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FAQ ID # 107
Last Update : 2008/12/25
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Question / Issue
How to Clone a Linux Partition and make it bootable

Answer / Solution

The following is a summary of what folks on this forum helped me with.

I come from a Windows XP world and I had certain "perceptions" that hindered my understanding how to clone a Linux partition. From a Windows perspective, when I wanted to clone a partition or drive, I used Norton Ghost --- so, I thought that was the best way for Linux. Then I had trouble with making the partition bootable.

Well, Ghost was the wrong choice as it created an ext2 file system where Ubuntu uses an ext3 file system.

lso, I had some misunderstandings about grub. Grub can be perceived as *two* parts -- one part resides on the boot drive and the other is the menu that appears on the screen allowing you to select which partition. If you have a dual boot Windows XP/Ubuntu configuration like I do, the bootable part of Grub is going to be your C: or hd0 drive.

I have 5 main partitions on my 2 hard drives: XP, a backup image of XP via Norton Ghost, Ubuntu 6.10, Ubuntu 7.04 in a 20GB partition, and now an image of my Ubuntu 7.04 in an 80GB partition. The reason for this apparent mess is because I believe in backups and fallback options in case I screw something up.

So, if you are searching for a way to clone your Ubuntu to another partition like I was wanting for either backup or that you need more disk space, check out this procedure I documented:

Clone Linux Partition

Don't need Norton Ghost use the command cp -a instead

You need to boot off the CDROM so that neither the source partition nor the target partition is mounted.


Assume in the following example that we are copying /dev/sdb3 to /dev/sda6:

1.Boot Ubuntu CDROM

2.Click on Terminal in order to get command prompt

3.Run fdisk to create partition:

sudo fdisk /dev/sda

p <- display partition table

n then p <- create a new primary partition

NOTE: If you have Windows XP, you can use it to create the partition – but

don't format it.

4.sudo mkfs -t ext3 /dev/sda6 <-- make file system, format it

5.mkdir /tmp/sdb3 <-- mount points

6.mkdir /tmp/sda6

7.sudo mount -t ext3 /dev/sdb3 /tmp/sdb3

8.sudo mount -t ext3 /dev/sda6 /tmp/sda6 /tmp/sda3 <- go here to start copy

10.sudo cp -a * /tmp/sda6 <- copy relative to this

Now setup grub and the menu.lst file so you can boot the new partition.

In this example, we put in an entry in menu.lst like this:

#Proposed Ubuntu 7.04 on /dev/sda6:


title Ubuntu, kernel on /dev/sda6 80GB Partition

root (hd0,5)

kernel /boot/vmlinuz- root=/dev/sda6 ro quiet splash

initrd /boot/initrd.img-



Now this creates a copy of your Ubuntu in another partition but it is not bootable yet.

To make it bootable, you can use Grub like the following:


Boot Loader = on the boot drive

/boot/grub/menu.lst = on the Linux Partition

Note: If you need to install Grub, boot the Ubuntu CDROM, click on the Terminal, to get a shell prompt.

sudo grub

grub> find /boot/grub/stage1 <-- find all Linux partitions

grub> root (hd1,2) <-- select the partition that has


grub> setup (hd0) <-- drive that boots – usually hd0

grub> quit

Edit /boot/grub/menu.lst

#Proposed Ubuntu 7.04 on /dev/sda6:


title Ubuntu, kernel on /dev/sda6 80GB Partition

root (hd0,5)

kernel /boot/vmlinuz- root=/dev/sda6 ro quiet splash

initrd /boot/initrd.img-



Set the default variable in /boot/grub/menu.lst so that the default is as you prefer.



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