Operating System Restore from files-backup

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by GLNC, Dec 16, 2005.

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  1. GLNC

    GLNC Registered Member

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    When Windows operating system files are damaged (typically by installation of faulty software, often from reputable vendors), can Windows XP be restored from file backups instead of whole-disk backups, presuming we erase the existing system by booting a dos-bootable disk (such as one produced by Nero), and using it to erase the old directories? That is, will a files backup of all the Windows and root directories restore a working system (on the same hardware, for Windows registration, and assuming we erase all the directories beforehand, since restoring does not erase).

    We have few application data files to back up on this system, but backups are required for the voluminous operating system files. We have found Microsoft's system limited and unreliable, with many caviats in its own knowledge base, and not one professional developer I know relies on it. The OS files do not change much, and mainly through installation of faulty software, or in worse cases a virus attack.
    It would seem the backup files would be much more compact and handled more easily if they were files backups -- damage is typically limited to some file in the operating system, leaving our programs and data intact (and those are easily backed up just through file copies), but we do not know if this procedure will work, whether some obscure reason requires a whole-disk backup.
    Any advice appreciated
     
  2. Acronis Support

    Acronis Support Acronis Support Staff

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    Hello GLNC,

    Thank you for choosing Acronis Disk Backup Software.

    Please accept my apologies for the delay with the response.

    Please be aware that we can not guarantee that you will be able to restore your operating system to a working state by restoring the file-based backup of a system partition. Actually, no one can guarantee this.

    We therefore recommend you to create a "disk\partition" image of either your system partition or even entire hard drive which doesn't store the standalone files or directories, but saves blocks of hard drive data, saving the information about disk/partition geometry. Only by doing this you will ensure that after the restore you will get the exact copy of once backed up disk\partition.

    Please be aware that only the image of the entire hard drive contains MBR which is "responsible" for your hard drive to be bootable.

    Please also note that Acronis True Image 9.0 allows you to mount disk\partition images as a virtual drives and then restore individual files and folders.

    You can find the detailed instructions on how to use Acronis True Image 9.0 in the respective User's Guide.

    Thank you.
    --
    Alexey Popov
     
  3. Howard Kaikow

    Howard Kaikow Registered Member

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    TI 9 includes a file-based backup and restore, but, and like my butt, this is a big but, one cannot RESTORE a SYSTEM from the file-based backup. An image backup must be used to restore a system.

    The only explanation that pops into mind is that the TI file-based backup does not handle the "system state" for a windows system.

    In theory, if one backed up ALL files, then one should be able to restore a system from a file-based backup. But until Acronis confirms what it does regarding the system state, I would not count on it.

    I'd point you to an alternative file-based backup, but the mere mention of products that might help a user are forbidden in this forum.

    You could try asking in https://www.wilderssecurity.com/forumdisplay.php?f=48
     
  4. GLNC

    GLNC Registered Member

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    Yes, due to the basis of Windows XP in WinNT, the system state files in Windows 9x -- config.sys, autoexec.bat etc., have been replaced by an invisible System Data Set a la NT. The Windows System Restore Points feature and Boot- to-Last-Known Good option in safe mode start is Microsoft's support, but we have found these may not be accessible when windows cannot boot at all, and from booting from the Windows Install Cd (not to mention the documented self-erasing property of system restore in connection with viruses and last-known-good). The install CD only gives access to a useless NT style DOS environment with no access to the system data set backups.

    Grisoft supplies a Rescue File copy of system data in its well regarded free and professional AVG anti-virus software, but its bootable diskettes do not include disk drivers for a RAID system. Too bad Acronis can not supply such a feature just to back up this noisome system data. Things which damage this often do not require a complete restore of program files, just deletion of some offending program, typically a driver -- once you can get to a running windows system. (Also booting a windows program without raid drivers damages the RAID array, writing to only one of the disks in the logging folderol and what not, and requires rebuilding the mirror array).

    Using a RAID mirror, we can back up the system with Acronis to a separate disk partition (we prefer that to the proprietary Acronis stealthed Secure Zone, so that it can be managed in the event of failures in Acronis software), and with RAID have hardware failure protection. The RAID disk is an alternative to a separate external disk for backup for small systems. They are now included in small Dell computers as a low cost option. The cheaper disk drives making this possible are also more prone to failure -- making RAID advisable (another strange irony of technology economics).

    For extreme circumstances we then backup the extra system backup partition to DVD's using the Split Archive feature of Acronis (which does not appear in the manual setting of options in the backup wizard, but must be set as a default option -- a little error Acronis needs to fix) -- or build the backup with the split file feature to begin with.

    We have found that Nero can write the backup files to DVD in file mode, but its own backup features splitting files and its partition backup features do not work, and are not compatible with RAID driver requirements as well in their bootable disks. Only Acronis has supplied a bootable recovery disk for extremes -- Norton Ghost could not load the disk drivers, and is inconvenient even if fixed, as it requires a floppy disk install of drivers the same as windows install, every time it is booted. With the Acronis recovery boot disk we can read directly the file copies made by Nero on DVD, and restore the backup partition and the OS from that.

    Systems with extensive application data, accounting and so forth, need external hard disk drives for the speed to handle large volumes of data. But just for the OS and programs, the DVD's are reasonable, using only two or three disks at most, and only in extremes as we have the hard disk partition backup which restores in ten minutes or so.

    It might be advisable when operating on the primary windows system partition, at least in its initial entirety, operations should be done from the separately booted version of Acronis, so Windows is not modifying the partition while it runs. (Nero would not even allow a partition backup of the active primary partition in which it runs, but amazingly Acronis does it fine even from within Windows). Acronis might clarify whether they use specific tools to accomplish this, in case it is just a coincidence that it works.

    We have not found random-access DVD writing (Nero InCd and the like) useful, because it is slow and dependent on that particular software -- regular file writes to DVD can be read by anything, including Acronis for restore. For random access applications use a separate partition of the hard drive protected by RAID, or an external hard disk.
    The superior quality DVD-Ram disk media system (used on Panasonic DVD recorders) does not appear popular either, and so is not recommended for long-term storage; very few drives support it, and there could again be software dependencies -- another betamax VCR situation.

    One common practice is installing Windows in one small partition and all applications in another partition. Yet applications may also allow redirection of application data to yet another partition, and all the program code and windows have become tightly integrated and cross referenced in various indexes. So I am not sure of the advantage of this, it may be a legacy of older system architecture, and it could even lead to unsychronized code and OS partition content.

    It would be helpful if Acronis would write a guide to system design and backup methods addressing the needs of different size systems and operations, or find a literary reference on such they could give. There is too much mystery surrounding this for the complexity Microsoft has created in systems even for simple home use, with the vulnerabilities created by the Internet
     
  5. Howard Kaikow

    Howard Kaikow Registered Member

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    As with other file-based backup programs, backing up the "system state" is no big deal.

    The "system state" is just a defined collection of files that MSFT wants to be treated as an entity, which is why backup programs offer an option to backup, or not, the system state.

    Such programs do not allow the restoration of the individual files that comprise the "system state" because, unless the whole system state is treated as an entity, there can be serious problems.

    All TI needs to do is to provide an option to backup/restore the system state, without allowing the restoration of individual files in the system state. Then when restoring, a user could also restore the system state.

    MSFT is alleged to have an API for handling the system state.

    With image backup, system state is not an issue.
     
  6. GLNC

    GLNC Registered Member

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    The reason DVD-RAM disks are obsolete is the fact they cannot be advanced to a double-layer technology. Too bad, as they last 100 times longer than regular RW media.
    The Acronis strategy of not supporting media, the same as Microsoft's, where windows cannot write DVD's, may reflect the rapid rate of change -- new HD DVD's are coming out, etc. You can keep the same backup program and keep updating the media handler. Why it's all not just a driver change, though, is interesting. Apparently no one can agree on what the formats should be.
    Yet windows and ACronis can read the media...
    Most peculiar altogether, and not very satisfactory.
     
  7. Menorcaman

    Menorcaman Retired Moderator

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    Hello GLNC,

    This <article by Acronis Technical Director Max Lyadvinsky> explains how True Image manages to carry out "live" imaging under Windows.

    Regards
     
  8. Detox

    Detox Retired Moderator

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