Clonezilla in a GIS Lab

I would like to believe all computer users are rational, clear-thinking, tech savvy people who know pop-up windows proclaiming they have just won a laptop are simple ruses to infect computers with a keylogging trojan slobbering at the chance to capture a social security or credit card numbers. Yeah, dream on, you say. Dream on.

Keeping a copy of Clonezilla handy is a good idea. Keeping a copy handy AND learning how to use the software is not only a good idea but could help recover a computer later should something like the above happen and you have to rebuild your computer from a stupid virus/trojan/malware infection.

Look, don’t click on pop-up windows. Never, never, never. If you have to get rid of a pop-up on a Windows computer you have a couple of options. All open windows will have a little square associated with them on the bar at the bottom of the screen. Move your mouse over the top of the icons on the bar, click the RIGHT MOUSE button (not the left, so pay attention). I don’t know how many times I’ve stood over someone’s shoulder and said, “click the right mouse button,” and watched them click the left mouse button over and over and over again. Then, I point: “See, this is the right mouse button,” to which the person exclaims, “Holey crap, I had no idea that was a button!” Right-click and a menu will appear, and at the bottom of the menu you will have a choice to “close window.” Do that.

Alternatively, you could do a “control-alt-delete,” which will allow you to then select the “Task Manager.” If you scrutinize the processes or open windows, you may be able to pick out the offending window and kill it.

Never, never, never try to close a pop-up by clicking the “X” in the upper-right. Why? We have been socially engineered by Microsoft to trust these “[X]’s” to close windows for us. Malware developers use this social engineering to trick us into thinking these X’s are safe when they are anything but safe. If you choose to click an “X” to close a pop-up window, you have pretty much given your computer over to the Russian mafia, the North Korean military, any number of gangs or organized crime groups throughout Belarus, Ukraine, or Eastern Europe. Congrats. Spread the word and pay attention. Doing something as mundane as closing a pop-up window in the wrong way delivers will turn your computer into a zombie working for the enemy.

Download Clonezilla from It is free. Clonezilla was developed and is maintained by the National Center for High-performance Computing (NCHC) in Taiwan. Having used Symantec Ghost and Microsoft’s Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK), I can honestly state I was really impressed by the ease of use and reliability of images I’ve captured and restored.

This is the logo of Clonezilla.

This is the logo of Clonezilla. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Download Clonezilla and burn the ISO to a DVD. The resulting DVD will be bootable, but you’ll have to check your computer’s BIOS to see what the default boot order is. Most computers ship these days with the primary hard drive the default boot device. When your computer boots, tap F2 to enter the BIOS setup utility and check the boot order. Reorganize so your CD/DVD is first. Restart with the Clonezilla in the drive. After a bit, you’ll see a modified version of Ubuntu Linux load.

From here, I’m going to turn it over to YouTube’s “JtheLinuxGuy” as he already has a short primer on the installation steps. I’ve embedded Part 2; Part 1 is useful if you want a background in the software. If you want to get started right away, hop to Part 2. Then, watch Part 3 to restore.

OK, but before you start, a couple notes. First, I used a USB hard drive to for saving and restoring images. Worked brilliantly. Takes about 20 minutes or so to capture a 40GB hard drive image; takes about 20 minutes to restore the image to a new computer or different computer – of an identical make and model. Clonezilla is awesome for imaging a computer lab (which I did) or for backing up one computer. The second note is to make sure you run “sysprep” after you restore your image. If the image is going back on the same computer, you don’t have to do this. If you are working in a lab, then you’ll have to run “sysprep” to set a new security identifier (SID) for the computer. This will prevent issues when connecting to Active Directory later, and perhaps other flaky things that will be hard to pin down.

After restoring the image to a different computer, I signed in. I added “Run” to my Start Menu. Then, I typed “sysprep” into the Run box. A Windows Explorer window will appear, showing the location of the sysprep executable. Right-click on the EXE, click “Run as Administrator.” Your computer will think about this for a moment, then display the Sysprep dialog. Check the “Generalize” box and submit. After a while, 15-20 minutes, the computer will reboot. You’ll be presented with what is called the “OOBE,” the “out of box experience.” The computer will act like its a new computer, asking for you to set a new administrator name, password, hint, etc., so just play along. Don’t worry; all the previous software you installed will still exist.

If you have gobs of software to install, Clonezilla is a good solution for moving hard drive images around FOR FREE. My computers typically have 40GB worth of software, what I call a disk “footprint.” Pushing a 40GB image across a network can take a while. If you have computers with a USB 3.0 -equipped computer, transfer rates will be much better than across a 100mbit network.

Lastly, and then you can watch the video, Clonezilla also has a server deployment option. What I used recently was what is called “Clonezilla Live.” Clonezilla Server allows a lab manager to buld a Debian (Linux) server for deploying images across a network in concert with services provided by PXE booting computers. If you have an old computer sitting around idle, and an afternoon, you might consider setting up a Clonezilla Server for deploying images. When I can grab an afternoon, I plan on giving Clonezilla Server a go. In my small lab, I have only 16 computers of two different models. Remember, you need to capture an image from each unique model. For instance, I have Dell Optiplex 755 and Optiplex 780 models in one lab. I have to capture one image for each model. This is why I argue to bureaucrats lab managers need to have homogenenous labs.

Thank you, JtheLinuxGuy, for taking the time to make some good videos. I know that can be time-consuming. And thanks for speaking clearly; I’m sure your international viewers appreciate your clear speech.

Remember, Americans, YouTube is a global resource. If a speaker is enunciating and speaking slowly, they are speaking to a world-full of people whose first language is not English. The potential YouTube audience is much greater than merely the United States. If you are making YouTube vids, consider the fact U.S. viewers are about 30% of your audience and the more countries becoming wired or “wireless” then more that statistics will decrease.

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