Cloning vs. imaging a hard drive

I often get asked what is the difference between cloning a hard drive versus imaging a hard drive.

Cloning is the process of creating another drive which is an exact identical copy of your original drive. You would clone a drive if you wanted to convert your old mechanical hard drive to a modern solid state drive. It is a one for one copy. Think of cloning as making an identical twin.

You would want to make an exact copy of the old drive, so that you can simply swap it for your new drive without having to reinstall your operating system and applications. This is cloning. You cannot choose what files you want to recover from a clone.

Imaging a hard drive, is when you want to back up your hard drive in case something catastrophic happens to your original hard drive. You can put multiple images, over time on a storage device. You can backup individual files or folders. It is a one for many copy. This is imaging. You would want to do this if you have accidentally deleted files. You can choose the individual files that you want to recover. Imaging involves a third drive to store the images. You then recover the image either back to the original drive, or to a new replacement drive.

I hope that my explanation clears it up for you.