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I would like to create an image from a hard drive, but most software for this requires to be installed (on windows)

I would like to attach two hard-drives and a usb stick, and create and copy the image of one HD onto another, without having windows running.

Does anyone know of a usb image, or maybe a ubuntu distro that could do this from a usb stick?


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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Windows PE with a Symantec Ghost executable (ghost32.exe) does it very nicely and it's really easy to make it boot from a USB drive; I've used it quite some times.

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+1, I use WinPE all the time, really a slick tool. – Chris S Jul 19 '10 at 19:22

Actually nearly ANY linux based bootable USB system will do this job at a basic level using dd or other disk management and copy tools. Seriously, there are dozens of good options because these tools are usually pretty generic.

Also something to consider is UBCD ... no need to mess with USB if you have a bootable CD handy.

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I discourage dd-style imaging because you copy both allocated and unallocated space and you won't be able to migrate say NTFS from a 40GB drive to a 400GB drive. See for a list of extra advantages provided by imaging software vs dd blockwise copying.

Getting Norton Ghost running on Windows PE/BartPE is an overkill too.

The simplest solution for you is to get a running windows system, install imaging software there and then use its user interface to partition and format a bootable USB drive. Then you boot from the drive and can either directly clone partitions between two attached drives or to save an image file to another drive/partition or even to a network share or FTP server.

One example of such software is Acronis TrueImage Home at $50 USD. I suppose free solutions exist, but the ones I have seen refused to work with NTFS, refused to work with RAID arrays or refused to boot at all on certain hardware, so I ended up with Acronis.

If your imaging software cannot create bootable USB drives by itself, it is possible to copy any number of .iso files to a flash drive and boot them using GRUB boot loader. This is the recommended technique for system administrators because it's inconvenient to reformat your flash drive every time you need to boot different image, but for home use I'd rather go with automatic boot USB creation.

To create a GRUB-bootable USB drive you need:

  1. To install proper code into boot sector or MBR of your flash drive
  2. To mark partition as active if needed
  3. To copy grub executables and config files to the drive

There are dozens of tiny programs that claim to do these 3 steps for you, but I found them unsatisfactory because of bugs and much extra work they do (e.g. most will propose you to reformat your flash). I ended up with using bootsect.exe from Windows 7 distribution DVD to install code into boot sector instead of using those tiny programs.

After grub is installed, you trivially edit the text file config and add grub command lines for different isos. Or you even can type the commands by hand every time you boot.

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