Solved: Acronis True Image "Analyzing Partition" hangs when volume IDs conflict

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by gustep12, Jan 28, 2008.

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  1. gustep12

    gustep12 Registered Member

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    Hi all,

    I used Acronis True Image in the past with good success. However, recently it would often hang or crash altogether - for example, when I clicked "backup", it would display a progress bar and the message "Analyzing Partition C:", but it would simply hang there and never complete.

    This was under Windows XP, but it may also apply to other windows versions.

    The issue seemed to be that I had multiple physical hard disk drives, and one of those was an exact clone of the other. This means that these two HDDs also have the exact same volume ID bytes in the MBR. Since Windows uses these volume ID bytes to assign drive letters etc., bad stuff can happen if you hook up the original HDD and its exact clone to a windows machine at the same time.

    For example, if you boot up Windows with two such HDDs attached (one original, one clone), then Windows may boot with its left leg on the original HDD, and with the right leg on the clone HDD, figuratively speaking. Once such a thing has happened, neither HDD might be able to boot on its own, since drive letters are now cross-assigned. The typical Windows failure mode after such a SNAFU is that you get the login window, but when you log in, you are immediately logged out again. Even in safe mode.

    In a less severe case of volume ID conflicts, other applications such as Acronis True Image may hang or crash.

    The solution in all of these cases is to alter the volume ID of one HDD, so that no two logical drives share the same volume ID. Note that I am talking about the volume ID, not about the volume name. You can most easily see the volume ID by opening a command prompt window and saying DIR C: /p. You'll see something like:

    C:\>Dir C: /p
    Volume in drive C is Dell_WindowsXP
    Volume Serial Number is 44B3-F7FF

    There. I highlighted the volume ID in red. In the DOS prompt it is apparently called "Volume Serial Number". It is also know as DiskID "Disk ID", "NT serial number", or "Partition Signature". More details about it here.

    Anyways, if any two drives in your PC have the same volume ID, then you're likely to have problems, ranging from Acronis hangs to Windows boot failures.

    The solution is to alter the volume ID of either the original or the clone HDD to a different value. If you still have Windows access, this can be done with a small Microsoft Sysinternals utility from Mark Russinovich called volumeid.exe. Open a command window and use the utility and use this to create new volume IDs. Windows may hang momentarily, but after the next reboot it will re-assign its drive letters from scratch, eliminating all conflicts.

    If you don't have windows access, boot with a Windows 98 or Windows ME floppy disk and type at the command prompt FDISK /mbr

    This re-writes the Master Boot Record, but it also happens to overwrite the volume ID, as initially discovered by Michal Kawecki. Same effect, except you can't choose the volume ID freely - instead, you get a default value. So you may not want to use this method on more than one drive, otherwise you end up with duplicate volume IDs again.

    Anyways, I cloned my drive and had lots of problems until I changed the diskid of both drives (just to be safe) with volumeid.exe. Now everything works just fine again, including Acronis True Image.

    Moral of the story: Changing the volume IDs is like a rejuvenating fix for Windows, because it resets its current drive letter assignments and starts from scratch, thereby eliminating all troublesome drive letter and volume ID conflicts and ambiguities.

    I hope this helps someone else as well.

    ~ S.
     
  2. opoman

    opoman Registered Member

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    Your post raises a question about mirror RAID systems. How would these behave and what, if anything, can be done to avoid the problems you describe?

    In my case, with a mirror RAID pair of identical HDDs and a 320 Gig USB external backup drive connected, True Image 11 takes 10 minutes analyzing partitions before I can do anything with it. Could this be a consequence of what you have found?
     
  3. gustep12

    gustep12 Registered Member

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    Maybe... however, it could also simply be the fact that USB drives are much slower than PATA or SATA drives. Simply put, USB hard disks can move ca. 20 MB/second, and even though I don't know how this would scale with a USB-based RAID, I suspect it will still be kinda slow. Compare this to PATA or SATA, where a single hard disk can easily transfer 70MB/sec, i.e. almost 4x faster.

    Also, even though I recommended this as a fix for most other situations, I would caution against changing the VolumeID of drives in a RAID. Especially if this is a Windows-based software RAID, then changing the VolumeID may break the array.

    Anyways, getting large amounts of data on or off a USB drive is slow. In my opinion, USB based HDDs are only appropriate if you find some which work without a power supply, i.e. 2.5" drives which are completely USB-powered. For my desktop PC, I work with removable HDD SATA trays instead.
     
  4. opoman

    opoman Registered Member

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    Many thanks for that - confirms my own cautious view of tampering with the RAID setup.

    I wish I'd thought of the removable caddy option before I bought the external USB. :(

    --
    John
     
  5. shieber

    shieber Registered Member

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    You mean people are still using/lugging around 5.24" USB drives? ;-)


     
  6. jonkoer

    jonkoer Registered Member

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    Thanks for posting this information.

    Question 1: Why does my customer not experience this problem?

    He has a 2nd internal hard drive, plus a USB drive (that remains attached always). He periodically clones his main (1st) drive onto the other two drives, for a backup.

    I do not understand why he has not had the problem you describe.

    Any ideas, anyoneo_O

    Question 2: If a user does experience the problem you describe, it seems that s/he would have to change Volume IDs EVERY TIME s/he makes a clone (onto a drive that remains in/attached to the system)...

    Is that correct?

    (If you are making the clone as a "one-time" thing - i.e., sort of a "Factory Restore" drive, which you would use to return the system back to its original, "factory" state -- then I cannot see why you would leave that clone drive in the system. It would be better to remove it to a safe place.)

    (But if you are keeping the drive in your system, it seems you would want to periodically update the cloned image drive. [Like my customer is doing] In which case, you would need to change Volume ID each time -- if my understanding is correct.) Right?
     
  7. shieber

    shieber Registered Member

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    AT one time I regularly made a clone to an internal drive, just to have copies of all the files handy -- and I had an otherwise unused drive and and drive bay. I never had an issue with booting up or drive IDs. If i hadn't removed the clone before the first reboot, the clone would not be bootable-- but that wasn't what I wanted it for anyway.

    I don't do cloning at all anymore, preferrring to rely on having multiple images stored up on a backup drive -- sometimes internal and sometimes external.
     
  8. gustep12

    gustep12 Registered Member

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    Well... I think when you have a drive and its clone hooked up at the same time, there's a roughly 50% chance that windows will boot just fine. I guess it all depends on what happens during the boot sequence and how drive letters are assigned, especially when there is a VolumeIDs collision.

    However, generally it is not safe to boot windows with two drives that have identical VolumeIDs. Even if at first everything seems to work, things are much more likely to fail once you swap the drives. Or if one of the drives is removed. Did you ever try that?

    I'm not sure what the best solution is: Cloning the VolumeID as well, and risking that the drives accidentally develop a co-dependence (two drives, same VolumeID = cross-access likely)? Or keeping the original VolumeID (e.g. by copying a partition, but not the MBR) and worrying that the cloned drive when booted recognizes itself as "formerly known as Volume Letter D:", thereby definitely failing the boot? My first intention is simply to give a pointer to people who are troubleshooting boot problems with a cloned drive. I think one solution that I read about here is to either attach the clone, or the original, but never both drives while windows is active. Of course, that's not easy to do with programs that need Windows to create the clone.

    Reason why I prefer a cloned drive over an image of the *boot* partition: When Windows is down, the restore process takes very long. Swapping out the HDD with an identical clone with working Windows takes two minutes. Plus, I can verify that the cloned drive actually *works* and *boots* before I lay it on the shelf and depend on it. A clone can give me an instant restore and guaranteed dependability.

    Bottom line is: Test your restore process under realistic conditions (only one drive, no access to original Windows) sometime. Only then do you know that it actually works. Things fail more often that we think.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2008
  9. opoman

    opoman Registered Member

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    Following Shieber's recommendation for a caddy drive, I've ditched my usb external and installed a caddy. First use of TI11 analyzed instantly. So did first, second, third and fourth incremental backups. Now, this morning, we are back to the interminable analyzing delays. I ran the driver install again and chose repair, completed OK but no change in analyzing delay.

    I've also notices that incremental backups are vastly bigger than I would expect in relation to the number of files I would expect to be changed in 1 week. 1.5 and 2.7 gig increments seem unrealistic.

    I'm beginning to feel that this software is not worth persevering with. I will probably use it to create one full image every month and rely on another backup package to do its usual efficient incremental job that I have reliably used over the past five years.
     
  10. shieber

    shieber Registered Member

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    Any file that has a changed sector will be captured in the inc -- so if a file is "unchanged" but written to a new physical location (like defrag) then that will be captured in an inc. Various system files (sys restores) all change even if you don't write save new "data" files to the pc. So incs can be much bigger than one might otherwise suspect.

    With Vista, the default setup is for the defragger to auto run in background more or less on a schedule. So that's bound to move around lots of bits from one sector to another.

    The disk analysis problem sounds like a real pita and were it not for that, you'd be in pretty good shape. So I guess the questions is, is it worth your time to wait until the next build -- assuming the next build fixes the prob.

     
  11. opoman

    opoman Registered Member

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    Thanks, Shieber, for the reply but although I do defrag about once every six months, my incremental backups were done at roughly one week intervals.

    Unfortunately, there has been nothing in this thread, and similar ones, to suggest that Acronis are concerned about this and I'm not confident that the next build will be better in this respect.

    Although my PC runs very well on the whole, it is now three years old and I am thinking of going through the pain of a Windows (and, in consequence, all my other multitude of applications) re-install before much longer. It will be interesting to see if something changes in the behaviour of TI.

    --
    John
     
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