ICT Teachers' Association of Uganda (ITAU)

Disk Cloning: One Trick Many Technicians Don’t Know

Just before the 2018 UNEB exams, I was given the opportunity by St. Peter’s SSS Nsambya to service the computers in their lab. Their lab is equipped with 30 similar computers; same brand, disk size and partitions, Operating System, programmes and all other properties.

Under normal circumstances, apart from the cleaning and blowing, I also prefer to do a complete re-installation of the OS and all programmes. This gives the computers a new feel translating into a better user experience.

But, re-installation in a lab of 30 computers will take a rather long time. Technicians know what it means installing a variety of software on multiple computers. The monotony of the task can sometimes affect you into forgetting some essential software installation. And, given Uganda’s erratic and unreliable power, you may end up wasting a whole day without completing the task. Just imagine you are to work on 5 school labs in the space of 3 days. Such inconveniences may be reduced if you applied a task called cloning.

What is cloning?
Disk cloning is the process of creating an exact, uncompressed replica of your system’s hard drive onto another drive. Simply stated, the resultant hard drive will be the same as the source hard drive. All programmes and settings that were on the source drive will be replicated on the destination drive. In fact, if the source drive were replaced by the destination drive, the computer would work just like it still had the previous drive.

In some cases, you may decide to clone your hard drive, and keep it in a secure offsite location so if their main system drive abruptly collapsed, you can get your system back to life with a minimal fuss.

In my example, I run E-zone Internet Café in Nabbingo on top of the IT support I have to offer my clients who are as far as 300 miles away coupled with the numerous workshops that I have to attend. In the event that the hard disk crushes, it can take me 6 hours re-installing the OS, Office, Adobe Reader, Browsers, Printers, Antiviruses, Café Timing Software, configuring NComputing and a horde of others. 6 hours off a day at an Internet café translates into income and trust lost. I therefore keep an exact replica of my system such that in the event that we face such a problem, I simply remove the hard drive and replace it with its copy. This takes just 10 minutes.

Some popular cloning software
To complete the cloning process, you will need cloning software and 3 of my favourites are given below.

  1. EaseUS Todo Backup
    This tool from easeus enables a wide range of cloning possibilities, including system, hard drive, and partition cloning. I found it’s interface straight forward that even home users can figure out what to do easily. For advanced users, it also has a command line option. You can download this software here.
  1. Paragon Drive Copy
    There is no much difference between this and EaseUS. What I found out with this one was that I could also easily clone my system on a USB drive. You can download Paragon Drive Copy here.
  1. Clonezilla
    My best choice is Clonezilla not only because it is free but it can also run from a USB stick or optical media. Its only downside with beginners is that it has a rather teasing Linux interface. I also choose this one because of the speed with which I can get a copy of my partition. Clonezilla can be downloaded here.

How to clone a drive using Clonezilla

In  a few minutes, you will have an exact copy of your hard drive saving you an hour or so of installations on a single PC.

 

Stephen Dumba
E-zone School of Computing
0752 111 223 / 0772 111 223