Image for Windows: Don't backup empty space

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by AboutBlank, Dec 26, 2014.

  1. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    Hi,

    I purchased IFW a while back and used it a couple of time with success.
    However, today I wanted to use IFW v2.93 to create an image of an existing HDD, and restore it onto a new SSD, effectively cloning the HDD to the SSD.

    Before backing up I removed all unnecessary data (mostly pictures) from the 500GB HDD (single partition), reducing the data size from ~320GB to ~35GB (pretty much just the OS + installed programs). The resulting IFW image size was ~19GB (standard compression).
    Yet, when attempting to restore that Image to a 128GB SSD, I got an error claiming the selected target drive is not large enough for the ~465GB backed up partition.

    I thought I might have failed to set IFW to not do a sector-by-sector backup (although the resulting image size is ~19GB), but didn't find any option like that in the backup wizard, nor in the restore wizard.

    I had previous experience with Acronis True Image, Clonezilla, and few other tools (Macrium Reflect for example), and in none of them I had this problem, provided I set them not to do a sector-by-sector backup.

    What am I missing here?

    I would appreciate any advice.

    Thank you.
     
  2. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    AboutBlank,

    IFW does sector based restores so if you had 35 GB of data in a 500 GB partition and that data was spread over 300 GB, it wouldn't fit in a 128 GB partition. You need to Compact the data in the 500 GB partition and create another image.

    Start IFL or IFD or TBWinRE and click Backup, Full Backup, select the OS partition (don't put a tick in the box), click Information. The MiB to Restore is your Sector Spread in the partition (for your information). Click OK

    Select the OS partition again (don't put a tick in the box), click Compact, Yes, type 100000, Yes.

    Select the OS partition (don't put a tick in the box), click Information. Confirm the MiB to Restore is 100000.

    While you are there you can create an image or boot into Windows and create an IFW image.
     
  3. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    Thank you Brian K.
    Now things are much clearer, but I must say that I'm a little disappointed to learn that IFW does only sector based restore.
     
  4. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    I prefer sector based restores. I like the new partition being the "same" as the old. It's probably more relevant with HD restores as you don't want your optimized sector placement to be altered. Compacting the data does change the optimized sector placement but using non sector based restores changes the optimized sector placement every time.
     
  5. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    Yes, I can understand why sector based restore is an essential feature; and the issue of restoring partition into a smaller one doesn't come up very often (I guess). But when it does come up, and unless one knows in advance that the Image should be compacted, one is left with an "unusable" image. I can imagine one scenario for a home/SOHO user (disk crash and all you have at hand is a smaller HDD/SSD), in which this could be a huge issue.
     
  6. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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  7. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    You have to know your software, absolutely, but it is not immediately obvious when reading IFW feature description that it is not designed by default to allow a seamless migration of data from a larger partition onto a smaller one, hence my slight disappointment.

    Thank you for the explanation and the link. Things are clearer now, and from now on I'll know better how to go about it if a similar situation will arise.
     
  8. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    Imaging is becoming more complex with each new OS. It was easy in Win98 and WinXP. Now with UEFI Win8 we have 4 partitions on the drive which makes things more interesting. Much more background knowledge is needed to achieve a successful outcome.

    AboutBlank, which OS are you using?

    Edit... Page 201 in the IFW manual describes the smaller partition issue.
     
  9. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    The OS I was trying to migrate to the SSD is Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit.
     
  10. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    It's a great OS. You mentioned single partition so that makes it easy. Easier than UEFI.
     
  11. andylau

    andylau Registered Member

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    It is one of reasons that I do not like IFW.
     
  12. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    IFW even picks up the boot partition (that was introduced in Windows 7). I have no complaints for IFW in general. I used it successfully several times to restore an OS image to a similar size/larger HDD/SSD, and it worked very well. Even the backup/restore speeds are very good.

    I just find it less than ideal that it uses only sector based restore. Perhaps it is geared more towards workstation/server applications and less for an individual/SOHO user. I switched to it from ATI et al. because I didn't like their increasing bloat, inefficiency (certain bugs and quirks never get attention), and they always feel rather intrusive to me as far as the system integration goes. I was recommended IFW as a lightweight, versatile and powerful imaging tool, and it is, except for this little issue that is only an issue because that "limitation" is not made clear right away.

    By the way, do you have other recommendations for a relatively light-weight and reliable imaging software t hat is may a little more plug and play?

    Thank you.
     
  13. Robin A.

    Robin A. Registered Member

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    Just curious. What do you mean? What´s the problem you see with sector-based restore? Is there any other way to restore the OS?
     
  14. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    I mean that with IFW you can't restore an OS image to a smaller partition even if the actual data size fits into the smaller partition. Not without making some preparation before taking the OS image, which is not very intuitive.
     
  15. Robin A.

    Robin A. Registered Member

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    I see. For me, "sector-based" is a technology to make and restore backups, the alternative is "file-based" backups. How a program manages restores of sector-based backup to smaller partitions is another matter.
     
  16. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    AboutBlank,

    IFW in "Simple Operations Mode". All the default options are built in and you don't have to understand imaging at all. It's the simplest imaging I've seen.

    For the first backup

    Backup this computer to an alternate drive
    Backup From...Select the Source drive
    Backup To ....Select the Target drive and target partition on the drive
    That's it.


    For the second and subsequent backups

    Backup this computer to an alternate drive
    Backup From...Select the Source drive
    That's it.


    To restore a backup

    Restore a backup to this computer
    Select Backup to Restore
    Accept the Warning
    That's it.


    There are no switches or Options to select. It really is simple.
     
  17. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    Robin A. Yes, you are right. The distinction between sector based restore and how the restore handles smaller partitiond is important.

    Brian K. I have no complaints for IFW, and it is indeed a very easy and reliable tool.
    I'm no imaging expert (not even close), but not a complete ignorant on the subject either (in a home/SOHO environment that is). When I tested IFW for use by people that fall under the category of "average users" its simplicity was quite obvious, and at the same time it was also clear how versatile it could be in the hands of those who really know what they are doing (not me).

    The only two things that I'm missing in IFW are:
    1) The ability to exclude folders from the backup (and I'm not sure if IFW follow symbolic links). I read a little and think that folders could be excluded only when running IFW from the command line, but I'm not sure about it and need to look into it.
    2) And following my recent experience: the ability to restore an image to a smaller partition (provided the data size fits) without any special preparations that take away from the easy to use part; but this is really not a big deal, especially when knowing about this limitation when creating the backups.

    These are not complaints per se, as you pointed out one has to know the tools one is using, just things that maybe could be improved.
     
  18. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    AboutBlank,

    IFW can exclude files and folders from the image but it is from a command line. Let me know if you need any help. I've used it in tests but I don't use it in practice.

    I've never bothered to make a list of the imaging apps which do pure sector based restores but I suspect it is the majority. Restoring to a smaller partition is a "rare" event, such as upgrading to a small SSD. Almost all restores are done to the same partition. I guess I've done hundreds of restores to the same partition for every new HD I've installed. I want my restores to put the sectors in the same LBA they were on the source partition. Non sector based restores don't do this. Every restore messes up the sector placement.

    IFW has an option called "Write Changed Sectors Only". I use it when restoring images to my SSD. As the term says, only changed sectors are written when you restore an image to the same partition. Saves wear and tear on the SSD. For example, restoring a 15 GB image might only result in writing 100 to 200 MB of data to the SSD. Restoring with this option takes the same time as sectors have to be read before they are restored, or not. It isn't a faster restore.
     
  19. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    Thank you Brian.

    I didn't know about the "Write Changed Sectors Only" option, and it could be very useful. Speed (in a home/SOHO environment) is usually not an issue, and IFW is quite fast as it is compared to the other tools I used previously.

    I take you point about the disk geometry, and agree with you that restoring to a smaller partition is a rare scenario, and more importantly, most likely not done in a disaster recovery mode. For using IFW to migrate the system partition from a HDD to SSD a few additional steps should be taken first, and this is fine once you know about it. There are also some free/bundled tools for cloning the drives, so one has options for migrating the system partition.

    The need to exclude folders came up a few times when backing up a system partition with documents, pictures, etc. in the user directory (the default Document, Pictures, etc. folders within the C:\Users\username folder) that don't need to be "imaged" because they are backed up regularly to another drive via file sync (with versioning of deleted files), wheres the system image is taken only periodically. But this is a Windows and/or the user's file management choices issues and not an imaging software issue. For example, excluding these default user account folders could result in them being missing from the user folder when the partition is restored, thus breaking some user functionality (out of the top of my head, I don’t think Windows recreates them if missing).
     
  20. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    My approach is to not have these folders in the OS partition as they are data, not OS files. Then images of the OS are smaller and create/restore faster. I don't use imaging software to backup data partitions. Data backup software is more efficient, as you are using.

    In the Win8 Navigation pane on the left, in Favourites click Desktop
    Double click your name folder
    The following are icons to be dealt with....

    Contacts
    Desktop
    Documents
    Downloads
    Favorites
    Links
    Music
    Pictures
    Saved Games
    Searches
    Videos

    Right click the item, Properties, Location tab
    Change C to D (so you now might have D:\Users\Brian\Desktop)
    Apply
    Yes to "Create Folder"
    Yes to "Move Folder"
    OK
     
  21. AboutBlank

    AboutBlank Registered Member

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    This is exactly what I do, when I have control.
    I'm a big fan of separating the OS from the data, and using different backup methods for each one.
    I only wish Windows was smarter about handling the user data, or at least more configurable; and from the look of it no changes in this respect are coming anytime soon.
     
  22. andylau

    andylau Registered Member

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    Brian,

    There is no excuse that IFW did not support restore image to smaller partition. It is a waste of time to ask people to compact source partition before doing imaging or make a new image when they had an old one.
    As SSD is more general for OS disk, and IFW did not support migrate OS from HDD to SSD directly, it's really a limitation.
    If asking to compact source partition and make a new image(suppose they have an old image that not fit sector spread), it will make some people step back.

    If SSD is a new one, "Write Changed Sectors Only" is useless.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2014
  23. andylau

    andylau Registered Member

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    If you do not want to waste time on this issue, you can simply use apps that have OS migration or support restore image to smaller partition. e.g.
    AOMEI Partition Assistant and AOMEI Backupper which are free apps.
     
  24. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    andylau,

    I'd do a hundred restores to the same partition for every restore to a smaller partition. I don't want those hundred restores to be lacking because the sector placement has been altered. When you compact data in a partition or resize a partition prior to imaging you do alter the sector placement but that is something that is necessary to accomplish the task. I see no difficulty in compaction prior to imaging or resizing a partition prior to imaging and I've done this with all the imaging apps I've used, even with Ghost 2003 which does extreme compaction restoring. The apps you describe compact data with every restore to the same partition. I don't want that.

    TeraByte describe restoring to a smaller partition in their pdf manual and in the Knowledge Base so it's no secret. Restoring to a smaller partition is a "rare" procedure compared with restoring to the same partition and I'd prefer the imaging app to be optimized for restoring to the same partition.
     
  25. treehouse786

    treehouse786 Registered Member

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    hi Brian. why not?
     
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