How to Clone a Hard Drive Using Acronis
Acronis True Image is one of several utilities that will take an exact image, or clone, of a computer's entire software configuration. Creating an image allows you to easily back up your entire computer. It also allows you to clone an existing software configuration onto a computer with an identical hardware configuration.
Create an Image
1.) Run Acronis True Image either from an installation on your hard drive or from a bootable CD. Choose "Create Image." The Create Image Wizard will launch. Follow the on-screen instructions.
Choose the partitions you wish to clone. A hard drive may contain more than one partition. If you intend to clone your hard drive, be sure to create a full disk backup, rather than an incremental disk image.
3.)Choose where to save your image. If you're recording your image to multiple CDs or DVDs, this will be your CD or DVD burner. If you're placing your image on a hard drive, create a folder in which to save the image first, as you may record the image as multiple files.
Choose how to size your image. If you're recording your image to CDs or DVDs, "Automatic" is the correct setting. If you're saving your image to a hard drive, you may either choose "Automatic" (which will result in a single, large file), or you may choose a "Fixed size." You would generally choose "Fixed size" if you intend to put the image on a hard drive but would also like to burn a copy to CDs or DVDs.
5.)Choose a compression level. The higher the compression, the smaller your image will be; however, higher compression will also result in the image taking longer to record. You may password-protect your image. Be very sure you remember the password if you specify one---you will be unable to recover it later, and you cannot access the image without the password.
Review the information on the final screen for accuracy before clicking "Proceed." Once you click "Proceed," the imaging process begins. If Acronis True Image is installed to your hard drive, you may continue working while the image is created. If you're running Acronis True Image from a bootable CD or DVD, leave the process running until you are notified your image is complete.
Clone a Hard Drive or Restore an Image
1.) Run Acronis True Image either from an installation on your hard drive or from a bootable CD. If you intend to restore the partition you boot from, you may only work from a bootable CD. Choose "Restore Image" to either restore a computer from an image or clone a hard drive. Follow the on-screen instructions.
Select the image you wish to restore. Always confirm that the partition or partitions you wish to restore are the size you anticipate and that the date of the image is the date you are aiming for. If you are restoring from CDs or DVDs, be sure you have every disk in your image archive available.
Decide whether to verify the image you're restoring. Verification may take as long as restoring the image itself, so you won't generally wish to verify unless you have something to lose. For example, if you are restoring a working computer to an image taken off the computer at some earlier date, you may wish to verify that the image is not damaged before beginning the restore process. Restoring from a damaged image may result in a nonworking computer, as the process may fail partway through.
4.)Select the partition you wish to restore. You may restore part or all of an image archive. Select the target partition or hard drive you wish to restore to. You cannot restore from an image stored on a partition back to the same partition.
5.)Review the information on the final screen for accuracy before beginning the cloning or restoration process.
Tips & Warnings
Always put the date you're creating a backup image into the name of the image or the folder where you're saving the image. This will help you find the correct image if you take later, successive images. If you plan to record the image to a multiple CD or DVD set, it's better to first create your image onto a hard drive in appropriately sized chunks. You can burn each chunk to a CD or DVD. If you record directly to CDs or DVDs, the odds of a write error (or read error, when restoring) increase. It is possible to use the "Disk Clone" process rather than the Restore Image process to do a direct clone of your hard drive. This is not recommended, even though it sounds like it would save time. If there is a communications problem between the two drives during the cloning process, you will have to start over. If you reverse the source and target during this process, you will overwrite the already-configured computer with the computer configuration you meant to destroy immediately, with no opportunity to cancel the process.
Restoring a backup image of your computer to a new hard drive if the original drive has failed is legal. If you plan to clone your hard drive to another computer, you must own a second license for every piece of software that ends up on the cloned computer as part of the process. Certain software requires a unique product key on every computer where it's installed. Such software should not be installed until after the clone image is recorded unless its product key is reset by Microsoft's sysprep tool. When choosing to create an image for mass deployment (e.g., deployment of a corporate image to all new computers in a business environment), you should first run a tool called sysprep on the computer where you're recording the image. Sysprep may wipe out certain customizations, but it ensures that the new computer comes up with entirely different Windows security identifiers. If you don't use sysprep, you may not be in licensing compliance, and you may have technical difficulties around identical security identifiers (either immediately or at some unexpected point in the future). The clone/restore process is intended for computers with identical hardware configurations. Some variance in hardware may be tolerated and corrected on the cloned computer. Most computers out of tolerance will result in a clone that does not boot. The exception (under Windows XP) is clones with near-identical hardware resulting in different HAL files. This may result in a clone that boots but has problems either immediately or in the future.