Photo by Omar Flores on Unsplash

Photo by Omar Flores on Unsplash

Backup and restore disks

Block by Block

Article from ADMIN 59/2020
Not every backup tool is useful for backing up entire data media. Rescuezilla makes perfect bit-level copies of mass media in a matter of minutes, so you can completely reconstruct the system if disaster strikes.

Regular backups are a routine task for every system administrator. However, complicated software tools with countless options, slow backup sessions, and unwieldy procedures for restoring data can lead both professionals and home users alike to skip making backups or only make them sporadically.

Especially in heterogeneous environments, setting up cross-platform backup software often involves some major overhead. For smaller environments, Rescuezilla [1] lets you create a backup with just a few mouse clicks and without having to edit configuration files.

Live System

Rescuezilla, maintained by an Australian developer and based on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, is designed as a Live system and comes with a graphical user interface. Because it runs in Live mode, it does not change any data on the data carriers connected to the computer.

You can pick up the 64-bit version of Rescuezilla as a 755MB ISO image from the project's website. If you want to back up older computers with an x86 architecture, use the 32-bit image instead, which weighs in at about 670MB. The 32-bit version is not an outdated version of the software; it is the same as the 64-bit version.

After downloading, write the hybrid image to either an optical data carrier or a USB stick, depending on the application. Note that the current version of Rescuezilla is designed to back up entire mass media; therefore the target device needs sufficient free capacity for the backup.

At the time of my tests, the current version was 1.0.6. For upcoming version 1.0.7, the developer announced stable support for backing up individual partitions. This feature is still at an experimental stage in version 1.0.6; therefore, the developer advises against using it on production systems.

External USB media or SSDs connected over USB 3.0 are best suited for quick backups of large drives. For smaller data carriers, an external USB 2.0 hard drive is often sufficient. As a general rule, it is important to note that Rescuezilla does not restore to drives with less capacity than the original source drives.

Because the software copies the drives to be backed up block by block, its use is not limited to Linux systems. You can easily back up the memory of other operating systems in one fell swoop. Also, you are not tied to the computer on which you are currently working. The software automatically detects shared folders and drives on the Intranet and includes them in the backup run if desired.

Getting Started

After the launch, you see a language selection box then a conventional GRUB boot menu, which you use to boot the operating system. You end up on an LXDE desktop that contains just one tool, the backup program, plus a panel at the bottom. The tool displays two large buttons for backing up or restoring drives (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Even beginners are able to back up data without training.

At the bottom is a panel with the system tray and a menu button. The menu is very compact, with just three items: Tools , Settings , and Other , which contains a few applications like the PCManFM file manager, a terminal, and the settings for network connections.


To start a backup, simply click the Backup button in the open Rescuezilla window. The software then automatically determines the available drives and displays them in a list from which you can select the one you want.

One button is missing in all dialogs: Back . If you select the wrong option and have already reached the next window, you need to quit the program by clicking Cancel and then restart.

After selecting the drive, the next step shows a list of partitions on the selected mass storage device (Figure 2). In future versions you will be able to define the partition(s) to be backed up here. In the current version of Rescuezilla, the recommendation is that you accept the default settings and back up the entire drive.

Figure 2: The software displays a table that lists drives and their partitions.

In the next step, select the target drive from the automatically generated list of drives for the data. You can also specify an SMB/CIFS network drive as the target, although it won't work with NFS or other protocols.

If you have several partitions on the target drive, the software displays them again in the selection, and you can click on one of the entries. Next, specify a folder on the target drive as the location for the image and assign a name for the backup. By default, Rescuezilla creates images with the current date as the label, but you can change this default in the input box.

Rescuezilla now creates the backup. A horizontal progress bar displays in the window, and when the process is complete, the software displays a dialog box showing the time required to create the image and the volume of data transferred. Pressing Exit closes the program.

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