BOOT CAMP 353 (23/11/04)


Cloning for beginners, part 2


The object of this exercise is to create a perfect ‘clone’ of the hard disc drive in your PC so that in the event of a major failure you can quickly replace the faulty drive and resume work in a matter of minutes, avoiding the tedious business of replacing a faulty drive and reinstalling your operating system, service packs, applications and data.


Last week, in part one, we showed how to install and prepare a second ‘slave’ drive; in the concluding part we’ll deal with copying the drive and to do that you will need some additional software.


Disc cloning or ‘imaging’ used to be a surprisingly tricky business -- especially with Windows XP -- as it involves copying the entire contents of the original drive, including parts of the operating system that are difficult to access whilst the PC is running. Nevertheless there are now a number of applications on the market that can do the job and two that I have used very successfully are Acronis True Image 8 ( and Powerquest Drive Image (now rebranded as Norton Ghost 9.0,

ghost/ghost_personal/). These programs are widely distributed and generally sell for less than £30, which means that when you add on the cost of the second hard drive you can have a highly effective backup/disaster recovery system in place for less than £100. Once the drive has been cloned you will then be able to make incremental backups, so the copy will always be up to date.


Both programs work in more or less the same way, they are highly automated and intuitive to use (but that doesn’t excuse you from reading the instructions…) so we needn’t dwell on the specifics. However, before we start it’s worth explaining a couple of terms and spending a few minutes optimising your PC.


Your existing drive is known as the ‘source’ drive (or Drive 1) and the new drive will be the ‘target’ or ‘destination’ (or Drive 2) and it is important to know which one is which; choosing the wrong one could result in your original drive being wiped. It’s is difficult to get wrong but I find it helpful to actually mark the drive letters on the side of the metal chassis, next to the drive, in felt pen, and make a note of the drive makes and capacities on a piece of paper and have it in front of you when using the programs. This is also a good time to fix any problems that you may be experiencing with your PC as these will be carried across to the new drive -- see Tip of the Week. When you are ready you can install your chosen disc copy program, and don’t forget to reboot afterwards.


Cloning a large hard drive can easily take an hour or more and it is important that the process is not interrupted so exit any programs that start with Windows by right-clinking on icons in the System Tray (next to the clock), log off or disconnect your Internet connection, disable the screensaver and make sure that there aren’t any scheduled operations or file updates pending. You can now launch your disc copy program and select the ‘Create Image’ option from the menu, this should start a configuration ‘wizard’ that will ask you to select the source and target drives.


Both programs have efficient auto configuration systems so unless you have any special requirements (and you know what you are doing) it is generally best to stick with the default settings. Since you want to be able to use the drive straight away, and there should be plenty of space on the new clone there is no need to ‘archive’ the copied files so make sure that you select the ‘normal’ or uncompressed option. You will be asked to confirm your choices, so double check everything and when you are ready click the Start button; do not attempt to use the PC whilst the copying process is underway.


When it has finished you can check the integrity of the clone drive and the best way to do that is to actually try it out. Switch off the PC, disconnect the mains cable and remove the lid. Carefully unplug the power and data cables from both drives and temporarily remove the slave or cloned drive. Reset the jumpers to the ‘Master’ setting (see part 1), reinstall the drive, reconnect the data and power cables to the new Master drive, replace the lid, reconnect the mains and switch on. If everything has gone to plan Windows will boot, your normal desktop will appear and everything should be working as before.


In a few cases Windows XP Product Activation might kick in, if you plan to continue using the clone as your new master drive simply click the appropriate links, or follow the prompts to obtain the new registration code over the phone. You will have to change the jumpers on your old drive to the slave’ setting before reconnecting the power and data cables. Otherwise return the clone to the slave setting and you can continue to use it for incremental backups and extra storage space and ready to save you from a disaster that hopefully will never happen.


Part 1

Next week – Christmas prezzies for your PC





A backup strategy that records only new additions and changes made to the original file volume



Windows XP may need to be reactivated if it determines there has been a significant change to your hardware setup. This is normally done online with a few mouse clicks but it can be done over the telephone and an operator will supply you with a new activation code



Simple helper program that guides you through a setup or configuration process




Before you clone your existing hard drive you should remove any redundant programs (Start > Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs) then use the Windows Disk Cleanup utility (Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools), to delete any unnecessary temporary files and clear your web browser’s ‘cache’ memory. Reboot then run defrag (Start > Programs > Accessories > System Tools). Finish off with a full virus scan and a run through with ‘malware’ removal tools like AdAware and Spybot wouldn’t hurt either.

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