Monday, March 29, 2010

What Is Disk Cloning and Live USB ?

Disk cloning is the process of copying the contents of one computer hard disk to another disk or to an "image" file. Often, the contents of the first disk are written to an image file as an intermediate step, and the second disk is loaded with the contents of the image. This procedure is also useful when moving to a larger capacity disk or to restore to a virgin instalation.

There are a number of notable uses for disk cloning software. These include:

Reboot and restore – a technique in which the disk of a computer is automatically wiped and restored from a "clean", master image, which should be in full working order and should have been swept for viruses.

Provisioning new computers – Provisioning with a standard set of software so that a new user is ready to go straight away with a complete application suite and does not have to waste time installing individual applications.

Hard drive upgrade – An individual user may use disk copying (cloning) to upgrade to a new, sometimes larger, hard disk.

Full system backup – A user may create a comprehensive backup of their operating system and installed software.

System recovery – An OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) can provide media that can restore a computer to its original factory software configuration

Transfer to another user – A system sold or given to another person may be reset by reloading a known, previously-saved image that contains no personal files or information.

How it works ?
This article is specific to disk cloning on the x86 platform; specific details may not apply to other platforms. To provision the hard disk of a computer without using disk cloning software, the following steps are generally required for each computer:  
  • Create one or more partitions on the disk
  • Format each partition to create a file system on it
  • Install the operating system
  • Install device drivers for the particular hardware
  • Install application software 
With disk cloning, this is simplified to:
  • Install the first computer, as above.
  • Create an image of the hard disk (optional)
  • Clone the first disk, or its image, to the remaining computers 
 This can be referred to simply as a recovery disc.

List of disk cloning software:

Clonezilla (Diskless Remote Boot in Linux)
PING (Partimage Is Not Ghost)

Windows-only (from Active@ Data Recovery Software)
Altiris - Deployment Solutions
Microsoft Image Backup (which is part of Windows 7)
Scriptlogic - Desktop Authority Image Center


PartImage (SystemRescueCD)

What Is Live USB ?

Screenshot of ubuntu 8.04 running from a USB Flash Drive, a "Live USB".

A live USB is a USB flash drive or a USB external hard disk drive containing a full operating system which can be booted. Live USBs are closely related to live CDs, but sometimes have the ability to save settings and permanently install software packages back onto the USB device. Like live CDs, live USBs can be used in embedded systems for system administration, data recovery, or the testing of operating system distributions without committing to a permanent installation on the local hard disk drive. Many operating systems including Microsoft Windows XP Embedded and many of the Linux distributions and BSDs can also be used from a USB flash drive.

Look Here For More Info On Other Products and Methods For Cloning:
Paragon Drive Backup Express

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