Clone your Linux hard drive in its entirety in a few easy steps. With a little command line magic, and the use of some software already installed on your computer, you can make a carbon copy of your entire hard drive. Or, if you prefer, use a simple live CD for the job.
It’s not hard to find backup software for Linux, but such software mostly only backs up files. That’s enough for most people. Some, however, will want their applications, settings and tweaks preserved as well. Linux users in particular value this because of their tweaking habit, which can sometimes break a system entirely. It’s better to have a fallback point than to rebuild your system from scratch.
Backing up isn’t the only reason to clone your drive, however. It’s also extremely useful for those upgrading to a bigger storage device. Get up and running on your new drive without losing any data or your setup; it’s just a clone away.
dd, The Ultimate Linux Cloning Tool
Command line enthusiasts doubtless know and love “dd”, which can copy one entire drive to another. Some joke that “dd” stands for “disk destroyer”, and in the wrong hands this software currently could wipe all of your data. Make sure you know what you’re doing before you use it. This tool is probably already installed on your computer, if you’re using Linux. Check your package manager if not.
I used dd to clone my Ubuntu netbook’s drive; here is what the command looks like while running:
The process will take a while, of course, so be patient. You should also be absolutely certain that you know how to use this program, because doing it wrong could wipe your drive.
Confused? Let’s review the command:
sudo dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/dev/sdb1
First of all,
sudo. With some distros, including Ubuntu and its derivatives, it is necessary to use “sudo” before any administrative function. Other distros might need to use root; check your distro’s documentation to learn more.
The next word,
dd, is the program we are using to copy the drive. This isn’t so tricky so far, is it?
The next bit,
if=/dev/sda1, is a bit more confusing. Don’t panic! The
if= is simply telling the program what the input is; that is, the drive we’re copying. I’m cloning my primary hard drive, which is
/dev/sda1. I was able to identify the drive using Ubuntu’s disk utility:
If you prefer a command line way to finding this information, use “mount”. It will list everything mounted on an Ubuntu system:
Users of other distros should check their documentation should these methods not work.
All we need now is the destination drive; that is, what goes after
of=. This will usually be a USB drive, and you can find out how to identify it using the same methods described above. In my case, of course, the answer was
Note that this process will overwrite everything on your destination drive, so check to make sure there is nothing on your USB drive that you wanted to keep.
Once you’ve got your command, hit enter and the cloning will begin. This will take a while, particularly if you have a large drive, so be patient.
Clonezilla, An Easy To Use Cloning Live CD
Confused by the above? Maybe you need a simpler tool. I recommend Clonezilla, a free hard drive cloning software. Clonezilla runs from a live CD, and features a simple user interface:
You’ll still need to be aware of what you’re doing, of course, but this tool can simplify your job immensely with its step-by-step breakdown.
Cloning your hard drive is a useful way to back everything up, and is great for getting set up on a new hard drive without re-installing your operating system. Lucky there are tools for this job for Linux users. Note that these tools will work to copy Windows and Mac partitions as well, although you’ll need a Linux environment to run them from.
These tools can, in the wrong hands, destroy data. MakeUseOf takes no responsibility for any data lost, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you click “enter”. Feel free to ask for help in the comments below, though; we want this to go smoothly for you.