Clonezilla: m4d Sk!lZ

A few weeks ago, my Dad and my Brother both bought identical Windows Vista machines, at the same shop, at the same time. Although the hardware specs of these computers were terrific, the performance of Windows Vista was “moderate” to say the least. An even bigger problem was that some of the older XP programs my dad had been using did no longer work on the shiny new Vista machine. The shiny 3D effects had to go in favour of something that “just worked”.

Having just spent a lot of cash on these now paperweights, a new Apple was not an option (hey, I tried). So my dad bought a Windows XP install CD and started installing on his machine. The shiny new hardware was so new, that the XP divers were hard to find, if they existed at all. After 2 weeks of fiddling with drivers, the machine was “up and limping”. The display was at a nice resolution, and it could produce a sort of audio, and the prio 1 software packages were installed and working (mainly some simple calendar and assembly-development tools).

My brother also was fed up with Vista, and asked if we could mirror the harddisk in my dad’s machine to his machine. I figured that this should be no problem, since the machines were exactly identical. Because of earlier problems with Norton Ghost and SATA drives, I decided to give Clonezilla a try.

Please note that I am NOT linking to the Clonezilla site in this article, which is for your own good. Why? I will tell you why! For people who are so smart that they can read partition tables before morning coffee, understand 32 different partition types, and can do on-the-fly custom compression of a datastream to an USB disk, they shure have never heard of “user experience”. There is absolutely no way that normal people are ever getting this thing to work.

…You may take a pause here to reflect on that if you like…

When booting the Clonezilla CD, it shows you what it’s doing my scrolling text accross your screen at a speed at which you need bionical implants to be able to follow. I did manage to catch a few lines, and I must not be smart enough because I don’t know what “Loading NVIDIA Video Driver” and “Setting System Clock” have to do with reading bits from a disk and writing them to another disk.

Clonezilla splash screenAfter the frantic scrolling is done, you are presented with an ever so nice menu screen, designed by a colorblind handicapped rhinoceros with a Sinus problem. The first time I looked at this sceen I waited for a menu option to get highlighted, and before I realized that the light pink bar was the highlighted menu item, it started booting by itself. Yes, if you do nothing, it does “something” but since you’re not sure what, you have to reboot and start over again.

The other fun part of this menu screen is that it gives you no less than 8 options to boot your system, 4 of which are Clonezilla. There’s even an option which contains the word “framebuffer”, which is a video card thing and again has absolutely no other purpose than to confuse you. Framebuffers have nothing to do with (re)storing disk partitions.

Clonezilla language optionsAfter having made the right choice (I took a wild guess) you are presented with another nice screen. The design of this screen is from a whole different erra, almost van-Gogh-esque. All the video drivers which were loaded during the “frantic scrolling” fase earlier are clearly working together on this screen to present you the nicest resolution and the clearest colors, so that you can peruse the long list of language options available to perfectly support you during the following screens. At the bottom of the menu are two aptly named <ok> and <cancel> buttons, start over if you didn’t use the correct one.

Keymap menuNow that the Clonezilla is running in the language of your choice (which is very likely not to be traditional Chinese), you’d expect to enter the realm of disk options. Not so. Take out your “Linux Unleashed” books class, because we’re presented with… nobody? no? The keymap option! Yes, that’s right. No program can start without asking what keymap it should use. Turn to page 346 of the “Advanced” section to find out what keymap the “Kernel keymap” is.

After reading the instructions 3 times you learn that you can just hit “enter” on this screen, just like you did on the silly language options menu.

Start Clonezilla?Off to cloning, right? Wrong. Clonezilla will ask you if you’d want to start Clonezilla, or just enter the prompt. Exactly the one credible extra option on the first “designer” screen is presented after 3 menus. And no, we don’t want a prompt, so it’s not a good option here.

I’ll spare you the rest of the menus. There are just way too much, containing anything ranging from spelling and grammar errors, to cryptic messages and listing command line options to tools you’ve never heard of.

Okay one more small example: In stead of using the screen real-estate and the nice fonts to indicate what disks are in the system and what partitions are on there, it just lists “sda1, sda2, sda5, sde1” and their formats. When you are a windows user, and are backing up or restoring your precious data, you are likely to stop here. How do you know for sure that you’re reading from and writing to the right disk?

If Clonezilla was made for people, I would have expected a list according to these lines:

Harddisk 1 (320GB Seagate, SATA)
     Partition 1 (120GB, FAT32, Volume label "My Windows")
     Partition 2 (100GB, NTFS, Volume label "My Data")
     Partition 3 (100GB, NTFS, Volume label "My Music")
Harddisk 2 (500GB Iomega, USB)
     Partition 1 (500GB, FAT32, Volume label "Backupdisk")

Anyway, struggling through the menu’s, reading through command line options and Googling for manual pages on the used commands I eventually got Clonezilla to make a backup of the entire disk of my Dad’s XP installation. The disk image was stored on a large harddrive, and we took it to my brother’s machine to restore it.

Before restoring the XP disk image, we made another disk image, from the original Vista installation on my brothers machine. Should something happen, we would have an option to restore the machine to it’s prestine state.

We restored the XP image on my brothers Vista machine (which was, like I said, an exactly identical machine). And you guessed it: it failed. We tried playing with the MBR and Grub options, and every try we neede to wait the full 20 minutes only to find out that the restore did not work. We even tried restoring the partition tables and/or MBR’s using the Windows XP installation disk.

After 6 frustrating hours on Saturday, and another 3 gruelling hours today, we gave up. Clonezilla is now restoring Vista to my brother’s computer, and I sure hope that will work, but wether it does or doesn’t, it leaves him with a useless computer. Either way we’re destined to use “m4d sk!lz” to get it running normally again, just like we need “m4d sk!lz” to be able to use Clonezilla.

Sidenote to Linux developers: Just because you know a lot about Linux or any freaking back-from-the-60’s command line tool there is out there, doesn’t mean you can expect others to have that same knowledge. As long as Linux fanboys are creating these crappy user interfaces, Linux is not going to stand up against Microsoft or Apple on the desktop. Ever. And creating “Yet Another Window Manager” will also not help. Period. Together you stand, devided you’ll fall. So far, devision by childish stubborn ego flamewars is where every non-commercial Linux project has ended.

Next option for my brother and dad is to buy Norton Ghost 12, and hope that the people at Norton understand how to make a user interface, and working software.

With the arrival of Vista, Windows more and more turning into a Tamagochi, where you are spending more time maintaining the system, than working with the system. I’m glad I dumped Windows a long time ago. For those who are thinking of switching: I can promise you that Switching from XP to Vista will give you more problems than switching from XP to Mac. And once you go Mac…


23 Responses to Clonezilla: m4d Sk!lZ

  1. rolfje says:

    Further insights: For proper HD cloning, there is a great tool with a user interface much more usable than Clonezilla, and that’s HDClone. You can find this at . They even have a free edition.

    More on getting windows to work: you can’t. Windows XP and Windows Vista have hardware checks during the boot process which prevent them from being started within a different computer. Maybe the worst of it is that Windows doesn’t give you on-screen info or warnings, it just starts acting wonky during startup, and never reaches the desktop.

    The only remedy was to completely re-install Windows XP on my brothers machine, which was what my father did. Installing XP on this machine takes hours, and a lot of tweaking.

  2. rolfje says:

    Thanks for the link Peter, I think some people can use that.

    I just quickly scanned it, but I still fail to see what that solves. This guy describes the steps he took to automate his installation process for multiple machines. He clearly put in a lot of time to do that, and that is exactly my point.

    If I need to clone exactly 1 machine, with 1 partition, it should be a 1 mouseclick action, and should definetely not ask questions about keyboard mappings, or making you choose between Chinese or English. And yes, I’m willing to pay for that, but only if it is guaranteed to work.

    I do applaud the fact that people wrote the article on the lupus wiki to help the world, and that you submitted the link. We need to stick together to fight these crazy machines. (actually, people) 🙂

  3. Matteo says:

    I use clonezilla in a classroom with many pc and it’s fantastic. I tried many other software before, all with nice user interface, none flexible like clonezilla. A backup system is not a desktop system. That’s why you can see linux desktops that are really user friendly and beautiful (try Linux Mint i.e). And most of them are live (try before migrate).
    Anyway, true, you must know a bit about how linux names disks (but you are using a mac, based on unix, so maybe you already know that C: is not the only name a disk can have, i use a Mac too and the first time was difficult to understand what kind of relation had desktop with my disk).
    The problem about clonezilla is it can do many things (like network backup) and that’s the reason why it ask you everything.
    Finally, I’m surprised about the fact it didn’t worked for you, because this software is really working good for me, and other not (for example the need to install in windows, or created useless partitions, or didn’t restore the master boot record, or didn’t recognize external disks and so on).

  4. rolfje says:

    You will probably have noticed that some of the posts on this blog are about programming. I have been a programmer, software engineer, architect whatever you call it all my life. I have had many desktops, including Tandy Models 1 to IV, ZX 81, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amiga, IBM clones with dos only, OS/2, OS/2 Warp and Different flavours of Linux. I have written programs on all of these systems, in different languages, ranging from Assembly to Basic, to Perl to Pascal to C and C++ and Java. I also programmed some microcontrollers, I know what a RISC instruction set is, and I also know how to program Intel’s Protected Mode in Assembly.

    Needless to say, most of my life is filled with computers and on a good day, I know the difference between a C: prompt and a unix shell.

    Technicaly, clonezilla works, but it will not help you make the right choices based on clear information. There is a big difference. The problem I have with a lot of developers nowadays is that they stop when the problem is solved for them personally, but fail to create a piece of software which can actually be used without all the backgroud and inside knowledge they had when writing it.

    What this world needs are interaction designers with common sense, taste and veto power.

  5. Phil says:

    Clonezilla worked fine for me, it recognised the SATA hard disk (unlike Acronic True image) and the ethernet card and graphics array on the Dell PC, again something that other packages failed to achieve. It would also save the image to a network drive.

    Sure it asked some questions that anyone partioning and cloning a hard drive ought to know the answer too. I’m pleased they put the effort into making the thing work properly rather than a puffed up GUI that can’t do the task.

    As for offerring alternative languages and keyboard maps, we aren’t all in the same country. Look how MS operating systems even today assume that you’re in a West Coast USA timezone even after selecting a European language or keyboard, and the persistence of “Locale: US” and “Letter paper” (WTF) is beyond belief.

    Credit to the Clonezilla team for bringing me a working solution to what had become an intractable problem.

  6. levi says:

    I use clonezilla often, to clone xp between machines; There are two things that don’t work — period — you can’t clone to a smaller HD even it is only 1 sector smaller — I discovered that this is LBA’s other such cryptic numbers on the actuall hardrive lables are.
    The other thing that doesn’t work is you can’t restore a IDE image to a SATA drive, this does not sound like your problem, but I thought it might be helpful.

    Another thing that is not related to Clonezilla per say is indeed the hardware checks–however this can under normal circumstances be solved by doing a windows repair install, complete the clone; use the windows install CD then choose the options to install windows, once you get here, the key is usually “r”.

    Seagate has posted a tool on their website that uses acronis technology that is pretty good as well, you have to have a seagate or maxtor drive to use it, but it is free. Sorry I can’t remeber what it’s called

  7. Sean says:

    I use Clonezilla Constantly. You are able to put clones on smaller drives simply by making the partition you clone smaller then the drive you are putting it on and putting it at the FRONT of the Drive. Also to make the IDE img work to a SATA. You just need to browse into the folder and files that Clonezilla makes and rename SDA1 to HDA1 etc etc in all the places including the parts file. This will enable you to “spit” the image to a IDE instead of SATA or vice versa.

  8. George says:

    I do sympathizewith you on the poor user interface of clonezilla. However, I do not believe that you are recognizing the fact that clonezilla is an open source project and that these folks are not getting paid a dime to write it. In fact, they probably wrote this utility (or wrapper, since it uses many other already written open source utilities, such as ‘dd’) for themselves to try and solve a cloning issue they were having, and then, once they got it to work, they decided it would be good to share it with others.

    Yes, the utility requires a somewhat expert knowledge of partitioning and voodoo, and is therefore not apt for everyone, but that should not take away from its merits.

  9. rolfje says:

    There are lots of open source projects which are looking perfect to me. Remember how FireFox started? I think if Clonezilla was actually usable, it would be a hit. Like I said in the article: “As long as Linux fanboys are creating these crappy user interfaces, Linux is not going to stand up against Microsoft or Apple on the desktop. Ever.”

    I’ve converted to Mac a while ago, and I’ve bought this brilliant IDE-to-USB adapter. Now, I backup my dad’s Windows partitions on my Mac, with diskutility. Very intuitive, drag-and-drop. No it’s not free, but boy am I glad to own a Mac.

  10. James G says:

    FWIW, if you actually take the time to poke around the Clonezilla site instead of zooming through to “download,” you’ll realize that Clonezilla Live is not really the “core” of the project. The features for DRBL and Multicast (ie. their example of bootstrapping 41 computers at once) are the real show-stoppers.

    In fact, clonezilla live is only really wrapping up command-line utilities (cat, ntfsclone, dd, bzip, etc.) and presenting you with a nice (I’m sure nobody ever complained about the ‘user experience’ of Norton Ghost) curses-like interface. You can do everything the build is designed to do from the command-line. It’s just a carnival of arguments, pipes, and procedures.

    Plus, it’s open source. If you’re really not happy with the way it’s done, fix it and share it.

  11. John Bigboote says:

    This article is the equivalent of buying a Ford Ranger and complaining that it doesn’t have the acceleration, and isn’t as stylish as a sports car.

    Clonezilla is great for backups and restores of multiple computers on a massive scale. And particularly for automating that process. It does heavy hauling.

    You wanted something pretty-looking, and more single-use, like Acronis True Image, or RTT’s Drive-Image.

  12. rolfje says:

    Maybe so, but this Ford Ranger makes you want to get a tetanus shot everytime you drive it.

  13. Craig says:

    I have to agree that Clonezilla Live does not have the best interface at all, and having used Acronis and Ghost, it falls far short.

    That being said, it’s very powerful, and having spent some time using it, I know what to do. Not being able to clone to a smaller disk is annoying, commercial products do usually let you resize the drive. I haven’t tested the IDE to SATA issue, so can’t comment on that.

    I think that if they can write a new GUI interface, it would go a long way to making this tool even more useful. Same goes for sorting out the multicasting side, which is not very easy to set up at all.

  14. Ken says:

    Understandable instructions would help until the interface is edited, some of the comments above are well taken.

    This is an improvement in the mean time


  15. Brett says:

    It’s a real shame you couldn’t figure it out, but why would you whine about it? IT’S FREE! It’s not mentioned anywhere that it’s a perfect product and the developer/s have specifically asked for donations so they can improve it.

    I managed to get the result I was after with it, which was backing up a virtual disk image of a winXP installation inside virtualbox running on my imac and moving it into a VM Fusion virtual disk image on my imac. I admit, it’s a bit buggy (particularly video). And I found the networking thing a little confusing mayhap because it was using the VBoxServer IP’s cause it sure didn’t work with the physical ones, but hey, trial and error + Google has always worked for me. Took me about 20 minutes in prep combined between backup and restore.

    And the frame buffer thing, and the 4 clonezilla options are not for cloning partitions, true. But you sure as heck aren’t going to be able to clone sh!te if you can’t even read the instructions on the screen!

    The kind of experience written about in the article is probably to be expected when Microshaft and Apple have taken the brains out of computing. And hey, it’s great they’re simple to use, but I can’t afford all the flashy software for the rare few occasions I’ll probably ever need it.

    You could be right, you probably do have to know a bit about your computers and various terminologies to be able to just breeze in and use clonezilla, or other varieties of linux stuff, but it is free and those of us who can figure it out sure appreciate people that take risks by putting things like this out there. Don’t hate on ’em. If you hate linux, at least make a friend that loves it so you can save yourself some quid.

    As soon as I have a new job I’m going to be petitioning my wife to let me make a donation! (Ken, thanks mate.)

    • rolfje says:

      Thanks for your honest comment. As professional software developer I use Linux every day, on the Desktop. I’m running Ubuntu 10 and it works great. The “but it’s free” argument doesn’t rid a developer of making good quality software, and the point I’m making is that if you are brilliant enough to write elaborate software, at least take some time to test the user interface side of things. If your software is impossible to use, you’re spreading frustration instead of relief.

  16. Dennis says:

    I`m a real noob and i had no problems with Clonezilla.
    Maybe, because i can read.

  17. Rusty Bullet says:

    I need to make a backup installation of a Debian Sarge Server, with an application that I couldn’t re-install.

    I got VMware Server 2.0 installed on a host running Win XP. I then used CloneZilla to make a disk image placed on a network share.

    I created a big disk on the VMware server and booted from Clonezilla Live CD and restored the image to the VM.

    Restarted the VM and bingo it worked without a hitch. I am by no means a Linux expert by the way. This all was, in my view, easy.

    God bless CloneZilla.

  18. willie Wanker says:

    Clonezilled 200+ machines and counting. If you just pick the defaults it works. Duh.

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