How to clone a hard drive in Windows or Mac OS X

How to clone a hard drive

Backing up your system is one thing, but if you want to make an exact copy of your hard disk – operating system, software, and all of your files included – then you need to know how to clone a hard drive. Not only is cloning a useful way to back everything up, but it’s also great for getting set up on a new hard drive without re-installing your operating system. No matter if you’re a Windows or Mac user, we’ve put together brief tutorials that’ll help you get through the cloning process.

Because it’s by far the most popular and widely-used operating system, we’ll start with Windows. Mac users can scroll down to find the OS X tutorial. 

Oh, and just to be totally clear on the terminology used in these guides, your “source drive” is the drive you want to make a copy of. Your “destination drive” is the drive you want to copy everything onto.


There are a handful of good cloning programs out there for various flavors of Windows, but our favorite – simply for its extremely straightforward interface – is Macrium Reflect. Here’s how to clone a drive with it:

Step 1: Download/install Macrium Reflect. It’s available in free and paid editions, but the free version should satisfy the needs of most users.

Step 2: Attach the destination drive to your computer. This disk needs to have more space than the source drive. If it doesn’t, it won’t be able to store the clone.

Step 3: Open Macrium Reflect. You’ll see a screen that looks something like this:

Macrium Reflect HD Cloning Tool

Step 4: Select the the disk that you’d like to clone by clicking on it and then click the “Clone this disk” button in the middle of the window.

Step 5: A new window will appear which will prompt you to choose the destination drive. Click the “Select disk to restore to” link to get a drop down list of available drives.

Step 6: Select your destination drive from the list. If your destination drive is smaller than the source drive, then it won’t appear.

Step 7: From the source drive on the top, drag and drop the drive or partitions you’d like to clone into the destination drive below. Click Next to continue.

Step 8: A window will pop up with a preview of what you’re about to clone. If everything looks correct, go ahead and click Finish.

Mac OS X

Mac OS X

Mac users will be pleased to know that they can easily clone a hard drive or partition without installing any additional software. OS X’s native Disk Utility program can get the job done. The only problem is that it’s relatively slow compared to some third-party softwares available. If you’re looking for a faster solution, try Carbon Copy Cloner, but for those who don’t mind taking a few extra minutes to save 40 bucks, here’s how to do it with Mac’s Disk Utility.

Step 1: Attach the desired drive to your computer.

Step 2: Open Disk Utility. This is found under User>Applications>Utilities>Disk, or you can just hit command+space to open up Spotlight, search Disk Utility, and hit Enter.

Disk Utility HD Cloning Tool

Step 3: In the window that pops up, click on the drive you’d like to copy in the column on the right. After doing this, more options will appear. Click on the Restore tab at the top.

Step 4: In this window, the drive you want to clone should be listed as the Source. Find the drive you want to copy everything onto, and drag it into the Destination field.  

Step 5: To perform the clone, click the Restore button. *Note: if your destination drive has anything on it, it will be erased before any files can be copied. Make sure there’s nothing important on your destination drive before you click Restore.

If everything works correctly, you should have a perfect clone on your destination drive in just a few minutes!