Learn to clone a hard drive with Clonezilla

You want to transfer Windows and/or your data to a larger hard drive or to a fast SSD. With Clonezilla you can do this without losing data or having to reinstall the operating system. With this tool you can easily clone a hard drive.

Tip 01: Image versus clone

There are several ways you can make a copy of a disk (partition). This can be in the form of an 'image' or disk image file, but in this article we choose a clone. It copies the partition or disk directly to the target media one-to-one. You can keep such a cloned disk, for example, as a ready-made backup or it can be useful when you want to migrate your system to a larger disk or SSD.

For our cloning operations, we use the free Clonezilla, an open source Linux distribution, but don't worry: Linux knowledge is not required at all.

Clonezilla comes in two main variants: a live edition and two server editions. The latter are mainly intended for mass cloning operations in networks and will not be considered further. It's Clonezilla live that gets our undivided attention.

Tip 02: Download

When you surf to the Clonezilla site and go to the download section, you will see several downloads of Clonezilla Live. We are going for the stable version and at the time of this writing it is version 2.6.2-15. Click on the option stableThen you still have to make several choices. Bee CPU architecture you prefer amd64, especially if uefi-secureboot is activated on the device you want to boot with Clonezilla Live. Bee File type choose your preference iso if you want to burn Clonezilla to a CD/DVD (see tip 3). Whether we choose zip if you want to create a live USB stick (see tip 4). The option repository just leave you set to car. Confirm your choices with the Download button and save the file to your disk.

Tip 03: Live CD

Let's first assume that you downloaded the iso file with the intention of turning it into a live CD/DVD. Make sure there is an empty disc in your burner, right click on the iso file, choose Burn disc image file, select your CD/DVD and confirm with To burn. If that doesn't work, you can use a free tool like Free ISO Burner. Download the program and launch it. Refer to the iso file, provide a volume name and press the burn-knob. After a while, your live CD/DVD will be ready to use.

Clonezilla is booted from a live medium (CD, DVD or USB stick)

Tip 04: Live media on USB stick

We actually prefer a live medium on a USB stick instead of a CD/DVD. Then it works best in combination with a downloadable zip file from Clonezilla. Insert a USB stick of at least 1 GB into your PC, open Explorer, right-click on the drive letter of the USB stick and choose Format. At the option File system do you choose FAT32 and then enter a suitable volume name. Feel free to check the box Quick Format and confirm with Start. Note: this will erase all data on this USB stick.

Back to the Windows Explorer window, where you copy the entire contents of the extracted zip file to the root folder of your stick. Then open the subfolder on your stick \utils\win64, right click on the file makeboot64.bat and choose Run as administrator. Is the intended system still 32 bit (you can find out via the key combination Windows key + Pause, look behind the field System type), then go to \utils\win32 and start there makeboot.bat on as administrator. Check to be sure that you are really working on your USB stick and not on your hard drive! Confirm with Yes, after which a message pops up that the media is being made bootable. Press any key to continue the procedure.

Tip 05: Start up

Clonezilla is now ready on a live medium, be it a CD, DVD or USB stick. The intention is now that you start the PC from which you want to clone a disk or disk partition. You may not need to do anything for this and Clonezilla will start up automatically after turning on your PC. However, it may also happen that you must first press a key or key combination to bring up a special boot menu on your system, where you then select the desired boot medium. On older computers, you can first start the BIOS setup window, where you then adjust the boot order so that your system boots from CD/DVD or USB stick first. Consult the manual for your system if necessary.

As soon as Clonezilla starts up, you will see a selection menu appear. You can select the top option here (Clonezilla Live (Default settings, VGA 800x600), but you may prefer a higher resolution. In that case, select Other modes of Clonezilla live and choose you Clonezilla live (Default settings, VGA 1024x768). That may take a while, but if neither of those works, then you should consider slightly less demanding options like Safe graphics settings or Fail safe mode can try.

Then choose the desired language: probably English, since Dutch is not yet available. In the next window you can select via Change keyboard layout a custom keyboard layout and country (such as Belgian or English). Finally, click Start Clonezilla.

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