what I wanted when Acronis wouldn't).

    Anyhoo ... to the question.

    MR like ATI offers the choice of 'Clone this Disk' or 'Image this Disk'.

    Which is better (if any) and why?

    A supplemantary question might be, I guess you could do both. Does this offer any advantage?

    That's it.

    Cheers,

    Art
      My Computers


  2. Posts : 13,301
    Windows 10 Pro (x64) 21H2 19044.1526
       #2

    ArthurDent said:
    Okay, here's the thing.

    For years, I have been cloning the hard disks whenever I get a new PC or update the OS to a newer version (e.g. XP > Vista, Vista > W7, W7 > W10). I used to use Acronis True Image which always did what I wanted without fuss until earlier this year - when it wouldn't (the actual details don't matter).

    Folks on this forum seem to prefer Macrium Reflect (and I started using it too when I tried it and it did what I wanted when Acronis wouldn't).

    Anyhoo ... to the question.

    MR like ATI offers the choice of 'Clone this Disk' or 'Image this Disk'.

    Which is better (if any) and why?

    A supplemantary question might be, I guess you could do both. Does this offer any advantage?

    That's it.

    Cheers,

    Art
    In my opinion imaging.

    Use of an image is good if for some reason your OS is to corrupted.
    Just cloning a corrupt disk , you can see the outcome.
      My Computers


  3. Posts : 1,470
    Windows 10 Pro
       #3

    Clone - if you want to immediately swap over/out disks. One off. How many cloned drives do you want to store ? (I suppose you could (re)clone to the same disk over and over again, but you lose any previous versions you might want to revert to).

    Image - another form of system backup, for temporary/long-term storage of the system drive. Historical. Storing (multiple) single files is much easier. (So multiple versions of previous setups are retained).
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  4. Posts : 2,487
    Windows 10 Home, 64-bit
       #4

    Imaging is normally thought of as the best idea for what is generally called "disaster recovery". Something goes haywire and you can't easily figure it out, so you want to go back to noon or yesterday or last month. You can make a new image anytime you want, in a few minutes, and keep 1 or 100 of them as long as you have space to store them. It's just a file and you can move it around as you see fit. The image isn't of much use UNLESS it is formally restored.

    Cloning doesn't create a file. There is no restoration process. Typically, you'd clone drive A to drive B and then put drive B in the closet until drive A failed. When that happened, you'd open the case, remove drive A, and replace it with drive B. If drive A doesn't fail, you aren't getting any use out of drive B. If the clone was made in July 2018, it would be highly out of date if you installed it in July 2020.

    There are people who like the idea of being able to just swap the drive rather than go through a restoration process. I think a lot of people who use cloning use it only when moving to a new drive in an existing system from a still functioning system drive in the same system-----rather than in response to a disaster.

    Just going by posts in this forum, there seems to be fewer problems with imaging, although both can be used for the same purpose in some cases.
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  5. Posts : 302
    Windows 10 Pro (x64) 21H1 (OS Build 19043.1165)
    Thread Starter
       #5

    Fist of all, thank you for the replies to my question.

    It was as I thought but good to confirm things.

    thomaseg1 said:
    In my opinion imaging.

    Use of an image is good if for some reason your OS is to corrupted.
    Just cloning a corrupt disk , you can see the outcome.
    Hi Thomas,

    That's a good point (which I hadn't considered tbh). However, I usually clone in one of two circumstances:

    1) Brand new PC. Install anti-virus, install Office, install a couple of other useful programs (like a flexible screen print utility, a CD/DVD Burner program, a Video Clip downloader/editor, etc, etc) and when all tested & working, clone the disk.

    2) Existing PC with upgraded OS and/or upgraded hard disk. When satisfied that PC is running properly and all updates have been applied, clone the disk.

    idgat said:
    Clone - if you want to immediately swap over/out disks. One off. How many cloned drives do you want to store ? (I suppose you could (re)clone to the same disk over and over again, but you lose any previous versions you might want to revert to).
    This is exactly what I want to do. I usually clone to a good (but old) hard disk and keep this in storage - suitably labelled.

    If things go belly-up, I can be back up and running within minutes.

    Indeed this happened to me tonight (and I still don't understand what I did wrong in the first place). My SSD running Win 10 Pro wouldn't boot after converting it from MBR to GPT (and yes, the BIOS was saying that it was set to UFEI).

    So, swap the SSD for the clone (dated 09/July/20) and was back up and running in around 5 mins or so - the time it took to swap the SATA power and data leads from the SSD to the clone.

    Boot from the clone, re-image the SSD from the clone (*see note below) then, when the cloning process was complete, swap them back again (another 5 mins).

    The longest time in all of this (30 min) was cloning from the physical MBR System Disk (the clone) back to the SSD.

    There were a couple of things I'd done to the System Disk since the 9th, so re-apply those changes and then clone the SSD to the physical disk (i.e the clone is now dated 20/July/20 rather than 09/July) which took 10 mins.

    ignatzatsonic said:
    Imaging is normally thought of as the best idea for what is generally called "disaster recovery". Something goes haywire and you can't easily figure it out, so you want to go back to noon or yesterday or last month. You can make a new image anytime you want, in a few minutes, and keep 1 or 100 of them as long as you have space to store them. It's just a file and you can move it around as you see fit. The image isn't of much use UNLESS it is formally restored.
    That's what I thought.

    Cloning doesn't create a file. There is no restoration process. Typically, you'd clone drive A to drive B and then put drive B in the closet until drive A failed. When that happened, you'd open the case, remove drive A, and replace it with drive B. If drive A doesn't fail, you aren't getting any use out of drive B. If the clone was made in July 2018, it would be highly out of date if you installed it in July 2020.
    This is exactly what I do.

    I'm happy that drive B just sits in the closet - waiting to be used - but I occasionally re-image the System Disk so that it isn't too out of date.

    Keeping all of the documents on a different (data) drive means that in any event, I don't lose these - all that I may lose are any recent programs that I may have installed - but then the installation files are on the data drive so that's hardly a chore.

    There are people who like the idea of being able to just swap the drive rather than go through a restoration process.
    Yep, and I'm one of them.

    I think a lot of people who use cloning use it only when moving to a new drive in an existing system from a still functioning system drive in the same system-----rather than in response to a disaster.
    This is how I have usually used the cloning process in the past - moving all of my stuff from an old (smaller) drive onto a newer (bigger) drive. Until recently, however, the same disk was both System Disk and Data Disk - so keeping the old disk in storage meant that I still had access to my old documents and newer documents were stored in a portable storage device anyway so all I had to do was 'recover' them from the portable disk if the need arose.

    My new arrangement is far more robust - separate system, data and backup disks (3 in total) with automated backups of the data disk to the backup disk.

    Just going by posts in this forum, there seems to be fewer problems with imaging, although both can be used for the same purpose in some cases.
    Noted.

    Thanks once again.

    Regards

    Art
      My Computers


  6. Posts : 1,470
    Windows 10 Pro
       #6

    ArthurDent said:
    This is exactly what I want to do. I usually clone to a good (but old) hard disk and keep this in storage - suitably labelled.
    If things go belly-up, I can be back up and running within minutes.
    OK if you clone an existing good running system, but many users wait until the last minute, and try (sometimes succeed) cloning a failing system or failing drive. The clone might work, but one can only wonder the quality of the end result (corrupted files?)

    I've got a couple of small SSDs with a basic clean installation of Windows 10 for that purpose. I find Win 10 is very forgiving of hardware changes (i.e. SSD in a different computer) if booted with the internet connected.

    Indeed this happened to me tonight (and I still don't understand what I did wrong in the first place). My SSD running Win 10 Pro wouldn't boot after converting it from MBR to GPT (and yes, the BIOS was saying that it was set to UFEI).
    Yeh, I've found that in-situ change from MBR to GPT is a bit of a lottery. So much so, I don't bother anymore ... there's always an reasonably up-to-date image handy.
      My Computer


  7. Posts : 17,368
    Windows 11 Pro
       #7

    ArthurDent said:
    So, swap the SSD for the clone (dated 09/July/20) and was back up and running in around 5 mins or so - the time it took to swap the SATA power and data leads from the SSD to the clone.

    Boot from the clone, re-image the SSD from the clone (*see note below) then, when the cloning process was complete, swap them back again (another 5 mins).
    And if you would have had a backup image you would have booted the computer from your rescue USB flash drive and restored the SSD from the backup image file. In this instance you saved no time at all. You stated that you clone to an old but known good drive and then store the drive away. So, presumably, if you operating drive failed, you would not just install your old drive and operate on it permanently. You would do just exactly what you stated and clone the old drive to a new drive. Again, saving no time at all from restoring an image. Although, I suppose if you did not have a new drive immediately available, you could operate off the old drive in the meanwhile. BUT - if the drive containing the backup images has enough space on it, your could very easily restore a backup image to a partition on the same drive and accomplish the same situation of having a temporary drive to boot from while waiting for a new drive to arrive.

    IMHO - images are what you use for backup purposes. Cloning is what you use when you want to immediately use the new drive, such as upgrading from HDD to SSD, or upgrading to a larger size HDD or SSD, or upgrading to a new computer.
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  8. Posts : 7,126
    Windows 10 Pro 64 bit
       #8

    I always use imaging. Note if you clone a drive and have have both the original and cloned drive connected then you may have problems since both drives have the same Disk ID.
      My Computers


  9. Posts : 302
    Windows 10 Pro (x64) 21H1 (OS Build 19043.1165)
    Thread Starter
       #9

    NavyLCDR said:
    And if you would have had a backup image you would have booted the computer from your rescue USB flash drive and restored the SSD from the backup image file. In this instance you saved no time at all. You stated that you clone to an old but known good drive and then store the drive away. So, presumably, if you operating drive failed, you would not just install your old drive and operate on it permanently.
    On a temporary basis, yes, I’d use the clone until a replacement drive arrived - at most a couple of days.

    You would do just exactly what you stated and clone the old drive to a new drive. Again, saving no time at all from restoring an image.
    Except I could carry on working within around 5 mins or so. If I had to boot off a rescue USB and reinstall the system disk from an image, I’d have to wait until that process had finished until I could use the PC again. By swapping over to the cloned disk, I can carry on working whilst MR or ATI clones the system disk to a new drive in the background (whenever I had a “spare” HDD or after a replacement has arrived).

    Although, I suppose if you did not have a new drive immediately available, you could operate off the old drive in the meanwhile.
    Yep, as I said above.

    BUT - if the drive containing the backup images has enough space on it, your could very easily restore a backup image to a partition on the same drive and accomplish the same situation of having a temporary drive to boot from while waiting for a new drive to arrive.
    Having an image on the same disk carries the risk of losing the image(s) if the drive fails surely?

    IMHO - images are what you use for backup purposes. Cloning is what you use when you want to immediately use the new drive, such as upgrading from HDD to SSD, or upgrading to a larger size HDD or SSD, or upgrading to a new computer.
    Which is mainly what I use the clone for but for me it has the advantage of getting me back up and running within minutes. YMMV.
    Steve C said:
    I always use imaging. Note if you clone a drive and have have both the original and cloned drive connected then you may have problems since both drives have the same Disk ID.
    Thanks Steve, aware of this. That’s why I always connect one of the disks as a non-bootable external USB drive.

    Kind regards,

    Art
      My Computers


  10. Posts : 122
    Windows 10 Pro x64 Version 21H2 Build 19044.1766
       #10

    I backup my laptop by incremental clones AND incremental images using Casper 10 (not free but has always worked for me). And I make regular System Restore Points. I create the Image and Clone backups to 2.5 " disks in modestly priced USB 3.0 enclosures that are only attached to the computer during the backup process. I make sure I have timely backups before Patch Tuesday and now, with Windows 10, before installing a Features Update. Belt and braces works for me.
      My Computer


 

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