Some hard drive cloning programs support a wide variety of filesystems. Some can create image files and store only the sectors that are actually in use. Some can clone over a network, and a few can multicast a drive or image file to multiple targets simultaneously. Clonezilla can do all of the above, with the added benefit of being free. It’s a live CD with partitioning software and simple cloning interface packed with useful features. In this guide, we’ll be using Clonezilla to run a disk-to-disk copy and checking out a few of the more interesting options.
You have a choice of a few ISO files at the download site here. The main difference between them is that Stable and Testing are based on Debian and contain only open source software, while the Alternate is based on Ubuntu and uses some non-OSS software. I’d recommend Stable, because in my opinion you can’t be too careful when it comes to things like partitioning and mass data transfer. That’s what we’ll be using for all examples and screenshots.
Preparing to Clone
Burn and boot the ISO like any other live CD, and you’ll be taken directly into the Clonezilla application. Once you’ve chosen language and keymap, you’ll be asked whether to start the cloning process or drop to shell.
The shell option isn’t something you want to overlook. If you need to do any ahead-of-time partitioning, here’s your chance to do it. You can drop to shell and run fdisk or cfdisk if needed, and whenever you’re ready to return you can start Clonezilla back up with
For the examples, we’ll be doing a direct disk-to-disk clone using some small virtual drives partitioned as such:
hda 2GB mbr - grub hda1 - Linux root (ext3) hda2 - swap hda3 - Linux /home (ext3) hdb 2GB (unpartitioned)
Next we choose if we’ll proceed in Beginner or Expert mode. As this is an introductory article, we’ll go with beginner for now.
Our example will be a local-to-local copy. Remote copy and other topics could be covered in the future if there’s reader interest.
Now choose the source and destination for the clone data.
At this point the transfer will begin (after a few confirmation dialogs). You’ll be able to see the process as you go.
Cloning to Image Files
If you want to save your drive/partition into a file instead of cloning directly to another disk, Clonezilla can do that too. At the beginning of the Clonezilla process, you’d choose device-image instead of device-device, then pick the general target location for the image files.
Clonezilla creates a mount point /home/partimag that it will connect to whichever location you specify as the target. This is a great place for USB drives that can act as intermediary between systems. You’ll have a choice as to which device (and optionally which directory on the device) will hold your image files.
As you can see, up to this point it’s the same process you’d do if you were restoring FROM an image. If that was the case, the device you had just chosen as the target would be acting as the source of the image files.
Next you’ll choose the name of your image and the drive/partition you’ll be cloning. Once you’ve confirmed, you’re off and running.