When is it not safe to clone my own hard drive?

cloned hard drive

What are the facts to help me determine when it is safe to clone my hard drive?

This is a question that we get asked from time to time here at The Data Rescue Center and the answer to this question is rather complex. There are a number of factors to process when trying to determine if you should or can clone your own hard drive. Here are a few questions to consider if you are wanting to clone your own hard drive:

Is your hard drive making clicking noises?
If your drive is making strange noises, it will require skilled Data Recovery Technicians to perform the cloning process and recover the data. The clicking sound is often the result of a failed Head Assembly and continuing to use the drive in this state can cause irreparable damage to the drive and the data on that drive.

Is your hard drive not being detected by your computer?
If your hard drive is not mounting on the desktop and is also not being detected by the computer (in Computer Management on a Windows computer or Disk Utility on a Mac), then the hard drive will not be accessible for any cloning software either. In this case a skilled Data Recovery Technician will need to perform the cloning process and recover the data.

Is your computer locking up, hanging or suffering some other issue?
If your computer is suffering from lockups, hang ups or other issues, that could be a sign of general hard drive problems which may be the beginning stages of head failure or media damage. Attempting a cloning process on a hard drive with these symptoms is highly risky, if you are not an experience Data Recovery Technician. If the hard drive is not thoroughly tested and monitored closely during the cloning process, the hard drive could degrade quickly and destroy the data platters making the hard drive and the data contained unrecoverable.
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Everything seems fine with my drive, can I still lose data during the cloning process?
If the system and cloning software detect the hard drive without issue, the hard drive will likely complete the cloning process fine. However, in some situations, media damage located on the platter surface towards the middle or end of a hard drive can cause the hard drive to fail. For this reason the cloning process must be monitored at all times. Leaving the cloning process unattended can lead to a catastrophic failure and data loss should there be unknown or undetected media damage somewhere on the drive.