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. I just recently had the situation on my home PC that the hard disk was starting to fail. It showed things like slowing down very much every now and then, and very often after boot the system asked for disk checking.
The first task I did was to back up the data. This meant backing up the data to external USB hard drive and on-line backup service CrashPlan (good service and software that work on Windows and Linux). This makes sure that all my important data is saved. The standard backup that came with Windows Vista only copies user data (not the system), so something had to be done before the hard disk completely fails (I don’t want to reinstall whole system).
One way to solve the situation is to copy the data from existing hard disk to a new hard disk before it goes too bad (the hard disks had already a growing number of bad sectors in it).
How to Clone a Hard Drive With Bad Sectors article and some friends recommended trying Clonezilla. Clonezilla is the Free and Open Source Software for disk imaging and cloning. Clonezilla is available as a bootable live CD. There are even tutorial videos like Backing Up / Imaging your Windows / Linux Hard Drive using CloneZillaand How to clone or copy one harddrive to the new harddrive or SSD.
There is a -rescue option in “Expert” mode which is supposed to allow to copy a disk with bad sector. My plan was to create an image from the current hard disk to external USB hard disk, and then copy from it to a new hard disk. I tried Clonezilla several times with several options, but in this case it seemed to fail to perform the task as I wanted. Even more than 24 hours was not enough to get all data copied from my partially damaged hard disk to image :-(. After that time I got fed up because at that point I could not even see how much was left because different error messages had messed up the screen so much that it was impossible to see what was going on. Clonezilla is a good tool, but not for this task.
Because the hard disk seemed to work better on Windows than it did on Linux based Clonezilla, my next option was to try some Windows based cloning software. I was a little bit worried how well they could perform that on the system disk, but I think it could be worth to try (I remember making disk image from running Windows system with some software years ago when converting a PC to vmware image).
After some searching for some worth to try free hard dive imaging software for Windows I found Miray HDClone 4.3. HDClone 4.3 a commercial hard disk imaging and cloning software, that has free for home use basic version. It looked just right for saving my home PC. I installed the imaging software to my Windows PC and started making an image to my USB drive (HDClone asked to close other applications before starting to get exclusive read access to hard disk). Things seemed to go well, and after more than 24 hours of copying I got image created (most parts of hard disk copied nicely, at some locations things seemed to stop for some time, and I also got some read errors on some bad blocks).
When I tried to copy the image to new hard disk I got some disappointments: the bootable version of Miray HDClone 4.3 did not work on my system and the free Windows software did not allow copying the image to new disk The next thing I did was doing the disk to disk copy under Windows with HDClone 4.3. It took some time and I got some more bad sectors reported than om creating image (my hard disk going worse), but it did work. After copying the system disk to new hard disk and replacing the old hard disk with new, my old home PC was working again nicely.
If you need to do hard disk cloning for any reason, my advice is to check both Clonezilla and HDClone 4.3 so see which works for you. And it can also be a good idea to create a backup image of your computer’s system disk sooner than later (there could be need for that if your hard disk starts failing).