Whenever there’s discussion about the difference between a clone and an image, confusion between the two terms abounds. For the most part, this confusion is warranted—both are information technology tactics for copying the complete content of a hard drive. Both create an exact or near exact record of your drive. And you can use both to back up a drive or replace an old, corrupted, or failed drive with a new—hopefully faster and larger—one.
However, it’s important to note neither involves simply copying and pasting data onto another drive. Imaging and cloning do involve the replication of files—but they also replicate boot and partition information, the allocation table, and additional data used by the operating system to locate and access the replicated files. In short, they replicate everything you need to boot and run an operating system—which is why you can’t boot from a simple file-only backup.
So, given all these commonalities, what are the differences between cloning vs. imaging? Which option is better for managed services providers (MSPs)?
Defining cloning and imaging