Adventures in technology – cloning a hard drive


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Running out of space on your main or “C” drive?  Want to upgrade to a faster SSD solid state drive?  This article will walk you through the steps to safely clone your hard drive and replace it with a larger or faster or maybe even larger AND faster hard drive.

First a little background….

As you may well know, the Windows operating system installs on your main drive, or “C” drive.  Why C and not A or B?  Well it all goes back to the early days when computer had floppy disk drives.  Computers are designed to look first for the A drive followed by B and then C and so on.  If you had a “boot disk” in the drive when you started up your computer, the computer would load whatever was on the floppy.  In those early days the operating system could actually fit on a floppy drive.  These day we have huge, bloated operating systems which need the space of a large hard drive.  But the convention remains.  Even if you don’t have an A or B drive, your main hard drive is still designated as C.  Plus your drive probably comes with a “D” partition also that might hold a recovery copy of the operating system.  Now besides the operating system, every program you download ends up installing on C unless you carefully tell it to install somewhere else.  As a result, C drives tend to get filled up.

My Problem

You might have a different need to upgrade your C drive than I, but here is what happened with me.  I thought I was being clever by ordering my Photoshop screamer of a machine from Hewlett Packard in a cost effective way.  I ordered it with 8 megs of RAM on one chip so I could upgrade to a max of 32 in the future.  And I ordered only one small SSD drive (128 megs) to run the operating system with the idea I’d add more hard drives on my own later.

SSD drives are solid state drives which provide very fast loading.  The operating systems load in seconds when you have this type of drive.  The downside is that they are very expensive, don’t come in huge storage capacities and can wear out in about five year of usage.

So far so good.  I have since added another 220gb SSD drive and a 1T standard hard drive, plus two 3T external drives for my photos and backup.  Now the problem I ran into is that I share this computer with my son who runs things like Mindcraft and records videos for YouTube.  Most of the time you can control where a program stores virtual memory, temporary files etc.  But sometimes its tricky to figure out where all of the files are going.  Long story short the C: drive was warning me that it was getting full.  You have to watch out with the drive you operating systems is on and give it plenty of extra space to do its thing with holding programs in memory.  If it doesn’t have enough “scratch” space, it can crash.

So my plan was to switch the C/D drive with the second SSD drive that has twice as much room.  The probably is that you can just copy one drive to another because you won’t get all of the hidden files.  What you need to do is CLONE the drive.  Drive cloning software makes sure that you get an exact duplicate of the drive.

The procedure is rather straight forward:

  1. Download free cloning software
  2. Clone the drive
  3. Switch the drives
  4. Reboot

In practice it didn’t work well with the first software package that I tried.  But forget about that.  Let me tell you what did work on my Windows 8 machine.  I followed the advice from this PC World article

Cloning A Hard Drive

  1. Close all programs that are running
  2. Download “EaseUS Todo Backup Free”  – this program is free for individual users for one PC.  If you work at a company, pay for the upgrade
  3. Installed and launch the program
  4. Then click Disk clone and follow the wizard.
  5. Change the partition size on the 2nd drive so that it recognizes it as being bigger
  6. Then click on PROCEED and go for a bike ride, hike, clean out the garage, or do what I did – chop some wood for a while.


Depending on the size of your drive this might take 30 minutes or hours.  My drive was small so it wasn’t too bad.  Now shut down the computer and unplug it.

Time To Get Physical

Open up your computer, locate your hard drives and swap them.  This is important because on the mother board there are spots drive cables that start with 0, 1, 2, 3.  You want your computer to find the right drive with Windows on it.

Now because both drives have Windows on it now, I ran into the problem of switching the computer back on and it still seemed to go back to the old drive for Window.  So I shut down again and unplugged the original C/D drive.  Then rebooted and everything worked. out.  Since my original SSD drive was only 120g I think I’m just going to leave it unplugged.  It will serve as an emergency back up drive if anything happens to the new SSD drive.  Or maybe later if everything seems to be working fine, I’ll reformat it.  Right now I don’t need the space.

There you go!  Not so hard.   If anything goes wrong you can always replace the original drive, reboot and your back to where you started.