In the consultancy where I work, Acronis is the tool usually used to image drives. It’s a pretty reliable solution that comes with a pricetag that many small businesses simply cannot afford. When small businesses don’t have the budget to afford such tools, their drives do not get imaged. Without an imaged drive, it makes recovery from disaster a significant, if not almost impossible, task.

For anyone with a tight budget (and a DIY nature) who needs an imaging solution, the best tool for you might be Clonezilla. The Free Open Source Software (FOSS) tool offers the ability to clone an image of a machine and restore that image to either a single machine or multiple machines (40+ machines simultaneously). Clonezilla’s features include:

  • Free (GPL) Software.
  • Supports these formats: ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, reiser4, xfs, jfs of GNU/Linux, FAT, NTFS of MS Windows, HFS+of Mac OS, UFS of FreeBSD, NetBSD, and OpenBSD, VMFS of VMWare ESX.
  • Support for LVM2 under GNU/Linux.
  • Support for Grub 1 and 2.
  • Unattended mode.
  • Support for Multicast in Clonezilla SE.
  • Local disk, ssh server, samba server, or NFS server support.

In this tutorial, I walk you through the process of how to use Clonezilla for imaging drives. Tip: I strongly encourage you to test this process (both the creation and the restoration of an image) on a non-production machine before attempting to do so on a production-level machine.

Step-by-step instructions on using Clonezilla

Step 1: Clonezilla is used as a Live CD, so the live ISO image must be downloaded and burned. Make sure the correct ISO for the architecture needed is downloaded.
Step 2: Insert the burned ISO image into the disc tray of the machine to be cloned and reboot the machine. Make sure the machine boots from the CD.
Step 3: When the Clonezilla Boot screen appears (Figure A), select Clonezilla Live and press [Enter]. This will start the boot process for Clonezilla.
Figure A

You can also opt to boot from the install OS on the drive if you are not ready to run Clonezilla.

Step 4: Walk through the wizard to complete the Clonezilla boot process. In this wizard the language and keyboard keymap are selected. After that is complete, Clonezilla will prompt for which mode to enter. There are two choices: Start Clonezilla or enter the Clonezilla command line prompt. Only advanced users should use Clonezilla from the command line prompt.
Step 5: Select the type of cloning you want to work with from Clonezilla’s two options: device-image or device-device (Figure B). The device-image option will create an image of the source drive and device-device will copy the source to the target directly. The most common usage is device-image.
Figure B

Click the image to enlarge.

If you choose device-device, make sure the target device is equal to or greater in size than the source device.

Step 6: Choose where the image will be saved. There are six choices: Local device, SSH Server, Samba Server NFS Server, enter shell, or skip. If a USB-connect drive is the target, you should choose Local device (Figure C).
Figure C

Click the image to enlarge.

Make sure the USB drive is connected and ready before you make the choice.

Step 7: Now it is time to mount the partition to be cloned. All partitions on the drive will be available, so make sure the correct partition is selected. Remember, these partitions will be listed in the standard GNU/Linux naming convention (i.e., sda1, sdb1, etc.). Figure D shows the screen for these selections.
Figure D

In this image, the source to be cloned is a Windows XP machine running in a VirtualBox VM. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 8: It’s time to select where to save the image. The image is usually placed in the top directory (which will be labeled as “/”) of the target device. After this selection is made, a summary of the file system disk space usage will be printed out, and Clonezilla will be waiting for user input (pressing Enter).
Step 9: Choose the mode to run Clonezilla from the options Beginner or Expert.
Step 10: Select the mode for Clonezilla. The choices are: savedisk (save the entire disk to an image), saveparts (save the partitions to an image), restoredisk (restore the entire disk from an image), restoreparts (restore partitions from an image), recovery-iso-zip (create a recovery ISO disk), chk-img-restorable (check to see if an image is restorable). (Figure E)
Figure E

For cloning a disk, either the first or the second option will be selected. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 11: Name the image. I highly recommend including the date in the image name.
Step 12: Choose local disk for the source. This screen (Figure F) will allow the choice of backup destinations. If more than one drive is listed, make sure the correct disk is selected. It will also be necessary that the disks chosen have enough room to store the image.
Figure F

The naming convention will follow the Linux standards. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Step 13: It is important to have your image verified after creation. If this check completes successfully, the backup image is definitely valid; if the check fails, you need to re-do the Clonezilla process to make sure everything was selected properly. There will be one more confirmation, and then the creation of the image will begin. When the creation is complete, the image file will be on the target disk.
Step 14: In order to restore the image, you need to go through the process again and select (at Step 10) Restore partitions from an image. The process is reversed, and the image will be restored.


Disaster recovery is a critical facet of IT, and there’s no reason why small businesses should be left out due to budgetary constraints. Fortunately, Clonezilla is there to make disaster recovery possible, even for those with next to no budget for such a process.

More about Clonezilla on TechRepublic