How to make Windows 11 and 10 recognize a cloned hard drive again

So you've just cloned a hard drive of your Windows computer (for example, you decided to upgrade from an old 'spinning disk' style of a hard drive to a fast SSD). You've attached the freshly cloned drive to the computer, but it does not appear in the This PC folder. You are probably wondering whether the new drive is defective and should you take it back to the store for a replacement?

No need to panic just yet: most probably, your new hard drive is just fine, and you only need to give Windows a little nudge to make it recognize the newly cloned drive. Here is what to try in such a situation:

Run the Disk Management tool of Windows. The easiest way to do that is by right-clickng the Start button and choosing Disk Management from the menu:

Right-click Start menu and choose Disk Management

(If you are using an older version of Windows such as Windows 7, then right-click on My Computer on the Start Menu, and choose Manage to get access to Disk Management.)

When Disk Management opens, you will notice that its window is split horizontally roughly in the middle. Never mind the top half for now, and look at the bottom half instead. It will probably contain several thick horizontal bars, each bar representing a storage device such as a hard drive or a CD/DVD drive. (Funny how Windows calls them "disks", even though the modern devices such as SSDs or flash drives have nothing that resembles any disks inside. But I digress.)

The first bar will most probably represent the main storage device of your computer, the one that has the C: drive on it. You may need to scroll down the list to see other such devices. You can distinguish between them by noting their total sizes shown. If you locate the freshly cloned hard drive that Windows refuses to work with, you will probably see something similar to the following:

The Disk Management window contains a list of the drives attached to the computer

So, Windows informs us that this "disk" is "offline". If you move the mouse pointer over the blue (I) icon, it should provide a bit more information about the condition, most probably: "The disk is offline because it has a signature collision with another disk that is online."

What this means basically is that Windows sees the newly cloned drive as an exact copy of the original drive, including the signature of the drive, and that makes Windows confused, preventing the use of the second drive at the same time.

To alleviate confusion, all you need to do is right-click on the offline disk, and choose Online from the menu displayed:

Make Windows recognize the cloned disk by marking it Online using the right-click menu

(If you don't see the Online command on the right-click menu, make sure you are right-clicking over the leftmost part of the bar representing the problematic disk in the list, not over one of the partitions that the disk may have.)

Immediately after you choose Online from the right-click menu, Windows should accept the cloned disk as a valid one, assign drive letters to its partitions, and generally make you able to work with the cloned drives as usual.

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