Cloning Disk to Disk using FREE program G4L

This page describes how to clone an existing WindowsXP installation to a different hard drive.

In a computer lab setting, typically you would have several machines of the same make and model. You carefully configure one machine to your liking, then clone that setup to the other machine’s drives. Though this method requires you to open the computer case to install and remove drives, cloning drives is faster and more efficient than installing and configuring each machine’s operating system and applications manually.

Be aware that there are licensing agreements and legal issues to consider when cloning 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.

Free Cloning Software

There are several freeware “open source” programs such as GHOST for Unix, GHOST for linux, driveimageXML, Excelcia Selfimage, HDDclone, CloneMaxx and others. It is worthwhile to try different programs to see which fit your needs.

For this example I will use G4L (ghost for Linux). Despite it’s name, it works with Windows XP. Drives can be cloned using the “Click and Clone” feature; it can create images of whole disks or partitions only. The images can be compressed and stored locally or transferred to and from a network drive using a free FTP server. Linux programs often suffer from a lack of user friendliness, but this one has a half-way decent GUI menu that even a first time user can understand.

Unlike some cloning and imaging programs, G4L does not skip over free space to save time, it clones bit-by-bit cloning all disk space, including free space which makes it slower than some other programs. Due to variations in computer chipsets and hardware configurations, it is possible this particular program will not work on your system. These things happen. You may have to check to see that you have the latest version or try a different program.

Getting Started

Download the Ghost 4 Linux ISO CD image. You can burn the iso image to a CD using the freeware program Image Burn. (Quick Tutorial).

First, setup your computer to clone a second drive.

The picture below shows the cable and drive arrangement before adding a second drive for cloning. In this example we are using an IDE parallel drive style cable (the grey one). There are 2 IDE cables, each connecting to the motherboard and both cables have 2 connectors for adding drives. One this machine, the first IDE cable is going from the motherboard to Drive #1. IDE cable 2 is going from the motherboard to the CD-Rom. We will attach the new hard-drive on the middle connector of this second cable.


Second, add the drive to be cloned

drive to drive cloning ready to go setup

IDE cable #2 is connected to the motherboard, then to Drive #2 and finally to the CD-Rom.
The jumper settings for the CD-Rom and Drive #2 are both “cable select” . If there is an issue detecting Drive #2 when the clone program starts, try changing those settings so that one device is set to “master” and the other “slave”.

Setting the jumpers on the CD-Rom

Using the G4L software to clone disk to disk

With the G4L 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. Restart your computer and press whichever key you are told. Might be F2, F1 ? 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 G4L starts up, hit enter until you get to the black and white command prompt. Type G4L to get to the main cloning menu.

Choose RAW Mode

Ghost 4 Linux menu, choose RAW mode

Choose Click and Clone

Ghost 4 Linux Click and Clone

Select Source Drive

Ghost 4 Linux select source

Select Source Drive hda
Use the spacebar to select drive hda.
Select the drive that has the setup and configuration that you want to duplicate to the other computers. BE CAREFUL here. You do not want to make a mistake and overwrite your good setup !!!!

Ghost for Linux Select source drive hda

Select Target Drive

Ghost 4 Linux select target drive to be overwritten. BE CAREFUL HERE.

Select Target Drive hdc
Use the spacebar to select drive hdc.
Select the drive you want to be overwritten BE CAREFUL here. If there is any existing data on this drive, it will be destroyed. MAKE SURE this is the drive you want to overwrite.
Ghost 4 Linux Select Drive to be overwritten. BE CAREFUL.

Click and Clone Drive Now
Ghost 4 Linux Click and Clone drive now.

Verify your choices and begin cloning

Ghost 4 Linux, verify your choices and begin cloning

After the cloning is finished, remove the second hardrive and install it back into a machine as the primary drive. If all went well, it should work and be an exact clone of the original. Be sure to change the name of the machine to avoid duplicates on the network.


Happy cloning.