• cloning or imaging?

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    What is the difference between those two operations?

    My friends say that cloning is more reliable than imaging.

    Cloning involves that you erase the destination disk and re-write every time you do it but, aside of that, what are the good and the bad between them?

    Viewing 5 reply threads
    • #2502246

      Cloning is an exact copy of the drive and an image is an exact copy of a drive.
      A cloned drive can only have one exact copy of the drive as the boot files have to be placed at the front of the drive it is cloned to.
      You can place several images (taken at different times) on the same backup drive. Many imaging software allows incremental backups to the image backup to backup only new/changed files between total system images which means less data loss between total image/cloning backups.

      IMO I think images are better than clones because I can have more than one total backup stored on  large drives.  I believe in an image backup for OS drive and incremental direct copy backups for data (which I keep on a separate drive).


      HTH, Dana:))

    • #2502259

      On an offline 3TB HDD I have 33 sets of images (three systems, three months worth of weekly images).  I have copies of those same image sets on another offline 3TB HDD.  I have the same batches of images on my NAS.

      It would be cost prohibitive to have that sort of redundancy using clones.

      Create a fresh drive image before making system changes/Windows updates, in case you need to start over!
      We all have our own reasons for doing the things that we do. We don't all have to do the same things.

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #2502261

      With a clone, you take the old drive out and replace it with the clone. The system then boots as if nothing has changed. This is a very quick way to recover a failed machine, assuming you are handy with machine internals and want the system back in operation fast.

      An image requires you boot from an external source, usually a USB stick. Then you use the image software to recover the data from the backup to the internal disk. This usually takes no more than 20 minutes and you don’t have to poke around inside the machine.
      An image can be copied to another location, giving you a backup of the backup.

      No method is more reliable than the other, although a backup image file will have error recovery built-in, like a zip file.

      cheers, Paul

    • #2502279

      What is the difference between those two operations?

      A few years ago I made a video to answer that, and more:
      Principles of Cloning and Imaging

      Perhaps that will be of help to you.

      3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #2515996

        Wow, what a superb video.  So clear and comprehensive, with fantastic graphics!

        Maybe I shouldn’t be piggybacking on another thread, but I have an imaging question.

        My new Win10 machine has a 500gb SSD that shows the following partition structure (after I disabled BitLocker, but that’s another, already-solved issue).  It is visible with R-Drive image, the imaging software I’ve been using for years:

        UEFI Partition
        MS Reserved
        System (C:)
        WinRE (about 2gb)

        I am replacing the 500gb SSD with a 2TB SSD.  I only use imaging (not cloning) and my plan was to image the entire drive and then restore it as-is (so all 4 partitions, same order) to the first 500gb of the new drive.  Later I would add a few more (data) partitions after WinRe to fill in the remaining 1.5gb of space.

        My question:  Will everything still function OK, including Windows Recovery functions, with the WinRE partition sitting in the middle of the partitions?  (As usual I do plan to create a recovery disc or USB stick, before changing drives.)

        That’s the main question, but a VERY secondary one is this: Does enabling compression in image creation make the image any less reliable?  I always set it to no compression, but I’m wondering if I’m just wasting space by doing this (the time savings isn’t really a motivation for me, just image integrity).

    • #2516074

      As long as you have backed up all the partitions (disk image) then you can restore them to the new disk and it will boot. Hopefully your software will allow you to resize the partitions during the restore as doing it afterwards can be very slow.

      Always use compression on the image file. Compression algorithms include error correction data so your image has extra protection. And it uses less space.
      I use the default compression of the backup software. It saves less space but is fast.

      cheers, Paul

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #2516717

        Thanks for the reply.  I’ll use compression going forward.

        But perhaps I wasn’t clear in asking the first question.  I don’t want to resize any of the existing partitions (although my software does have that capability, and I have used it in the past).  Instead, I want to leave the additional 1.5TB of space available to add brand new partitions.  My question is whether the Windows Recovery partition — which is currently the last partition on the original 500gb drive — will continue to function if new partitions are later added to the right of it in the layout.  I am guessing the answer is “yes,” but wasn’t sure.

        Maybe another option would be to relocate the Windows Recovery partition to the “end” of the drive when restoring the image?  (I *believe* my software offers that option, as the manual talks about the ability to drag to relocate partitions when restoring.)  The question again is, would Windows Recovery work if I move it to the end?

        I guess I can just try out these options and see how they turn out, since I can always go back to the image and restore differently if I encounter issues.  That’s another benefit of an image over a clone.




        • #2516952

          My question is whether the Windows Recovery partition — which is currently the last partition on the original 500gb drive — will continue to function if new partitions are later added to the right of it in the layout.

          The fact it’s on the “last” partition of your drive isn’t what counts. The specific partition number it’s on is what Windows uses to determine where it is.

          Run the following command from Powershell…

            reagentc /info

          …and it’ll display the current location of your Recovery Partition as follows (note which partition it’s located on.)


          As long as it’s still located on the same partition on your new drive, it’ll still work as expected regardless of how many “new” partitions you add.

          1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #2517950

      Nice to see the elephant is remaining well hidden.

      Cloning and Microsoft FFU (full disk imaging) techniques have (well, had a few years back) a small but inconvenient Achilles heel.

      The structure translation is simpler for a clone but can fail if the destination drive is even a sector smaller as the process doesn’t know what to do with the data which won’t fit (any you’d be right to think I found this when the whole Gibbibyte / gigabyte thing licked off and I had to argue the toss with purchasing every time as to what went wrong. And if we weren’t changing drive brands, we’d be selling a one off batch of the machines but with a smaller SSD.) I ended up getting a 1Tb desk drive so I could FFU to that and then recapture to WIM images to recreate the layout in a smaller drive to re-capture the FFU for the target drive size.)

      Unfortunately FFU doesn’t cope either – though at least you don’t have to manually resize partitions (but Sysprep as a prerequisite means nobody’s going to use FFU as a data backup method, it’s just a bit inconvenient.)

      Simple partition imaging (Imagex, DISM, or one of many non Microsoft solutions) of course will work fine as long as you understand the layout to start with.

      I’m kind of hoping for a reply along the lines of the problem mentioned which went away years ago, but I’m not going to hold my breath!

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