DD10: More problems than solutions?

Discussion in 'Acronis Disk Director Suite' started by OzRon, Apr 13, 2008.

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  1. OzRon

    OzRon Registered Member

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    I'm a past Powerquest user (Drive Image & Partition Magic) who some time ago switched to True Image.

    I've now completed the switch by adding Disk Director (10.0.0.2160). My DD experience so far has been very disappointing.

    The issues below, except Recovery Expert, encountered using DD from CD in full, manual mode.

    First issue: Split

    I could not get "Split" to work at all (detailed in a separate post).

    Second issue: Move

    Then I tried "Move". Two 80GB PATA drives. The first partitioned into C: (with around 20GB in use out of 30GB capacity) and D: (not relevant here). The second drive contained a single E: partition. All partitions were NTFS (though C: was originally FAT32 and later converted to NTFS using Windows XP's convert.exe).

    The objective was to move C: to the second drive, allowing the system partition to occupy the full drive.

    So in essence I was moving around 20GB from one drive to another, and causing it to occupy a larger partition.

    I first deleted E:, turning it into unallocated space. I then moved C: to that space. The "Move" took three-and-a-quarter hours!

    Partition Magic was never that slow. Neither are True Image backups/restores. Surely both TI and DD use similar technology? Well maybe not. After discovering that I could not boot the moved partition (see next issue), I eventually ended up again clearing the second drive, and using True Image to restore to it a backup of the original C: partition. It did this successfully in around half an hour.

    So it's around 30 minutes for TI to create the partition from a .tib file (which it has to decompress), and three-and-a-quarter hours for DD to copy the partition from the original. Before I add "Move" to the growing list of things that I should not use in Disk Director (because of this and the following issue), can anyone shed light on this huge difference?

    Third issue: Moved partition not bootable

    I'm not 100% sure if this is an Acronis issue or if I somehow fell victim of a "Genuine Windows Advantage" quirk. (Perhaps someone out there will know?) The C: partition that I moved was a "de-activated" Windows XP Pro boot partition. The fully legitimate OS deactivated shortly before the attempted partition move, owing to hardware changes (shuffled disk drives and new RAM). It advised that I had the usual 3-day grace period within which I would have to re-activate. I chose to wait, as I had not finished changing the hardware and didn't want it to happen again.

    But as soon as I tried to boot from the moved partition, Windows would only get as far as the Welcome screen, then it would hang - before offering any login choices (and thus not even allowing an attempt to re-activate - which I believe it does do if the "grace" period has expired). Nothing I tried, including Safe Mode, allowed me to get further.

    I eventually solved the problem by scrapping the new partition, and re-creating it with True Image instead. (Well, with the TI-created partition I did get the dreaded "Error removing USB devices after cloning" problem, so well documented in a thread in the TI forum, but at least I was able to fix that.)

    I know others that have had Windows re-activation problems, but none with symptoms like mine. Hence I can't (yet) assume that this was NOT a Disk Director issue.

    Fourth issue: Recovery Expert

    Before solving the above problem by using True Image instead of DD, I thought that I might try recovering the original partition that DD had deleted because it was "moved". (I had also previously removed the original D: partition from that drive.) A task for "Recovery Expert", thought I. I moved the drive to the computer that I started with, in order to use DD from Windows. I started Recovery Expert in Manual mode, and when the "Fast" searching method didn't seem to work, I tried the "Complete" method on the drive that now showed no partitions.

    It immediately detected one partition. But my joy was short-lived. 50 minutes later, no progress whatsoever was showing on the progress bar. Fearing it might be hung, I opened Task Manager. In "Applications”, it showed Disk Director as running (and no others). When I looked at "Processes", DiskDirector.exe (the only relevant Acronis process listed) was showing CPU usage fluctuating between 7% and 21%. However, after 50 minutes it was only showing 350 I/O reads. After a further 10 minutes of observation, no further I/O reads had been recorded (and still no "progress" indicated). I gave up and cancelled it.

    So unless someone can show me the error of my ways, it seems that "Recovery Expert" also hits the list of things that I can't get to work properly. I'm running out of uses for the software!


    Most of what I’ve tried with Disk Director has failed! I’m hoping for some comments that might help restore the faith. The remaining issues are minor by comparison...

    Fifth issue: What is unavailable from CD?

    Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that "Defragment" doesn't work when running from CD, since there is a somewhat obscure help statement that says it's for Windows XP (which I guess I should not interpret as "for Windows XP disks" but rather as "for when running under Windows XP and not the CD's OS").

    But does the same apply to "Change Letter"? I cannot change NTFS drive letters from CD either.

    Is there anywhere a list of what DD functions are not usable from a bootable CD?

    Sixth/last: Minor question

    Does Acronis believe that every disk must have one "Active" partition? Microsoft doesn't think so. In the past I have successfully used many secondary disks with one or more primary partitions, where none are marked "Active". And Partition Magic would let me easily manipulate this property decades ago, and let the user decide whether or not a new partition should be Active. But unless I'm missing something, DD appears not to allow the "Active" attribute to be turned off, and will automatically assign it on disks that it alters.

    Is this correct? Should it be?
     
  2. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    OzRon:

    I can't help with several of these issues because I've never used them personally. But here are responses to a few:

    Probably neither. You probably ran afoul of the Windows drive letter change issue. The symptom you describe - hanging at the Welcome screen on Windows XP - is a classic indicator that the system drive letter is different from when Windows was installed. XP will just hang up here, but Vista will allow you to log on with a temporary profile and see what has happened, so it is somewhat of an improvement.

    After you move the partition it would have a different starting sector and thus a different GUID, but the registry would have an entry with the old GUID identified as the system partition, probably C:, so upon first boot Windows will think that C: is already reserved and will assign a new drive letter to your moved system partition. Clearing the entries in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\MountedDevices before moving would probably avoid this by forcing Windows to reassign drive letters on first boot.
    I think you have identified both of them. Chkdsk and change drive letter (which does not allow changing the system drive letter) are Windows functions that are just called by DD. If running from the boot disk then these are unavailable.
    I agree that this was poorly implemented. You can clear the Active flag by clicking on the disk icon and choosing "Edit" to bring up the Disk Editor. Change the view to "As partition table" and then you can check or uncheck the active flag on each partition.
     
  3. OzRon

    OzRon Registered Member

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    Thank you, Mark. Informative, thought-provoking, and much appreciated.

    The "drive letter change issue" makes sense, and may well have been the culprit. But if so, wouldn't your suggested registry workaround be needed (either just before the move, or from a different OS or a Bart PE-like environment) anytime that DD is used to move a system partition?

    At the last successful Windows session before the move, the configuration was:

    Drive 1: IDE Primary Master; system partition C:.
    Drive 2: IDE Primary Slave; partition E:

    I then rebooted from the Disk Director CD, removed partition E:, and moved C: to the second drive. I did nothing at the time about drive letters, since as we know they can't be changed in this environment, and though I can't now recall the drive letter outcome within DD, I imagine that I would have assumed that they did not necessarily match Windows' assignments. Prior to rebooting Windows I physically swapped the drives (Master/Slave).

    Starting sector aside (although C: was the first partition on both drives, and the drives were identical models), I think we're saying that the (original) drive letter is not part of the moved partition.

    But what still doesn't compute (though the brain is foggy in these wee small hours) is why no such problem arises when the partition is "moved" to the same target disk using True Image instead of Disk Director.

    Actually, I've just thought of one difference. (The fog lifts slightly.) I mentioned previously (in "Second issue") that partition C: was originally FAT32 and had later been converted to NTFS. What I didn't mention was that the ".tib" file used to eventually get the system drive on to the second disk was an image backup taken just before the NTFS conversion. So DD moved an NTFS partition (that would then not boot), while TI restored a FAT32 partition (that would). Also, the TI restore did not include enlarging the partition since FAT partitions can't be larger than 32GB in XP. (I enlarged it with DD after reconverting to NTFS.)

    Could any of that account for the the different "bootability" results? If so, does it not suggest that problems would arise with True Image as well if an NTFS system partition is restored to a different disk? (Could have sworn I've done that before without incident, but again, the brain is foggy.)

    It's interesting too that the only warning I've (so far) found in Acronis documentation is: Take special care when moving an operating system partition and its boot code location. The OS might stop booting. For example, Windows NT 4.0 and earlier versions limit boot code location to the first 2016 MB.

    But XP is not earlier than NT4. And one would think that the drive letter issue in XP is just as important a "special care" item.

    A final question, if it's not putting too much strain on the friendship. On the PC on which I'm currently typing this, the registry key HKLM\System\MountedDevices has some 120 entries. (Does it keep track of everything that has ever been mounted?) Only a handful of these are of the form "\DosDevices\x:", where "x" is a drive letter. Did you mean to clear all entries? Or just, in this example, the two DosDevices entries for the drive letters in question?

    Again, many thanks.
     
  4. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    OzRon:

    The easiest way to avoid drive letter changes is to make only one change at a time. So, in your example, if you had moved the Windows partition to the second drive and then rebooted with only the second disk attached (as the boot disk), then Windows would not have seen the former location of the C: drive, so the C: drive letter would have been freed up, allowing it to be reassigned to the new partition. Then you could later attach the other disk. When Windows then reboots it has already reserved the C: drive letter for the system partition so you'll be OK.

    You can run into this when restoring TI images also. If you restore multiple partitions at once into different locations, then on first reboot into XP the drive letters will be assigned by Windows in accordance with its predetermined heirarchy, which may not be what you want to happen. If instead you only restore the system partition then Windows only needs to make one change and usually it will come out correctly.

    Yes; the MountedDevices key keeps track of every flash drive inserted and every disk partition ever mounted. It is OK to clear everything as long as you are willing to look at the drive letters reassigned automatically by Windows and change them with XP Disk Management if necessary. Or, you can clear only the C: DosDevices entries of interest.
     
  5. OzRon

    OzRon Registered Member

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    Thanks yet again, k0lo/Mark. They should be paying you for this! How can you afford the time to be so altruistic?

    In future I shall proceed according to your much-appreciated suggestions.

    Now I don't wish to split hairs nor turn this into a Windows discussion, but is it the current state of my brain, or is there an apparent contradiction here?...

    (a) "then Windows would not have seen the former location of the C: drive"

    (b) "the MountedDevices key keeps track of ... every disk partition ever mounted"

    I suppose the answer is that in (a) it is not looking in the same place as (b)?

    Once more, much appreciated.

    PS - Hope someone can still comment on the original second and fourth issues.
     
  6. JustAnotherNoob

    JustAnotherNoob Registered Member

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    OzRon:

    Although Mark has already pointed out the most important things about the registry issue, I 'll add a few thoughts about it ...

    Indeed, that registry issue has to be taken into account in a lot of disk management situations. I encountered it myself when trying to set up a multi-boot configuration based on cloning an existing Windows installation. I've written a few things about (solutions for) the drive letter issue in the thread in my sig. Although it describes a different situation than yours, parts of it may be interesting for your situation as well, if you have the time.

    As Mark said, you can encounter the drive letter issue when restoring AT images (in fact, my thread focuses mainly on that). Ideally, one should take this into account before making the images (pre-emptive approach). However, there do appear to exist workarounds that may be helpful when trying to make a restored old image bootable (curative approach). To quote myself:

    I'm not sure this information is useful for your particular situation, but I thought I'd let you know just in case ... Good Luck !!

    JustAnotherNoob
     
  7. MudCrab

    MudCrab Imaging Specialist

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    OzRon,

    Since you're asking for comments, I'll give you mine.

    Rule #1: Always have a current complete image backup of the drive before you begin any partitioning procedures. This is important whether you're using DD or any other program.

    If at all possible, avoid using Split. In my opinion, it's just asking for problems. Moving the files manually and resizing are a better approach. This also gives you more control.

    Again, avoid using it. Especially when moving between drives. Use a TI image backup/restore or use the Copy Partition option. Move is like using Cut/Paste or TI's Clone w/Wipe. It doesn't give you the chance to make sure the result is okay before the original is destroyed.

    The Recovery Expert works best when the partition has just been deleted (like by accident) and no other changes have been made to the drive. This may have worked better from the TI CD than from Windows. If the original partition's beginning and ending sectors have been written to, the Recovery Expert wouldn't be able to find it. It's kind of like undeleting a file.
     
  8. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    I'm not completely familiar with the algorithm used by Windows when it assigns drive letters at boot time, but I assume that it must go something like this:

    > Does GUID stored in registry match an existing partition?
    >> If yes, reassign same drive letter
    >> If no, the drive letter is free to be reassigned

    So in your case there was an entry for C: in the registry and the disk was present, so Windows would not assign C: to the new disk's system partition.

    But instead if the disk containing the partition being reserved for C: was not present, then the drive letter is considered to be not reserved and available for assignment.
     
  9. OzRon

    OzRon Registered Member

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    k0lo/Mark: Once more, many thanks. Apologies that you had to re-clarify - blame that fuzziness last night (my time, other side of the world). Your knowledge, help and patience are appreciated. And I now believe that the successful TI-restored partition may well have been initially booted without the original disk being connected, since that disk was moved to another computer where Recovery Expert didn't fix it. You've made all the pieces fall into place.

    JustAnotherNoob: Thank you, I really appreciated your contribution and have now spent quite some time studying your other thread and the references within. Much valuable information there.

    I have you both to thank for clarifying a tricky issue and leaving me much better prepared for future work.

    MudCrab: Thank you for joining in. I'm relatively new to the Acronis world and these forums, but already know that some of your contributions have become "gospel", and getting to them is high on my priorities list. The rest of this post deals with some of your comments.

    Re Split and Move. I agree with your advice about using more manual steps. The trouble with this, and one reason for my original post, is that I was finding too many things that didn't work well in Disk Director and was hoping for comments that might restore my faith in the product.

    k0lo was instrumental in my no longer blaming DD for the moved partition not being bootable, but the other problems that I encountered remain unresolved. And particularly with the Move, my first issue was that it took three-and-a-quarter hours to do what a TI restore did in half an hour (on the same PC, to the same target disk, and using the same Acronis bootable CD). I thought that the two programs would use similar technology, and hence take roughly the same time. Or that TI would take longer than DD because it also had to uncompress the image. Also, I haven't tried it yet but I would expect a DD "Copy Partition" to take practically the same amount of time as a DD "Move Partition", and if so then using Copy instead of Move isn't going to help the performance problem.

    On that point, I did explain in my second post that I might not have been comparing apples to apples. While the data was the same, in the DD Move the source had been converted to NTFS and was moved to a larger target partition (I.e. an additional resize). On the other hand, when I later recreated the target by restoring a TI image, the source was FAT32 and the target retained the source's size. (I subsequently and separately converted it to NTFS and resized.) So the time taken for the DD Move did include resizing, but from experience I'm assuming that that alone would not account for it taking over 6 times as long. (Would it?)

    In the absence of other clues, it seems that one (or more?) of the following applies:

    (a) Asking DD to enlarge a partition while moving it can make it take 6.5 times as long; and/or

    (b) Moving/copying/restoring an NTFS partition can take up to 6.5 times longer than an equivalent FAT32 partition; or

    (c) There's a problem with DD's Move Partition operation (that presumably would also exist if Copying instead).

    I realize that all of this can be avoided by the arguably safer alternative approach of using TI for moving the partition. But that doesn't help me evaluate Disk Director, nor aid my understanding.

    As for Recovery Expert, next time I try/need it I will certainly take your suggestion of running it from CD. However, in my ill-fated first use the partition had just been deleted (though not by accident but by DD moving it), and no other changes had been made to the drive.

    But even if we're saying that the DD-deletion may have, say, written to the original partition's beginning sector(s), this would reinforce the wisdom of the "step-at-a-time" approach but it doesn't directly address the problem I had. My concern was not that Recovery Expert couldn't find the (deleted) partition, but rather that an hour after it did report finding a partition I was still staring at a PC that seemed to be doing nothing, while no progress was showing on the progress bar and Task Manager was suggesting that the program was using the CPU but doing no disk reading.

    Perhaps it takes much longer than that, and I should have been more patient? (If so, blame having already waited over 3 hours for the Move to complete, only to then find that the result would not boot and that I was starting all over again.)

    Otherwise and in the absence of more information, first Split, then Move (and Copy?), then Recovery Expert have all failed to work adequately for me. But I'm still hoping that I don't have to give up on Disk Director other than for a few quick/small functions, rather than appreciating it as the "Suite" that it's supposed to be.

    Of course my learning curve will no doubt be interrupted by Vista's SP1, new attempts at multi-booting, new builds of DD and TI, fathoming Home Server's file system, and so on ad infinitum. As a wise man once said to me: "If you understand it, it's obsolete!"

    Thank you all again for an interesting and informative discussion. And by all means keep those comments coming.
     
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