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Boot Camp cloning utility Winclone returns to OS X

After a long hiatus, Two Canoes' popular Winclone utility for backing up Boot Camp partitions has returned.

Apple's move to Intel processors for its Mac systems in 2006 opened up many opportunities for Mac users, one of which was the ability to install and boot Windows directly on the Mac hardware without any emulation. To facilitate this for those who needed it, Apple introduced Boot Camp to easily partition the hard drive and supply drivers to the Windows OS for various features like iSight cameras and multitouch trackpads.

Boot Camp is a great option to have on the Mac, but unfortunately its support from Apple is rather limited, especially if you need to migrate from your older Mac to a newer one. While Apple offers a migration assistant tool that will transfer your Mac-based accounts, data, and applications to a new system, this tool does not transfer any Boot Camp installations. Therefore, if you have a Windows installation that you use, you will need to set it up from scratch on your new system.

To tackle this issue, the free utility Winclone was developed by Two Canoes Software to transfer Boot Camp installations from one system to another. The utility worked quite well, and was commonly recommended for people who needed to transfer or back up their Windows installations.

Unfortunately Winclone was not maintained and the project went silent for a few years. In this time, advancements in OS X, Windows, and Boot Camp resulted in the program no longer working for newer systems, so the utility lost its relevance and Mac users had to rely on virtualization options such as Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion to transfer their Windows installations to run in their Macs.

However, Winclone has now returned, updated and ready to clone. The new version of the program is updated to work well with modern Windows installations, and not only clone them but also manage them by supporting the following features:

  • Compatible with OS X 10.7 Lion
  • Create disk images of Windows installations
  • Resize NTFS volumes
  • Transfer Windows to a new Mac
  • "Snap back" to an earlier Windows state saved to an external drive

Winclone has been tested to work with Windows Vista and Windows 7, but should also work with Windows XP provided it is installed on an NTFS file system (FAT32 file systems are not supported).

If you plan on using Winclone, do keep in mind that it is a transferring tool and while it can be used for backing up, it does so by creating a full and restorable single backup instance of your Boot Camp installation, and does not offer an option to manage individual files or give you incremental backups.

Two Canoes Software's Web site has a video demonstration where owner Timothy Perfitt shows how to use Winclone to transfer Boot Camp between two Mac systems. The process is quite simple, and only takes a few steps to complete after backing up your Mac as a precaution (though if you are migrating to a new system its likely your old one still contains all of your files):

  1. Select your Boot Camp partition and click the Image button to image it, saving the image to the location of your choice (an external hard drive is recommended).
  2. Create a new NTFS or Fat32 partition on your new Mac (use Disk Utility or Boot Camp Assistant) that is large enough to hold the imaged Windows installation.
  3. Open Winclone on the new Mac and drag the image to its Sources list.
  4. Select the image in the sources list, then select the newly created Windows partition, and click the Restore button to transfer the image to the new partition.
  5. If you are moving the Windows partition to a similar setup as your previous system (same number of partitions), then when prompted you do not need to replace the windows BCD file, but if you are in doubt about this or if you do have a different partition scheme on your new system then choose the option to replace the BCD file (Windows will not boot if its partition number has changed--a problem some people have had with the addition of the Lion Recovery HD partition).

Intel-based Mac systems have been around for about six years now, and Apple is just starting to drop support for some of the earliest models in it OS, which might have you considering an upgrade if you were an early adopter of one of these systems. If you are one of these people and if you wish to keep your Boot Camp installation when you migrate to your new Mac, then Winclone might be exceptionally useful in allowing you to do this.

Winclone used to be a free application, but this re-release is being sold at $19.99 per license through the Two Canoes Web site.

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