I have a 32GB SD Card that contains an Armbian installation for some pi gadget. I want to clone the content into a 16GB card. Using GParted, I shrank the partitions to be less than 16GB and here is the state of the SD Card as shown in fdisk. There are 2 partitions, one is the Armbian and the other one is an small FAT32 partition to share files with windows.

Disk /dev/sdk: 29,74 GiB, 31914983424 bytes, 62333952 sectors
Disk model: USB3.0 CRW-SD/MS
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0x22563e30

Device     Boot    Start      End  Sectors  Size Id Type
/dev/sdk1           8192 25690111 25681920 12,3G 83 Linux
/dev/sdk2       25690112 26509311   819200  400M  b W95 FAT32

Can you please tell me what would I need to do now to exactly clone what is on the card, including the boot partition? It is strange that the Armbian leaved 8129 sectors free, and calls it unpartitioned space, what is in that area?

If I do something like:

dd if=/dev/sdk of=/home/user/backup.iso

It will create an image with size 32GB.... but I want it to be limited to the last sector of /dev/sdk2.

  • 1
    Just run dd. It will stop when it reaches the end of the 16 GB card. Commented May 29, 2021 at 10:43
  • 1
    @berndbausch Well I want to create an image from it and then later write it to the 16GB card.
    – DEKKER
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 10:46
  • The count option limits the number of blocks, and the bs option defines the blocksize. As stated in the answer, actually. Commented May 29, 2021 at 10:48

2 Answers 2


You could use the largest end sector for count:

dd bs=512 count=26509312 if=/dev/sdk of=devsdk.img

Or with a different blocksize:

dd bs=1M count=$((26509312*512)) iflag=count_bytes if=/dev/sdk of=devsdk.img

It is strange that the Armbian leaved 8129 sectors free, and calls it unpartitioned space, what is in that area?

For embedded devices, unpartitioned space can hold bootloaders and kernel images, or anything else really. But it could be as simple as alignment considerations.

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    Is reading from a block device using dd with bs and count (without fullblock) never an issue, in contrast to, for instance, yes | dd bs=1M count=...)?
    – fra-san
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 11:12
  • for block devices, it's usually fine for bs=1M... but you can add fullblock to the iflag if you like... or use something else like head -c $((26509312*512)) /dev/thing > thing.img Commented May 29, 2021 at 11:40
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    A block size of 512 bytes for physical blocks of 4K is really inefficient. Increase your block size to (at least) 1M. Better, just use cat image > /dev/device Commented May 29, 2021 at 12:26
  • @roaima: If you're not using O_DIRECT, the "block size" only means the size of your read and write system calls, so you're actually wasting CPU time (on syscall overhead, and on the kernel's block I/O layer doing merging of pending requests). Unless your device is really fast, you're probably not losing I/O throughput. bs=128k or 64k is often good: about half of L2 cache size is a good tradeoff of system-call overhead vs. getting cache hits in the kernel's copy_to_user / copy_from_user. (And perhaps small enough that it doesn't need much splitting into actual SATA or NVMe requests?) Commented May 29, 2021 at 22:12
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    @PeterCordes I don't know if Linux's I/O anticipation and scheduling has become faster, but when I benchmarked it a decade ago, it did make a small but measurable difference. cat was the winner for a different-disk copy. Commented May 29, 2021 at 23:09

Forget dd: it's hard to use reliably and somewhat slow. Despite a common myth, there's no magic in dd: the magic is in /dev/*.

To copy up to sector 26509311 in units of 512-bytes sector, use head. Remember to add 1 because sectors start at 0.

sudo head -c $(((26509311 + 1) * 512)) /dev/sdk >/home/user/backup.iso
  • Thanks, I was always thinking head is reading text files :) this is good
    – DEKKER
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 10:47

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