Full hard drive or partition cloning is not normally used for data backup, but instead is used for replicating an existing system elsewhere. It could also be used as a non-destructive method to perform hard drive forensics whereby a disk or partition is cloned and the rest of the operations will just be performed on the cloned image.

There are many ways to achieve this in Linux such as by using tools like Partimage, Partclone, Clonezilla or dd. dd is the the simplest and is installed by default in most Linux distributions. dd could be used to copy a disk or partition on a block level directly to another disk, partition or file.

Steps to clone hard drive and partition using dd:

  1. Check installed disks and partitions.
    $ lsblk
    loop0    7:0    0 88.5M  1 loop /snap/core/7270
    loop1    7:1    0 54.1M  1 loop /snap/lxd/10972
    loop2    7:2    0 89.4M  1 loop /snap/core/6818
    loop3    7:3    0 54.1M  1 loop /snap/lxd/11098
    loop4    7:4    0 89.3M  1 loop /snap/core/6673
    sda      8:0    0   20G  0 disk
    ├─sda1   8:1    0    1M  0 part
    └─sda2   8:2    0   20G  0 part /
    sdb      8:16   0    5G  0 disk
    └─sdb1   8:17   0    5G  0 part /mnt/data
    sr0     11:0    1  748M  0 rom

    For this example, we're going to clone the sdb1 partition to an image file.

  2. Check information of source disks and partitions.

    From the above lsblk output, sdb1 is a 5GB partition mounted on /mnt/data.

  3. Make sure source and target (if target is another disk or partition) is not mounted or in use.
    $ sudo umount --force /dev/sdb1
  4. Check if target has enough capacity. .
    $ df -h /dev/sda2
    Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
    /dev/sda2        20G  5.2G   14G  28% /

    Target disk drive or partition need to have at least the same capacity, and mounted partition for the target file need to have at enough free disk space. In this case, our target mounted partition still have 14GB available for the required 5GB.

  5. Clone hard drive or partition using dd.
    $ sudo dd if=/dev/sdb1 of=/root/sdb1-backup.img conv=noerror,sync status=progress
    [sudo] password for user:
    5347731456 bytes (5.3 GB, 5.0 GiB) copied, 49 s, 109 MB/s
    10483712+0 records in
    10483712+0 records out
    5367660544 bytes (5.4 GB, 5.0 GiB) copied, 49.2271 s, 109 MB/s

    Cloning an entire disk will also clone the master boot record and partition table

  6. Check backup details.
    $ sudo file /root/sdb1-backup.img
    /root/sdb1-backup.img: Linux rev 1.0 ext4 filesystem data, UUID=d430e0a1-ec3e-4bed-b16a-e2d35d0f4ed6 (extents) (64bit) (large files) (huge files)
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