K5 Computer Lab Lesson Plans

School Computer Disk Imaging - Free

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Disk Imaging for Groups of Computers Using Clonezilla Server (FREE)

The problem:

Purchases or donations of multiple identical computers / laptops require a standardized setup before deploying them on campus.


Setting up and configuring computers for campus use can take several hours for a single computer.


Commercial disk imaging software licensing can be costly.




The solution:

Set up ONE computer in a standardized configuration and then duplicate it exactly to the other computers using a method known as cloning or disk imaging.


Avoid high licensing costs for commercial cloning software by using Clonezilla Server, a free open source disk imaging software.






The method used here is multicast disk imaging.

This is a preferred method of re-imaging many computers simultaneously. Using multicasting, a roomful of computers will image in the same time as a single computer using other methods.

Disk Imaging example using 6 clients and a network switch:

mini computer cloning station


There are 4 main steps to successfully imaging groups of computers.

  1. Install and configure an disk image server.

  2. Setup a mini computer cloning station.

  3. Clone the master computer's hard disk to an image file.

  4. Create clones from the master disk image file.


To do this you will need:

An Ubuntu Linux computer with Clonezilla Server installed.

A simple 10/100 or 10/100/1000 network switch with 8 ports or more.

Ethernet network cables connecting all computers to the switch.

A fully configured Windows computer as the "Master" computer.

All the computers must be able to boot up from the network card. (PXE booting)

One or more computers to be cloned from the master.


Step 1. Install and configure a disk image server.

Download and install the latest Ubuntu Desktop release on a spare computer or laptop. A recent computer with a Pentium 4 processor or better, 512MB ram and 40GB drive or more will suffice. This computer needs internet access to download software during installation.

The Ubuntu download is an .iso file that needs to be burned to a CD. You can burn it with Img Burn, a free program.

Insert the Ubuntu CD, restart the computer and watch the screen for a message that says "Press any key to boot from CD". Press a key.

If you don't see that message, change the boot order to boot from the CD first in BIOS.


Bios boot order for cloning


Follow the prompts to install Ubuntu. Recent Ubuntu Desktop installations are straightforward. No special configurations are necessary.

Clonezilla Server is used to clone many computers simultaneously across a network. This is done using a DRBL server and computer workstations that can boot from a network.

1. Install the key for the Clonezilla repository. Enter the following in the terminal to download the key:

To get to the terminal in Ubuntu go to: Applications > Accessories > Terminal

server for cloning computers

Now type:

wget http://drbl.nchc.org.tw/GPG-KEY-DRBL

2. Add the key:

sudo apt-key add GPG-KEY-DRBL

3. Add the Clonezilla repository to the apt source.list file. Open /etc/apt/source.list in the nano text editor:

sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

4. Add the following lines to the bottom of the list. Replace "lucid" with the name of the Ubuntu distribution you are using. I.E. gutsy, feisty, edgy, hardy, lucid..: Find your release name here.

deb http://free.nchc.org.tw/ubuntu lucid main restricted universe multiverse
deb http://free.nchc.org.tw/drbl-core drbl stable

Save changes and exit the file. ( ctrl + x ) then press Yes at the prompt and Enter to exit the nano editor.

5.Run these two commands to update your list and install drbl:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install drbl

6. Finally:

sudo /opt/drbl/sbin/drbl4imp

This configures DRBL and CloneZilla with default values.

When the installation is finished, Clonezilla is started and ready to accept clients for cloning.

Stop the Clonezilla Server. Type this in the terminal:

sudo /opt/drbl/sbin/dcs clonezilla-stop


June 29 2013 - A message from a user has indicated that there is a change:

NOTE: From DRBL version 2.x, those related files are not in /opt/drbl/ anymore.

"All the files are in /usr/sbin/, /usr/bin, /etc/drbl/ or /usr/share/drbl/.

but I found the above info via google, now it works

We have to install 40 new (secondhands) pc's"


Step 2. Setup a mini computer cloning station

This part is fairly simple, perhaps the hardest part is finding space to setup the equipment.

To do this you will need:ethernet switch for cloning computers

1. An ethernet switch with 8 ports or more.


2. Cat 5 Ethernet cables - enough for each computer to connect to the switch.


cat 5 network cable


3. Setup the mini cloning station

Setup all the computers and the server. Connect all of them to the switch. We want to isolate these computers from any other network so do not connect the switch to your router or another switch. The Clonezilla server will be using it's own DHCP server to give the computers IP address to communicate back and forth. We don't want any network conflicts or any unintended machines to be cloned. Keep this mini network separate from your regular network!

Mass computer disk imaging network setup diagram:

How to clone computers


Next >> Step 3. Clone the master computer to an image file


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