If I'm already in a linux, is there a way for me to say "turn this new external hard drive into a bootable linux distribution identical to this machine" that doesn't involve any of dd, downloading an ISO or rebooting? It's hard to believe this is as difficult as it seems to be.

It's hard to believe that this isn't a standard tool, but if it is I sure can't find it. Every installer ISO I've ever seen since the once-magical Knoppix has let you boot into a workable Linux on its own, and install to the hard drive if you like, but I don't see a standalone tool that does that second part.

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What I'm asking for here is: from within a Debiannish linux, a tool (ideally graphical, but w/e) that you point at a hard drive, that:

- Formats this new hard drive appropriately, making it bootable and doing grub-whatever
- Installs the same packages onto that device as are on the host system, and
- Optionally copies over user account information (/home/*, passwords, etc
- Optionally copies over whatever's in /etc or /opt

...and ends with a hard drive I can plug into another system and boot.

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