How to remove Recovery Manager & restore original MBR bootstrap?

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by VanguardLH, Jan 7, 2009.

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  1. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    Windows XP Pro SP-3
    Acronis True Image 11

    I installed the Recovery Manager (in the MBR bootstrap area) as part of setting up the Secure Zone. Their bootstrap program doesn't work. I hit F11 to load it on bootup, I see the "Acronis" logo, but it hangs at that point. I've already tried to fix it but the prior suggestions didn't work. So I'd rather just get rid of their Recovery Manager and go back to the standard bootstrap program in the MBR.

    When I uninstalled their Recovery Manager, it didn't go away. When I boot, I still see the prompt to hit F11 to start the Recovery Manager. I don't want it anymore. You would think that if they replace the 446-byte bootstrap program in the MBR that they would save it so they could restore it. Nope.

    Do I have to boot using a DOS floppy and run "FDISK /MBR" from there? Or boot using the Windows install CD to go into Recovery Console mode and run FIXMBR from there?
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  2. jonyjoe81

    jonyjoe81 Registered Member

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  3. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    I know about using FIXMBR to replace the MBR bootstrap code. The functions of the standard Microsoft bootstrap program hasn't changed over all versions of DOS and Windows. There are differences in size for the bootstrap program from each version of DOS and Windows but they all do the same loader function: read the partition table to find which partition is marked as 'active' and load the boot sector from that partition (i.e., the OS loader) and pass control to it.

    I don't know why the article you mention has the user follow FIXMBR with an execute of FIXBOOT. The OS partition's boot sector should not have been touched by Acronis True Image (ATI). It wouldn't make sense. That is the OS loader. That doesn't come into play when the MBR bootstrap program is loaded. It's what the MBR bootstrap program will load and to which it passes control. The only place that ATI's Recovery Manager should have touched is the MBR (1st sector in the 1st track that cannot be allocated to any partition), not the partition's boot sector.

    So I don't understand why FIXBOOT ever got mentioned. Windows XP is loading just fine. Its partition boot sector contains the loader that starts the Windows load. That's not broke. I've used multi-boot managers, like GAG (at sourceforge.net) that usurp the 446-byte bootstrap area of the MBR (and can also use the remaining sectors of the rest of the 1st track for the rest of its program, as do other multi-boot managers so nothing of them resides in any partition which could get deleted). I never had to touch the loader in the partition's boot sector for the OS in that partition. It isn't the job of the bootstrap code to load the OS. The loader in the OS partition's boot sector does that. The MBR bootstrap program merely decides which partition boot sector to load and to which it then passes control.

    I doubt running FIXBOOT will cause any problems in replacing the same loader for Windows already in its partition 1st (boot) sector. It just seem arbitrary that this article tells the user to do something that would have no effect (i.e., there would be no change because FIXBOOT would be putting the same loader in the partition boot sector that is already there).

    What seems so very inconsiderate by Acronis is that typical users would not understand any of the above and Acronis should be saving the original MBR bootstrap code to then replace it when the user opts to no longer use their Recovery Manager. They are, after all, a backup product company. They should have backed up the 446 bytes for the MBR bootstrap area when the user chose to use their Recovery Manager. When the user later chose to no longer use their Recovery Manager, they should have restored that original MBR bootstrap code. It's not like the MBR bootstrap code will be in any image of a partition because the 1st sector (and the rest of them in the 1st track) are no allocated to any partition. With the purpose of ATI being backup & restore, they should've done the same for the MBR bootstrap code. After all, perhaps the user had a different bootstrap program in the MBR, like LILO or Grub, rather than the Microsoft standard bootstrap program. Since that's what they had before, they might want it again, so deactivating their Recovery Manager should ask the user if they want the original MBR bootstrap program replaced or not (and, if not, then the user should be warned that they will have replace the MBR bootstrap program).
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2009
  4. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    The correct way to remove the Acronis Startup Recovery Manager is to remove the Acronis Secure Zone.

    This must be done by using the Acronis Manage Secure Zone Wizard.
    This will restore the boot records to their state before the ASRM and SZ were created.

    Xpilot
     
  5. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    With the obvious result that I would lose all my backups (on the 2nd hard disk where is the Secure Zone). The Secure Zone is a partition (with partition type "hidden"). The Recovery Manager can use it or the user can run the ATI application inside Windows to restore from it. Doesn't make sense that any partition must be deleted to effect a restore on the MBR sector which is outside of any partition. You may be right but it this "solution" is just dumb as the MBR bootstrap code is completely independent of whatever is inside of any partition.
     
  6. shieber

    shieber Registered Member

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    The Secure Zone is kind of "dumb" in its way. It's an artifact from an early design of ATI that provided a way to make a disk backup if a person had only one hdisk. That's not really much an issue these days with internal and external drives so cheap -- but Acronis appears loathe to drop anything that can be boasted as a feature.

    Just bag the SZ and make your backups to directories on partitions that you can control and access.

    If you need protection, save to a drive you can store off-site -- then no one on the PC will accidentally or unauthorizedly access it.
     
  7. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Yes you will lose your existing backups in the secure zone. That is a fact of TI life.
    However if you have a working system is that really much of a loss?

    There are a whole slew of work arounds. For example you could mess with the SZ to unhide it so you could copy your old backups elsewhere before you re-hide it and delete as I have suggested.

    In your case I would make a new full image to another drive and then startover with a new secure zone but this time do not activate the ASRM it is after all just one of the many silly features that Acronis have produced.

    Xpilot
     
  8. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    I'll just go with using the Windows install CD to load Recovery Console mode and run FIXMBR from there. A lot easier than monkeying around with the Secure Zone.
     
  9. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    It would be very helpful if you could post back with your results having run FIXMBR from the recovery console.

    Of particular interest would be the remaining functionality of the secure zone. If the zone is still available and works or not would be valuable information for others.

    I have always made changes to Acronis functions using Acronis processes. It maybe that, for those with access to the Windows recovery console, your method is an alternative fix.

    Xpilot
     
  10. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    Well, I finally around to doing this task. It was a lot harder that I thought. I have an 8-year old host whose BIOS supports booting from a SATA drive. Originally it had an IDE hard disk which had the OS partition but it became the 2nd hard disk for the Acronis Secure Zone after installing a SATA hard disk from which the BIOS will boot. The problem is with Microsoft's Windows setup and recovery utilities. Although you load the SATA driver during the bootup of Windows using the installation CD (to get into Recovery Mode), Microsoft still focuses on the IDE hard disk rather than the SATA hard disk from where it just loaded the Windows kernel for Recovery Console.

    I booted using the Windows install CD, loaded the SATA driver, and entered Recovery Console mode. FIXMBR takes on a device parameter but its help gives no clue as to what I should enter for its value. So I rebooted into Windows and went digging through its help on the Recovery Console commands. The MAP command lists the devices. So reboot using the install CD, load the SATA driver, back into RC mode and run MAP. This shows the IDE and SATA drives with their partitions along with "\Device\HardDisk<x>\Partition<y>" as the device names and their partitions. Yet when I tried running "FIXMBR harddisk1" (the SATA drive), nothing happened other than to immediately exit FIXMBR. If FIXMBR is going to overwrite the MBR bootstrap code, it first warns you. The immediate exit meant it could not under the device parameter it was given. I also tried "FIXMBR disk1". Nope. Tried "FIXMBR D:" (where D: was the drive letter that RC assigned to the OS partition on the SATA disk). Nope. Then I remembered that I had to go through a somewhat convoluted process to get Windows installed on the SATA drive because of Microsoft's stupidity of wanting to focus on the IDE drives. The solution was to make the IDE drives completely invisible to Windows or its utilities.

    The trick was to go into the BIOS screens and disable the IDE controller to which the IDE hard disk was attached. In my hardware setup, the IDE hard disk is connected to the IDE0 controller as master and the CD/DVD drives (which I need to boot Windows to get into RC mode) are on the IDE1 controller. So I disabled the IDE0 controller in the BIOS, saved the change, and rebooted. Now the only hard disk that Windows, its RC utilities, or anything else could find would be just the SATA hard disk. Once the SATA hard disk was the only one visible, FIXMBR worked to overwrite its MBR bootstrap code.

    I then rebooted to check that the prompt to hit F11 for Acronis Recovery Manager did not appear. It didn't. I went back into the BIOS and reenabled the IDE0 controller so the IDE hard disk was usable again. The BIOS was configured to and booted from the SATA hard disk. There was still no F11 prompt to load Acronis Recovery Manager. Windows loaded okay.

    So I managed to used FIXMBR on the SATA hard disk to replace the MBR bootstrap with the standard code and get rid of the Acronis Recovery Manager. Hurray! Apparently the Recovery Manager utilizes a 15MB partition (the first one) on the 2nd hard disk (the IDE one) to run the rest of its program beyond just what its bootstrap loader can handle (although there is the entire remainder of the 1st track that it could've used as do some multiboot managers). That's too small for me to bother about trying to resize the 2nd partition (with the Secure Zone) to recapture. I'm not concerned about losing 15MB and, besides, after deleting the 1st partition and resizing the 2nd partition to absorb that first 15MB probably wouldn't gain much, if anything, considering the slack that results in allocating cylinders (and their sectors) to within a partition. That is, the partition allocation is probably too sloppy for me to recover the 15MB, anyway. I'd gain little and could lose more in resizing the 2nd partition.

    Not for the weakly educated regarding Windows, hard disk, boot order, BIOS disables, and such. Restoring the MBR bootstrap is something Acronis should've have planned for and provide a process without the user having to even consider going through all the above. Not having this feature has nothing to do with differences between Home and Workstation versions of their product. It has all to do with not farking over a user's host should they decide that Recovery Manager isn't worth the trouble and doesn't work for them, anyway (which they won't find out until they try to hit F11 to load the Recovery Manager).
     
  11. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Glad you finally got your system sorted!

    Acronis do provide the means for restoring the original MBR. It consists of removing the secure zone as I mentioned in my previous post.

    Acronis have set out the official way to to un-hide the zone if you wish to copy archives elsewhere while the zone is being deleted/recreated.

    "Please also be informed that you can copy your backups from Acronis Secure Zone. If you have Acronis Disk Director 10.0 you can proceed in the following way:

    - run Acronis Disk Director 10.0
    - right click on the Acronis Secure Zone
    - select Advanced->Change type
    - select type 0Bh (FAT32)
    - reboot the computer

    Acronis Secure Zone will be mounted as a partition with its own drive letter and you will be able to see and manage the backup archives there using standard Windows Explorer. Then you may simply copy\move\delete all backups from there.

    In order to return back the Acronis Secure Zone as it was, you should change again its type to the 0BCh (Acronis Secure Zone type)."

    I have never bothered to copy archives to another location when deleting/re-instating the secure zone . Instead I restore the most valued archives to a couple of swappable hard drives.

    Xpilot
     
  12. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    So Acronis' "solution" is to buy another of their products? There are several partition editors available for free. Thanks for the info on the partition type. More important is that it is a FAT32 partition (using a non-standard partition type number by Acronis). I know that I've found the partition types listed via a Google search but knowing it is FAT32 makes it possible to find the partition type number and use a partition editor to insert that into the partition table in the MBR.

    That's getting a bit deep into the guts of partitions and a mistake could be tough to walk back out of. I like the idea of restoring the backups to another hard disk, like an external/USB drive. Replacing the MBR bootstrap code using FIXMBR was more difficult in my situation simply because of the lack of full support of SATA drives within the BIOS (rather than making them look like SCSI/RAID devices using the onboard RAID chip and the extension BIOS for RAID support). If I had stuck with using the IDE disk for the OS partition, installing Windows a long time ago and using FIXMBR would've been a lot easier.

    I have used multiboot managers before. The ones that I've trialed always provided a means of restoring the original MBR bootstrap code. They copy a backup of it, install their own, and then restore the backup should you decide to revert back to the prior setup. I've only used about 4 of them (and none were the GRUB or LILO ones used by Linux folks so I can't speak on those saving a backup of the original MBR bootstrap).

    Thanks again for the info.
     
  13. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    With a proven backup system in place there is no need to worry about "getting in too deep". With whole drive images to hand, or in my case a pre-restored hard drive, one is but a few minutes away from a return to normality.

    Xpilot
     
  14. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    True Image Home doesn't do true whole-drive backups (to include all partitions and any tracks outside of partitions, like the the first track which includes the MBR in its first sector). TI Home does partition image backups/restores. That's why problems with the MBR (partition tables, drive signature, or bootstrap code) will not be resolved by doing a restore from your image backups.

    The "whole drive" image backup in TI Home has you select *partitions* from which to read to create an image. When you select a disk, it selects the partitions on that disk. TI Home does partition images, not disk images. Remember that "drive" refers to the drive letter associated to a partition on the hard *disk*, so "whole-drive" means one, or more, *partitions* on the hard *disk*. Even the sector-by-sector image backup is of a partition, not of anything outside of a partition.

    They do make it confusing. When selecting what to image, they say "Please select the partitions or entire hard disk drives". Why the seemingly duplicated "disk" and "drives" in the same sentence? Because "drives" means the partitions to which drive letters assignments are made by an OS. They do mix "disks" and "drives" to use them interchangeably which leads to confusion.

    Restoring MBR Manually
    http://www.acronis.com/enterprise/support/kb/articles/107/
    The generic and terse info there would not help in my case with a mix of active IDE and SATA drives due to limitations of the FIXMBR command itself.

    http://www.acronis.com/enterprise/support/kb/articles/487/
    They tell you how to recover the MBR or allude to their "utilities" which obviously isn't using the *partition* backups themselves.

    If it's in a partition, TI Home will back it up (logically through file I/O or sector-by-sector). If it is outside a partition, TI Home won't touch it. The MBR is not inside of any partition.
     
  15. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    Oh dear! and I thought we were getting on so well :D .

    TI does include the track 0 and MBR records. It even,to my mind wrongly, has the option not to restore them.

    I only do full disk (whole drive) images. I restore full images including the MBR every time.
    This means that I can do a "bare metal" restore to a brand new hard disk or overwrite a previously used hard drive using exactly the same process.

    I feel sure that after several years working this way I would have noticed by now if something was missing.

    Xpilot
     
  16. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    But as Xpilot has said, Acronis does provide a mechanism for backing up and restoring Track 0. If you go look at any image file that you have created with TI, there will be a checkbox for "MBR and Track 0" as shown here:

    MBR.PNG

    If you restore MBR and Track 0 you will restore the first 64 sectors on the disk with the exception of the 64-byte partition table in sector 0. The reason for not restoring the partition table is that if any changes were made (adding or resizing partitions, for example) and you restored an old copy of the partition table then data loss could occur. The way the function is implemented you can safely restore the MBR without messing up the existing partition structure. If you had an image created before adding the ASZ then you could have recovered your original boot code by restoring MBR and Track 0 from the image.
     
  17. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    Thanks for proving me wrong because that means the MBR does get backed up for a whole-disk backup. I haven't needed to do a whole-disk restore (and cannot do a whole-disk restore as mentioned below) so I haven't seen that option. It doesn't appear when you perform the backup. Instead you see a checkbox to select a disk but what you also see is all *partitions* getting selected when you select the disk.

    I went to their FAQ site and read their program's help but didn't find mention of the MBR. Well, not in the help sections that I went manually digging through. They really need to add a search function to their help. Having to wade around to hunt for tidbits of information is ridiculous and typically I don't have that much time to waste in trying to find a couple of buried remarks. After some more wading around (during my lunch when I had some time to check), I found the following statements:

    "A disk image includes images of all disk partitions as well as the zero track with master boot record (MBR)."

    "Disk images contain a copy of track 0 along with a MBR (Master Boot Record)."

    It would be handy if there were a backup-time option to include the MBR even when not doing a disk image backup. In my situation, I do not want all OS and data partitions on my SATA hard disk to get included in a backup image. That's because I created a second partition (drive D:) where I put files that I do not want included in the backups. They waste space in the backups, their files are huge, and they are easily recreated. They consist of program backups (those where the program itself can save backups but are a bit easier from which to restore than using TI Home), program config backups, .iso images of CD/DVD discs (which can easily be recreated from the original discs) used with virtual CD/DVD drives so I don't have to hunt down their physical discs, and virtual machines (which are fresh installs plus service packs and updates so they can be easily rebuilt). I don't want this stuff consuming a large portion of the 2nd hard disk where I save the backup images in the Secure Zone. If I put these excluded files in a partition on the 2nd hard disk then I lose space for the Secure Zone which means less backups can be saved there. Having other partitions on the same disk which are excluded from the backups is also why I cannot use Snap Restore. Until I get a 3rd hard disk, whole-disk backups/restores and snap restores will have wait. It would be handy to have a partition backup (of just C:, the 1st partition on the 1st hard disk) but also tag along the MBR (but probably in just the scheduled Full backups) or to even have a separate backup that only saves the MBR (and could be scheduled or ran manually).

    Again, thanks for showing that I was wrong. The MBR can be included in a backup but getting it back requires a whole-disk or snap restore which are not possible in my current setup. Time to go hunting for a free MBR backup utility (I probably have some in my archive CDs).
     
  18. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    Sorry to do it to you again, but you CAN restore only the MBR and Track 0 from any partition image OR whole disk backup. All you need to do is start the restore wizard, select one of your image files, click only on "MBR and Track 0", and away you go. The screen shot that I posted is an example of this. It is showing a .tib file that contains only a backup of a single partition (the D: volume) on a disk with four partitions.

    There is currently no way to create a backup of only the MBR and Track 0. That would be another feature to add to the wish list. Currently you have to back up something (anything; a single partition, multiple partitions, or the entire disk) in order to back up the MBR and Track 0. I suppose if you had the room you could create a do-nothing partition of minimal size (1 cylinder = 7.844 MB); don't assign a drive letter so that the partition is invisible to Windows. Then whenever you back up the do-nothing partition you would automatically get a backup of the MBR and Track 0 in a minimal-size .tib file.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2009
  19. VanguardLH

    VanguardLH Registered Member

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    Yep, I've been doubly proven a dunce. In past restores, I restored just selected files. I haven't needed to overwrite a complete partition (although the backups are on the partition). I was leery of going through a partition restore for fear that I would proceed too far during the wizard than I wanted and end up doing the restore rather than seeing what options were presented.

    Indeed the MBR and track 0 restore option is there in a disk/partition restore operation. If that had been presented earlier in this discussion, I wouldn't have had to go through all the machinations to disable the IDE drive in BIOS and run FIXMBR after booting into the Recovery Console mode using the Windows install CD with the SATA driver floppy. Uffda! An MBR restore from the TI partition backup would've been so much easier.

    Live and burn.
     
  20. K0LO

    K0LO Registered Member

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    You HAVE to try this sometime, preferably on a spare disk for the first restore, just to appreciate the full power of TI. Being able to blow away a complete Windows installation and then restore it in 10 minutes flat from a backup image is the core competency of TI. Once you see this in action you will truly appreciate the utility of good imaging software.
     
  21. Xpilot

    Xpilot Registered Member

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    One of the (many) problems with TI is the sheer number of options provided. This means that each user has to determine for themselves which suits them best.

    For example I have never restored a file from an image archive. Instead I mount and explore the image as a virtual drive. Then when I have found what I want a copy and paste puts it in the right place.

    I do however perform frequent whole drive restores to swapped main drives. Doing this is the ultimate confirmation that the backup system really works. Working this way ensures that no part of my system or data is ever exposed to any avoidable risk.

    Xpilot
     
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