Full disk Restore with multiple partitions on separate imaging schedules

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by Seawulf, Sep 2, 2007.

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  1. Seawulf

    Seawulf Registered Member

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    <sorry for double posting, but I wanted to receive email notification of responses and forgot to do that on the first submission...>

    I read a lot in the forum about various backup strategies. They all seem to include partitioning of the system's drive into 2 to 3 (I've seen up to 9) partitions. One for the System, one for Data and another for whatever...

    I have had boot failures without imaging software and they are a real pain. So, now that I have ATI 10 and Disk Director Suite, I want to set up a decent scheme.

    As I am set up now, with Vista, my first image of my single-partition system, data, everything drive the image was 138 gigs. That is larger than I want to be dealing with every week or so. So, I really would like to develop a multi-partition strategy so I can deal with smaller image files and schedule backups more consistent with the need based on files changing.

    But, I am concerned about the recommendation to make full disk images and full disk restores, for instance that appears in Note 1 of the "True Image Home Beginner's Guide to restoring a basic full disk archive". As I understand it, if you have to restore your boot drive, because of a boot failure/MBR problem, you would want to restore the original MBR/Track 0 which includes the partition structure. Apparently, if you restore the MBR/Track 0 from your 3-partition disk but only restore the MBR/Track0 and system partition, the disk will probably not boot. I gather that, if you are clever enough and have the right application, you can just edit the disk MBR and correct the partition descriptions. But I am not that clever.

    I would plan to have those 2 to 3 partitions imaged on separate schedules, each dealing with smaller image files.

    If that is done, will ATI allow me to restore the MBR/Track0 and System partition, then, separately restore the data partition, then separately restore whatever the 3rd partition would be? And, is that the 'accepted' method of having multiple partitions, individually scheduled for imaging, yet restoring the entire bootable disk?

    Thanks for your help,
    Charlie
     
  2. jmk94903

    jmk94903 Registered Member

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    If your backup is 138 GB, you've got one hell of a lot of data on your system. Vista can take up 10-12GB and programs can add 5-10GB to that, but that's only 15-22GB used which would be a 10-15GB backup with compression.

    At a minimum, I'd partition my drive into two partitions. The first is Widows Vista, all programs, all settings, etc. The second is all that data that you have. Actually, I'd consider a second internal hard drive for all the data and use the first hard drive (as one partition) just for Windows, Programs, etc.

    The images of the first drive would be small (10-15GB) and you'd only need to make a new image when you added a new program or had added enough updates that you didn't want to do that again. Perhaps, a new backup every 3-6 months. If this image is of an entire drive, Vista will boot for sure when the image is restored.

    The second drive would have only data. If that is mostly files that are already compressed such as photos and mp3s or video, there's no reason to use a backup program. These files are already compressed, and TrueImage won't make them any smaller. You can just make copies to your backup drive.

    The schedule for data backups would depend on how rapidly the data changes and how valuable it is. The more valuable and the more it changes, the more often you need to back it up. A good question is "How much am I willing to lose?" If the answer is nothing, you need to backup every day or twice a day. If it's not quite that valuable, perhaps backing up once a week is adequate.

    It's important to put your backups on more than one external hard drive if they are valuable. After all, one hard drive is one backup because a failure of the drive means everything on it is lost.

    Should one of the drives be kept in a different location? Well, fire or theft can cause you to lose everything at one location, so if your data is that valuable, keep one backup off site - and not next door. A house next door can be destroyed along with yours.

    As you can see, backups are insurance. How much you need is up to you to decide. A lot of insurance is more expensive in terms of both time and money, so figure out the right amount of insurance that will let you sleep well at night.
     
  3. Seawulf

    Seawulf Registered Member

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    John,
    Thanks for your quick response!

    Yes, it is huge. It is an artifact of my recent bad experiences with losing system/data from disk problems. I have a lot of backups on the disks (both file by file and images), in addition to active System/Data and the backup data has a lot of video/photo files. When I get a stable system running and can spend some time doing so, I will offload what I can to DVDs. But with that much data, even that takes careful planning to split it up and still have it all make sense.

    My current Vista "System" including Program files is about 20 GB. That is a very comfortable size for me to handle. But, as you say, frequent backups of system info is generally not necessary.

    Actually, my drive storage situation is quite good. My system handles two SATA drives internally, but has many SATA ports. I have two 320GB SATA drives what will eventually fill the internal slots and will move the current internal 250GB SATA drive to an external housing, when I buy one. I also currently have a 250GB USB external drive. That's 1.14 TB and my first IBM PC had two - count 'em - two single sided floppy drives with, I believe, 120 MB storage, each (PC hard drives were still years away from retail sales).


    I see this is a key point. I want a 'for sure' restore process. But, using a 320 GB drive for 20 GB of System seems like a real waste of capacity. With a little extra effort, I could set up my two identical 320 GB drives in a RAID (1?) configuration and have perfect redundancy. I have put that off, for now, to gain the additional storage of separate drives.

    Currently my "Documents" folder is only about 4 GB. So, including that with the System files would still give me less than a 25 GB Image. But, as you say, System and Data information have two different requirements for backup frequency and I really dont want to image 25 GB of info just to backup 5 or so GB of Data. That's why I was looking at the partitioning of that System drive to include a data-only partition, which I could backup separately. The third partition was planned for already compacted video and picture files, which would be file by file backups.

    My problem is doing independent backups of the partitions, but then Restoring the drive to the correct 3-partition configuration to assure it will boot.

    Assuming good disk hardware, but boot failure due to MBR issues:
    From what my (very limited) experience has been with ATI 10 and the respective Disk Director Suite, it would seem that I could Restore the System and MBR/Track 0 images. Then Restore the Data image. Then create a third partition in Disk Director and copy the Video and JPEG files to complete the process. Would that work to achieve a high probability of a bootable disk?

    Also, since I do not really understand the nitty-gritty of hard disk formats and operation, I am not sure what data has to be in the MBR/Track 0 restore to gain a bootable image.

    For instance, if the original drive had three partitions as described, above, with the System as the first partition, could I just restore the MBR/Track0 and System images, then create two additional partitions in Disk Director (without restoring any data) and achieve a (high probability of a) bootable disk ?

    Sorry if this is getting somewhat convoluted, but I really want to understand these concepts.

    Charlie
     
  4. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    Seawulf,

    On a quick read I noticed this..

    I hope you didn't mean backup.

    http://www.2brightsparks.com/resources/articles/RAID-is-not-a-backup-solution.html

    Regarding Restoring the MBR and Track 0. In general it doesn't matter if you do or don't. The new HD will still boot. Don't be concerned about MBR problems.
     
  5. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    My personal preference is to have 2 internal drives. First one with 2 partitions - OS/Apps and the other for data. A useful wrinkle on the above is to make a third for large games if you have them like Flight Simulator which rarely change. No use backing them up all the time with the OS.

    Use the second internal (make it a big one) for your first level backup of images - fastest configuration for creating and restoring. Use Windows Explorer to copy desired backups to external HD and only have the external plugged in when needed in case of lightning/power surges or any other bad things.

    My understanding, at least with XP, is that you need to have the same number of partitions on a HD to boot if you restore the MBR from an image but they don't have to be the same size.
     
  6. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    seekforever,

    I agree with almost everything you write. There was a thread ages ago about the same number of partitions on a restored HD and Acronis indicated it was really just so the user didn't get an incorrect boot.ini. That's what I've found in tests. You can restore images from one HD with x partitions to another HD with y partitions. If the OS partition slots don't match then editing the boot.ini corrects the non boot.

    Manually restoring the MBR isn't necessary but you can do it if it makes you feel better. TI creates a generic MBR if there is not one present. There is one situation where you must NOT restore the MBR and Track 0. That is when restoring an image of a Dell laptop with MediaDirect to a larger HD.
     
  7. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    Hi Brian K,
    After I sent it I remembered about reading posts concerning a generic MBR being provided.

    Thanks for filling in the void and the other tips re Dells.
     
  8. Seawulf

    Seawulf Registered Member

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    Well, I guess I did mean backup wrt the RAID 1 array. I'll have to absorb that info. It's just a verification of my lack of knowledge in this area.

    The reason I am concerned with MBR issues is, on another thread in the Forum, I describe my problems with a 6-month old Dell XPS system that started giving MBR Error 2 and MBR Error 3 messages on boot and then after a few days it just quit booting. After going through the troubleshooting procedures with the Dell tech on the phone (the drive passed all tests), my only option was to do a clean install of Vista. I purchased another drive to do the clean install on and found the original disk was still readable but just not bootable. I have since restored the image of that new disk (single partition and MBR/Track 0) to the failed disk and it now also boots; I assumed, because I replaced whatever was keeping it from booting in the MBR with the image of a working/booting drive.

    So, are you saying that, if I had had that Image of a good system when the drive stopped booting I could have just restored the single partition to that non-booting drive and have a high probability of it booting?

    Charlie

    Charlie
     
  9. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    Charlie,

    I did some research on "MBR Error 2 and MBR Error 3 messages on boot" recently. I don't understand these errors but they seem to only occur in computers using Acronis products.

    Your problem is confusing but if you have a HD with multiple partitions and you have an image of the OS partition then you can restore that image to another HD and it will boot. You don't have to restore the other partitions or the MBR to make the HD boot.
     
  10. Seawulf

    Seawulf Registered Member

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    Vista uses a different scheme in booting, using the Boot Configuration Data file instead of boot.ini. I am trying to understand the use of various apps to modify the BCD, but am not getting very far.

    Ideally, as you point out, I would like to be able to do with the BCD file what you are doing when you modify the boot.ini file in XP to correct the info to reflect the Restored Image.

    Charlie
     
  11. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    Charlie,

    Apologies. My comments refer to WinXP. I haven't used Vista.
     
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