How to Backup USB Drives and Restore Them, Bootable State and All

Julio Franco

Posts: 9,052   +2,018
Staff member
A FULL install of Linux may require a 16GB flash drive, giving you a 16GB backup, but Linux Live backups (including the persistence file) only require a 4GB flash drive keeping your backup file much smaller than you noted in the article.

I install, configure and back-up Linux Live to a 4GB Compact Flash Card with USB Image Tool, then restore to a 32GB SAMSUNG 32GB BAR Plus Thumb Drive. This way, the backup is only 4GB but can be restored to ANY size thumb drive.

The "SAMSUNG 32GB BAR Plus" is also fast enough to run Windows to Go from a $10 thumb drive (200MB/sec Read / cool running and No Throttling). I am not currently aware of any other thumb drives that can run Windows to Go as fast as this for less than $10

Exceeding the cache size during writes can be very slow but as a boot drive and limiting writes to under 700MB, this drive is exceptional.
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Thank you for this article. I did not know about Rufus v3 having that new feature to save images of a bootable thumbdrive. I was still using v2.5
It will be handy to me because I like to make backup images of all my bootable partitions on sata or usb drives. I have 1.5 tb of backups already for all my Linux(12), Windows(2) and Hackintosh(3) installed on my drives.
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Thanks for the valuable tip @Bullwinkle M . We have incorporated that into the article, so that you may build your ISO/clone with the smallest USB drive capacity needed, so it's more convenient to store and restore, but it can be used on larger drives as needed later.

For other readers, link to your suggested pen drive is here:

More expensive but also recommended drives in 64GB and 128GB capacities:
Kingston Digital 64GB DataTraveler Elite
SanDisk Extreme Pro 128GB Drive
Though I do not work for them, I've been using Image For Linux for at least 10-years now. It is the sister product to Image For Windows, and, IMO, the far superior option for backing up ANY bootable drive. I have it installed, itself, on a bootable USB drive.

The fact that it nags you to purchase it is a moot complaint, IMO. It is inexpensive enough, $29.99 and $39.99 if you buy BootIT Bare Metal (Image for DOS comes with the package and before you say WTF? DOS, you should check it out with its 30-day trial period) - an unbeatable partition manager, that most people could probably easily afford it. That price entitles you to all upgrades within a major version number, and the license is good for use on three PCs. They do not churn major version numbers, either. I bought 2.X well over 10-years ago, and it was only about a year or two ago that they went to 3.X. The upgrade was something like $19.99 for each license I own.

My apologies for this sounding like a commercial, however, I use Image For Linux as my primary backup utility. It is able to image literally ANY bootable drive to file or to another drive. The files it produces are compatible with Image for Windows and vice-versa. It will automatically resize to different drive sizes and is literally fool-proof IMO. For me, you get an exceptionally powerful tool for a very reasonable price. It has both ANSI graphic and GUI interfaces and is extremely simple to use.

IMO, Image for Windows/Linux/DOS - Yes DOS, is the only way to go.
So can someone comment on how to clone your existing Windows 10/8.1 onto an external bootable SSD or HDD using USB 3 Type-C or Thunderbolt connection?
So can someone comment on how to clone your existing Windows 10/8.1 onto an external bootable SSD or HDD using USB 3 Type-C or Thunderbolt connection?
I just use the program Macrum Reflect, to clone the SSD on my laptop, to a HDD connected via USB to the HDD. I clone it once a month. Before I head home from work, I start it, and by morning it's finished.