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Open Source | HP Mini Note PC Blog

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Painless (and free) hard drive cloning

I’m sad to report that my HP2133 mini note spends most of it’s time these days as a device for helping me do backups. None of my recent laptops match my mini note for portability but they meet my other needs for decent performance and light gaming.

Last week I bought a Lenovo Ideapad Y460 from the Lenovo outlet.  The machine has an amazing spec and buying from the outlet means you can save about 45% off the price on the Lenovo main site (look out for sales on the outlet). I’ve had Thinkpad’s pretty much my entire career and respect the quality of workmanship of these great machines.  The Ideapad’s are not as sturdy but they do offer considerable performance for the price (when you pay the outlet price).  I won’t get in to my experience with customer service at the outlet (basically abysmal) but the machine arrived in good condition, working perfectly.

I’ve done two major upgrades since I got the machine last week.  I installed 8 gb of RAM (it came with 4 gb) and put in a faster hard drive (going from a 5400 RPM to a 7200 RPM drive).

As computer enthusiasts we spend a lot of time working with drives so I thought I’d document my experience of cloning the Y460’s drive.

I chose the Western Digital Scorpio Black as the drive for the upgrade.  It comes with an amazing 5 year warranty and was recently given the The Tech Report Editors Choice Award for 7200 RPM 500gb notebook drives. At the time of purchase the drive cost $59.99 (Newegg).

To do the work of cloning the drive without having to buy an intermediate hard drive to perform a backup, I selected the Thermaltake BlacX eSata USB Docking Station.  I wanted a docking station that did both eSata and USB 2.0 as I have machines with both ports. At the time of purchase the docking station cost $33.28 (Amazon).

Having spent just under a $100 on hardware I wanted to minimize further cost so I looked around for a free, open source solution to drive cloning.  After some research I selected Clonezilla, a free, open source alternative to the commercial cloning and backup software available.

I installed Clonezilla on to a small (about 500 MB) USB thumb drive using the mechanism described here.

The installation uses Tuxboot another free, open source utility available from SourceForge (where I used to work!).

To download the software and setup the thumb drive will take you about 15 minutes, and requires no technical knowledge.  Your thumb drive will become a bootable version of Linux, but don’t let this worry you!  You will need to be able to select your thumb drive as the boot drive so you can do the cloning, but most modern BIOS’s provide this functionality.

I admit that the thought of accidentally erasing the contents of my internal hard drive by incorrectly choosing the new drive as the source and my internal laptop drive as the destination scared the pants off me, so I did read a couple of tutorials on using clonezilla before going ahead.

http://linuxgravity.com/creating-and-restoring-an-image-of-hard-disk-with-clonzilla

http://www.mindworkshop.info/windows/windows-adjustments-back-up-your-windows-installation/

The process itself was seamless, and completed in less than 1 hr, including removing and installing the new drive in the laptop.  Using the eSata interface my drive was being cloned at about 3 GB/per minute.  The 500gb drive had about 70gb of content and copied in about 15 minutes.

It’s great to be able to use free, stable, open source software to quickly clone hard drives.  If you do decide to use the software, don’t forget to donate to the project - it’s the right thing to do.