Tuesday, 18 October 2011

How to Clone a Hard Drive With Bad Sectors

what is imaging?

Beneath the file system, resides the most basic structure of any device - disk sectors. These are actual, physical parcels containing the data, regardless of the file system used. If this structure is mirrored to another device, it is possible to create an exact clone. Any operating system that exists on the device will not know any difference.
This is what imaging is all about. Imaging is a process during which the device structure and the entire contents are copied, sector by sector to a backup file called image. If you take the image and extract it to a device, overriding any existing, previous structure, you will have created a perfect copy of the imaged system, the way it was the moment the image was taken.
This grants computer users the ability to not only save the actual files, but the actual status of a device, be it a hard disk, a partition or any other, frozen in time at the moment it was created. These temporal snapshots can then be restored at later times, allowing the users to undo changes to their devices (and the relevant operating systems). This opens a huge window of opportunity and flexibility, in regard to backup, testing and disaster recovery.
Any serious computer user will deploy some sort of imaging software in his/her arsenal and use them periodically, to backup their operating system and also restore them, if needed.

When a hard drive fails, there are many times that I've wanted to clone the data from the hard drive to a new drive to recover. Even if the hard drive did not fail to the point of causing hardware problems, it still could contain bad sectors that might cause issues when moving data from it to a new hard drive.

There are a few great products that I rely on to clone a hard drive. I love Acronis True Image because its fast and efficient and seems to do the job most of the time. However,  Acronis will fail to clone a drive when it encounters bad sectors. Generally it will just stop completely. So, we have to look at other options. Norton Ghost seems to have similar issues with bad sectors, as well as Paragon Drive Backup and even Macrium Reflect has some issues.

The only drive cloning software that has ALWAYS worked when presented with bad sectors is an open source program called CloneZilla.The CloneZilla Live version allows you to create a bootable CD that you can boot the computer that has the old hard drive and the new hard drive. Clonezilla will then make an exact duplicate of the old hard drive to the new hard drive. Afterwards, you can detach the old drive and boot the computer.

Whenever I have an issue where I need to clone a drive containing bad sectors, I rely on CloneZilla to do the job.

For more step by step examples of how to use CloneZilla and screenshots of the program, please refer to the CloneZilla Guide.

One of the common questions I get is "Will Cloning Software copy the bad sectors to the other drive?"

Because a bad sector is physically a bad spot on the hard drive that causes the computer to not be able to read or save data to that spot, there is no way to copy the bad spot to another drive. Only the data that can be read and accessed from the old hard drive will be able to be copied to the new drive. Physical errors on an old drive cannot be transferred to the new drive.


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