How to Use Clonezilla Live to Back Up Your Hard Drive

This tutorial is going to show you how to use Clonezilla Live to back up your hard drive. Clonezilla is a free open-source and reliable tool for bare metal backup and recovery of disk drives.

Clonezilla Features

  • You can create an image of the current disk or partition (disk imaging), and restore the image to disk at any time.
  • Allows you to clone directly between two disks (disk cloning), without creating a disk image.
  • The disk image can be encrypted with ecryptfs, and saved to or read from local disk, SSH server, Samba server, NFS server, WebDAV server or AWS S3 storage.
  • The disk image can be compressed with GZIP or ZSTD algorithm.
  • Supports lots of file systems like ext4, XFS, Btrfs, F2FS, FAT32, NTFS, HFS+, UFS.
  • Supports MBR and GPT partition table.
  • Supports BIOS and UEFI firmware.
  • Clonezilla Server Edition allows you to do massive system deployment over the network.
  • Unattended mode: Almost all steps can be done via commands and options.

How to Use Clonezilla Live to Back Up Your Hard Drive

What You Need

  • A thumb drive to create a Clonezilla live USB
  • A hard drive that you want to make a backup of

Clonezilla is included in the repository of many Linux distributions, such as Debian, Ubuntu, Arch Linux, so why do we need to create a Clonezilla live USB? Can’t we just install Clonezilla on the operating system?  This is because Clonezilla currently doesn’t support online imaging/cloning. The partition to be imaged or cloned has to be unmounted.

If you have a Debian, Ubuntu, or Arch Linux live USB, you can install Clonezilla on your current live USB, then launch Clonezilla from the live USB (sudo clonezilla). But for the purpose of this tutorial, I will show you how to create and use Clonezilla live USB.

Note: I use a hard drive in this tutorial, but you can use any storage media (HDD, SSD, SD card, etc).

Step 1: Download Clonezilla Live ISO Image

There are three types of Clonezilla:

  • Clonezilla live: for single disk imaging and cloning.
  • Clonezilla lite server: for massive deployment.
  • Clonezilla SE (server edition): for massive deployment. A DRBL server is required.

If you just want to back up a single disk, choose Clonezilla live. Go to the Clonezilla live download page. There are two stable versions of Clonezilla live:

  • stable: based on Debian with no proprietary software. It may not work with the latest hardware.
  • alternative stable: based on Ubuntu with proprietary software for better hardware support.

I personally use the alternative stable version.

clonezilla live alternative stable

Then select the CPU architecture, file type and repository. You should choose ISO as the file type. If you use the ZIP file type, you might see the “missing partition table” error when creating Clonezilla live USB.

clonezilla usb

Step 2: Create a Clonezilla live USB

Note: If there are files in your thumb drive, I recommend backing up your files before creating the live USB.

Linux

If you use Linux on your computer, then you can use the dd command to create Clonezilla live USB. First, insert your thumb drive to your computer. Then open up a terminal window and run the following command to get the device name of your thumb drive.

parted -l

clonezilla live

As you can see, the device name of my thumb drive is /dev/sdb. Next, run the following command to create Clonezilla live USB.

sudo dd if=/path/to/clonezilla-iso-file of=/dev/sdX status=progress

To make sure every bit of information is written to your thumb drive, run the sync command.

sync

clonezilla live usb linux

Now you can boot your computer from the USB thumb drive.

Windows

If you use Windows on your computer, then you can use the Etcher tool to create Clonezilla live USB. It’s very simple to use. Install the software on your computer, then launch Etcher. It automatically selects your USB thumb drive. Select the Clonezilla ISO file and click Flash button.

clonezilla live usb

Then wait for it to finish flashing your thumb drive.

clonezilla windows

Once it’s done, boot your computer from the USB thumb drive.

Step 3: How to Use Clonezilla Live to Back Up Your Hard Drive

Once your computer is booted up from the USB thumb drive, you will be greeted by the Clonezilla Live boot menu. Choose the first item to boot Clonezilla live.

how to use clonezilla

Once it starts, you have the option to choose a language.

clonezilla bootable usb

And you can change the keyboard layout. (I use the default US keyboard.)

clonezilla linux

Then, it asks you if you want to use the Clonezilla wizard (which is easy for beginners) or use the command-line interface). Choose the first option to start the Clonezilla wizard.

clonezilla uefi

Next, select a mode. This tutorial selects the first mode.

  • device-image: create an image of the current disk or partition
  • device-device: clone directly between two disks, without creating a disk image.

clonezilla device image

After that, choose where the Cloned image will be saved. You have many options: local device, SSH server, Samba server, etc. This tutorial selects a local device. If you choose one of the other options, please follow the instructions to set up the network connection.

using clonezilla

If you choose local device and want to store the image on an external USB hard drive, then insert the USB hard drive to your computer now and press Enter.

clonezilla imaging

Then Clonezilla will scan your storage devices. As you can see, it detected my 31 GB USB thumb drive. Press Ctrl+C to exit the scanning window.

usb bootable clonezilla

On the next screen, choose your USB drive.

clonezilla ssd

Then you can choose if you want to check and repair the file system on your USB drive. I choose no-fsck because my USB drive is totally fine.

clonezilla file system check

Next, choose a directory to store the Clonezilla image. By default, it’s stored on the root directory of the storage device. Press Tab key and choose Done.

clonezilla live ISO

Then, it will show you how much free space your storage medium has. Press Enter to continue.

clonezilla amd64

Next, choose between beginner and expert mode. If you are a Clonezilla beginner, then choose the beginner mode.

clonezilla beginner mode

In the next screen, you can choose to save an entire disk as an image or save a specific partition as an image. This tutorial chooses the first one (savedisk).

clonezilla savedisk

Then give the image a name.

clonezilla ubuntu

And choose which disk you want to make a backup of.

clonezilla open-source clone system

Next, choose which compression algorithm you want to use to compress the image.

clonezilla compress image

After that, choose if you want to check the disk file system before backing it up.

clonezilla advanced extra parameters

And choose if you want to check the image is restorable.

clonezilla check the image is restorable

In the next screen, you have the option to encrypt the image, which is useful if you save the image on a network location. Since I will store the image on my local USB drive, I choose not to encrypt the image.

clonezilla encrypt image

And choose which action to take when everything is finished.

clonezilla savedisk to image

Now Clonezilla kindly gives you the equivalent command-line, so you can enter this one-liner next time you make a backup without going through all the questions again. Press Enter to continue.

clonezilla command-line

Press y to start saving your disk to an image.

clonezilla unattended mode

Once Clonezilla finishes its job, you can power off your computer. If the process failed, you can check the /var/log/partclone.log file.

How to Restore a Clonezilla Image to Disk

The restoration process is very similar to creating a backup. I won’t explain every step but show a few key steps.

After booting up your computer from the Clonezilla live USB, choose your language, keyboard layout and start the Clonezilla wizard, choose the device-image mode to restore the image to disk.

clonezilla device image

Then select where the image will be read from. If the image is on a USB hard drive, you need to select the USB hard drive and mount it as /home/partimag. Note that when you select a directory for the image repository, you should not choose the directory tagged with CZ_IMG.

clonezilla image repository

After that, you should be able to choose the restoredisk mode to restore an image to local disk.

clonezilla restore disk mode

And follow the rest of the instructions.

Create Clonezilla Recovery ISO Image

If your disk image is stored on a remote network location, but you want to restore the image on a machine without Internet connection, you can restart Clonezilla and create a bootable ISO image after you create an image backup for your disk. This allows you to boot other machines and restore the disk without an Internet connection. (You need to save the disk as an image first, then you can choose the image file to create an ISO file.)

Select device-image mode and then recovery-iso-zip.

clonezilla recovery iso zip

Choose the disk image file to create an ISO file from.

create ISO image file

When asked which device to be restored, enter ask_user, so you will be able to choose the destination device when restoring the image to disk.

recovery iso image file

And follow the rest of the instructions.

Clonezilla Drawbacks

While Clonezilla is reliable, it does have some drawbacks that limit its usage.

  • It doesn’t support online disk cloning/imaging. The disk has to be unmounted.
  • It can’t do incremental backup.

Backing Up Individual Files and Directories

If you just want to back up individual files and directories, not the entire disk, then you can use a tool like Duplicati to automatically back up your files to cloud storage. Duplicati can encrypt your files to prevent prying eyes.

Wrapping Up

I hope this tutorial helped you use Clonezilla live to back up your disk drive. As always, if you found this post useful, then subscribe to our free newsletter to get more tips and tricks. Take care 🙂

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