My 1996 Gateway laptop had 3 GB of space left. I have been toying with that buffer for months, adding and deleting files to make it work. I finally had enough and purchased a new Western Digital 2.5″ 320 GB hard drive. The thought of starting with a fresh OS and reinstalling all my programs made me light headed and a little sick. I had heard of this ‘cloning’ thing but had never done it before. A little searching on the web provided a strategy.
First, I had to purchase an external disk enclosure with a USB connection so I could communicate with the new drive. This would also serve as a nice 120 GB external storage device using the old drive when finished. Finding one with a stated capacity large enough for the new drive was difficult. In fact, I did not find one. I settled on an enclosure from Rosewill with a specified support capacity of 250 GB, well short of my goal. I am not sure why the size limitation, it worked perfectly for my 320 GB drive. A customer reviewer stated that he used one with a 500 GB drive. I love the Rosewill case. Don’t be fooled by the cheap price. This is a quality piece of hardware.
After connecting the new drive to my laptop via the USB enclosure, I partitioned and formatted it using the built-in Windows Disk Management tool.
Next came the choice of disk cloning software. I started to download a trial version of Acronis True Image, but was unsure if the trial would be fully functional. I have been burned by those kinds of trials before. I did not want to pay for another piece of software for a single use. After a little browsing, I went with DriveImage XML by Runtime Software, a free program that comes highly recommended by many. This turned out to be a mistake.
DriveImage is supposed to be able to clone your drive while it is ‘hot’ – that is, while the computer is running and in use. After ‘locking’ the C: drive with no problem, I started the ‘drive to drive’ duplication process. It took most of the night to complete, approximately eight hours. The software indicated a successful clone. On installing the new drive in the computer however, I was confronted with a black screen bearing the message “No operating system found.” After an hour or so of trying to solve the problem, I concluded that the software had failed to make a valid clone. The problem was not with my hardware or BIOS.
I read somewhere that Western Digital offered free cloning software for their drives (my purchase included the ‘bare drive’ only.) Going to the WD site, it turned out that the free software was made by Acronis, my first choice. Acronis’ True Image WD Edition takes a different approach. It re-boots the computer and keeps it in DOS mode during the duplication process, thus the drive is not ‘hot’ as during the DriveImage XML approach. Installing the software and completing the entire duplication process this time took about 2.5 hours – a time frame much more to my liking. After getting a ‘success’ message, I swapped drives again and viola! It worked perfectly. And I have this nifty little 120 GB external USB drive as a bonus.
I am now a big True Image fan. Thank you Acronis and WD.