Cloning software is a program used to create a copy of a computer hard drive, often for use in copying data between machines or creating a backup for a computer system. This type of software is available from a number of different software developers, and can include a variety of functions and utilities to facilitate the cloning process. The two most common forms of cloning involve either a direct copy from drive to drive or the creation of a disk image file from a hard drive. Cloning software usually allows a user to choose what type of cloning to perform, and may allow a user to access and alter created image files.
While cloning software can be used for a number of purposes, it is commonly developed to allow users to copy data from one hard drive to another in a way that is as easy and fast as possible. Copying large amounts of data, or completely copying the contents of a hard drive onto another hard drive, can take time and may require properly formatting the receiving hard drive. The use of cloning software, however, can automate the process and allow a user to more quickly ensure the data is properly transferred.
Cloning software can also be used to create an image file for a computer hard drive. This image file is not a picture, but is instead a single file or media format that contains the various files copied from a hard drive, in the proper format for use in cloning that drive. An image file is, essentially, a copy of a hard drive that can be used to create more copies of that hard drive, and is often used as a backup or restore disk. When cloning software is used to create this image file, the software establishes the proper format and structure for the various files copied from the hard drive.
The cloning software can then typically be used to copy from the image file to a new hard drive. This allows a single image file, often stored on a portable memory device or media disc, to be used to create multiple copies from an original hard drive image file. Cloning software can also be used to access this image file, to alter it by adding new files or to pull individual files from the image, rather than performing a full copy. Such software and image files are often used for publicly accessible computers, to remove changes made by users and return the system to its original state.