Clonezilla 3: Copy and clone disk images to your heart's content

Even non-sysadmins may find this Linux live ISO handy


Clonezilla 3 is a new version of an (almost) universal disk-imaging and duplication tool which can copy, or image, almost any mass storage device.

Remember Norton Ghost? It was discontinued nearly a decade ago now, in 2013. There are lots of alternatives to it out there, including commercial ones, but Clonezilla is handy because it can handle almost any disk format, and it's totally free. Version 3 just appeared and it's got a bunch of new features, including support for Apple APFS, ChromeOS Flex, and Linux drives encrypted with LUKS.

Clonezilla is not a general-purpose tool, or a graphical live desktop for general disk work. If you want that, try SystemRescue 9, which we looked at earlier this year.

Clonezilla is more focused. It's a small (roughly 350MB) live Linux ISO image which boots into text mode – in a choice of resolutions – and it copies disks, and that's pretty much all. (To be fair, it does have a memory-tester and a copy of FreeDOS 1.0 built in for emergencies. It would be good to see that upgraded to FreeDOS 1.3.)

Choose either the i686 (32-bit) or x86-64 ISO file, download it, and then write it onto a USB key, or just copy the file onto a Ventoy key. Even burn it onto a CD or DVD if you're retro. You then boot the machine whose disk you need to duplicate and copy away.

Clonezilla also supports PXE boot over the network, and there is a special server edition which uses DRBL to let you boot a whole LAN full of blank workstations off a single server and provision them that way.

Once booted, it duplicates or images partitions from a local drive to another drive. The destination can be a local disk or a share on a server.

It supports almost every disk format out there. On Linux, ext2, ext3, ext4, reiserfs, reiser4, xfs, jfs, btrfs, f2fs and nilfs2; on Windows, FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, exFAT and NTFS; on Macs, HFS+ and APFS; on the big three BSDs, UFS; Minix's filesystems, and on VMWare ESX, VMFS3 and VMFS5. So it covers most options, except perhaps ZFS and very old Macs.

Unix graybeards may now be thinking "but I could do that with dd," which is perfectly true, but the advantage of understanding the file systems being copied is that Clonezilla only copies blocks that are in use, which can make the process dramatically quicker.

The new version is based on Debian "sid" as of May 22, 2022, and has the latest stable kernel, version 5.17. Both Clonezilla and DRBL are put together by a team led by Steven Shiau at the Taiwanese National Center for High-performance Computing.

It's one of those tools that either sounds great, or you can't imagine why you'd need it. If you're in the latter group, permit us to offer an example of why it might be handy even if you aren't a network administrator.

A fairly common scenario is wanting to upgrade an old laptop with an SSD drive. Grab a spare USB key, format it with Ventoy and drop Clonezilla and SystemRescue onto it. Buy a $5 USB-to-SATA cable along with the new drive. (If it's a desktop, you can even skip that part.) Attach the SSD as a second drive. Boot Clonezilla and duplicate your old hard disk onto the new superfast drive. Optionally, start SystemRescue and use GParted to resize the partition. Shut down, swap drives, and you're done, and have just saved the cost of a commercial disk-copying tool that costs as much as a low-end SSD. ®


Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022