App Directory: The Best Disk Cloning App For Linux

Linux doesn't have quite as many disk cloning apps as Windows, but but you can do just about anything you can imagine with the super powerful Clonezilla live CD.

Clonezilla

Platform: Any Price: Free

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  • Back up drives and partitions to image files or other drives
  • Copy a drive block-for-block directly to another drive
  • Supports a very large number of file system types
  • Can reinstall GRUB 1 and 2 after cloning
  • Can access image files on local disks, an SSH server, SAMBA server, or NFS server

Clonezilla's biggest advantage is its applicability to nearly any situation. It doesn't matter what OS you're running, what file system you use, or what kind of clone you want to run — Clonezilla will probably work. It isn't quite as user-friendly as truly graphical options, but it's easier than using the command line and offers the same amount of power and number of options. Plus, if you're using Linux, you're probably more than adept enough to use Clonezilla. The built-in ability to install GRUB is particularly nice for Linux users, and if you do want to use the command line, Clonezilla has an Unattended mode that lets you do just that.

The most annoying little quirk with Clonezilla is that the destination drive has to be equal to or larger than the source. If you want to do any resizing, you'd have to do it in something like Gparted first, since Clonezilla doesn't have any kind of built-in partition manager. It also can't to differential or incremental backups; it's really more of a clone-everything tool rather than a backup tool. It also has some issues with software and firmware RAID options, and it can't create explorable images. Still, for most cloning operations, it's got power enough to satisfy most people.

If you're looking for something really user-friendly, Redo Backup & Recovery is like a tiny little Ubuntu live CD with backup utilities built in. From it, you can clone drives and manage partitions, browse the web for help as you do so, and even clone drives to network shares, which is really great. Its cloning tool isn't quite as powerful as Clonezilla, but it'll do the trick most of the time and with ease of use that few Linux programs can match.

On the other side of the spectrum is dd, which is a powerful and very popular command line tool designed for cloning drives. All you need to clone a drive is a few well-placed keystrokes, no need to download and burn another live CD. For more on how to use dd, we recommend checking out this guide from our friends at the How-To Geek.

Gparted is worth a brief mention, though it can only copy partitions — it can't actually clone a drive in the truest sense. If you're just copying data, it will be more than fine, but it won't copy bootloaders stored on the MBR or anything like that.

Got another cloning tool we didn't mention? Share it with us in the comments.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.


Comments

    After using Clonezilla Server for some time, I switched to using a system called 'FOG'

    http://www.fogproject.org/

    I use it to capture and deploy images across our organisation (~400 machines). Calling it a 'cloning tool' would be a massive understatement- it is more like a complete replacement for something like Ghost Server, but with additional capabilities including software deployment.

    +1 for Clonezilla. When trying out new operating systems, I used to clone my hard-drive onto my 3TB drive using CZ, then format my hard-drive. I then installed whatever it is I want on there to try it out. After the fact, I could just restore the image and off I went.

    This is a little less relevant, now that you can boot off VHDs using something like EasyBCD or EditBCD, but it's still good to know. And if you have tons of storage, you can take backups of your drives at various points in case of failure.

    +1 for Clonezilla! Used it last week to create a master disk image with apps & settings for a lab full of 27" iMacs.

    You mention the regular dd, but fail to list the actual forensic imaging tool of the GNU userland (whiich is what's used on Linux) - ddrescue. It's an actual multi-pass forensic and data recovery imager, with an algorithm very similar to paid tools like DeepSpar. The only thing it doesn't do (without a separate tool) is head mapping.

    Note: ddrescue is not to be confused with dd_rescue, an abandoned wrapper for the regular dd. For some weird historical reason, Debian and Ubuntu call dd_rescue 'ddrescue' and ddrescue 'gddrescue' in their package repositories.

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