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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.