Quick General Questions...

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by n8an, Aug 7, 2006.

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  1. n8an

    n8an Registered Member

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    Hey guys, I've purchased a copy of Acronis True Image 9.0 for my new PC and just wanted to know the most failsafe way of using it with my hardware...:)

    My PC is a Dell Dimension 9150 with 2 SATA Western Digital SE 250G Drives. I also have a 3rd Seagate 7200.9 250G SATA Drive which I'll be putting in a Enermax USB 2.0 External Enclosure. I'd like to create a complete image backup of my 1st SATA Drive, which will be 1 partition containing OS apps & progs. And I'd like to store it on my external SATA drive.

    But I've read that restoring disk images from USB drives can be problematic. Am I best off saving the image to my other SATA drive and copying it over to the USB drive, or creating the image straight to the USB drive? Likewise, should I be OK to restore the image from the USB drive to the 2nd SATA drive, or would I have to remove the USB drive from its external enclosure and attach it via SATA (or would that confuse my PC?!:doubt: )?

    I'll have the external drive jumpered as master, as I read that helps. Is there anything else I should know in addition to my questions?
    Thanks.;)
     
  2. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    In general, the fastest, least problematic way to handle an image is to do it to an internal drive.

    You can for safety create an image on an internal drive and then create an image of your C partition on your external drive and attempt to restore it with the Rescue CD. If it works then you are all set. If it doesn't you can get your system operational with the image on the internal HD.

    (Note: If you haven't verified that you can create, validate, and restore an image yet, the safest way would be to make an image of your main drive on your second internal drive, install your third drive in place of your main drive and restore the image to it. If it fails for any reason you still have the main drive intact.)

    If you find your external SATA drive works it will be fine for any future backups. You might want to ensure it is formatted NTFS so you don't get file splits at 4GB if that bothers you.
     
  3. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    As always good advice from "seekforever".

    However, if that particular solution does not suit your purpose then the following is another option.

    1. Enclosure. The Enermax 305C enclosure is a good choice. I have recommended these in the past and in my experience these work well with TI. The only thing that I have noticed is that if you boot from the TI CD into the Linux shell and then switch the Enermax on, TI may not recognise or even see the disk. Always switch the enclosure on first and make sure the disk is up-and-running and then boot from the TI CD.

    2. Windows. Remember that you can only have one instance of Windows installed on the same machine at the same time. So if you intend to do a test restore to your second HDD then make sure that you disconnect your primary drive before doing a Restart. This is very important.

    3. Racks. Removeable trayless racks are an wonderful option. These only work with SATA disks, so in your case they are worth considering. The beauty of a trayless rack is that there is nothing to setup because there are no electronics, the rack is simply a precision engineered carrier for the disk. Trayless racks provide you with the option to remove disks easily, safely and in the case of data disks, without shutting down. The racks that I am currently recommending can be found at the link below. Being of German origin you can be assured of a really quality product.

    http://www.raidsonic.de/en/pages/products/mobile-racks.php?we_objectID=4342

    4. Options. You have any number of options how you could set your system up. The following is only one of many possible suggestions.

    Hardware : 3 x disks. 1 x enclosure. 1 x rack.

    Disk #1 - Disk "A" with system, programs and data. Housed in rack.

    Disk #2 - Disk "B" Same as "A", created from an image

    Disk #3 - Disk in enclosure. Contains all backups.

    On a regular basis (say once a month) you create a full image of the disk currently in the rack - to start let us call this Disk "A". This image is stored on the disk in the enclosure. You then remove Disk "A" from the rack and replace it with Disk "B". You then restore the image you have just created to Disk "B", which now becomes your new working disk. Disk "A" gets locked away in a fireproof cabinet. The following month you simply reverse the procedure.

    This is a very safe way to ensure both system and data integrity. When not in use the USB enclosure is switched off which totally isolates it from your system. If the current working disk goes to disk heaven, you can quickly replace it with the disk that is locked away and (if you use a rack) you can be up-and-running within 10 minutes from any disaster.
     
  4. n8an

    n8an Registered Member

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    Wow. Thanks to both of you. So much invaluable advice which, more than likely, will save me alot of time and experimentation.:)

    Tabvla, bingo... it is an Enermax 305 enclosure which I have on order!!:D Glad I chose a model that usually works well with TI. I'm not using Linux (Windows XP Media Center Edition) but will most def make sure the enclosure's switched on & running before I try anything. I completely forgot that you can only have 1 copy of Windows installed. Thanks, I'll make a note of that for the future.

    Tabvla, I like that technique of switching the Internal Hard Drives with the Image being kept on the external enclosure. It's intelligent cos it forces you to check the restored image fully, as it's on the primary hard drive.

    I had wanted to keep my OS, progs & apps on SATA1 and less valuable info, such as mp3s and movie files, on SATA2 (both internal). I'd then keep an image of SATA1 on the drive in the external enclosure, with a differential backup done every 2 weeks. I may eventually have to buy another external drive to backup SATA2 if SATA1 can't hold all my valuable data.
    The reason I'm going with this is that I can't really afford another bit of hardware at the mo (a rack). Plus I don't want to be manually switching drives too much.
    I'll also keep an image of my SATA1 drive with just OS & drivers on a DVD incase I want to restore it to its basic setup. A good idea?! Are image backups to DVD dependable? o_O

    seekforever, I have another H/D which I could use as a target drive to test when restoring from my external enclosure (I don't want to use it in my system cos I think it's on its last legs!!). If the experiment is 100% successful then I'll trust the external drive with my disk imaging.
    Also, after restoring an image, is there a quick way to check that it's undamaged and the system is fully functional?

    Thanks for the help so far guys.:thumb:
     
  5. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    Hi n8an,

    Just to clarify... you wrote..
    A small misunderstanding. TI enables you to work either from within Windows or from an independent boot CD. If you boot from the CD you go into a subset of Linux and run TI from within this Linux kernel. If you browse this Forum you will find many good reasons why this is the preferred way of working under certain circumstances.

    Also....
    If you are in Windows you can simply switch the enclosure ON, wait about 2 minutes for the OS to recognise the enclosure and you should be OK. If you then go to Windows Explorer and cannot see the disk, simply switch the enclosure OFF, wait a minute and switch the enclosure ON again. If you use the TI boot CD with the Linux kernel you should switch the enclosure ON before booting with the CD.

    And with regards to the rack....
    Sure, I can understand that. However, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the model that I recommended - the Raidsonic IcyBox IB-169SK-B - (which currently is the best available and a top-quality product), is very good value. Prices are currently : British Pounds £21 Euros €31 US Dollars $40

    As for backups to DVD...
    They are OK but can be troublesome. Often the image verifies but the Restore fails. If the budget is tight then a DVD solution is OK in the short term. However, hard disks are relatively cheap so you should try to budget for a the Hard Disk/Rack solution as soon as possible.
     
  6. n8an

    n8an Registered Member

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    Thanks for your time Tabvla, I appreciate the advice & support. These are my last few questions, I swear!!:)


    - OK, so it's best to work in the Linux kernel from the boot CD. This is presumably better for restoring disk images. Would you also choose to create disk images in this environment and not in Windows?

    - I think I'll just go for the 2 Internal H/Drives and the External Enclosure at the moment, and buy the Rack in the future. I could test my disk image by restoring it to an unused H/Drive every 6 weeks or so. Is there any program/method for quickly checking that the disk image is fully functional after it has been restored to a drive?

    - If DVDs are problematic to restore from, I'll keep an image of my main H/D in its 'barebones' state on my external enclosure and also on the 2nd internal drive instead. As I'm using 3 drives, do you think there's any need to create a Secure Zone on the main H/Drive to keep a 'barebones' image of itself drive in there, (I heard the S.Zone can slow down bootup though?) or do you think it's uneccessary considering I have the 3 drives and the bootup CD? o_O
    I could create a Secure Zone on the 2nd Hard Drive, but again, I'm not sure what the advantage would be.:doubt:
     
  7. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    Don't worry about asking a lot of questions, that is what these Forums are for, there was a time when all of us knew absolutely nothing :D

    No, not necessarily. This depends on circumstance and personal preference. When working with pure data then I recommend to backup and restore from within Windows. However, when backing up the system partition my recommendation is to do it from the Linux shell. The reason for this is that when Windows is running there are a lot of processes happening in the background. Now TI9 does handle this with some rather clever programming, but I still use the Linux shell because it is a very bare-bones OS which uses very little system resources. This means that TI can do its job without any inteference from other programs, processes or services running in the background.

    Again, my view is that it is important to distinguish between the system partition and other partitions. If you want to check that a backup image of a data partition is OK then all you need do is use the Mount Image function within TI9. This will create a virtual environment where you can quickly check the integrity of the data. Checking the Windows operating system is not quite so simple. You can mount the system image using Mount Image but this does not guarantee that you have a bootable system image. The only way to be absolutely sure that a system image will boot is to restore it to another disk and boot the system from that disk.

    Acronis designed the Secure Zone architecture to create a safe area for users that have only 1 disk - e.g. most laptop users. As you are working with multiple disks there is, in my view, no advantage to creating a Secure Zone. There are however some members on this Forum that successfully use the Secure Zone in conjunction with the Scheduled Backups. However, those members tend to be quite technical. If your technical experience is limited then I would suggest that you don't use the Secure Zone.

    For a Home PC you should probably be thinking about doing this every month to remain in step with Microsoft monthly security updates. The normal procedure would be to
    • Take a Restore Point before implementing the MS Security updates.
      Install the updates.
      Use the PC for a couple of days to ensure that everything was OK.
      Create a new backup image of the system.
      Test restore the image to ensure that it was good.

    Data is of course a different matter. Depending on your own needs you may take data backups daily, weekly or monthly. It all depends on how much you use your PC and for what purpose.
     
  8. n8an

    n8an Registered Member

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    I just need to say at this point that Acronis has the best support forum I have ever used, or been on. Really. Great job, Tabvla.:thumb:

    - Yeah, I'll be creating an image of the entire drive, including the OS partition and all other data, so I'll use the Linux shell, as you've advised.

    - Because I don't actually partition my H/Ds, it'll be a disk image of the entire drive, including the OS system partition & other data, which I'd want to test by restoring it to another drive. I'll try booting from it like you advised, & checking a few mp3s/video files.

    - Sounds like I won't be needing the Secure Zone then!

    - OK, yeah it makes perfect sense to schedule my backups around Windows updates (incase anyone else's interested, they are on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. I just checked!!). You mentioned creating a Restore Point before installing Win Updates, that would be with Acronis Snap Restore which replaces Windows' System Restore ...correct? And I promised no more questions...!!:D
     
  9. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    No. Be careful here. If you want to use Acronis Snap Restore you need to create an Acronis Secure Zone and activate Acronis Startup Recovery Manager. Although these functions involve some very clever programming they also have some serious implications for the running of your system.

    The 2 most important implications are: -
    • The ASRM overwrites the MBR. This changes the way your system boots.
    • By activating the ASRM you deactivate the F8 key on boot which means that you can no longer boot into Windows Safe Mode.

    If you fully understand the implications of the above points and the specific setup that you have is appropriately configured then go ahead. However, based on the information you have provided I see no advantage to activating ASRM in your situation.

    The Windows System Restore is not perfect but is the correct function to use when updating Windows. So, before doing a Windows update, use the standard Windows System Restore to take a Restore Point.
     
  10. n8an

    n8an Registered Member

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    Thanks for the heads up Tabv. Again!:D

    Sounds like I'll be sticking with Windows own System Restore. Like you said, the Secure Zone doesn't sound like it'll be necessary for me. And neither does the Startup Recovery Manager, as I've found Safe Mode to be pretty useful in the past and wouldn't want to remove it.

    Tabv, afraid I need to ask you something else though...:oops:
    Regarding what you said about Windows:

    What would actually happen if you took a H/D with Windows installed on it and attached it to a PC which was also running Windows? :doubt:
    I'm asking this because I was planning to attach my old H/D, which has Windows XP on it plus all the data that I need to transfer to my new PC, to my new PC - which is running Windows too. I'd probably be attaching the old H/D via the enermax 305 enclosure, not internally, if that makes any difference!! :)

    Sorry to take up more of your time.
     
  11. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    Yes, that would make a difference. The external enclosure is the right way to go because you can switch it ON after you have booted into Windows. Usually (although not always!!) Windows seems to be quite happy to have a 2nd instance on the same system providing that Windows cannot "see" it at startup or when doing system interogative tasks like Windows update.

    • What is also important to remember is that you can have any number of installations of Windows present on the same system providing that they all have separate License Keys. Windows becomes hysterical only when there are 2 instances of Windows on the same system at the same time that have the same License Key. Providing your 2 instances of Windows have different License Keys and that they are NOT both OEM versions then you will not have a problem. If they share the same License Key or are both OEM versions then you will have a problem if they are both visible at startup. An "installation" of Windows can be seen as a completely separate OS. Whereas an "instance" of Windows is a duplication of the same OS.

    So you would probably proceed as follows: -
    • Install the disk with the "old" Windows in the USB enclosure
    • Connect the enclosure but don't switch ON
    • Boot into your "new" Windows from the internal system disk
    • Logon and let Windows settle down (monitor throught Task Manager)
    • Now switch on the USB enclosure

    You should be able to work without any problems, providing that you don't make changes to the OS, e.g. a Windows update.
     
  12. n8an

    n8an Registered Member

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    Tabvla, my good sir, you are a legend! :)

    I'll switch the enclosure on after Windows has booted, like you advised.

    You've managed to answer every single question I had about using TI on my new system. For guys like me, who aren't experts on IT, forums like this can save us hours and hours of frustration. So thanks again, your advice is genuinely appreciated.:thumb:
     
  13. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    Glad to be of help :D
     
  14. ScottHW

    ScottHW Registered Member

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    Two questions/comments:

    As for point 2., you mean running simultaneously, right ? (Unless you are running VMware or MS Virtual Server.) You can't mean "installed", because Acronis Disk Director and V-Com System Commander will let you install practically an unlimited number of Windows (and other OSs) at the same time on the same computer.

    As for point 3., thank you for that, I was looking for something that will allow hot swap. So, I just install it on any SATA capable machine, and it is immeditely hot swappable ? No hardware tweaking ?

    Thanks,
    Scott
     
  15. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    No, I mean installed. But, I am talking of an "instance" of an OS not a separate OS. In this context an "instance" refers specifically to having 2 (or more) installations of an OS with the same License Key.

    For example. You have 2 disks. In terms of your EULA you may install Windows XP on both disks. But you should only have one disk "visible" at any given time - specifically when you start. (after startup Windows does not really seem to care if there is another instance of itself on the system although your EULA prohibits this). The same applies to when you create and restore an image of your system partition. Creating an image is no problem because that is simply a file. But if you restore that image to a disk other than the source system disk then you must ensure that either the source system disk or the destination restore disk is not "visible" at startup.

    No hardware tweaking :D The Trayless Rack is just a well-engineered carrier for the disk. As far as the BIOS and OS are concerned there is no change. The Rack also has the advantage that it incorporates a small fan (absolutely silent) which keeps the disk temps under control.

    Remember, although SATA provides a hot-swappable option, this only applies to data disks not the system disk. If you want a hot-swappable system disk then you need to go for something like RAID 5, but there are costs and complexity to deal with at that level.
     
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