UPDATE 06/28/2020: Am reclaiming Media Library space by deleting old pics.
GParted is an amazing tool and I’m surprised that a lot of Linux users never use it – especially the more vocal Linux users (it seems). It can also be used with Windows’ drives, but only as a ‘Live’ version on its own USB/DVD. I have used it for years, but only recently discovered that it can be used for a full-system backup of your Linux Distro…well, it might not work on all Distros, and I found it difficult to install on Arch ‘n Arch-based Distros. It can also be used to move the Distro to a larger drive, and even backup/restore your drive’s “Side by Side” OSes. Different than most Open Source backup/restore in the way it works, but is also incredibly fast (unless you are still using computers from ‘1995’ or so). I will also add this post to my new ‘Backup Your Linux System’ page
I am a terrible tester (keep few records)…more of a ‘Tinkerer’ – with over 2000+ ‘Fragmented’ Linux Distros around, tinkering might be the best approach to check out Linux. For these GParted tests I used Ubuntu LTS (including the 20.04 ‘development branch’) to backup and restore, and ExTiX Deepin 20.1 ‘Live’ USB with persistence as my ‘Portability & Rescue’ Distro choice (used as OS to copy & paste, to format/reformat, etc). Will show a simple method first, then a difficult “Side by Side” method (w/o much details), and then another difficult method (moving to bigger drive) with more details. Many Linux users fear partitioning their drives during installation (many Distros only work that way), and usually just choose “Erase disk” and install…the more difficult methods of partitioning require “Manual partitioning” and/or “Something else.”
- Simple Method:
GParted doesn’t actually make a savable image … more of a copy & paste method of backing up and restoring at the same time. It will require disks of the same size or the paste-to-drive can be a little bigger (like main OS drive is 120GB and the paste-to-drive at 128GB), but smaller drives won’t work. It really depends on how your Distro was originally installed onto its drive…more on that later.
My Ubuntu Distro was installed on an ext4 formatted 120GB SSD. Note that there is no Fat32 partition…if there is a Fat32 partition, then skip this Simple Method. I tried to use this Simple Method for moving the OS to a bigger drive, but could not get it to work on any drives much bigger than the 120GB, i.e. it worked when moving to a 120GB & 128GB drives, but failed on a 240GB drive & 1TB drive. (BTW, I usually buy my SSD’s in pairs in case I want to do a real restore…smaller drives don’t work at all. Recently bought two 120GB SSD’s for $14.99 each…with free shipping and tax the total for the two was $32.08. Look for sales…also bought two 128GB SSD’s for $16.99 each…another time, found two 240GB SSD’s for $25.99 each. All came with free shipping, and only the 120GB SSD’s were taxed. I use them for testing now, but have them available in case of a drive crash or such). OK…first pic:
That is the 120GB SSD with the OS on it…highlight the ext4 partition and “Copy” appears from shadow (see Red rectangle). Click on “Copy” and then use the drive drop-down in upper right area to select the 128GB SSD:
That takes you to the 128GB SSD…highlight its ext4 partition and the “Paste” option appears from shadows (see Red Rectangle). Click on “Paste” and that takes you to the “Apply” section and then a popup:
You’ll click the top “Apply” and then a double-check popup asks if you are sure…hit that “Apply” also (both are in Red rectangles) and the restoring to another drive process starts. It finishes in less than two minutes on the Ryzen™ ‘Apevia’ test computer:
This next GParted pic is of the newly backed up & restored, and booted, Ubuntu OS. Note the Mount Point “/” was automatically copied correctly to the new 128GB SSD…see Red rectangles:
For this Simple Method of a GParted backup/restore (actually a copy/paste) to be useful, it appears two drives of the same size are preferable. Depending on how much you use your computer, how much new DATA gets added, how many settings are changed, etc. would be a good gauge for how often you want to backup. Do the backup/copy every few days, and use the newly restored/pasted SSD to make sure it’s working (i.e. rotate them)…then repeat at short intervals in case a disaster happens, i.e. you won’t be too far behind on added DATA and changes. Main positives – reliable and incredibly fast!
- Side by Side OSes Method:
Not going to offer a lot of detail on this method, because I have planned for more details in the next method – “Move OS to a Bigger Drive Method.” This Side by Side test was used on a SSD that I was already using to test ExTiX Deepin and Ubuntu 20.04 ‘development branch’ on…mainly because tests on moving to a bigger SSD were failing, and I thought maybe the lack of a Fat32 boot partition in the Simple Method was causing the problem. Noticed that this 128GB Side by Side SSD had a 300 MB Fat32 partition on it, so I conducted a test that involved moving the Fat32 partition and two ext4 OS partitions to a 240GB SSD. Here’s the 128GB GParted pic of the ‘Before’ look:
Here is the 240GB pic after prepping the SSD with GParted, i.e. I created a slightly larger Fat32 partition, and also larger ext4 partitions:
Then I copied from a partition on the 128GB, pasted to the corresponding partition on the 240GB SSD, and applied that process. When done with that one partition set, I did the same for the next partition set, etc. It worked:
Booted that 240GB SSD, and Ubuntu boot manager came up…both OSes worked, and it appeared that a Fat32 partition was going to be needed for moving any Distro to a bigger drive…an important option for this GParted method of doing speedy backup/copy & restore/paste, IMHO.
- Move OS to a Bigger Drive Method:
Personally, I like saving my OS systems on image files, e.g. the way that Clonezilla does; however, Clonezilla is very slow (unless the new version got faster) at both the backup and restore processes. Clonezilla’s antique graphical interface is typical pain-in-the-neck Linux stuff that causes me to rarely back up my Distros…hey, just another example of why the Linux desktop/laptop user base stays stuck around 2% of total OS desktop/laptop usage. However, GParted is so fast, and Ubuntu’s new 20.04 LTS should be out around April and become their main Desktop OS for the next 5 years that I will probably keep a backup SSD version available to rotate with the main one. Also, I believe that GParted’s speed at moving a Distro to a bigger drive is one of its best features…thusly, the reason for all this testing.
First – I already have a lot of pics in this post, and this “Move OS to a Bigger Drive Method” will have some more…so, the ‘Partition your Disk during Linux Installation’ post will be a great reference and space saver in this post. The ‘Partition your Disk during Linux Installation’ post offers a lot of details on how to prep a bigger drive, especially with the Fat32 partition, so that GParted gets this process done correctly. That post will also be needed for the original installation of your Distro, since that drive also needs to have a Fat32 partition already installed on your main OS drive. If your Distro already has a working Fat32 partition on it, then you can probably use that disk as it is…basically saving a step or two.
As mentioned earlier, my main Ubuntu 18.04 LTS disk didn’t have a Fat32 partition, which limited the size of a drive it could be copied to…fine for just backing up and rotating drives, but I couldn’t get it to work on a bigger drive move. Thusly, I had to use GParted to prep a drive with Fat32, and then use the “Manual partitioning” and/or “Something else” option to do a new “Installation type” that has a Fat32 partition (see the ‘Partition your Disk during Linux Installation’ post for that info). Here is a pic of the newly prepped 120GB SSD with a Fat32 partition and Ubuntu already installed on the ext4 partition:
I have highlighted the 700 MB Fat32 partition (made it bigger just in case), then clicked on the “Copy” button. Next, I select the drive drop-down menu in upper right, choose the 240GB prepped SSD, then highlight its Fat32 partition and select “Paste” button – then hit “OK” in the popup window:
Then the “Apply” operation:
Then repeat those steps with the ext4 partitions.
Here’s the 120GB “before” move to bigger drive:
Here’s the 240GB “after” the move:
The ‘Partition your Disk during Linux Installation’ post shows how to get the “Mount Point” right during the installation process. I didn’t do any testing of moves to drives over 240GB, but I suspect that size doesn’t matter once you have setup the Fat32 partition.