Clonezilla – Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software

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Imaging hard drives is the process of taking a hard drive and copying it bit by bit to create an exact replica, in a way an “image” just like a photograph of a person is a snapshot of them at any moment in time. The cloning part is the process of taking that “image” of a hard drive and placing copies of it on one or more other hard drives.

In a cloning project I worked on, my favorite freeware product from my googling journeys was Clonezilla. Clonezilla is free hard drive cloning software for taking a snapshot of a system and reverting back to it later as a backup or to get things the way you once liked them.

When you have a new computer and begin installing software that you enjoy using, that would be a great time to image the hard drive in case something happens later. This can save time instead of having to reinstall your operating system if there is a virus or corruption in data. Creating a copy of a hard drive can also save you from ruining the state of a computer due to tinkering, installing software, etc. If you do PC repair for customers or as a hobbyist, you can also use this software before beginning work on some computers in case you would need a point of reference for any reason. Clonezilla, clones a 40 gigabyte hard drive in about 15 minutes.

Clonezilla has two forms, Clonezilla live and Clonezilla ServerEdition (SE). Clonezilla live is used for cloning single machines while Clonezilla SE is for multiple machine deployments. This article is about Clonezilla live.

When using the live version of the Clonezilla free hard drive cloning software, I burned it to a CD and then set the computer to boot from that CD. The first screens after Clonezilla begins, let you choose video resolution, language and keyboard layout.

Free Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software

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The following screen is where you will select to “Start_Clonezilla” or “Enter_Shell” which is to enter command line mode, to make things easier on myself I selected “Start_Clonezilla”.

Advanced Hard Drive Cloning Software

At the next screen I selected “device-image”. The other option is to go direct from partition to partition or disk to disk or any combination in between, in case your choice is to only clone a single partition of a drive to another drive. I wanted to clone the whole enchilada so I selected “device-image”.

device-imageGimp

The next screen was selecting where to place the image that was going to be created. Because I was saving the image across our network, I did not choose the more popular option of “local_dev” to save on a local hard drive or USB drive. If using “local_dev” you will just need to ensure the storage device has sufficient space for the image being cloned. The option that worked for me was selecting “samba_server” which is, in this arena, equivalent to a shared folder on a Windows network. You must allow write permissions on the shared folder for the account that is chosen.

samba_serverGimp

After this step in the process, another thing that has to be decided is how to get an IP address, either statically assign one or send out a DHCP broadcast in search of one so the computer can begin talking on the network.

Then the next option is choosing the location where the Clonezilla image is going to be stored. You can either enter an IP address of the computer where the image will be stored or you can enter the Fully Qualified Domain Name of the computer, which might be something like “cloneserver.internaldomainname.com”. The next step is to choose which domain that computer resides on. Keeping with the previous example, I would enter “internaldomainname.com”.

Then you will be prompted to enter a username that has permissions to that save location. The name of the shared resource must also be provided, Clonezilla by default will elect to use a folder called “/images”. You must ensure that your shared resource and the response here match. We were placing our images in a folder named “CLONEZILLA”, so we would change “/images” to “/CLONEZILLA”. Make sure yours match also; if you get red letters in a message, there was a problem.

Now you will be prompted to hit Enter to put in the password associated with the account you chose. You will see a password prompt but when you type, no asterisk marks “***” will appear. Hit Enter after typing your password correctly. You must also select beginner or expert mode, since I had never used it before and I like doing things the easy way, I selected beginner mode.

In our project, when I wanted to copy a hard drive and save it as an image for use on other computers, I selected the “savedisk” option. When you want to restore an image to a hard drive, the process is very similar except at the option page where you originally selected “savedisk” you would select “restoredisk” instead. Some of the options after choosing to restore are not there; like you won’t be prompted to name the image but rather select it from a list of image files that are detected on the shared resource.

restorediskGimp

Then you must give the image a name. Which hard drive you are making a replica of, or pulling an image to, must also be selected, if there is only one hard drive to clone or overwrite then it will already be selected for you.

imagenameGimp

Then you can begin the restoring process, by hitting Enter a couple of times, and confirming the actions. For other freeware cloning alternatives you could try nLite, PC Inspector Clonemax,Marcium Reflect Free Edition, or Odin and let us know what you think.

Check out the software and documentation from the Clonezilla website.

What software do you use to clone your hard drive over a network? Let us know in the comments.

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Comments (21)
  • Ian

    I recently switched over to Clonezilla from Ghost SS and DriveImageXML. Clonezilla is by far the easiest and fastest method to create an image and restore it to another computer. I recently reimaged 180 computers using it, and it saved me hours upon hours of work. The next step will be installing a PXE server so that I can remote boot into Clonezilla from the network.

  • Dominik

    I’ve been looking for hours for cloning software, I checked few mentioned above and this one so far is the best for me,
    thanks for great advise.

  • Clint

    You can’t go wrong with CloneZilla. We triple boot our Mac machines at work. A single program to create and restore… BRILLIANT! Compression is excellent for NTFS, HFS and EXT, and the ability to netboot and multicast… What more do I need to say. An absolute lifesaver.

  • Louie

    I’ve read about these kinds of situations and everyone tries to help out as much as they can. But this article has the most detail and has definitely been the most help to me. Thank you.

  • Neil

    Here’s a question for those that have used Clonezilla.
    I’m not particularly up to date on pc architectures and what’s possible hence my question.

    I have a (bootable) PATA drive that I’d like to image and then restore against a SATA II drive, is this possible?

    It would allow me to replace the PATA drive with a larger & faster SATA II drive in my main pc.

    Thanks

    • Benjamin

      I haven’t tried using Clonezilla for hard drives that aren’t identical, but I don’t think it works even to a larger size. But with the ability to clone partitions instead of entire disks, you may have the option to just clone your operating system partition and another partition with your installed programs then save those instead of the entire disk. Then whatever space is remaining after the clone you may need to activate into yet another partition. Haven’t tried it, but this might get you going in the right direction. The screen where you choose something different than the instructions in this article is the “Clonezilla: Select Mode” dialog box. There is a snapshot of it in the article, and I think the option you would choose for your task would be “saveparts” for the imaging and “restoreparts” for the cloning.

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.