Friday, April 19, 2013

Clonezilla

Clonezilla is a free Linux-based operating system contained entirely on a single live CD. It is self-configuring and does not require installation to a hard drive. Its purpose in life is to clone or image hard drives or partitions.

Clonezilla offers a Debian version and a Ubuntu version. I recommend the Ubuntu version of Clonezilla because of its more recent kernel, which implies better support for modern hardware. Both versions suffered display corruption on my system, but the corruption in the Ubuntu version was less severe, affecting only the initial, temporary startup screens rather than the important screen where the cloning process takes place.

Using the versatile Clonezilla isn't a no-brainer by any means, but the developers have made an effort to simplify what can be a fiendishly complicated task, cloning (or imaging) a hard drive or partition, and they have inserted multiple safeguards that protect data. Therefore I use and recommend Clonezilla for users of both Windows and Linux.

Although Clonezilla is a Linux distro, that doesn't signify; it can read a Windows NTFS drive with ease, as can all modern Linux distros. Windows can only read Windows drives, which is similar to the limitation where Windows can only network with other Windows systems and its many other severe and far-reaching limitations, bugs and security holes. At least Windows knows how to access more than 3.5 gigs of RAM now. That's nice. Maybe by Windows 50, Microsoft will figure out home networking with non-Windows computers.

Clonezilla is easiest to use when cloning a drive to a larger or same-sized hard drive, but today I cloned a 2.0tb drive to a 1.5tb drive, which is not quite as easy. For one thing, Clonezilla will not perform a direct drive-to-drive clone if the source drive is larger than the target, even if the data on the source would easily fit on the target drive. After many failed experiments, what finally worked for me was using Gparted (another Linux distro on CD) to shrink the largest partition on my 2.0tb drive by over .5tb to let it fit on the 1.5tb drive. Then I used Clonezilla to clone each of the two partitions on the 2.0tb drive, the tiny root partition and the large /home partition. I selected "device to device clone," "Beginner," accepted all the defaults, and everything worked out well. In the end, I had a bootable, perfect clone of my Linux Mint Nadia KDE drive and all its data.

Thank you, Gparted and Clonezilla!

Cloning a Windows 7 drive is more complicated, because Microsoft spends all its development dollars on making things more complicated for the end user. I discovered through trial and error that Clonezilla must be booted in UEFI mode in order to clone my Windows 7 drive. Otherwise, Clonezilla will not be able to properly read the drives.

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