Originally Posted by beaker_
...what do you guys swear by? i.e., I'm about ready to start using dd and gzip as I don't see the wisdom of imaging with propitiatory formats and partimage isn't trustworthy on ntfs.
Consider tar for cloning partitions and systems. It doesn't create an image in the usual sense of the word. It just copies the files. But here's why I like it better than dd for cloning (and backing up) partitions and systems.
dd copies sectors including the superblock and all of the backup superblocks which have the wrong metadata for the cloned partition (unless it's a backup being restored to the same partition). Don't forget to fix those with the usual utilities after using dd to clone. tar just copies the files of the old system into a waiting new and healthy filesystem.
dd can't clone to a smaller partition. And when dd-ing to a larger partition (almost always the case), remember that you also need to resize the filesystem of the clone. BTW, I my experiments, resizing the filesystem after dd-ing a clone will fix all of the backup superblocks. fsck only fixed the primary superblock (in my experiments).
tar takes less time because it's copying files instead of all of the partition's sectors (comparable time to Acronis, IMO). And if you want to create a tarball to use as a backup and/or to create a clone (instead of piping directly to another tar command), then the tarball is smaller than the dd binary for the same reason and can be reduced further by zipping it.
Tarball backups of partitions easily can be browsed with Xarchiver in a file manager sort of like True Image can do to a .tib file. Not much you can do in that regard with a dd binary. Nothing actually.
I've used cp with good results in cloning systems, too. And other methods advocated by people are rsync, cpio, dump and restore. I haven't tried those, but I don't need to.
P.S.: I still use Acronis True Image to image Windows systems. I bought it, so I still use it. But only on Windows and NTFS partitions.