disk clone and boot selection


Senior Member
Pardon my cluelessness, but I'm trying to fix up a backup disk for my mother's Win7 machine. I will be installing a second drive that I intend to clone onto from the original. I assume such a clone will be bootable.

But how do I tell the system which disk to boot on? As in, at startup, I ought to be able to select one or the other. If the primary disk has crapped out I want to either have the option of booting to the secondary disk, or have it automatically do so. If it does that automatically, how do I know that the primary disk has, in fact, crapped out? If it doesn't tell me, seems to me the user would be be blissfully unaware.

Now, I believe I can set a "boot order". Do I need to be booted to do that? That is, if the primary disk craps out, and the secondary disk isn't identified as an alternate, am I stuck?


Windows Forum Team
Staff member
You would set the boot order in BIOS. If the firs disk is unbootable BIOS will move on to the next disk.


Senior Member
OK, thanks. So I assume I have to set that all up in BIOS. Try A first, and if that doesn't work, try B.

Now that being done, how do I test B? That is, without mucking with the boot order, is there some simple way upon startup to say, no, not A, just try B? Or, if booted up on A, tell it to reboot on B? Macs can do that pretty trivially.

Also, again, is there a quick way to tell who I'm booted up on?


Senior Member
OK, that's straightforward. Can you recommend a freeware utility to make a bootable clone? I've heard good things about Macrium Reflect.

I gather that in order to make a proper bootable clone, it may not be possible to do that from the active Windows disk, and you have to run the utility on some additional media. True?


Fantastic Member
Premium Supporter
Hi Doula,
I have some bit of experience doing this so I will pitch in with some guidelines for you. It's best to use Macrium Reflect for your cloning software as we have tested in on all versions of windows from XP-Win10.

The first thing I recommend you to do is to watch this excellent video from Britec on how to clone your drive using the Macrium software here:

After you watch this, you can continue reading these tips.

It's always best to clone on a desktop PC versus a laptop if you can. Laptops also work, but they take more skill to do so, and since for 99% of laptops they only have 1 internal hard drive not 2, so the clone time will be significantly longer. It still works but you need to be aware of it. There are also some other quirks with laptops but I won't go into that unless you post back you have one.

Normally, on a desktop PC you'll have to open the case to install your 2nd hard drive into the computer, using both power and data cables. Many modern desktop PCs do not have either a long enough power cable or long enough data cable to reach your 2nd drive, even if you install the 2nd drive into a prefabricated drive bay. In this case, you'll need to buy longer power cables and data cables to connect the 2nd drive to the Motherboard. In many cases, you can buy cable extenders. All those are available at most computer retailers such as Best Buy or newegg.com online. Normally those longer cables or extender cables cost about $20 US. Once the 2nd drive is properly installed inside the PC case, and you start it up, the BIOS should see the new hard drive as Drive ID #1, or #2 depending on how many SATA connectors are on your particular Motherboard. Often there are 5-10 of these SATA connectors numbered 0-9. If your existing C: bootdrive is connected to SATA PORT 0, then you'll want to connect your new hard drive to SATA PORT 1 if possible, but really any of the other SATA ports will do.

When you boot your PC into Win7, and you go to My Computer as in the video, you should see the 2nd hard drive listed on that screen under storage. You should see the size, and it may not show usage only capacity if you haven't yet formatted it. If you hit the Windows-logo-key and R together and type in the command DISKMGMT.MSC, it will bring up the Windows disk management utility and you can see how that drive fits in to your system configuration also as in the video.

Once you have this done, you can follow the video to see how to clone your existing C: bootdrive onto the new 2nd hard drive you physically installed into your PC. To test this, you can follow neemo's instructions on setting your Boot Order or Boot Preference choice to put the original C: bootdrive as your first hard drive in the boot order and the new cloned drive as the next drive in the boot order. To test your newly cloned 2nd drive; I like to physically go back inside the computer case and disconnect both the power cable and the data cable from your Drive 0, or C: bootdrive. In most OEM PCs, when you do this, the BIOS should then default to the only hard drive now physically connected to the PC Motherboard and powers up from the Windows partitions on the 2nd hard drive. If successful, your Win7 will boot up and all your stuff and desktop settings will be there and look identical to what you had on your original hard drive or C: bootdrive. :up:

This is the only way to test this works, as it does a 100% simulation of a C: bootdrive failure.:)

Now, with some OEM PCs, (OEM are like Dell, HP, Acer, Gateway, etc.) especially self-built PCs or custom-built PCs, the Motherboards have a quirky where the BIOS won't properly scan the 2nd cloned drive if it's not plugged into the SATA PORT 0 connector on the Motherboard. In some cases, the manufacturer will have a newer BIOS update that fixes this, in many that problem is never fixed.:waah: If you have one of these computers, you will have to use a workaround, and if your C: bootdrive ever fails catastrophically, your PC won't automatically switch over to the backup clone drive.o_O In this case, and I have this problem with my Dell Studio desktop, you have to turn off your PC and open the case, and physically use the 2 cables (power & data) that were originally connected to the C: bootdrive and connect them to the 2nd clone drive connectors after removing the 2 cables already on there. If you do this correctly the BIOS will be able to read the new C: bootdrive (which is now the Clone drive hooked up) using the existing power cable and SATA PORT 0 data cable used by the original C: bootdrive, and then your Win7 should boot from the Clone drive and it should work if you did it correctly! :up:

Remember that it's really critical to test your PC to see whether or not it will work automatically or not. Worse case, and you suffer a C: bootdrive failure, and your PC is like mine, you just have to open up your case and swap your cables around. That takes 5 min. and you can be back up and running in that time compared to 2-3 weeks for a complete Windows reinstallation from Recovery media, reinstall all your programs and reintegration of your data...Ughh! I have this setup now on a couple of Client computers, and so far so good. I've tested them, but as yet they haven't suffered C: bootdrive failure it hasn't been tested in a recent Client environment, but I expect and hope it would work as I inteneded.

Edit: If you do this setup and test it with the Macrium clone software, remember to set a pre-programmed schedule for clone backups from within the Macrium to do daily or weekly clone backups, and enable overwrite, so that each new clone backup overwrites the old one; otherwise your backup drive will be clogged up with cloned images in no time. Once you have your daily or weekly clone backup set, it should be set it and forget it. On one of my most important Customer's I have with this setup, I have the schedule to do a weekly Clone backup as his home where I live is a part-time vacation home and the PC there is only used when he occupies the home on vacations. On a daily-driver PC you might consider setting your schedule to do daily Clone backups, and if a primary drive failure occurs you'll only lose 1 days worth of data as opposed to up to 1 week's worth.;)

Hope these tips help you.
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orange juice911

Well-Known Member
I guess I have got what you want to do. Replace the old HDD in Windows 7 with the new HDD you installed and boot OS from the new one?
It is kind of easy. Theoretically, the steps will be, install new HDD, start cloning software (AOMEI Backupper standard is free for Windows 7), perform Disk Clone, follow the wizard. After everything has been done, either change boot settings in BIOS or disconnect the old HDD, and then reboot Win 7.
That process will be completed in pre-OS mode since the original hard drive contains system files.
You can format the previous HDD later and use it as storage device.
It's better to backup crucial files even though cloning operation will not cause any damage to them.