I've got Ubuntu 16.04 running on a Sony VAIO laptop that has been a workhorse for massive computations for mathematical research for years. I think it's dying, and I need to save all my data.

After many iterations of manually running fsck and tediously confirming YES to all errors (literally thousands), as in this question and others, I finally managed to get it to boot properly and it even loaded up the GUI. Only problem: in a shell I am treated to the reminder that the filesystem is mounted read-only.

I have a functioning external USB drive (confirmed on another computer), but the dying laptop doesn't mount it automatically nor can I find it using fdisk -l. And even if I could, I can't create a mount point because that requires writing to the drive.

I would like to just rsync my entire home folder (I'd lose some other things like fonts and LaTeX packages installed elsewhere but whatevs.) What to do?

  • clonezilla can be used to clone the entire drive. you can get a CD image here clonezilla.org/downloads.php
    – ravery
    Jul 15, 2017 at 0:08
  • But I would need to be able to mount the external drive first, right? I can figure out how to transfer data if I can get the OS to recognize that another drive exists. Jul 15, 2017 at 0:10
  • 1
    no clonezilla opens it's own interface it will mount drives. and actually does the cloning with them unmounted. your linux install is never started. You can clone the drive, replace the HDD in the computer with the clone and possibly even recover you install.
    – ravery
    Jul 15, 2017 at 0:14

1 Answer 1


My answer is similar to others.
Clonezilla, Lsoft Active,

as well as other software out there.
Boot from USB or Optical Media, Active has disk checker and other utilities, back up data to external hard drive while in the utility software.
Replace HDD, reinstall OS.
As mentioned, you can clone the drive, but in this case where the drive might be failing, and if it has bad sectors, if you clone it, you will clone the bad sectors.
I'd just back the data up, replace hard drive, reinstall OS / Software / Drivers / Etc... then restore data. In the long run, safest bet.

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