How to clone your hard drive with Clonezilla

While there are plenty of backup programs out there to keep your favorite files safe, very few are capable of making an exact copy of your hard drive, complete with passwords, bookmarks, and any other settings you've configured.

Clonezilla Live is a free data recovery and cloning program that allows you to do just that. The special Clonezilla “live” image can be copied to a USB stick or DVD. As Clonezilla boots into RAM memory, it can easily copy the data on the hard drive to an external drive. 

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Download Clonezilla and prepare the bootable media

Visit the Clonezilla download page. Under 'CPU Architecture' select 'amd64' if you have a 64-bit processor. Under 'file type' choose 'zip' if you want to install Clonezilla on a USB stick and 'iso' to burn it to a DVD.

Windows has built in support for burning ISO images to DVD. Mac users can also use the Disk Utility system to burn a DVD. If you have downloaded the ZIP file and want to start Clonezilla Live from USB, follow the steps on the website. We recommend using Linux Live USB Creator.

Prepare the backup drive and start Clonezilla

Connect your backup drive to your computer, making sure it is larger than the internal hard drive. Remember that all files already on the backup drive will be lost if you clone the internal hard drive with Clonezilla.

Insert your Clonezilla Live USB or DVD and boot your computer. You may need to change your device's UEFI settings to load them from the external drive. Contact your computer manufacturer for help with this.

When Clonezilla is loaded for the first time, press "Enter" to accept the default settings.

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Start the wizard

Clonezilla will ask you first to choose your language. Use the arrow keys to move up and down and enter to select.

The following screen will ask about the keyboard options. Press “Enter” to choose the default “don't touch keymap” option. The following screen will ask you if you want to “Start Clonezilla” or “Insert Shell”. Press "Enter" to start Clonezilla itself.

Choose the mode

Clonezilla will now ask you to choose its operating mode. If you want to make a copy of your hard drive as a disk image, choose the first option 'device-image'. This will allow you to create an image file, which you can then save to a directory on an external drive.

The goal of this guide, however, is to create an exact copy of your hard drive on another drive, which you can do by selecting the second option “device-device”. As the name suggests, this allows you to directly clone partitions from one disk to another.

Define i parameters

Clonezilla will then ask you to choose the parameters before running the wizard. If you just want to make a direct copy of a partition or drive, select “Beginner Mode”. The 'Expert' mode allows you to define more advanced options such as running in text only mode or cloning everything except the bootloader. As such, you should always choose 'Beginner' mode.

You can also choose 'Exit' to return to the command line prompt. You can use it to run scripts prepared to automate the cloning and backup task. See the Clonezilla website for more information on this.

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Choose the cloning method

Clonezilla will now ask you to choose how to clone your disks. The first option will create an exact copy of your hard drive including partitions like bootloader and any others you previously defined. This is the simplest and simplest way to make an exact copy of your hard drive.

Choose the second option if you just want to copy an external hard drive partition to your list.

This really makes sense if all your personal data is on that partition, such as some Linux configurations that store user information in "/ home" and have separate areas for system files.

Choose the local disk as the source

At this stage, Clonezilla will ask you to choose the disk you want to clone, which is most likely your internal hard drive.

For those who are not used to Linux, these are done in alphabetical order, so the first hard drive is called "sda", the second "sdb" and so on.

If you're unsure, you may also be able to confirm which drive is correct by checking its capacity on the left side. The local disk you want to copy must be smaller than the external drive.

Choose a local disk as the Destination

Clonezilla will now ask you to choose the external drive where the data will be cloned. If you only have an external drive connected, this will be the only option Clonezilla presents.

Remember that the destination drive must have a larger capacity than the local disk, otherwise the cloning process will fail.

Once the destination disk is selected, you will be prompted to set additional parameters. In simpler terms, these are a way to interactively check and repair the local file system before cloning.

Press Enter to choose the default option, which is to skip this step.

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Choose what to do when finished

Clonezilla will ask you what to do once the cloning process is complete. The first (default) option is to keep running and offer the choice of rebooting or shutting down the machine. The other options are simply restart or shutdown respectively once the copy process is complete.

Press "Enter" to confirm your choice, then "Enter" once more to continue.

Clonezilla will display a warning that all data already present on the destination drive will be deleted during the cloning process. Type "Y", then press "Enter" to proceed.

Clonezilla will ask you if you want to clone the local disk bootloader. If you want to make an exact copy of the drive enter 'Y', then press the 'Enter' key.

Cloning begins!

Clonezilla now starts collecting information about drive partitions.

Clonezilla can copy a variety of filesystems using 'dd'. This is handled by a program called 'Partclone'. Partclone will start automatically at this stage and start the cloning process to copy the data blocks from one drive to another.

Once the process is complete, Clonezilla will ask you to shut it down or restart it or do it automatically based on the settings you chose in the previous step.

To restore the local disk from the newly created backup, simply follow the steps in this guide again, making sure to choose the local drive as the destination disk rather than the cloned drive.

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