Friday, December 05, 2008

Clonezilla for PC Backups

One of the reasons I wanted to get our XRAIDs up and running is to use them as storage space for backup images of our lab PCs. Since we use the lab PCs to test all manner of programs, and since Windows tends to develop bit rot over time, the PCs periodically need to be wiped and rebuilt. Doing this manually is tedious, to put it mildly.

With a big, network accessible storage space, I can build up a PC, get it into good working order, then create an image of the hard drive and save it on the XRAID. Then, the next time I need to rebuild that particular box I just wipe the drive and reapply the image.

Using disk images to backup PCs is of course nothing new. Several commercial products can do this, e.g., Symatec Ghost. However, we only have one license for Ghost even though we have over ten lab PCs. Open source to the rescure.

I recently downloaded Clonezilla , which is based on a live version of Debian Linux. I used Clonezilla to create a compressed hard disk image of one of my lap PCs, a Dell Latitude D600. The image was saved via SCP to a network accessible directory on the XRAID.

To test the restore function, I then reformatted the Dell's hard disk using GParted, running on a System Rescue CD , another bootable Linux distro. Next, I booted the PC using the Clonezilla CD and did a restore.

It appears to have worked perfectly, restoring my XP Pro partition, Debian partition, and the MBR.

Aside from PCs, Clonezilla's web page indicates that it supports Intel Macs.  I plan to test this using our department's MacBook.  Assuming that it works on the Mac platform I'll also create an image of Rohan, my MacBook Pro.

This is going to make my life easier.

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