Cloning lab computers using a USB drive and GHOST

Note: Sept 2- 2010. Since the time this tutorial was written, FREE programs have become available that will do the same job. You can see a tutorial on my K-5 Computer Lab Activities site.


This page describes how to create an exact disk image for backup to a USB drive using Norton Ghost. The backed up disk image on the USB device can then be used to restore a computer in case of disk or software failure. The image can also be used to overwrite the drives on similar machines in the computer lab, creating exact clones of each other.

Be aware that there are licensing agreements and legal issues to consider when cloning or imaging operating systems and applications. Cloning software also has licensing agreements that apply. Read and understand your End User Licensing Agreements (EULA) to insure you are properly licensed before proceeding.

Norton Ghost Software

Norton Ghost is a commercial disk cloning program with a history dating back to 1996. There have been many versions since then and the product lineup is split into a consumer version and a business version. For this example I am using the business version Ghost Solution Suite 2.0, also known as Ghost 11.

Getting Started

You will need a standard Ghost Boot CD (instructions here). In the interest of speed, the computers and the USB drive should support High Speed USB 2.O. An external USB drive with at least 7,200 rpm is preferable.

With the standard Ghost Boot CD in the Cd-Rom, start the computer and if needed, change the boot sequence so that computer starts from the CD. If you haven’t done this before, you can change your system’s boot order in the BIOS. To do this, restart your computer and before the splash screen displays press whichever key you are told. Might be F2, F1, F12 ? to enter Setup or BIOS. In the Boot section you should then be able to adjust the settings labelled Boot Order, Boot Device Priority or another variation on this wording. Make sure that your CD/DVD drive is set to be your first boot device and you should be able to boot from a CD.

Once Ghost boots up, click “OK” to get past the initial splash screen “About Symantec Ghost”. If your mouse won’t work, use “Tab”, “Enter”, and arrow keys to navigate.

  1. Go to: Local > Disk > To image.
  2. Ghost local disk to image menu

  3. Select Local Source Drive
  4. Here I am going to create an image from the 240GB source drive and store it as a compressed image on the 80GB USB drive.

    Ghost select local source drive

  5. Select Partitions from Source Drive
  6. This drive has 3 partitions. In this particular case, I want to backup the whole drive so I press “shift” and select all the partions for backing up to a single image file to store on the USB drive.
    Ghost select source partitions from local drive

  7. Choose Destination Drive
  8. Choose the USB drive as the destination drive.
    Use the pull down list box to choose the USB drive as the destination

    Once you pick the destination drive you enter a file name for your image to be saved. You may also want to enter a description.
    Ghost choose usb drive as destination and enter a file name for your image

  9. Select a Compression Method
  10. I’ve selected “Fast”. The resulting file will be smaller than choosing “No” and larger than “High”.

    Choose a compression scheme.

  11. Proceed with file creation
  12. Ghost proceed with file creation menu

  13. File creation begins. Take a break
  14. Ghost file creation progress


    All Done!!

    When the image file creation is complete, you can move the USB drive to another machine and overwrite that machine’s hard drive with the image you just created to create an exact clone.