Clonezilla Live

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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Clonezilla , drawing on the

G.N.R.S.U's picture

Clonezilla , drawing on the advantages of Partition Image and Norton Ghost !!!


JShuford's picture

CloneZilla has saved my A** a number of times!

...I'm not just a "troll", but also a subscriber!

TRY Redo Backup!

Talal-pro's picture

Redo backup is kind of better than clonezilla for beginners.
Including some GUI utilities and special GUI mode for special video cards even if it doesnt support it!

Clonezilla vs Clonezilla Live & no Version Number

MicDal22's picture

I've been using Clonezilla and it worked fine, but now I see it is called Clonezilla Live? Are these two compatible? / same?

Can anyone elaborate on the differences?

Why is there no version number for Clonezilla Live?

Please keep it simple for us and stick to one product name, enhance it over time, and include version numbers to avoid confusion.

Clonezilla sometimes get s device (drive) assignments wrong

Tom Brown's picture

CloneZilla is a fine product, but it has one distinct drawback. It often gets the drive (device) assignments wrong.

Our company's BackupPC (another fine FOSS product) archive is on a Slackware 12.x server. The assignments and mount points are fixed in /etc/fstab and stay fixed no matter how many times the server is rebooted. The device assignment never varies.

/dev/sda1 - swap
/dev/sda2 - / (Slackware file system)
/dev/sda3 - /home directories
/dev/sdb1 - BackupPC partition
/dev/sdc1 - external drive partition for cloning BackupPC partition

I use CloneZilla to copy the BackupPC partition (currently 500GB) instead of rsync, tar or cp because CloneZilla is so much faster. I'm talking orders of magnitude faster as in several hours versus 1-3 days.

However, CloneZilla routinely gets the device assignment wrong. If you are not alert and checking the mount assignments, you many find that Clonezilla has backed up the wrong partition or over-written the wrong partition. Then CloneZilla may repeat the disaster when you try to repair the damage.

Be warned. Double check the device assignments.

restore to virtual machine?

David Brown's picture

I have a new computer that came with Windows 7 loaded on its hard drive. This drive is unplugged, and the computer happily runs Linux Mint from a second drive. I've never booted the computer into Win7 and I'm hoping it hasn't yet been activated.

Can Clonezilla back up the Win7 partition and restore it to a virtual machine?

Clonezilla with a VM

Michael Reed's picture

It might work. Unfortunately, I'm not familiar with how difficult Windows 7 makes things. However, you could back up the Windows 7 partition to a file and then restore that partition from the file from within a VM. My be worth a try, but then, I'm not quite sure what you'd be ruining if it went wrong, in terms of registering Windows 7 as I'm not much of Windows cat these days.

There's no reason why it shouldn't work but various versions of Windows tend not to like being moved between machines. This means that if your MB blows up, and you need to replace it with a different make or model, you can end up rather stuck.

UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

Clonezilla is great

Charley's picture

Clonezilla is a great product. I have been using it for a couple of years now.

I use it to backup and restore workstations to and from an SSH server. It's far easier and faster than using Samba or NFS.

The only thing that should be noted is..... when Clonezilla initially loads, you should choose the option to drop down to command line shell (Option # 2). You need to operate locally as root if you want things to go smoothly. You do this by typing "sudo su -" at the command prompt. Then you reload the Clonezilla program by simply typing "clonezilla".

Maybe the later versions of Clonezilla don't not require this anymore. I don't know. Out of force of habit I still operate it in this method.

Clonezilla is definitely a great Open Source Software project and I hope they keep up the good work.

Clonezilla saved my wife's laptop many times

bobwdn's picture

I have been using Clonezilla for about three or four years, now. My wife works for a major top 100 company (in the USA) and their field laptops are rarely seen by their IT Department. Well, because Clonezilla can be run from a livecd, no additional software is loaded onto her laptop and yet, I can back it up every week.

She had trouble with an upgrade they had sent her to do and her laptop would not start. By the time I had gotten home from work, her IT had decided that she needed to send the laptop to them. She was boxing it up to go, when I walked in. Her complaints regarding how she was going to work without her laptop were bad enough that I said, "Give me your laptop."

About an hour later, I had restored it from my last backup. It was running, again. The next day, she had IT on the telephone and they talked her through her system upgrade and all was fine. She'd explained to them that I was good with computers and she did not know what I had done. Which may have been the wrong thing to say.

A few days pass and my cellphone rings. It was a vice-president of her top 100 company asking what I had done to fix my wife's computer. I was reluctant to admit, due to their corporate policies regarding field laptops. He explained that my wife had given him my cellphone number and she, nor I was in any trouble, "just what had I done, please explain." So, I did explain. A few months pass and now field employees have been issued a livecd and a usb hard drive to backup their computers up to.

Funny thing is that they never sent the livecd to my wife, nor the usb hard drive. So, I do not know for sure if they got Clonezilla or what. My wife was instructed that I could continue doing my weekly backups, if I didn't mind. So, for about an hour and a half, every Sunday morning, I backup her laptop. End of story.