How to Clone Drives and Partitions with Clonezilla

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.

Getting Clonezilla

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.

clonezilla-start

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

clonezilla-image-or-disk

For the examples, we’ll be doing a direct disk-to-disk clone using some small virtual drives partitioned as such:

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.

clonezilla-localorremote

Now choose the source and destination for the clone data.

clonezilla-choosesource

At this point the transfer will begin (after a few confirmation dialogs). You’ll be able to see the process as you go.

clonezilla-cloning

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-choosesource1

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.

clonezilla-imagesaveorrestore

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.

clonezilla-savingimage

31 comments

  1. Thanks for writing this post dude! I think CloneZilla should be more widely used because sh!t eventually hits the fan. :-)

  2. I’ve used Clonezilla many times and have always found it to be solid. The only problem I ever had with it was in trying to restore my MBR when restoring an Ubuntu image. Not sure if this was ever fixed, but I found a workaround.

  3. any luck on creating multiple images and saving them on same external HDD? I want to take a couple different machines (different hardware) and create an image for each and save it to the save harddrive, since I manage a variety of PCs.
    Can it be done where I can just use one HDD for all my images?

  4. Thanks for the overview; found it very interesting… Still as a real beginner, I'm looking for clonezilla for 'dummies' articles… example question. My pc is win xp, have ms office and other progams running on it. I want to 'save' all the data and programming so if the drive crashes, and I need to replace the drive. How would I use clonezilla to do that? Many thanks, james.asbury@hayssen.com; 8/3/2010

  5. That's generally the process the article describes. Whether cloning disk-to-disk or disk-to-image, you'd need a place to store the data.

    In brief, I'd suggest booting up your PC with a Clonezilla CD and external hard drive. Clonezilla will pick up the drive when running and allow you to build an image of your XP drive and save it to the external.

    Same basic process for restoring from that image back to disk.

  6. It's capable of handling Win98's filesystem (FAT) yes, but as to whether you'd WANT to back up your 98….. =P

  7. Eeek! Had a amazing amount of problems running from a usb flash drive with clonezilla. Went to a cd copy much better! But I am still getting a “can’t have a partition outside of disk” error. The partition I am copying to is much larger then the imaged partition. I have tried a mess of scenarios to no success. It also states that the image file may be corrupt.

  8. Great review on a much appreciated utility. Is there a maximum-amount of partitions that Clonezilla will clone? ie. I have a 320GB HDD with ±28 partitions which I use for work (ACMT) and was wanting to clone entire disk as a backup. Also… can Clonezilla ‘image’ an HDD with multiple partitions to a single .dmg file (Apple Image) and then restore from same image to create multiple-partitions (aas per source) on new HDD?

    • Clonezilla has updated a bit since this was written, and I’m afraid I’ve never tested it with Apple images at all.

      I have however cloned multiple logical partitions into a single disk image using Clonezilla, so as far as I know, the answer to both your questions is “yes”.

  9. i clone a 73 gig hard drive with four primaries on it.
    When I restored this clone to a new 320 gig hard drive. The results gave me an exact copy and
    it also reduced the size of the 320 to 73 gigs. Is there a way to solve this. I was able to return the
    drive, they had the equipment to format it back. I didn’t and it was a mess on the phone.
    So how do I clone a smaller size disk to a larger disk without reducing the size of the new drive. this could be costly and embarassing to a tech when explaining it to a customer

    • Resize your drive using EASEUS Partition Master Home Edition. Its free, just make a boot disk and do it outside of windows and you should be fine.

  10. What am I missing? Attempt to do a disk to disk clone following the steps available in this article or here… http://www.clonezilla.org/show-live-doc-content.php?topic=clonezilla-live/doc/03_Disk_to_disk_clone … but the target disk received no data, won’t boot. I even did a base install of windows xp on target disk, then attempted to do a disk to disk clone of a fully configured Windows XP disk, upon reboot of target disk the base install of windows xp was asking for further configuration to continue installing windows. CloneZilla stated the disk was cloned from the source and reported no errors.

    • How similar are the disks you’re working with?  I should think it would be fine as long as the capacity is acceptable but it may give a clue.  

        • Sounds like you’ve done everything right.  Disk-to-disk with identical drives should give you no hassle at all.  Sorry but I’m not sure I’ve got much to offer for help on this one.  

  11. I read CloneZilla can NOT restore/re-create the partitions from an image file with more than one partition.

    I have an image file, with 4 partitions, and it fails to restore to a new HDD, “Unable to find target partition….”

    How can I recreate the partitions on the new disk, from the image files??

    Any help is greatly appreciated!!! Thnx

    • Sorry, I haven’t done much testing with multiple partitions in a single image file.  What type of filesystem is it? Or are they different in the different partitions?

  12. thanks this helped me copy a failing HD to new one (same size different manufacture hd) and it worked like a charm.  i first tried to clone using dd but i couldnt get it to work then clonezilla worked great.  system booted up just like on old drive.  saved me hours of work redoing the server.

  13. wait, let me get this straight. I want to upgrade my laptop from 34 gig HD to a 120 gig HD. so I need to download clonezilla onto a USB stick, launch it, connect an external hard drive, and following the steps above, it will clone not only the Win 7 OS ( Pirated Ultimate version) and the laptop drivers, but all the program files as well I.E. MS office 07, itunes, all documents, powerpoints, ect. then I can take out the internal HD and replace it with the bigger one, plug the USB and the external hard drive back in, press the power button, and clonzilla will do its thing putomaticly.

    • Almost.  

      Unless CloneZilla has changed since this was written (which is certainly possible, it’s been almost two years) you may end up with a 34g partition on the new drive, the rest as empty space.

      This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I generally recommend having a secondary media partition for things like music and movies anyway.  That way you can wipe the Windows partition any time without losing your media or having to back it up separately.   

      So if you do disk-to-disk clone, you’l likely end up with a 34g Windows partition and the rest as empty space which can be partitioned any way you see fit.  

      I’ll just pretend I didn’t see the “Pirated” part.  =P

  14. multiple partitions ?
    I have a bootable usb flashdisk with two partitions : Dos and Linux ext2. I use Grub4Dos to select booting between the two partitions.

    Can Clonezilla clone this usb flashdisk ?

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