Clonezilla



For quite a while I’ve used ghost4linux (g4l) for my disc cloning needs. What I REALLY like are the ability to do a network copy of the image to an ftp server and the built in dd_rescue to rescue data from a failing hard drive. Unfrotunately g4l does a bit by bit copy of a drive which means it can take a while and it copies the full drive capacity (say for instance 80GB) even if you only have 5GB worth of information. Now, it can be compressed and if you massage the drive by defraging/filling empty space with ones before you start you can squeeze the image down pretty small, but… sometimes that’s a big task (I remember leaving one box writing zeros to the drive overnight to prepare the empty space for a g4l cloning.) Anyway…. I’ve run across clonezilla recently and am VERY impressed – it’s basically a wrapper around partimage – it will only copy the data component of a disc’s contents if it recognizes the filesystem (most linux filesystem types ext2/3/reiser plus ntfs and fat… it seems like a couple others too.) If it doesn’t recognize the filesystem it drops back to bit by bit mode which is nice. The only other thing I would want from it is better documentation and dd_rescue capabilities. (And maybe a fuse module to be able to image to/from ftp servers.) It supports several network approaches (samba/ssh) for writing/reading images over a network.

The really impressive features seem to be those that I have rare/little use for, and that is the clonezilla server as well as drbl server. It seems you can clone MANY machines simultaneously via multicast or unicast – boot them via pxe. It sounds as though with drbl you can send customized hostnames/etc… in other words this would be GREAT for managing a computer lab. True Ghost Corporate editoin competition.

There is also a bundled livecd with clonezilla (for individual cloning) and gparted (for disk partitioning/resizing/etc.) that makes an excellent addition to the toolkit of any computer tech.

Here’s the FAQ of drbl, a howto for setting up clonezilla and drbl on ubuntu (on my to-do list) and the clonezilla.org web site. The software was written in taiwan, some of the documentation can be a bit hard to get through, but it’s a GREAT tool. (Maybe I ought to look at writing some documention or step throughs for them to help….)

I “discovered” clonezilla about a week ago and I’ve already used it more times than I can count – although I’ve kept g4l around for those failing hard drives – this has replaced g4l for my “ok I’ve got the system the way I want it, let me image it in case I need to roll it back” situations. (One image I converted using a VM – restore the image to a drive and then use clonezilla to put the image back – I went from 18GB in the image to about 4.5GB which helps on the server storage space side….)

Did I mention it’s pretty fast too? It can move 5 GB around the network in less than 30 minutes – I don’t recall getting an exact time. But my 6 GB xp vmware machine seemed to take about 30 minutes to clone and then 30 minutes to restore (to a larger drive.) (It just seemed more straightforward to do it that way than to try to resize the vmware image file.)

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