How to Clone Hard Drives
Every so often, someone comes to me needing to clone hard drives. Maybe it’s because their old hard drive is dying and needs to be replaced, but they don’t want to lose their data or programs. It could also be because they are running out of room and want to move to a newer, larger hard drive. A few times, this happened to me personally as well, a client got an SSD drive and wanted to move everything over to the SSD drive. So how do we do we get this done? Well, there are quite a few ways to do this, but in the next two articles, I will focus on two pieces of software that will let you clone hard drives: Clonezilla, and EaseuS Todo backup (free). Why these two? Because:
- Clonezilla is open source (which I like to support) and free (free is good)
- It can handle almost any file system you can imagine (Windows, OSX, Linux, and others)
- Can be used from a Live CD (that’s the best way in my opinion)
- Has several different cloning methods that can be used (in case one doesn’t work)
- I have used it before to clone damaged drives and succeeded where other software didn’t work
- EaseuS Todo backup is also free (which is good), but it is not open source (that’s ok)
- Uses a GUI (not text based like Clonezilla)
- Can be installed to clone drives within Windows
- Can be made into a live, Linux-based CD (the paid version can also make a Windows based live cd)
- Can clone from a larger hard drive to a smaller hard drive
For this tutorial, I will start with Clonezilla first. In the next one I will show a similar process with EaseuS Todo backup.
Clonezilla (use to clone to smaller drives to bigger drives):
The first step is to download a copy of Clonezilla here; make sure to read about the different versions to see what’s best for you. Personally I like the Alternatives branch and use the AMD64 version because it gives me the greatest flexibility. However, if you are using an “older” computer to perform the cloning process, then the i386 version might be what you need.
In either case, once you have the CD image, you can either burn it to a cd or make a bootable USB and use that to perform the clone. Now that you have you media ready, boot from it and you will see the following screen:
Hit enter to pick the first option on the menu; this is what most people will want to do unless you really know what you are doing.
Stuff will start scrolling down the screen, don’t worry, and just let it do it’s thing. Once that’s done, you will be asked about what language you want to use and then about what keyboard layout you have. for the keyboard, I usually choose “don’t touch keyboard layout” because Clonezilla should automatically detect the one being used.
Once that’s done, you should see something like the next image; this is where are actually start using this software. Press enter.
Now we need to choose what kind of cloning we want to do. You can choose to clone the hard drive to a file (which you can keep for later if you want to), or you can choose to clone the hard drive directly to another hard drive. Which one is better depends on what your specific goal is. For back-up purposes, device to image is your best bet. If your hard drive is going bad, then maybe device to device would be better. If you are doing data recovery, it’s best to try and close to an image and do the data recovery on the image.
Once we choose our clone type, we have to pick which hard drive we are cloning, and where to put the cloned image. Be EXTREMELY careful at this stage! Make sure you are copying to, and from, the right hard drive. It is easy to accidentally clone a hard drive in the wrong direction and lose client data. In this case we will be using a local device (USB drive or hard drive), but other options are available such as Network Share.
The next screen will prompt you to select the correct device and then to “Save parts” or Save disk”. “Save parts” will let you choose specific partitions to clone; something most people will not want to do. Most of the time, people will want to choose “save disk” because this will clone the ENTIRE hard drive.
Next you will pick the drive you want to clone, and the drive you are cloning to (or saving the clone image to). If you are cloning to an image, you will also need to name the file you are saving.
After that’s all done, you will get a y/n prompt making sure you want to proceed. Assuming all the setting are correct, type ‘y’, hit enter, and away we go.
If you want to restore the image file you made, follow the same steps as above but select “restoredisk” or “restoreparts” instead of “savedisk” or “savepart. You will then find the image you made earlier, and pick what hard drive to restore that image to. That’s pretty much it. The only problem is, what if you want to clone a larger hard drive to a smaller one? Well, in that case, you will want to use EaseuS Todo backup (free); next time I will show you how to use that.