Clone Hard Drive to External USB Drive via CLI

Thumb and USB drives

No matter what OS you’re cloning, using “dd” via command line will still work.  I personally tested while cloning a 1TB Ubuntu hard drive to a fancy new 1TB SSD.

Backstory: I purchased a new Dell 7737 laptop with a 1TB hybrid drive, which turned out to be slower than watching paint dry compared to the old SSD I’d been using for a few years.  Otherwise it is a kickass laptop.  So I purchased a 1TB SSD after finding they are roughly 50 cents per GB these days…very affordable.

First I put the new SSD into USB caddy I had laying around for backup purposes.

Next I created a bootable USB stick with an Ubuntu ISO image following the instructions at:

Windows = http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/create-a-usb-stick-on-windows
Ubuntu = http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/create-a-usb-stick-on-ubuntu
MAC = http://www.ubuntu.com/download/desktop/create-a-usb-stick-on-mac-osx

With the USB stick created I booted the system to Ubuntu using the USB LiveCD disk image.  It may require a BIOS change to enable the PC/Laptop to boot from USB device.  Doing this will not make any changes to your current hard drive as long as “Install Ubuntu” is not chosen.

Once booted up I was able to use Gparted, which is a standard app on the LiveCD, to create a new partition table on the new drive in the external USB caddy.

I then used fdisk via command line to find all disks and gain their identifiers needed.

fdisk -l

With the new partition and the identifier of the USB drive I was now ready to initiate the copy.  I used the following command to do that:

dd if=/dev/sdc of=/dev/sdb mb=8M && sync

NOTE: ‘if’ = read from and ‘of’ = write to.

It takes a very long time for this to finish up, especially with larger drives, but the end result was a working drive with my data on it.

After completion I simply switched out the SSD from the caddy with the internal HD in the laptop and all worked well.

Good luck!

Published by

Adam

Speaker, author, consultant, OSS contributor, SoFloPHP UG and SunshinePHP Conf organizer, RunGeekRadio Host, Long distance runner and ultra marathoner.

2 thoughts on “Clone Hard Drive to External USB Drive via CLI”

  1. You did not mention which OS you have cloned.

    In the case of Linux I doubt that the new cloned system will work.
    (even if it would serve as a backup)

    Possibly you’d make many changes to all the files that contain a reference to the original disk/partition to get it work…
    (or even complete the boot)

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