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Symantec Ghost used to be the tool to use, but from what I read, you no longer get a cli-client, unless you are willing to buy the Ghost Solution Suite at least 5 licenses and have another service running on a server somewhere.

So what tool do you recommend for disk cloning and image-based backup.

There are several OSS products, but it isn't entirely clear how well they support NTFS.

I am not really to just get a list of cloning. Instead, I would like to know what tool you use, why you choose that tool, and what you use it for.

After reading the answers I have a followup question. Given the tool you suggest, is it possible, and how easy is it to extract a particular file from the image without having to restore the entire image?


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you should edit your title to "What is your recommended disk cloning tool?" – Berek Bryan Apr 30 '09 at 19:45
The Symantec Ghost Suite still rocks though, you don't need a ghostcast server running to use the CLI tools - they're the same great Ghost tools we've come to love - promise. The "Norton Ghost" product is some other useless imaging product rebranded these days... – Oskar Duveborn May 2 '09 at 21:17
should be community wiki – Daniel A. White May 2 '09 at 23:39

15 Answers 15

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Acronis has some good products.

We have been using their backup and restore products with success for about a year.

I believe they have a product just for cloning but their backup and restore software can also be used as a cloning tool.

Edit: Acronis has a trial period where you can try their products for a month. This really sold us because we were able to test and verify that the product did what we wanted it to do.

Edit: They have support for both Windows and Linux. Not really sure about Mac.

I've been using Acronis True Image for a long time. Very stable, and probably the first folks that allowed you to mount an image as a drive letter for quick access to a few files. – Dillie-O Apr 30 '09 at 19:57
I've had great success with Acronis products. The fact that they support ext3 was what sold me. – Eddie Apr 30 '09 at 19:57
+1 for True Image. Has saved my bacon on a number of occasions and have used it to upsize hard drives on many occasions. Mounting backups as a drive letter is very convenient. – John McC Apr 30 '09 at 21:35
Acronis has a nice additional feature called Universal Restore, that lets you restore you image to any hardware. – Taras Chuhay Jun 26 '09 at 7:21

I use dd. In the Windows world, you can get dd by installing Cygwin.

What dd does is allow sector-by-sector copying of a disk device to, say, an image file. Example usage:

dd if=/dev/sda1 of=diskimage.img bs=1M

This copies from the first partition of the first hard drive to a file called diskimage.img, one megabyte at a time. (The Cygwin documentation has information on what the device names are.)

I love dd but in the windows world I have never been able to figure out what device names should be i.e. what does /dev/sda1 relate to in a windows world? – trent Apr 30 '09 at 20:46
@trent: Read the link at the bottom of my post. It has a table about a quarter of the way through the page, with entries like, e.g., /dev/sda1 => \device\harddisk0\partition1 – Chris Jester-Young Apr 30 '09 at 21:30
I could have easily LOST everything on my server with dd, when trying to run it from the Ubuntu LIVE cd.. since the drives names were OPPOSITE what they were when booted into my system. and the duplicate drive didn't boot to boot, after 6 hours running the copy. – jbdavid May 17 '09 at 5:36
How would you restore an image made like that? – Svish May 19 '09 at 10:47
"cat" works just as well as dd in most cases – niXar Jun 26 '09 at 7:33

Nobody's mentioned Clonezilla? It has a pretty bad UI, but is very flexible once you get used to it. Google it and you'll find some tutorials on its use.
I use it mainly because of its 'smart cloning' option (granted, other tools have that), and the when is backups or VM images I want to make 'real'.

Everyone I know uses Acronis.. but I'm going to try clonezilla first, since the first system I want to move to a larger disk is linux only. – jbdavid May 17 '09 at 5:33
clonezilla had issues with the lvm.. on the copy its not found.. Next took a while but less time than native dd from Ubuntu. (but it uses dd, prob with larger block sizes.) – jbdavid May 17 '09 at 10:35
It wasn't clonezilla's fault - rather fedora's and trying to clone and IDE boot drive to sata.. Clonezilla did just fine on the Windows XP laptop whose drive I'm upgrading. – jbdavid May 18 '09 at 9:33

I've used Easeus Partition Master quite effectively. It's free.

I don't see why you got a downvote either...+1 from me to offset. – aphoria Apr 30 '09 at 22:27

It all depends on your application. For a single drive to drive clone, I find that HDClone works great.

I've used HDClone too and it worked perfectly. – Govert Apr 7 '11 at 8:07
HDClone (the free version) ran in Windows, with no special boot-disk or anything required, and made a new bootable clone of my HDD. I swapped to the new one and it booted and ran first time. Recommended! – Govert Apr 7 '11 at 8:15

I would like to know what tool you use

For Windows client machines on my network, I use SystemRescueCD, a boot-from-a-CD Linux distribution that you can also install on a harddrive partition. I partition the drive to create a small ext2 partition, then install the GRUB boot loader set up to allow booting to either Windows on the first partition or SystemRescueCD on the second partition. Booting SystemRescueCD runs an autorun script that checks a network drive for a disk image of that machine (use the network card's MAC address to identify machines) and reimages the machine if it finds one. For the actual imaging you can use dd, as already pointed out, or PartImage, both of which will handle NTFS partitions.

If you're using Windows XP (don't know about Vista, haven't had to try) you can use the ext2fsd Ext2 filesystem driver to make it possible to re-write the ext2 partition, and therefore the GRUB conf file, from a Windows script, therefore making it possible to have Windows automatically reboot and re-image itself.

why you choose that tool

It's free, and well supported (drivers for new Dell machines came out within a few weeks of the machines being available, SystemRescueCD is actively developed).

and what you use it for.

I work in a school, we have to contend with grimy little children.


PING might be worth looking at. (love recursive acronyms PING Is Not Ghost)

I've used it in a limited capacity for home/family, but from what I've seen it is a worthy replacement for Ghost.


I like Gnome Partition Editor.

It supports every filesystem I have ever needed it for and they have an .ISO you can download to make a bootable CD.

The OP asked for a command-line capable tool. You could suggest parted instead of gparted, however. :-) – Chris Jester-Young Apr 30 '09 at 19:58
Actually, he implied that he would like a command-line tool and he didn't say that it had to be command-line based. :) – aphoria Apr 30 '09 at 20:43
Why the downvote? My answer is totally valid. – aphoria Apr 30 '09 at 21:47
+1 from me. I think the OP would not be disappointed if the live-cd would give him a nice graphical interface, instead of a command prompt :D – alexandrul May 2 '09 at 9:26
Thanks alexandrul, very much appreciated. – aphoria May 2 '09 at 11:35

My favorite disk cloning tool is Drive Snapshot for the following reasons:

  1. No installation necessary, just one tiny EXE to run. (Thus, it can also be run directly from a network location or from a Bart PE environment.) No scheduler or "always-running" drivers, services, etc to create overhead.
  2. Can be controlled from the command line for scripting, or run via GUI.
  3. It is very fast and has good data compression.
  4. The developer has excellent customer support in my experience.
  5. Can "inject" driver files if restoring to different hardware. I have used this multiple times on server RAID arrays with no problems at all.
  6. Reasonable price.

Regarding your follow-up question: It is extremely easy to extract single files from a disk image because like Acronis, Drive Snapshot allows you to mount a disk image as a drive letter and browse it with Windows Explorer like any other drive.


The products at TeraByte, Image for Windows and Image for DOS. The products are not free but they are very reasonable. They allow you to create boot disks and even recovery partitions. There is an included add-on program called TBIView that allows you to restore individual files / folders.

One reason I looked into these products instead of Acronis is that it allows you to work on servers as well. Acronis is nice but they do not support server imaging unless you go to there much more expensive product.


An option on Mac for bootcamp partitions, is WinClone.


I use ImageX that is part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit.


We've tried various products on this list.

Ghost was used a lot in corporate environment, but became a no no after we got corrupt images (which were only found out when trying to restore back).

Drive Image (PQMagic) had excellent HD tools and nice Gui - again due to corrupt image problem it was dropped (NOTE...these issues we had were around 10 years ago, so the vendor has probably updated the product and resolved them).

Now there's only two we use:

Acronis because it has never failed, backups/restores are 100%, compression is good, the BootCD boots up so far on any system and HDdrive is always visible. We use Acronis 8.0 since the CD seems more reliable - use can use later versions of Acronis to restore a Acronis 8 image. But you cannot restore images made with ie. Acronis 10/11 etc using an earlier Acronis 8.

Second option is the amazing Drive Snapshot (just a small file), which will image a disk while the OS is actually still running on it. If you run it off the network, you can image a windows host while it's still running and dump the image across the network and its very fast, not sure if there is anything else like this? The only thing is images are bigger than Acronis. You need a WinPE / Hirens MiniXP disc to boot up and restore image though.


I use ImageX that is part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit.

You may not want to rely on ImageX - see:

You cannot use the ImageX.exe tool as a backup tool for a Windows Computer

(Sorry - I could not add this comment under the original ImageX comment due to karma threshold.)


I'm surprised no one has mentioned DD Rescue. Its a linux command - like DD but better for cloning. It has a number of really good features I don't believe are found elsewhere, including ability to resume cloning and trying really hard to get every last bit of data off a dying drive. It also shows its progress unlike dd (although dd + pv can show it as well).

Also, it should be pointed out that when you are cloning a disk the file system is irrelevant as its doing a bit copy, so the entire file system is being copied "as-is".


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