Wednesday, September 14, 2011

ImageX vs Clonezilla

In the last little bit I've been playing with imaging systems as part of a project trying to virtualize an old NetWare servers. As part of this I learned of Clonezilla. Clonezilla is open source disk imaging software that can be downloaded as a live CD.

Clonezilla has a lot of options:
  • Clone partitions
  • Clone whole disk
  • Clone to file (local disk, Windows share, SSH server, NFS)
  • Clone directly to disk
Clonezilla works with multiple partition types. From a Windows perspective, it understands both FAT and NTFS partitions. For any partition type that Clonezilla understands, the blank space in the partition is skipped. For any partition type that Clonezilla does not understand a sector by sector copy is performed.

Lately when I've been moving Windows computers with failing hard drives, I've been using ImageX. My general process has been:
  1. Boot from WindowsPE disk with ImageX
  2. Use ImageX to copy local partition contents to file over the network
  3. Replace hard drive
  4. Boot from Windows PE disk with ImageX
  5. Use diskpart to create necessary partitions
  6. Use ImageX to copy image file contents back to local partitions
This process allows me to make partitions on the new disk of any size, but requires me to manually make those partitions. The Clonezilla process can be simpler.

  1. Add new disk to computer
  2. Boot from Clonezilla Live CD and clone disk to disk.
  3. Configure new disk as first in the boot order.
As you can see, there are definitely less steps. If you don't have the cables to connect the new disk internally, you can also use a USB drive for the initial cloning. Alternatively, even if I save the whole disk as an image file, it includes the partitions which saves me the hassle of creating them. Which also means that I don't forget about utility partitions included by many vendors.

The main problem with Clonezilla pops up if you are cloning to a smaller disk than the original. Clonezilla has no way to directly clone to a smaller disk. To overcome this, you can use GParted Live cd to shrink the NTFS partition before cloning. Clonezilla is smart enough not to care about unpartitioned space. So, as long as the partitions fit on the new disk, all is good.

I like Clonzilla because it is menu driven rather than me having to remember various switches to get things done.

Note: After using GParted to shrink the NTFS, the NTFS partition was in an unclean state. I had to boot the original OS and do a proper shutdown before Clonzeilla would image it. You can also get around this by manually force the status to clear within the live CD, but that was an unnecessary risk.


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