Norton Ghost and its open source alternative Partition Image have been the software to go to for cloning hard drives for some time now. Today we’re look at a further alternative that the open source world has to offer – Clonezilla
Ever experienced a computer crash the day before you have to turn in an important project? As we all know, backups are your best friends in such situations. There are several types of back-up systems out there today. One method is to clone your hard drive, so that you can restore everything as it was in the event of a crash. There are a few software packages, both commercial and free, which help you to do this. Norton Ghost is probably the most commonly used solution for years. But let’s take a look at Clonezilla, which is an open source alternative that gives Ghost a run for its money.
Clonezilla comes in two flavours: the Clonezilla Server Edition (SE) and Clonezilla Live. Clonezilla Server Edition is to be installed on a server in a network. It clones the hard drives of computers over the network. Clonezilla Live, on the other hand, is a Live CD or USB drive based solution. You boot the computer that you want to clone with the Clonezilla Live CD and take a backup. The second option is particularly useful if you are unable to boot into the operating system of your computer.
To get started with the Live version of Clonezilla, you need to download the image from here and burn it onto a CD or a USB drive. You then make the computer boot from the CD or USB drive containing Clonezilla. You should see yourself booting into a Linux distribution. When you boot, you need to pick a version of the kernel to boot in. Select the video resolution, language and the keyboard layout and you should soon be in business. Then you’ll come to the ‘Start Clonezilla’ part of the process, which is where the fun begins.
Select the cloning option you want. We went with creating an image of the disks. Next you need to select where you want the image placed. You can place it on a local device such as a USB drive connected to the machine, or you can copy it over the network to a mounted drive. If you select the network option, you will need to set up the network settings next and configure the necessary network protocol like Samba or NFS. After this you will need to enter any passwords required to access and write to this remote location. Then the image creation and copying will begin.
The process used to run the Clonezilla Server Edition (SE) is quite similar to that of Clonezilla Live. Clonezilla Live runs the same software as the Server Edition, but off a live CD or USB flash drive. This is how we create an image of a hard drive. Now let us look at how to restore the image onto a computer.
Under the hood, Clonezilla seems to be quite up to date with network devices, network sharing protocols and external storage hardware. It handled everything we threw at it with grace. We think this is quite important, as the last thing you want while you are trying to recover from a previously backed-up copy of your system is for the system to tell you that it can’t read from the device or file system you just threw at it.
The interface design of Clonezilla is simple, clean and quite straightforward to use. Cloning hard drives is not a task that everyone performs on a regular basis. It is quite a specialised task, usually performed by people with a rather advanced knowledge of how computers work. Keeping this in mind, the folks at Clonezilla have built a package with advanced features, to cater to the needs of advanced users. The software does its work correctly, with a good deal of efficiency, and is pretty well documented on the project’s website. So overall, we’re mighty impressed with the package and would definitely recommend it.