A reader has a question about different methods of backing up a computer hard drive.

“My IT knowledge is really poor so I am hoping you could clarify the technical difference between the following:
· Ghosting a H/D
· Cloning a H/D
· Imaging a H/D
I always thought these were simply synonyms for the same process.”

All of these terms refer to the same end goal, making a copy of your hard drive. Unlike just running a backup, which might copy files and settings, these processes make a complete copy of your drive.

A disk clone creates a completely functional copy of your drive. It copies everything on your hard drive to another hard drive. If your PC’s driver were to crash, you could swap it out with the cloned drive. But you must do the clone directly to another hard drive.

A disk image copies that information to a file. That file can be on a PC or large flash drive or stored in the cloud. Disk images are used for restoring the previous contents of a hard drive or transferring to a new hard drive. You could create a clone using an image file.

The term ghost – actually comes from a Norton backup program, Norton Ghost, a popular disk cloning software. Sort of how the term Xerox came to mean copy. Ghost first came into use in 1996.  In 1998, it was purchased by Symantec, the company behind Norton.   I’ve seen the term ghost used to refer to both cloning and imaging.