Bootable block-by-block clone of a drive

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by taob, Aug 12, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. taob

    taob Registered Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Posts:
    13
    I've read through a seemingly endless series of threads about using ATI to create a bootable clone copy of your system drive, but it appears you have to boot from an Acronis recovery CD first, or something like that? Unfortunately, I do not have the hardware to adequately try this out for myself at the moment. :oops:

    This is the functionality I'm looking for, and it is aimed at users who don't know (and don't want to know) anything about the innards of a computer. Thus, the backup process should be completely hands-off and automated, while the recovery process should be as simple and short as possible.

    I am envisioning a computer with XP Pro or Vista (both 32-bit and 64-bit must be supported), with two identical hard drives. The first drive will have the OS and a small complement of applications... perhaps 12 gigabytes of data in all. I would like a perfect copy of the first drive on the second drive. If the first drive ever fails, all the user has to do is swap the drives (they will be installed in removeable trays), and reboot. No separate recovery step, no booting a recovery CD, no booting the Vista install DVD to do an OS repair, etc. Should be trivial, no?

    Obviously, everything needs to be cloned: MBR, boot blocks, MFT, open files, etc.... everything! It should be able to do this on a live system (perhaps by taking a shadow copy first, then working off the copy). Alternatively, the cloning process could run after the user has issued a shutdown command but before power is turned off.... that way you can guarantee a consistent filesystem.

    There should be a scheduler function, either running an incremental backup at every shutdown, or at a designated time and day of week. I can't rely on the user to kick off an update of the backup... I'd rather not have them think about it at all.

    There is no RAID or logical volume managers involved here. Just one single, simple volume formatted as NTFS5. Really, all I would have to do is a "dd" of the entire disk device... not terribly efficient, but it should work in theory. Then do a periodic filesystem-based synchronization. That works perfectly under Linux and FreeBSD, but it looks like Windows is somewhat more complicated...
     
  2. DwnNdrty

    DwnNdrty Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Posts:
    3,335
    Location:
    Florida - USA
    Just one thing that is confusing ... do you want to schedule an automatic Clone to the second drive or an incremental backup? I don't think you can have both.
     
  3. taob

    taob Registered Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Posts:
    13
    If ATI has a way to track which blocks have changed since the last backup (say, through some interface provided by VSS), then that would be preferable. Lacking that, however, a scheduled brute force dump of the entire volume is fine. We're only talking a dozen gigabytes or so, which won't take very long to dump on a modern system.

    Failing that, once the initial block-level clone was done, I could use a file-based utility (perhaps something like rsync that could run unattended on the command line) to keep things updated. I'm worried about unreadable/unwriteable files in that case, however. Keeping everything block-based would be ideal.

    But to keep things simple, if all I could get was a nightly disk-to-disk block-based replication that resulted in a directly bootable drive... that would be just fine. :thumb:

    It seems that ATI can do this, so I'm not sure why there is even the mention of creating recovery CD's, etc. That sounds like ATI forces you to recover from a backup image, which adds unnecessary steps and downtime.
     
  4. taob

    taob Registered Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Posts:
    13
    DnD,

    I just read your reply to glorya in a related thread... so it sounds like Clone is what I want (disk-to-disk replication), not Backup (copying files to a backup image file)? Can I clone individual partitions (along with the boot blocks), or does it have to be the entire disk device?
     
  5. DwnNdrty

    DwnNdrty Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Posts:
    3,335
    Location:
    Florida - USA
    Clone has to be of the entire hard drive. What one regular user here does is make the clone, then use the Clone as the main working drive, putting aside the original drive as the spare. This way you know that you always have a working spare drive. This person also uses removable trays and so do I.
     
  6. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2005
    Posts:
    4,751
    If you are referring to Xpilot he actually makes an image and then restores the image to the drive which will be the new working drive. He doesn't clone.

    While the original poster may have his reasons, I personally think that there often is too much emphasis put on "getting a failed system back very fast" such that it colors other factors. For most people (businesses excepted) a few minutes recovering isn't that important and systems that are dead because of disk failures don't happen every second week.
     
  7. DwnNdrty

    DwnNdrty Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Posts:
    3,335
    Location:
    Florida - USA
    Yep, you're right seekforever ... I think the op wants the easiest way to recover from a bad system drive for a customer. If this can be accomplished by flipping a switch that is what he's looking for. But it ain't that simple. :D
     
  8. taob

    taob Registered Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Posts:
    13
    Ah, so presumably he has three drives: source, image holding area, destination? That's how I've been doing it for my own systems (including swapping dest and src to ensure semi-regular use of both drives).

    This is more to simplify things for non-technical users than for recovery speed (these are workstations, not mission-critical servers). If I wanted recovery speed (and if they were willing to pay for it), I would just setup a RAID-1 boot volume instead. But then they would only be protected against hardware failure and not logical or operator errors.

    Instead, I'm looking for a way to replicate their boot/app drive in a way that the backup can be used directly, without need to do a restore. Swapping "tray A" and "tray B" in the mobile rack and then pressing the power button is much simpler than the user trying to remember the recovery procedure. *sigh*

    The fact that disk failures don't happen very often is what worries me... nobody'll remember how to do the recovery when it does happen, if it means more than just swapping drives.

    So it sounds like ATI's Clone function will work on the entire drive (which is fine), but there may be additional work needed if Vista is the OS, based on what I'm reading elsewhere (and on some of my own limited experience)...
     
  9. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2005
    Posts:
    2,318
    Hi Taob,

    I have a secondary drive in my computer where images are stored. This drive also has Windows swap files. I am one of a small minority who use the Secure Zone. The main reason is that it manages the backups with no further user intervention once a schedule has been set up and it is, as its title suggests, more secure.
    I have three main drives in swappable drawers. Two would be sufficient but I like the extra redundancy and the ability to experiment without any risk.
    The system backs up the main drive daily when the computer would otherwise be idle (lunch time). On my return I close down and swap over the current drive A with drive C. B drive which is yesterday's stays on the shelf until its turn comes up.
    All I then have to do is run a restore. I normally use the recovery CD but could do this from within Windows.

    This method is a time and effort saver in many ways but best of all it is fireproof. No validations are run as, a restore is the best proof of all.

    Food for thought if nothing else.

    Xpilot
     
  10. DwnNdrty

    DwnNdrty Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Posts:
    3,335
    Location:
    Florida - USA
    Come to think of it, I haven't read of anyone doing automatic scheduled Clones. It is always Backups. Can this be done? If it can, this would be the way for the OP to set up his client. Then all the client has to do in the morning is switch trays before booting for the day. This would make sure that the "nightly clone" works.
     
  11. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2005
    Posts:
    2,318
    I had considered using clones rather than restoring to swappable drives. There are several disadvantages to using clones. Both drives are connected at the same time which can put them both at risk. For convenience one would need two drawer mounting fitments. My PC only had room for one. With clones one would have no backup history should this be needed, my secure zone holds ten or eleven backup generations.
    I am not aware of any way to schedule unattended clones whilst unattended backups are a trivial exercise.
    So now you will see why I settled on restoring scheduled backups to swapped main drives.

    Xpilot
     
  12. DwnNdrty

    DwnNdrty Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Posts:
    3,335
    Location:
    Florida - USA
    Ahhhh ... the plot thickens ... for the OP's situation. :(
     
  13. Acronis Support

    Acronis Support Acronis Support Staff

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    Posts:
    25,885
    Hello taob,

    Thank you for your interest in Acronis Disk Backup Software.

    Please be aware that there are two approaches available:

    Clone Disk - migrates/copies the entire contents of one disk drive to another;

    Backup - creates a special archive file for backup and disaster recovery purposes;

    Please take a look at this FAQ article explaining the difference between Clone Disk and Backup approaches in more detail.

    Actually, Clone Disk approach is usually used to upgrade the hard drive (e.g. install a larger disk), while Backup approach is basically dedicated for the complete data backup and disaster recovery purposes. Since you are interested in backing up your hard drive for the disaster recovery purposes, we would recommend you to follow Backup approach.

    Moreover, there are several advantages of creating an image over the disk cloning procedure such as: you can create an image without rebooting your PC, image creation can be scheduled for the particular point in time, Acronis True Image allows you to create incremental and differential images, image archive contains only the actual data and so it has a smaller size, images are ordinary files and so they can be stored on any type of the supported media, etc. Cloning operation cannot be scheduled. However, the final choice is always up to your needs.

    You can find more information on how to use Acronis True Image in the respective User's Guide.

    Thank you.
    --
    Marat Setdikov
     
  14. taob

    taob Registered Member

    Joined:
    Apr 4, 2007
    Posts:
    13
    Hi, Marat. Yes, I did read that particular FAQ entry, which is one of the reasons I considered doing cloning instead of the usual backup/restore procedure. Cloning an entire drive is fine... user data (in this case, photographs) will not be stored on that drive anyway. Also, cloning will give me a second, bootable disk. Doing a backup will require a third disk as a staging area, as well as a recovery step.

    This is for DR purposes, but I guess I don't see the advantage of Backup over Clone, in this particular scenario. The lack of scheduling is a minor concern: does ATI support command line switches to automate a cloning operation? If so, I could invoke ATI from the Windows Task Scheduler.

    Cloning a disk requires that the PC be rebooted, even though it is effectively a read-only operation on the source drive? Does ATI take advantage of Volume Shadow Service on XP and Vista?

    Related note: if I clone a 500GB drive (just for sake of argument) that only has a 20GB partition on it, will ATI need to read/write 500GB worth of disk blocks, or only 20GB? Or perhaps only non-free disk blocks in that 20GB partition?

    Not an issue if I'm cloning to another drive of the same size.

    The images are ordinary files, but to access anything inside those images requires the ATI Explorer extension. If I clone a disk, that disk is readable on any system that can mount an NTFS volume.
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.