Disaster Recovery

Review: Clonezilla system imaging

Clonezilla is an efficient, networkable, piece of software that can clone a single machine or up to forty machines simultaneously.

The ability to quickly and reliably image the machines in your company is as precious as gold. You never know when a piece of hardware will go down. And just as there are plenty of machines to image, there are as many tools to image them with. One tool is the open source Clonezilla, which is based on a number of other packages coming together to create an efficient, networkable, piece of software that can clone a single machine or up to forty machines simultaneously.

Specifications

  • Supported file systems:
    • ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, xfs, jfs of GNU/Linux
    • FAT, NTFS of Microsoft Windows'
    • HFS+ of Mac OS
  • Two versions are available:
    • Clonezilla Live: Use a CD/DVD or USB to clone (single machine only)
    • Clonezilla SE: Uses a DRBI server to clone multiple machines
  • Additional vendor information
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who's it for?

Clonezilla is for any IT pro looking for a reliable, cost-effective tool to enable them to image and restore machines quickly and safely.

What problem does it solve?

Clonezilla not only makes the process of cloning systems easy, it also makes the process more flexible by allowing the user to clone to a local disk, USB-attached device, or networked share. And because Clonezilla is flexible enough to clone either a single machine or up to forty at once, it is a solution that can be used in just about any size environment.

Standout features

  • Free
  • Supports numerous file systems
  • LVM2 support
  • Multicast support
  • Easy to use curses-based interface

What's wrong?

The biggest problem most will encounter with Clonezilla is the interface. Most users aren't accustomed to the curses-based interface, so they might initially be unsure how to use the tool. The next issue is that differential and incremental backup is yet to be included. This is a feature that is planned, but as of now - no luck. And, as usual when dealing with open source software, there is little to no support.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If you're looking for a solid, flexible, reliable disk imaging tool, and do not want to spend any of your precious IT budget, Clonezilla might be the perfect tool for you. No, it is not backed by a company that will be there to back you up when something goes wrong, but it is backed up by a huge open source community with plenty of knowledge and skill. This is a tool for anyone who needs solid backup, but isn't concerned about support.

User rating

Have you encountered or used Clonezilla? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

24 comments
irprogrammer
irprogrammer

I use clonezilla exclusively for my imaging needs. The DRBL server does take a bit of research to get going, but once it's going, it's been very dependable for me. I have a 64 bit Ubuntu running DRBL on an HP Z400 workstation. I have a small standalone network in my lab with a Netgear switch and an Avocent 16 port KVM. I can do a batch of 16 at a time and then switch the uplink on my switch and connect to the live network join our domain and get updates if needed. My record using this method has been 208 machines in a single work week. I also put clonezilla on bootable usb drives and gave them to my field techs. They can have a user working again in about 30 minutes.

Sharyathi
Sharyathi

Hei Tools looks great, I remember working with another cloning tool - systemimager. One major problem I faced with using that tool was - 'support to ecryptfs'. Cloning encrypted partition used to fail. Interested to know how Clonezilla handls it

santeewelding
santeewelding

I like the curses-based interface. List curses, please.

seanferd
seanferd

I think you need to look at that one again.

seanferd
seanferd

curses pcurses pdcurses ncurses xcurses tinycurses Pick yer poison.

tightconcepts
tightconcepts

Ghost Solution Suite 2.5 Pro: many, very featureful Con: constantly have to refresh inventory, becuase it ties computers to their mac address and it can be easy to clone wrong computer. Also integrity can be a pain. say you want to delete a computer so you go to try and do so.. oops cant do becase it is part of a task... so you go to try to delete the task... oops cant do becuase it uses an image file. So you have to delete and add things in a very particular order.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

I would probably only use it on test boxes or for very small deployments. The reality is that Acronis gives you far more robust features. With that being said, in this day and age there is no reason to use imaging, save for backing up, over unattended installs.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

My only complaint is its default behavior of breaking larger images into 2 gig files. I can't figure out how to override it, but it doesn't bother me enough to research it.

StealthWiFi
StealthWiFi

I spent months trying to find a good tool about a year ago for images, and stumbled on CloneZilla. So far it has been great for us (small shop) I image all boxes onto a nice terra USB drive, it labels and dates to keep sorted. Restoring works well too, I have only had to restored 2x but both ocasions were smooth.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I have also used Novell Imaging as well as Altiris. I find that as a rule of thumb, Acronis and Ghost worked well. The biggest issue I have seen is ease of use. In this area, I liked Acronis. Altiris offers the most potential especially regarding the ability to remotely image machines but the initial set up is a bear.

daniel3168
daniel3168

I use Symantac Ghost client the corporate version here at work to support our 400+ workstations works lovely when we have to retool the entire floor. But i think i will try clonezilla for work i do on the side looks like a handy app to have.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

They all look like overkill for the 250-system environment where I work. I may image six or eight systems a month; often less. Some of my systems will run four years or more without re-imaging. I've tried to wade through MS configuration instructions for unattended installs, but it just looks like too much of a pain in the can. I'm slogging through the WAIK for W7 and it looks like I have to do a complete reinstallation from scratch before I can capture an update of an existing image. Why build a server and load up a bunch of tools to do what I can do with a Bart-PE CD and Ghost?

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

We use Ghost.. and I use Ghostcast server to get/push the images.. to have only 1 big file and not files divided every 2GB.. use the switch '-split=0' and you will be fine.. some of my biggest images are around 7GB.. if you use the console, also include the switch. One thing I had to do was to reformat my external hard drive that would not take files over 4GB.. but that's another story.. Cheers :)

Jackmagurn
Jackmagurn

Hi, when you restore will it resize to accomodate a newer drive replacent?

lastchip
lastchip

Will it compress the file, similar to how Ghost does, or do you need an equivalent sized space to write to?

playyourcards
playyourcards

GHOST pros - ability to browse image, support cons - cost, boot/network driver problems CLONEZILLA pros - free, cd network boot works, speed cons - server not easy to config, can't browse image without mounting Jack, may i suggest putting a clonezilla server tutorial together? i could not get it to work for the life of me.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

If you have a lot of machines you need to maintain, it's easier to do unattended installs. With a few number of machines, it's easier to image. With that being said, the tool my company makes is far superior to SCCM when it comes to unattended install of operating systems (and even msi packaging). You only need to modify the unattend.xml once and then bam, you're on your way. The AIK build is just clicking next, which is nice. Not to mention that Acronis is built right in, so you can snapshot and go...woo! Anyway the point being not all unattended tools are equally evil. :-)

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I've made occasional attempts to find this switch. I suspected it existed but was never able find it documented. Thanks again!

lastchip
lastchip

I'm looking to clone a RAID 5, which is why I was asking.

yakupm
yakupm

Without compression, the cloned image will only be as large as the used space of the disk being imaged. If you choose compression, the default compression works just fine. I use clonezilla for cloning simple disks and hardware raid volumes.

daniel3168
daniel3168

I have never had any issues with the boot/network drivers for ghost. We can boot from a USB drive or push the a image remotely from the server. I use sysprep to rename and join the pc to our domain automatically. I also like AI snapshot that comes with ghost to create unattended installs. I do admit though ghost can be a bit of a pain to setup if you are not to familiar with it.