You may have heard of Symantec Ghost or Acronis True Image, both of which are good disk imaging programs but Clonezilla not only does a good job but is free.
I have heard about Clonezilla for a long time but never used it until today.
It doesn't have a nice graphical user interface and does have a few limitations but it is very straight forward and simple.
I decided to try it out on my Samsung R510 Laptop which has Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit installed.
Clonezilla runs from a Live CD and allows you to clone a disk to another disk or a disk to an image file.
There are also further options, for example cloning the entire disk or just a partition.
In my case I was interested in cloning the entire disk.
Clonezilla is so easy to use that it is just a case of hitting the enter button a few times. Generally all you have to do is select clone disk to image, then select where to save the image and finally which disk to clone. That is more or less it.
What I liked about Clonezilla was after I chose to save to a local disk, the program instructed to plug in any USB storage devices and hit the enter button.
So at this point I plugged in my external USB 250GB disk which features an NTFS filesystem and followed the on screen instructions.
The total disk space in use on my Samsung R510 was identified by Clonezilla as 23.9GB, which took about 12 minutes to clone to an image file on my external USB NTFS formatted drive.
Clonezilla was able to clone the drive to an image with a file size of 6.99GB which is about 30% of the used disk size, not bad.
In contrast to Acronis True Image, Clonezilla does not create a single image file.
It creates multiple files with the main drive data broken up into 2GB chunks although you can alter this by changing the expert settings.
Below is a screenshot showing the contents of my Clonezilla image. The Clonezilla program created a folder on my external USB drive called 2010-07-14-16-img, the screenshot shows the contents of that folder.
By default the 2GB max file size results in 4 main disk data files as can be seen
So if I had changed the expert settings to create 8GB file chunks, rather than 4 main data files I would have had only 1.
Unfortunately Clonezilla is not able to burn directly to CD's / DVD's or restore from CD's / DVD's.
You could burn the image files later on to a DVD for safe keeping, it is always good to have more than one backup.
Restoring the image files created by Clonezilla took about 25 minutes and was successful.
Does 25 minutes sound too long?
Well, I would rather restore an image in 25 minutes than install Windows Vista, then SP1, then SP2, then do a Windows Update followed by downloading and installing various drivers and programs. All that would take a few hours.
So if you want a free disk imaging program, try out Clonezilla.