Why should you clone your hard drive? And what is the difference between creating a clone and a backup hard drive?

How is a clone different from a backup?

A disk clone moves the entire contents of one hard disk drive to another. This is effective when you want to include the operating system and installed programs. If the hard drive with your operating system fails or has an issue, you would be able to boot from your clone disk.

Backup hard drives
Backup hard drives

A backup drive creates an image file for backing up and recovering data. You may add more information on to a backup and not have to fully backup all data each subsequent time you back up. 

A clone does not offer the flexibility of a backup drive as described above. 

Why should you clone your hard drive?

The bonus of a clone is that you can boot from it. Consequently, many people use it for backing up the drive that contains their operating system. 

Clones do tend to require more space because you may not compress or encrypt the data. And as you might guess, you cannot incrementally add to a clone. In other words, your clone is an exact picture of your drive at that time.

If you need a bootable spare drive to be up and running quickly after your hard drive fails, a clone is what you want to do. 

Best practices

A combination of a clone and backups is best practice.

Use the clone of a system drive (operating system) to recover quickly after an emergency.

Use regular hard drive backups for your daily data, such as photos, videos, files, and documents.

I prefer to save these to both external hard drives and the cloud, using a 3-2-1 backup plan. I’ve been using Carbon Copy Cloner for my Mac with good success.

Carbon Copy Cloner screenshot.
Carbon Copy Cloner screenshot