How to Clone a Hard Disk Without Rebooting

The most trivial way to make a backup is to clone the Windows system hard drive. But all software packages I have tried require rebooting Windows and only then does the cloning process start, while the system is basically unusable.

On a Windows Server that’s of course no good. What we want is a disk copy software that can clone a disk without rebooting and the good news is it’s possible.

The problem with disk copy and drive cloning is that operating systems require unique IDs for each drive. These IDs are used throughout to identify the drive. Now, if you insert a clone, obviously we have a problem! I used Acronis to copy a GPT disk when migrating to a new hard drive, and ended up with an unbootable possibly corrupt drive. The data was there but something didn’t work out for the boot process.

A different approach was implemented by BackupChain, which now has a disk copy software component built-in. It prepares the disk after cloning and copying in way so that Windows is happy. All cloned drives and drive letters become immediately available. Naturally each cloned volume will receive a new drive letter. For example, the clone of C: may be D: and so on. What’s important is once you reboot and go back to the BIOS to boot from your clone, it has to boot flawlessly and without confusing which drive to boot from. And that appears to be working quite well with BackupChain.

Benefits of Disk Copying without Rebooting

So now what can we do with this? Obviously not having to reboot is great. Above all it can be automated. Simply create a disk cloning task in BackupChain and let it run on a schedule. Now you will have a disk clone ready to go when you need it, without any manual labor involved. Some people use USB enclosures, some have a device to plug in their hard drive directly to the server case. It all works and it’s reliable and convenient. And it protects against one of the worst case scenarios: total Windows system disk failure. Having to reboot in order to clone a hard disk drive is now a thing of the past!