I recently installed an SSD into my machine. The machine itself is a Lenovo thinkpad W520, and it previously had an internal HDD. I moved the internal HDD into an expansion bay (replacing the CD-ROM), and put the new SSD into the internal bay.

The problem I'm having is that I have my Ubuntu configuration EXACTLY the way I want it - I originally spent many hours configuring it to get it to the way it is now. I'd rather not do this again. But, I'd also like the boot-up gains I would get from the OS being on the SSD.

So, what I'd like to do is clone my Ubuntu partition onto the SSD. The catch is that the standard HDD is significantly bigger than the SSD. And it has a windows partition that I don't need on the SSD (I never use Windows, so if it boots off of the other hard drive, that's fine). The layout of my hard drives are as follows:

/dev/sda (SSD): Model: ATA M4-CT256M4SSD2 (scsi) Disk /dev/sda: 256GB Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B Partition Table: msdos

Number  Start   End    Size   Type     File system  Flags
 1      1049kB  147GB  147GB  primary  ext4         boot

/dev/sdb (HDD): Model: ATA ST9500420AS (scsi) Disk /dev/sdb: 500GB Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/512B Partition Table: msdos

Number  Start   End     Size    Type      File system     Flags
 1      1049kB  1259MB  1258MB  primary   ntfs            boot
 2      1259MB  269GB   268GB   primary   ntfs
 4      269GB   483GB   214GB   extended
 5      269GB   416GB   147GB   logical   ext4
 7      416GB   475GB   58.9GB  logical   linux-swap(v1)
 6      475GB   483GB   8470MB  logical
 3      483GB   500GB   16.8GB  primary   ntfs

What I've tried so far:

1) Resizing the partitions /dev/sdb5 and /dev/sda1 to be the same size. 2) Booting into Ubuntu 11.04 (from /dev/sdb5) and running dd if=/dev/sdb5 of=/dev/sda1 (of course this causes problems with booting, so I had to reinstall grub.. I can get it to boot, but then I have problems with initrd not finding some files ... presumably it can't load some partitions I think).

Now, I think those two steps are the wrong approach, because it will clone /dev/sdb5 EXACTLY - including references in fstab which point to the wrong hard drive. I'm not sure exactly how to rectify this. I could install Ubuntu 11.04 onto the SSD, then try and copy over all of my configurations, but I'm concerned that I'm going to lose something, or that I'm going to overwrite something like fstab that points back to the original hard drive.

Note that currently, I can still boot from the HDD, so it's not imperative that I get this figured out right away, but I do want it to be exactly how it is right now, so that I can maintain my current level of productivity (it's a work laptop).

Suggestions on how I might be able to overcome this difficulty?

Thanks in advance!

4 Answers 4


There is more than one way to accomplish getting your old system onto a new drive, but you didn't really ask it that way, you asked for how to clone the system.

I would just use gparted, myself, from the live CD so neither partition is mounted. You can shrink the original partition to the size you want it to be on the SSD, then copy and paste the partition to the new drive. If I remember correctly, this will reuse the same UUID, but you can change that on one or the other partition afterwards. The command for this is sudo tune2fs -U random /dev/sdb5 assigns UUID for sdb5.

If you don't want to change the old system, and if you want to keep it mounted for a while, you could change the UUID for the SSD partition, and edit your fstab. It's actually not hard at all, and is something you should learn about. It's pretty self-explanatory for someone with the knowledge you already seem to have. Once you assign a new UUID, you can see all of them with this command: sudo blkid -c /dev/null - the parameter -c specifies the cache file, and /dev/null means don't use a cache, so you always get any changes right away. I always use that form, and can see no downside unless you have a lot of partitions.

Once you get the UUID, you can copy and paste it over the old one in /etc/fstab using gedit or whatever text editor you prefer.

Personally, though, rather than taking time to resize the partition first, I'd simply copy the old install to the new disk. If you don't know how to install GRUB to the mbr, you might want to first install a base Ubuntu, then back up /etc/fstab, copy the old install over it, and then copy the fstab from the new install so it has only the correct entries.

  • This is very helpful, thank you. I am going to try it and see if I can get it to work. Then I'll come back and accept the answer or ask you more about it. ;)
    – jwir3
    Apr 4, 2012 at 18:30
  • 1
    I've used the live install CD a lot of times, as it has most everything you need. But the best actual rescue image I've used is System Rescue CD. This bootable CD, also available as USB stick, has fixed GRUB for me a number of times after something (or someone, who shall remain unnamed) wiped it out. It has gparted, grub tools, and everything else you'd want to fix a linux installation, without too much overhead. Is this the type of thing you were asking about? Apr 4, 2012 at 21:23
  • 1
    You're welcome, and good luck. Apr 5, 2012 at 0:31
  • 1
    This worked well. One thing I was a bit unsure on was how to configure grub, and, more specifically, that there are very different ways to configure grub legacy vs. grub2. I used the following as reference for grub2, once I installed it (apt-get install grub2): dedoimedo.com/computers/grub-2.html I was originally going by a grub2 installation method, when in fact, grub-legacy was installed on my system.
    – jwir3
    Apr 8, 2012 at 2:29
  • 1
    Ah, yes, the lovable grub, and it's improved, grub2 (NEW! IMPROVED! NOW EVEN MORE COMPLEX!). Sorry, it's all my fault; I had gotten to fully understand the old grub, so of course, they changed it. Then, when I thought I was getting grub2, they made a few more minor changes, incompatible with the previous version. That's why I suggested the possibility of a base install first, just to get grub set up. But it's a good idea to learn grub, and it's actually not that complicated, really. Did you change over to grub2 now? Apr 8, 2012 at 16:44

Boot from the livecd, mount both drives, then just copy the files over with sudo cp -ax /media/source /media/dest. Edit the /etc/fstab on the destination to point to the correct UUID ( look up with blkid ), and reinstall grub.

  • 1
    That's what I'd do, but it took me forever to get a handle on grub2 - mostly due to the myriads of different methods I read, none of which seemed to be complete. Your post assumes the person is on the same level as you are, or perhaps you simply assume he will ask about the parts that aren't known (which is probably OK). But it's curious that you specified the easiest part, the copy command, and kinda glossed over the harder parts. :) Apr 4, 2012 at 18:13
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    @MartyFried, a quick google jumps right to help.ubuntu.com/community/Grub2#Reinstalling_GRUB2, which says it's as simple as running grub-install --root-directory /mnt /dev/sda after mounting the Ubuntu partition in /mnt ;)
    – psusi
    Apr 4, 2012 at 19:18
  • Ah, I'm glad to hear that they've improved or added to the documentation. It's been a while for me, but when I was trying to get a handle on it, even the official GRUB documentation was not totally correct. Also, there was a version change for GRUB2 that caused it to fail with an obscure error message. But the problem with the Ubuntu forums I used to frequent more is that there is a lot of misinformation repeated until it becomes fact by people who barely know what they are talking about - not everyone, but it's hard to sort out sometimes. Apr 4, 2012 at 21:14

I would suggest avoiding to use dd if=/dev/sdb5 of=/dev/sda1 if your system is running from /dev/sdb5 itself (and presumably not mounted read-only).

Another way to copy partitions across is to boot from the live CD (or USB) and start GParted. You can use Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V to copy partitions from one disk to another.

One the copy is made (and perhaps after reboot is the partition table needs to be refreshed), still from the live CD, mount your new root partition using a Terminal:

sudo mount /dev/sda1 /mnt

Then, edit /mnt/etc/fstab to point to the correct locations.

  • 1
    if you dd from the live CD you don't need to edit the fstab provided it uses UUIDs (which it should).
    – Alecz
    Oct 18, 2017 at 20:37

The bash script clone-ubuntu.sh automates the steps the accepted answer outlines. A menu is provided to make the new partition easy to find:


Visit the link above for a copy of the script and important points to consider such as:

  • rsync is used to clone booted partition and system virtual directories are correctly skipped.
  • /etc/fstab of the target clone is updated with correct UUIDs for booting.
  • /etc/grub/grub.cfg is updated for seamless grub booting.

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