Easily Clone Your SD Card For Trouble-free Raspberry Pi Computing

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How many SD cards do you use with your Raspberry Pi? One? Two? Perhaps you don’t even have an SD card, and rely instead on a microSD with an adaptor to boot your Pi into Raspbian or whatever your preferred OS is.

Using multiple SD cards is more convenient than using just one, enabling you to easily switch between different operating systems for different projects. For instance, you might have an SD card dedicated to running your RaspBMC media centre and one for your RetroPie gaming system. A third SD card may be just the basic Raspbian, optimised to handle other types of projects or for learning the Scratch development language.

Whether you have one SD card or several, one thing that you will need in each scenario is the ability to back up your cards to avoid the problems that occur when your Raspberry Pi fails to boot.

Cloning Your SD Card? Here’s What You’ll Need!

Planning to clone your SD card? It makes sense, especially if you’ve experienced a Raspberry Pi that refuses to boot because the operating system has become corrupt (something that usually happens after you fail to shutdown correctly).

Fortunately, cloning is quick, simple and uses the same utility you used to image the SD card with your Raspberry Pi OS, Win32DiskImager.


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You’ll also need plenty of hard disk space. When you create an image of the SD card, the image includes the empty space as well as the portion of the file system that holds the data. We’ve previously told you how using a larger SD card will extend its lifespan, but cloning means that your will be creating an image of the card that is the same as its capacity. So for an 8GB card, you’ll need 8GB on your hard disk drive to save the image to.

However, you can get around this by zipping the file to save space. Uploading to cloud storage will also take the strain off your hard disk drive.

Creating A Disk Image Of Your Raspberry Pi OS

As mentioned, you should be familiar with the Win32DiskImager utility already. To download a fresh copy, head to Sourceforge.


To create an image of your Raspberry Pi, insert the media into your card reader, and launch Win32DiskImager. In the Image File field, enter the file path and name to the location you’ll be saving the image to, and give it a name.

Select your SD card drive letter in the Device box, and when you’re ready click Read to begin the process. After the image is created, safely eject your SD card and replace it into your Raspberry Pi.

When Is The Best Time To Clone Your SD Card?

As with any operating system imaging process, the best time to clone your SD card is when it is configured exactly how you want it. Only then will it be perfect as a backup that you can easily revert to following disaster.


For instance, rather than installing RaspBMC and creating a clone of the media centre operating system right away, it would be a much better idea to install RaspBMC, boot it up, download all of the updates and get the configuration right. It is only when this is done should you create an image of the SD card.

When the operating system refuses to boot, you can then re-image the card with the cloned version, and get back up and running in minutes.

Restoring Your Raspberry Pi Image To SD Card

If disaster strikes your Raspberry Pi operating system, restoring your image file is a case of inserting the SD card in the reader, then using Windows’ Disk Management tool (you could search for this via the Start screen in Windows 8, or in all versions use the quicker WIN+R > diskmgmt.msc) identify and right-click the device, using Delete to remove all partitions on the card. This will prevent the device becoming corrupted.


With your card cleaned up, load Win32DiskImager again and browse for the image file, selecting it. Next, set the drive letter for the Device and click Write to begin reimaging.

After completion, the your cloned Raspberry Pi OS image will be written to the SD card and ready to use!

Raspberry Pi: Keep It Sweet!

Despite being a wonderful and versatile piece of hardware, the Raspberry Pi is occasionally frustrating, usually when a bad shutdown has corrupted the file system.

Using this method of cloning your cards will help to keep this problem to a minimum, enabling quick restores rather than endless repeats of the slow setup process.

Have you tried cloning an SD card, or plan to? Let us know, especially if you have any tips for storage and indexing your Raspberry Pi images.

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