Thursday, June 12, 2008

Clonezilla the open source harddisk partition cloning solution

Partition cloning has been a handy tools for many computer techies and users ever since the emergence of a famous software named as Ghost in 1996. Ghost is still around nowadays under the umbrella of Symantec. On the other hand, Acronis has produced their competing True Image products and has gained much popularity too.

Partition cloning software is useful for many purposes, such as:

  • Backup and restore of the whole harddisk or partitions in the harddisk.
  • Provisioning of standard set of software by cloning the harddisk or partition image from existing computer to another.
  • Transferring data from one harddisk to another, eg. upgrade new harddisk to computer.
  • Deploy testing, benchmarking or R&D computers, whereby the harddisk will be wiped out and restored to original state after the project.
  • and many more...
Both Symantec Ghost and Acronis True Image are great tools, only that you need to purchase license for each of the computer that you're going to use them. There are other free and/or open source alternative solutions available, and I find Clonezilla developed by the National Center for High-Performance Computing (NCHC) in Taiwan is among the best.

There are 2 varieties of Clonezilla available, Clonezilla Live and Clonezilla Server Edition. Clonezilla Live is suitable for single machine backup and restore, while Clonezilla Server Edition is for massive deployment in corporate environment, whereby it can clone many computers simultaneously.

Multicast (a technology whereby a single image can be sent simultaneously to many machines without putting greater stress on the network than sending an image to a single machine) is supported in Clonezilla Server Edition. You can also remotely use it to save or restore a bunch of computers if PXE and Wake-on-LAN are supported.

Clonezilla is developed on Linux and based on a couple of open source projects such as DRBL, Partition Image, ntfsclone, and udpcast. You can boot from its live CD and use it directly.


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