How many times have you wished you had an image of that now-defunct PC? At least with an image you could easily restore that system once the dead hardware was replaced. Only problem is that most cloning software is either too expensive to own or too difficult to use. So wouldn’t it be great if there was a free and easy-to-use cloning application? Good news…there is.

Clonezilla is a free, disaster-recovery software developed by the National Center for High-Performance Computing (NCHC) software labs in Taiwan. With Clonezilla you can clone a single drive or even a single partition within a drive and then recover that drive later. The cloned data can be stored as an image file or as a duplicate copy of the data. That cloned partition (or drive) can then be stored on an internal drive, an external USB drive, a CD/DVD drive, or a networked drive (using Samba, SSH, or NFS). Clonezilla can be run from its own bootable environment from a CD/DVD or from a USB flash drive.

For a review, check out “Product Spotlight: Clonezilla System Imaging.” This blog post is also available in PDF format in a free TechRepublic download.

Now, unlike some of its competition, Clonezilla does not have a fancy GUI. Clonezilla is a curses-based tool that is basically text-based. But that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to use. In fact, Clonezilla is remarkably easy to use, considering the complexity of the task at hand. And in this blog, I am going to illustrate to you just how simple this task is with Clonezilla.

Step 1

The first step is to download the ISO image from the Clonezilla Web site. Make sure you download a stable version of this tool. Once you have the file downloaded, you need to burn it onto a disk. NOTE: If you want to use it on a USB drive, use a tool like UNetbootin to make this process simple. After you have burned your media, you are almost ready.

Step 2

Attach your external drive (or, if you are using a USB, insert a burnable CD/DVD) and then insert your Clonezilla media.

Step 3

Reboot. You have to boot from the Clonezilla media for this to work. What you will see is the Clonzilla boot screen (Figure A). For the task of creating an image, you will want to select Clonzezilla Live (Default settings) and press Enter. You will now see a Debian boot sequence appear.

Figure A

You can select a resolution to better suit your monitor from this menu.

Step 4

Choose your language. From the language screen, you need to select the language you want to use for the process. This step should be fairly self-explanatory.

Step 5

Choose your keyboard layout. You have four options:

  • Select Keyboard from arch list
  • Don’t touch my keymap
  • Keep kernel keymap
  • Select keymap from full list

Most likely the Don’t Touch My Keymap setting will work just fine. I have used this option for both workstations and laptops without issue.

Step 6

Start Clonezilla. At this step you can either drop into a console or start Clonezilla. You don’t want to monkey with console here, unless you are a seasoned Clonezilla veteran.

Step 7

Choose your device image. In this step you are going to choose between creating an image or doing a direct, device-to-device copy. Creating an image is always best, especially for a first-time clone or backup. Since we are creating an image of our drive, select the first option (Figure B) and tab down to OK.

Figure B

Both methods do clone/restore, but only one method creates an image of your drive.

Step 8

Where do you want to put the image? In this step you need to tell Clonezilla where the image should be saved. You have six choices:

  • Local Device
  • SSH server
  • Samba server
  • NFS Server
  • Enter shell
  • Skip

For an external or USB drive, you will want to select local_dev (Figure C). This destination is also the easiest, as you do not have to worry about setting up SSH, Samba, or NFS. Just remember that these images can get VERY large, so you will want to have an external drive that is greater than or equal to the drive you are imaging.

Figure C

Choose a destination, but local_dev is the most likely choice.

Step 9

Select the repository that will hold your image. This is where you need to be very careful. If you are in a Linux environment you can almost be sure that you do NOT want to select the drive labeled like hda. You will want to look for an hdb or hdd (or sdb, sdd, etc). If you choose the “a” partition, you run the risk of overwriting your current working drive.

Step 10

Name the image. All you do here is give the image a name. You might want to include the date in your image name so that you know what the most recent image file is.

Step 11

Watch the process happen. Although Clonezilla is pretty snappy (for an imaging tool), you can expect anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, depending on the size of the partition or drive you are imaging. I recently did a clone of a 160GB drive in just under two hours.

Once the image has written to the device, you can then reboot your machine, knowing you have a backup in case of disaster.

Final thoughts

Although Clonezilla might not have all the bells and whistles of tools like Acronis, it is an outstanding solution for those on a budget or for fans of open source software. It’s worth a look for personal use as well as for SMB usage.

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