Mini How To: Cloning Hard Disks which fail using Clonezilla


Clonezilla is an excellent hard disk cloning utility for all disk formats, not just Linux. However, sometimes it gets things wrong and fails to complete a clone successfully. The good news is it tells you when things go wrong, but what to do next?

When I first started working in computing I used to provide operational support for IBM mainframes, and to do that you had to know something called JCL (Job Control Language), a mainframe scripting language. The DD (Data Description )command was a core component to this scripting language, so was rather surprised to find it exists in Unix and Linux.

In Unix and Linux OSs, dd it is used to do low level copying of raw data and is actually used by Clonezilla to do a disk copy should all other methods fail. In my case Clonezilla tried to clone the disk using a method it though would work so never got round to trying dd.

To use dd, boot off a live CD, I use GParted as this shows me graphically the disk structure. As with any disk imaging tool, triple check what you are doing before pressing Enter after typing the command, otherwise you may regret being too hasty.

Open terminal and enter the following:

dd if=/dev/source of=/dev/destination

if stands for Input File and sets the source

of stands for Output File and sets the destination

for example if my source disk is /dev/dsa and my destination disk is /dev/sdb then I would enter

dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb

As with any traditional Unix/ Linux command, when you press Enter, nothing is displayed on the screen showing progress. If there is a problem, you will be told via a message. Your only clue that the copy is happening will be the hard disk activity light.

To find out more on what dd can do in addition to disk to disk copies, see this excellent article at backuphowto.info.

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7 thoughts on “Mini How To: Cloning Hard Disks which fail using Clonezilla

  1. Nice guide
    If you want to see progress with the copy you can use ddrescue instead of dd, ddrescue will also manage a failing hard drive and IMO the best job of getting you back online.

  2. Hi, Using Clonezilla recently caused some grief (original Win 8 HD needed repair after cloning), so this is a good trick!
    I used an external hard disk, & DD ran for 15 hours (!) to copy 500GB. Next time, I’ll use the 2nd HD space in my laptop!

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