Automation of HDD cloning and putting the clone into operation rapidly

The problematics of creating, maintaining and using backups is known enough and quite wide. There are numerous systems for online or offline backing up your documents, source codes, pictures, videos etc. We can choose among incremental or full backup, saving concerned files to cloud storage or an external drive, protecting or compressing backups - variety of possible options and switches is extremely rich.

There is no doubt that a diversification of backups is an important fact and should be similar to having many types of investments and savings - because of reduction the risk of loss the information (or money respectively). As a long-term Delphi programmer, I'm aware of having a good combination of backups my source codes - after all, it's been my work for last three decades and it is worth it. In this context I established a simple but efficient system of backup my sources many years ago. This approach combines local and distant repositories on one hand and a range of files encompassed in backup on the other hand. So, my backups are performed using following scheme:

  • Backup to second hard-drive on my desktop computer - Delphi sources only, daily
  • Backup to NAS disk in my office - Documents folder, twice a week
  • Backup to our company's FTP - Delphi sources only, twice a week
  • Backup to my laptop - Delphi sources only, twice a month
  • Backup to an external SSD drive - every Friday at the end of the workday
  • Backup to an external hard drive placed consequently in the safe-deposit-box provided by my bank - Documents folder, monthly

I think the combination above is really bullet-proof and takes all possible scenarios of data loss into consideration. For all mentioned backups, Backup4All from Softland is used as a tool that proved to be sucesssful and reliable. List of related backup tasks in Backup4All system is depicted on the image below:


The approach above is infallible and trustworthy, BUT...What about hard disk failure? It is nice to have many different backups but there are still particular files only. How to deal with the loss of installed operation system, Delphi, other necessary software and files that were not included into backup process? However, my daily routine supposes using further essential software and supporting tools, like:

  • Delphi including all installed packages and components/component sets (because we develop mostly for municipalities, the portfolio of installed packages is very wide)
  • InstallShield for creating installation packages
  • Adobe RoboHelp for creating help system and documentation
  • Database servers - actually FireBird, InterBase, MySQL, SQLite and Microsoft SQL Server
  • Database administration tools
  • Text and image editors
  • And many more...

I clearly remember the last exchange of my desktop computer. Considering all aspects mentioned above, there was a work for approximately two weeks and I still had to have the full backup of my original hard-drive from an old computer available - because of the fact that I found some minor utilities missing on the new computer even six months later.

In order to avoid situation when I have sources but I'm unable to use them swiftly, I started looking for a suitable and affordable system that would be able to mirror or clone my actual hard-drive and create its genuine copy. I found a product called Macrium Reflect from Paramount Software UK Ltd.

The first task was to decide what type of drive will be the best for creating mirrors of my hard-drive - I found one and the same hard-drive added to my desktop cumputer would be the best way. So I bought one more SSD Samsung 870 EVO 1TB for assuring the maximum compatibility and mounted it into the desktop case.

As a matter of fact, I was curious about Macrium Reflect software capabilities and wanted to try out whether this system will be what the doctor ordered. I appreciated a 30-days trial period that allows to use the software without any restrictions, and dowloaded and installed the pack.

Setting up the clonning is very simple and is done through an easy wizard:

Macrium Reflect

After creating a task, its parameters and options can be seen in a concise shape and modified at any time:

Macrium Reflect

A significant benefit of the task manager is an ability to set scheduling conditions for performing the task (clone):

Macrium Reflect

An advanced settings of the clone allow to specify how the differencies between source and destination disk will be handled - which can reduce the time needed for the repetitive clone process:

Macrium Reflect

I set the schedule of my clone to Daily at 11.30 - this is the time when I leave the office and go for lunch so that the system can clone my primary hard-drive undisturbed. My experience says that the piece of time necessary for performing the regular clone (considering changed sectors on the source drive only) is about 12 minutes. In other words, when I return back to the office, the clone process is finished and my destination drive is updated with the newest data from the source one. However, you can continue your work on the computer even the clonning task is started.

And main benefits of this solution? There are two of them:

  • A guarantee that in case of the primary drive failure it can be replaced with clone in minutes (physically) and without any interaction or modification
  • Very affordable price based on the subscription, EUR 50 yearly. It's really not too much for having a calm sleeping, isn't it?

About the Author

Ing. Karel Janecek, MBA, MSc.