Saturday, April 25, 2020

Disk cloning / migrating Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10

... is a hassle.

Assume you want to create a backup copy of your Windows boot drive. Or you want to replace that old hard disk with a new SSD, or replace your current boot drive with a larger one. Then it's time to jump through some hoops.

Or is it?


I actually knew once how to use Ghost :-) Let's not go there, okay?

The golden days of TrueImage

In the past it was easy. I once bought a copy of TrueImage (yes, I actually buy software if it is any good) and used it to create images of my 3 PC's and 1 laptop. I did so by booting from a CD-rom or USB. Read, click, start the image process, done.

Licenses, licenses

Then new partition models arrived, and it no longer worked. Unfortunately, newer versions of TrueImage force me to buy a copy for each and every single PC. Hey, I'm a registered user of MSOfficeWindows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10, Total CommanderXaraPureBasic, and spend lots of money on lots of other packages. But there is a limit.

Vendors might consider a '5 PC one person' license to help out private users, even Microsoft does that these days.

So, free options...

A little googling brought up may tutorials, using free versions of well known packages. But... unfortunately, lots of those free options no longer work, as the vendors got smart, and removed that one option from their package: migrate OS.

Migrate OS versus clone disk

There's actually very, very little difference. If anything the software should take the following into account:

a. align it to 4k boundaries
b. adjust the GPT / MBR to reflect the bigger / smaller drive

Now, unfortunately, lot's of software simply won't clone a disk if they discover it is your boot drive containing your OS. Thank you very much...

No longer working

Several tutorials refer to free versions of the following, but all failed, asking me to get a paid version...

  • EaseUS TodoBackup
  • EaseUS PartitionMaster
  • Macrium Reflect
  • Aomei Backupper

I have not yet tried MiniTool Shadowmaker. I still have to, but after trying all of the above I more or less gave up.

Still, there are some free ways.

Windows 7 backup tool

In Windows 7, 8 and 10 there's an image tool included. It has some limitations, but it actually works.

Main limitations:

1. It can only clone to same or larger drives.
2. You cannot select what to in / exclude.
3. It may try to include other drives (which drives is a bit unpredictable).

Either use an external USB drive, or connect an old spare drive to a free SATA port. External USB drives can be quite a bit slower though.

Step by step

1. Shut down your computer.

2. Disconnect any drives you don't want to image (or hide them in the Bios).

3. Connect a temporary drive to store the image on

4. Start up again

5. Launch image tool (it's in a different place on each version of Windows)

Windows 8.1: From the Windows 8.1 Start screen, search for and select "File History." You can also access it through the Control Panel by going to System and Security > File History. Then select "System Image Backup" from the lower left-hand column.

Windows 10: (old) Control Panel > Backup and Restore (Windows 7)

6. Create an image of your boot drive.

7. Shut down.

8. Replace your old boot drive with your new boot drive

9. Boot from a Windows 10 install media (either CD rom or USB stick)

10. Choose the regular install option

11. Now it depends a bit on the version of the Windows installer, but somewhere there's a link to a System Image Recovery option. Go there and restore Windows.

If the new drive is larger

... but the full size doesn't show up, then you may have to jump through some more hoops.

1. Check if there is a recovery partition or something else. See if you can delete it.

2. If  you cannot delete it you may have to do some advanced stuff using Diskpart from the command line...

  List Disk
  Select Disk n
  List Part
  Select Part n
  Delete Part n OVERRIDE

3. 'Shrink' your main partition ('volume') a little bit (with 10 MB or so) from within Windows: Control Panel / Administrative Tools / Computer Management / Storage / Disk Management / ...

4. Then Extend that same volume again.

Using CloneZilla

Nothing like opensource Linux based tools. In this case we can copy directly and won't need an intermediate step.

If the new drive is smaller

... then first shrink the main volume from inside Windows, and delete any unwanted partitions.

Step by step

1. Download CloneZilla and put it on a stick. (I used Rufus)

2. Shutdown your PC.

3. Disconnect all other drives. It's too easy to make a mistake when using CloneZilla...

4. Connect the new drive you want to migrate your OS to.

5. Boot from the CloneZilla stick.

6. Make a clone (disk to disk) from your old OS drive to your new OS drive.

7. Replace your old disk with your new disk. You may have to do some tweaking in your UEFI / BIOS, though most modern systems work fine without. In many cases it's just enter the UEFI / BIOS, exit with save, and be done with it.

8. Boot.

If the new drive is larger

... but the full size doesn't show up, then use the same steps as listed above when using the Windows Image tool, ie. remove unwanted partitions, shrink, then extend.

The pain, the pain!

Yeah. I know. Painful. But I got it to work!

To be honest, if it was just one PC I'll probably would spend the money and buy TrueImage again...

Now I am going to have another look at MiniTool Shadowmaker in another post. Will be continued...

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