MBR Question

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by brandis, Feb 18, 2005.

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  1. brandis

    brandis Registered Member

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    Hello

    as mentioned in some threaths TI does image the MBR only if it image THE WHOLE DRIVE not only a partition.

    My questions:
    If I have ONE drive with C: D: and Acronis Secure Zone, must I image all the 3 (including the Securezone) to get the MBR? Normally TI tells you NOT TO image the Secure Zone!
    (by the way I use the secure zone only to boot without the CD)

    If I have 3 drives in one pc do all the drives have a own MBR?

    If the first drive crashes, what must I do if I what to use drive 3 to restore the image and make it BOOTABLE??
     
  2. Acronis Support

    Acronis Support Acronis Support Staff

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    Hello Stefanos,

    Thank you for your interest in Acronis True Image (http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/).

    Please note that MBR is included into image file only if you create the image of the whole disk (including Acronis Secure Zone). However if you then restore the image of the partition to the same hard disk (usually to the same place) there will be no need to restore MBR.

    If you restore the partition to another disk we cannot guarantee that you will be able to boot from it even after you fix MBR though all the data will be transferred to the new disk correctly.

    Each hard disk has its own MBR though sometimes it is not used (for example on disks without operational system on it). If you set the hard disk without the MBR configured as your first boot device in BIOS the computer will try to boot from this disk (because it will find MBR on it) but will not boot because the code in the MBR is not correct.

    In case your first disk crashes you may restore the image of the whole disk to the other one and boot from it.

    Thank you.
    --
    Ilya Toytman
     
  3. YaBeCuz

    YaBeCuz Registered Member

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    Pardon my ignorance of the finer MBR details but, does anyone else see this as a problem? Any user having only a single HDD (with one or many partitions) is at a serious disadvantage it seems.

    Is there a technical barrier preventing the imaging of the MBR (or at least an option to by Acronis) when not imaging the entire HDD?

    Does any competitive product alleviate this issue or is it universal?
     
  4. Acronis Support

    Acronis Support Acronis Support Staff

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    Hello YaBeCuz,

    Thank you for your interest in Acronis True Image (http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/).

    The problem is not in actual backing up the MBR. If you restore the image of a single partition and MBR to another disk it is most likely that you won't be able to boot the new hard disk. This will be because the sectors where the image was do not match those where it is currently stored.

    Briefly, even if you back up the MBR it will be useless when you restore the single partition.

    Thank you.
    --
    Ilya Toytman
     
  5. YaBeCuz

    YaBeCuz Registered Member

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    Ilya,

    Thank you for replying... help me fashion a disaster protection/recovery strategy then that accommodates a semi-hypothetical situation as below:

    • Starting with an existing computer having single internal 40Gb HDD
    • OEM partitioning of the HDD as mostly one huge (39Gb) active system partition as drive "C:"
    • Existing internal 39Gb HDD partition drive "C:" has 10Gb used by WinXP, various other user applications and data
    • Computer does not have CD/DVD burner capability
    • Another computer on a periodically available office network has 250Gb HDD which can be used for transitional archive of image files (bypassing use of a SecureZone option it seems)
    • This other computer also has an internal CD burner
    • Need to be able to generate a backup of this drive "C:" at monthly and incremental intervals to allow recovery of either individual file granularity or a bootable image that would allow minimum downtime for rebuild should original computer or HDD become irreparably damaged.
    • In the event of a full HDD or machine replacement, the user must be returned to a state which duplicates their current condition of OS, Apps, Data, passwords, browser favorites, cache, etc. (as recent as backup image) -- kind of a "grab-and-go" philosophy should their original computer experience any catastrophic failure/issue. The occurrence of failure should be relatively transparent to the user.

    I originally thought that, say if the HDD failed, recovery would be as simple as
    • acquiring a replacement HDD at retailer
    • swap the hardware
    • boot with ATI rescue CD
    • restore image from either networked computer or CD's
    • reboot
    • user walks away with fully functional computer as if never happened

    How does one get as close as possible to this type of solution that doesn't require an advanced IT expert to assist in recovery?
     
  6. Acronis Support

    Acronis Support Acronis Support Staff

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    Hello YaBeCuz,

    If you create the image of the whole disk all the time you will be able to restore it and the new disk will be bootable. You may schedule image creation even if you want to store the image to a network shared folder. However it is impossible to use remote CD/DVD burner when reating the image.

    Please note that if you restore the image to another hardware configuration we cannot guarantee that it will work properly. The problem is that Windows is set for the specific hardware and may not work on different system.

    Thank you.
    --
    Ilya Toytman
     
  7. YaBeCuz

    YaBeCuz Registered Member

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    Ilya,

    Thank you for the reply.

    OK, maybe we're getting closer to a breakthrough understanding here, or maybe I'm missing something...

    I guess perhaps the real key answer I'm looking for here is related to the TIB files themselves.

    Suppose I've got a single HDD with 2 partitions ('C:', 'D:') and the 'D:' partition is only used to store full TIB image output and daily incrementals. If I've selected the option to produce the image for the full HDD and not just the 'C:' partition, won't each image include copies of the TIB data changes contained on partition 'D:'?

    Or, is TI smart enough to recognize the TIB files and not record their image changes to the incremental images, just all of the non-TIB data of any kind that might exist?...

    Am I making sense at all...o_O o_O
     
  8. brandis

    brandis Registered Member

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    O.k. Ilya should answer this.... but I think I can do it also.
    NO TI will NOT recongnize what you are doing, if you image a drive it copy all the files including TIB's
     
  9. jmk94903

    jmk94903 Registered Member

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    This is a real problem! If you put your backups on the same drive, it's not reasonable to backup the entire drive because you will be backing up all your backup files, and the new backup file will be huge.

    You can backup only the C: partition, but Acronis can't guarantee that a restore will be bootable. Or, you can put your backup files on another hard disk. This is the safe decision, and an external USB hard drive makes the most sense economically.

    A network drive is an alternative, but it should be a second hard drive on the network computer and not a partition on the boot drive or you are back to the same problem when you try to backup that system. Also, the network is slower than USB or Firewire unless you have a Gigabit network.

    Having to backup the entire drive is a really unfortunate requrement. The first company to find a way around this will have the image software of choice for everyone.
     
  10. jimmytop

    jimmytop Registered Member

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    If you care about the information on the hard drive, you shouldn't be backing it up to another partition on the same drive anyway IMO. That's just asking for trouble.... For example, if your hard drive fails, what good does it do you to have the images anywhere on that drive? The drive has failed! The images are....inaccesible :eek:

    Storage is relatively cheap these days. I would recommend to get a back-up drive.
     
  11. Acronis Support

    Acronis Support Acronis Support Staff

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    Hello YaBeCuz,

    Though you have already got the right answer I will just agree that Acronis True Image is unable to omit .tib files while the image is being created.

    And pay attention to jimmytop's post: it is really not recommended that you store the image of the disk to the same disk because if it fails you won't be able to backup.

    We are currently working on the option to back up MBR with single partitions and make this partition bootable after the restoration. However, currently this option is not ready yet.

    Thank you.
    --
    Ilya Toytman
     
  12. ctal

    ctal Registered Member

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    Just add a step between "b" and "c" to format the new drive, and you should be good to go. You can do this by booting to the Windows XP installation CD, and entering its "recovery console," which includes a formatting utility. Besides allowing you to select NTFS vs. FAT32, cluster size, partition size, etc., the formatting process will write a new MBR which is correct for the new disk. Select your partition size to correspond to what you want for the c: partition. After you have restored the image and rebooted, you can use Windows disk management to format and set up the d: or other partitions on the drive.
    When you reboot, the restored Windows installation will detect that it is running on a new hard drive and set itself up automatically. If you have previously made other changes of internal hardware since Windows was originally installed and activated with Microsoft, the changed hard drive could (in combination with the previous changes) put you over the threshold of requiring reactivation. But that is a separate issue, which is easily taken care of if necessary.
    Disclaimer: I do not yet have any experience with TI; my experience is with an older version of a competitive program (DI2002), but I assume TI should be no different with respect to this issue.
    Edit: My comments assume, of course, that you have previously created valid images of each of your partitions individually. I see no point to having TI image the entire drive at once, which would cause it to include the mbr, which as has been noted would probably make the image unbootable when restored to a different drive.
    Edit No. 2: Rather than the recovery console on the Windows XP installation disk, it would be simpler to use the XP installation (setup) menus on the installation disk. See http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;313348

    -- Al
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2005
  13. jimmytop

    jimmytop Registered Member

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    Great!
     
  14. jmk94903

    jmk94903 Registered Member

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    Ilya,

    Would you please comment on Ctal's post. If the new hard drive is partitioned by the Windows installation CD, a partition manager such as the one from Acronis or even FDISK.EXE which creates a new MBR will restoring only the C: partition from a drive with multiple partitions be bootable?

    Also, I'm very glad to hear the development team is working on this important issue.
     
  15. tachyon42

    tachyon42 Registered Member

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    Hi Ilya,
    Glad to hear that single partition restore with MBR is under development.
    I'll lodge a bug report in a day or so regarding an ExtendedX partition which is cloned (using bootable CD version of TI) as an Extended (not ExtendedX) partition.
    Could you check that your development team will work on correctly adjusting the MBR when restoring a single ExtendedX partition.
    Thanks
     
  16. YaBeCuz

    YaBeCuz Registered Member

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    Wow... lot's of great input!

    I look forward to Acronis response to the technical merits of ctals posting because it certainly sounds plausible to me and desirable as well.

    Regarding the aspect of using removable storage for placement of TIBs - I shouldn't have to buy more hardware to serve this purpose. I should be able to generate full and incremental TIBs on the single internal HDD that is available 100% of the time (which also allows for near instant non-disaster recovery of individual files when necessary through the image exploration feature) and then off-load these TIB files to either a network storage device or CD when those are available (10% of the time).

    I'm looking at this from a mobile road warrior perspective. The laptop may only be connected to an office network sporadically. During that irregular connection period, it is far simpler, less impacting and of shorter duration to have the user kick off a simple script to copy all new TIB files out to an available network storage device/file server than try and have them run the TI product and decide whether this is the time to perform a new full imaging or incremental.

    The idea of using portable USB/Firewire external storage is great when you don't have to lug it around 90% of the time -- even if it's only the size of an iPod. Of course, then you've got the whole issue of MTBF due to the pack/unpack/connect/disconnect frequency... Oh, yeah, then there's the security risk issue... if it's small it's easy to lose or steal!

    If I've already spent thousands of dollars on a file server that has 100's of Gb available for TIB storage, I shouldn't have to spend more money on a portable storage device for each laptop... I want to leverage existing investments and sculpt their use in a fashion that is a resonable compromise to the user's situation rather than force them to do something unfamiliar, uncomfortable or inconvenient (always from their perspective).

    The main reason most people don't backup their computer frequently is due to inconvenience (perceived or imagined). If they are not really computer savvy, they won't really understand the various nuances associated with disaster recovery. They just want the computer to always work, the way they've got it setup and with minimal fuss or muss... when it doesn't, they will approach the closest "IT person" and say "Hey, fix this it's broken... and, oh yeah, I have a business trip in 2 hours that requires this at 100% with all of the files/programs from last backup"... it's not fair, but it's real world.
     
  17. jmk94903

    jmk94903 Registered Member

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    According to Ilya, if the hard drive has only a C: partition and a Secure Zone, the restore of the C partition is guaranteed bootable. That's great for the road warrior on the road.

    The problem is that there is no way to transfer an image saved in the Secure Zone to another disk to provide the off-loading step that you need. So close and yet so far. :-(
     
  18. Ed Y

    Ed Y Registered Member

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    I think I need help here. I'm now totally confused. I will readily admit I'm not an expert on HD's so here's my question. I have one 40GM hard drive with only 1 partition on it - C. I am using "create image" to put what I thought was backup data on an external USB 2.0 drive. As long as I create them with 750 MB sizes, I can run "check image" and everything verifies. I thought this was a pretty foolproof way to prevent a disaster for me if my HD crashes and I have to replace it. TI shows:

    Disk 1
    NTFS (C) pri,act
    FAT16 pri

    I have been checking the "disk 1" entry which would include both the NTFS C: partition and the FAT16 partition (I'm not sure exactly what that is, by the way). This is the way it came from Dell.

    Should I be doing it this way or should I just check the NTFS C: partition?

    The business about the MBR has got me confused. It sounds one post above says I can't restore an image to new HD (if I have a failure on current one) and then be able to boot from it. Then in another post, it sounds like I can.

    Can someone please clarify this for me??
     
  19. ctal

    ctal Registered Member

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    Ed,
    The FAT16 partition is probably an "oem" partition installed by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (Dell), probably containing diagnostic software to help them help you diagnose hardware problems which may arise in the future.
    As I indicated in my previous post, I have no experience yet with TI; however I have extensive experience with an older version of a competitive program, which I would expect would be similar with respect to these issues. What I have gathered from other posts at this Forum is that TI images the mbr if and only if you ask it to image the entire drive. If you do that, and you then restore to a replacement drive which is not identical to the original (both physically and in terms of formatting), then the restored mbr will not be correct for the new drive, and the restored image will not boot.
    Therefore the thing to do would seem to be to image each partition that you want to back up individually. If you put in a replacement drive, first partition and format it, which will create an mbr that is correct for it, and then restore the contents of each partition individually, from your images. A good imaging program should be able to do that, and I have routinely done that many times with the program I have been using (although without TI's many conveniences, such as being able to create the image while within Windows). The question is does that procedure (creating an image of an individual partition on a multi-partition drive, and then restoring it to a suitably formatted replacement drive which may have different size, different internal geometries, etc) truly work. I see no reason why it shouldn't, based on my experience with the other program, but we are waiting for a definitive answer from TI or a user experienced with it.
    Hope that helps,
    -- Al
     
  20. Menorcaman

    Menorcaman Retired Moderator

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    Hello Ed Y,

    Your current method is fine i.e. select the whole source disk (NTFS primary/active partition + FAT16 Dell recovery/diagnostic partition) and image direct to your USB 2 HD.

    When restoring, elect to restore both partitions (whole disk) whether it be to your original source drive or a new direct replacement.

    Regards
     
  21. Ed Y

    Ed Y Registered Member

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    Thanks guys.

    Menorcaman: If I lose the hard drive and restore both partitions (whole disk) what will happen with the MBR if the new HD (let's say it's larger but still an IDE drive) is not identical to the old one? If I format and partition the new one which I assume will create a MBR, then a total restore will overlay it? Is that true? I guess this is the area where I'm confused.

    I realize that if I am restoring to the original HD for whatever reason, then I shouldn't have a problem restoring the whole disk but I'm really trying to plan for a hard drive failure.
     
  22. Menorcaman

    Menorcaman Retired Moderator

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    Strictly speaking there is no need to partition/format the new drive. You can restore the image to bare metal although, in this case, you'll need a partition manager to recover unallocated space if the new drive is larger than the original.

    Regards
     
  23. Acronis Support

    Acronis Support Acronis Support Staff

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    Hello Menorcaman,

    Please note that Acronis True Image does allow you to resize partitions when you restore the image of the whole disks. However, it will not allow you to delete partition (even if it is empty). Actually, the limitations of the [artition size are like this:
    1. The partition cannot be smaller than the data stored on it;
    2. The partition cannot be larger than the space it had used on the old disk plus the unallocated space that had been right before and right after it.

    These limitations seem quite natural.

    Thank you.
    --
    Ilya Toytman
     
  24. ctal

    ctal Registered Member

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    It sounds from the previous responses that doing a restore with TI essentially overwrites everything, including boot records, partition tables, etc., with the corresponding information that was included in the image. Therefore I withdraw my previous comments, which are applicable to the competitive file-based programs (or at least to DI2002 with which I have experience), but not to TI's sector-based approach.
    -- Al
     
  25. Ed Y

    Ed Y Registered Member

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    Quoted from a post by Ilya above: "The problem is not in actual backing up the MBR. If you restore the image of a single partition and MBR to another disk it is most likely that you won't be able to boot the new hard disk. This will be because the sectors where the image was do not match those where it is currently stored."

    This statement leads me to believe that if I restore a whole disk image to a brand new HD, the new HD PROBABLYwon't be bootable. I'm still confused. How do you then use a backup image (created by selected whole disk) to recover from a hard drive failure especially if the new HD is a little different, larger, different manufacturer, etc.
     
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