How to Ghost a Computer

By Editorial Team

Updated September 28, 2017

Items you will need

  • Two hard drives

  • Ghosting software

"Ghosting" a computer means creating a clone of its contents so that they may be transferred to a different hard drive. It's not strictly the same as copying, but rather a means of accessing files and software without having to go through all of the trouble of reinstalling them. You typically ghost a computer as part of an upgrade to a larger hard drive.

Set up 2 hard drives, the one you intend to ghost and the new one onto which the cloned files will be placed.

Check to ensure that the destination hard drive can accommodate all of the software you wish to ghost and that the two hard drives are compatible.

Select the proper software to use when you ghost your computer. Some, such as Symantec Ghost and Acronis True Image, are commercially available, while others like Carbon Copy Cloner and DriveImage may be downloaded for free (see Resources below).

Install the ghosting software onto the hard drive you intend to ghost. Specifics will vary depending on the software you are using. Check to ensure that it is running properly before you ghost the computer.

Boot up the ghosting software and select the drive with the partition or files you wish to ghost. The exact steps will depend on the particular type of software, but it will usually ask you to select a certain series of files or a certain partition from a list. Click on the ones you wish to ghost.

Select a destination hard drive. Again, specifics will vary, but you will want to select the new hard drive where you want the files to end up, not the old drive which currently contains the files.

Choose the size of the partition or files, whether you wish to compress it or them and what name you wish to use. These details help the computer determine the parameters for your ghosting, and again, will depend on the software you are using.

Confirm that you have selected all of the files you wish to ghost, and then click "Proceed." Depending on the software, it may give you a slightly different prompter, such as "Start Partition Dump?" or "Begin Cloning?" In each case, you should click yes.

Wait for the software to ghost your files. It should provide a final prompter when the operation is completed.


Ghosting software can vary in its particulars, both according to the software itself and according to the kind of computer and operating system you are using. Be prepared to adjust any steps you take based on the specifics of your equipment. You can generally only ghost computers which use the same basic operating system and software. In addition, you cannot usually ghost a Mac onto a PC or vice versa. Make sure your equipment is compatible before you begin.