Clonezilla is a bootable CDROM designed for partition backup and restoration. Unlike SystemRescueCD, Clonezilla Live doesn't contain an array of utilities, rather, it is a single, focused tool. However, if you're interested in simply backing up or restoring whole partitions to or from files, or copying one partition onto another, Clonezilla might be just what you're looking for.
There are two primary uses for a tool such as this one: backup and subsequent restoration in the event of a mishap or creating a clone of an existing system. So, you could install Linux on one machine, backup the entire disk to a file and then copy the setup to other machines. On the other hand, the partition imaging allows you to do a system backup that can restore a complete system, unlike a traditional backup utility that can only restore your files.
When imaging to a file, the resulting file should be smaller than the entire size of the partition because Clonezilla doesn't back up the free space. It has support for most of the file systems that you are likely to encounter and it can backup those that it doesn't recognise, although this results in larger files. When restoring a partition, the hard disk drive must be the same size or larger than the source hard drive, but you can copy a smaller hard drive onto a larger one.
Note that another version of Clonezilla, Clonezilla SE (Server Edition) is designed for restoring partitions to multiple machines via a network for mass cloning. Clonezilla Live, the version that we are discussing here, can restore or backup a single partition over a network or a removable storage device such as a USB stick, or even another local hard drive. A partition image file can't reside upon a partition that is going to be operated upon.
Now that we've determined what Clonezilla is for, how easy is it to use? The answer is that the procedure is very simple. The start up menu is, as you might expect, mainly orientated towards starting the partition copying utility, although it does feature options for network booting, starting FreeDOS or running Memtest. This means that, if armed with only a Clonezilla Live disc, you might find yourself stuck if you needed to edit some files or even edit the partition table of a disk.
Once Clonezilla Live has booted, it presents the user with a text mode, menu driven interface that is used throughout the system. After choosing the keymap and language, one then answers a simple question to determine whether to clone to and from image files or to copy to and from partitions. You select the source and destination partitions from the menu and confirm that you are ready to proceed. After confirmation, Clonezilla churns away for a while, and hey presto, your cloning or imaging operation is complete. It's as simple as that.
Naturally, the usual warnings about being careful with a tool like this apply.
Clonezilla is designed for one task, and that orientation brings with it the advantage of simplicity of operation. For this reason, it could form the basis of a regular system backup or cloning set up, even though it doesn't offer any maintenance features outside of the core functionality.
The Clonezilla website.
UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.
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