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clone hard driveClone your Linux hard drive in its entirety in a few easy steps. With a little command line magic, and the use of some software already installed on your computer, you can make a carbon copy of your entire hard drive. Or, if you prefer, use a simple live CD DOWNLOAD: 50 Cool Uses For Live CDs DOWNLOAD: 50 Cool Uses For Live CDs It is perhaps the most useful tool in any geek's toolkit, but do you realize all the things live CDs can help you with? If not, it's time to read "50 Cool Uses For Live... Read More for the job.

It’s not hard to find backup software for Linux Déjà Dup - The Perfect Linux Backup Software Déjà Dup - The Perfect Linux Backup Software Read More , but such software mostly only backs up files. That’s enough for most people. Some, however, will want their applications, settings and tweaks preserved as well. Linux users in particular value this because of their tweaking habit, which can sometimes break a system entirely. It’s better to have a fallback point than to rebuild your system from scratch.

Backing up isn’t the only reason to clone your drive, however. It’s also extremely useful for those upgrading to a bigger storage device. Get up and running on your new drive without losing any data or your setup; it’s just a clone away.

dd, The Ultimate Linux Cloning Tool

Command line enthusiasts doubtless know and love “dd”, which can copy one entire drive to another. Some joke that “dd” stands for “disk destroyer”, and in the wrong hands this software currently could wipe all of your data. Make sure you know what you’re doing before you use it. This tool is probably already installed on your computer, if you’re using Linux. Check your package manager if not.

I used dd to clone my Ubuntu netbook’s drive; here is what the command looks like while running:

clone hard drive

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The process will take a while, of course, so be patient. You should also be absolutely certain that you know how to use this program, because doing it wrong could wipe your drive.

Confused? Let’s review the command:

sudo dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/dev/sdb1

First of all,


. With some distros, including Ubuntu and its derivatives, it is necessary to use “sudo” before any administrative function. Other distros might need to use root; check your distro’s documentation to learn more.

The next word,


, is the program we are using to copy the drive. This isn’t so tricky so far, is it?

The next bit,


, is a bit more confusing. Don’t panic! The


is simply telling the program what the input is; that is, the drive we’re copying. I’m cloning my primary hard drive, which is


. I was able to identify the drive using Ubuntu’s disk utility:

clone hard drive

If you prefer a command line way to finding this information, use “mount”. It will list everything mounted on an Ubuntu system:

clone hard drive

Users of other distros should check their documentation should these methods not work.

All we need now is the destination drive; that is, what goes after


. This will usually be a USB drive, and you can find out how to identify it using the same methods described above. In my case, of course, the answer was



Note that this process will overwrite everything on your destination drive, so check to make sure there is nothing on your USB drive that you wanted to keep.

Once you’ve got your command, hit enter and the cloning will begin. This will take a while, particularly if you have a large drive, so be patient.

Clonezilla, An Easy To Use Cloning Live CD

Confused by the above? Maybe you need a simpler tool. I recommend Clonezilla, a free hard drive cloning software Clonezilla - Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software Clonezilla - Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software Read More . Clonezilla runs from a live CD, and features a simple user interface:

clone hard drive

You’ll still need to be aware of what you’re doing, of course, but this tool can simplify your job immensely with its step-by-step breakdown.


Cloning your hard drive is a useful way to back everything up, and is great for getting set up on a new hard drive without re-installing your operating system. Lucky there are tools for this job for Linux users. Note that these tools will work to copy Windows and Mac partitions as well, although you’ll need a Linux environment to run them from.

These tools can, in the wrong hands, destroy data. MakeUseOf takes no responsibility for any data lost, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you click “enter”. Feel free to ask for help in the comments below, though; we want this to go smoothly for you.

  1. germeten
    July 5, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    OK the first problem I run into running mount in terminal is I get: /dev/sdb1 on /type ext4
    According to your instructions, my HD should be sda but it's not. My CD drive may in fact have master status. Question is how do I identify my current HD to the new one I wish to clone. Don't want to make any fatal errors!

  2. johnC
    April 14, 2016 at 12:48 am

    Justin,, I ran into a file lock issue with using dd but it was good enough to get the
    job done with copying my hard drive to a USB stick.

    I deleted the file lock but got the error again and after digging thru it , I seen a issue
    with a symbolic link of a file into a file that was in /tmp. It was plexing me and I
    am trying to understand it. Any ideas??

    Otherwise, like your 'dd' tips and thank you. JohnC.

  3. Timal
    January 23, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    You and the commenters obviously know nothing about dd and cloning a hard drive.

    • Justin Pot
      January 24, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      I know enough to get the job done, and to try to teach other people, but I could always learn more. Got any tips?

    • Concerned Comment Viewer
      October 5, 2016 at 2:23 am

      And you have no idea to be useful or helpful in any of this... so please keep your comments to yourself so others may actually learn something that you pretend to know, but do not share.

      • Timal
        October 5, 2016 at 3:39 am

        Thanks for caring. What exactly are you here to "learn" about? How NOT to clone a hard drive? Be my guest. And yes, I will keep my comments to myself just like you are keeping yours to yourself. Have a nice day!

  4. Anders
    July 22, 2011 at 12:55 am

    This is ok method, as long as you don't use it to install on new/other computers.  Then there are much better methods.  Like FAI or other automatic installation softwares.

  5. Babr
    July 21, 2011 at 7:13 am

    You can also compress dd on the fly like this;
    dd if=/dev/sda1 |gzip > /backup-path/somename.img.gz
    reverse looks like this;
    gzip -dc /backup-path/somename.img.gz | dd of=/dev/sda1
     If you backup your root partition always do it with a live-cd, as said by jahid65.
    It is not smart to include a running /tmpfs that contains the thread of your dd command!

  6. jahid65
    July 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    I prefer fsarchiver, though it's not a partition cloning tool. It makes a compressed archive of a partition/file-system. you can put more than one partition in one archive. you can split that archive also. One of the advantage is that the file-system can be restored on a partition which has a different size and it can  be restored  on a different file-system. But you have to restore archive using live cd's (only applicable for root partition) or other linux distro installed in your HDD which has fsarchiver insalled. just make sure while you backup/restore archive the particular partition should be unmounted. well you can backup mounted partition(in case of root partion), but it is not preferable.

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