TI Overwriting Drive firmware?

Discussion in 'Acronis True Image Product Line' started by picker77, Sep 20, 2006.

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  1. picker77

    picker77 Registered Member

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    In the past couple of days I had a strange thing happen with my Dell E1505 while going from a 5400 RPM 40G to 7200 RPM 80G. I've seen several reference to this problem on the forum, none of which seem to have the same solution, so it seems to be cropping up a lot.

    I saved a standard .tib image of the 40G to an external USB backup drive, installed new 80G in the laptop, booted up using the Acronis recovery CD I had made before, did a full drive restore, and voila - the embedded firmware in my new 80G drive was now reporting to the laptop's setup program that it was a 40G drive! This was not just a partition size problem either, since the drive's firmware parameter for drive capacity had actually been altered, either during the emergency recovery CD's bootup, or by TI itself when I did the restore. I know it was altered because the Hitachi DFT utility, which reads the drive's firmware, said so. I called Hitachi (they appear to have very polite and knowledgeable tech support people) and was told I'd have to go into the drive firmware using Hitachi's "Feature Tool v2.03" utility (available in the support/downloads section of their website), change the drive capacity back to 80GB, and reformat the drive to get back to square one. They, of course, couldn't help me with how to avoid this happening again with TI.

    I did this and it worked fine, although I ended up with an actual formatted capacity of about 75G instead of 80, still don't know why. The next question was how to get the 40G image onto the freshly formatted 80G without all this happening again. Since my original Dell drive still had the FAT-32 Concurrent DOS Restore Partition intact, I didn't care about having that restore function (CTRL-F11 on boot) available on the new drive. So, I put the old drive back in the laptop, deleted the original .tib image file, and did a new backup, this time backing up only two of Dell's original three partitions: The "EISA Configuration" partition (FAT-16), and the "C" drive (NTFS). Then I put the newly formatted 80G drive back in the laptop and restored the two partitions one at a time, the EISA Configuration partition first. This time, TI offered to resize the partitions as they were restored. On the small EISA FAT-16 partition I left the partition size the same. The larger "C" NTFS partition I resized up to 60GB (wanted to leave room for Linux) and everything worked without a hitch. The Ubunu Linux install in the remaining unallocated space went fine, and I'm back in business with a larger (and very noticeably faster) drive and dual boot Windows/Ubuntu.

    It's worth noting that back when I did the restore the first time (when the drive parameters got altered), TI did NOT offer me an option to resize the partitions during the restore. I'm assuming this was because I had backed up and restored the entire drive as a "lump", instead of doing it partition by partition.

    If you own a machine with an IBM/Travelstar/Hitachi drive, it's worth your while to download Hitachi's bootable utilities from their website and keep them handy. Slightly earlier versions of them are also available on the incredibly useful (and free) "Ultimate Boot CD" at http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/.

    Sorry for the long-winded post, but this was a pain to sort out, and maybe this will help someone else.

    Lastly, does anybody have any idea how/why TI overwrote the firmware's drive capacity parameter in my new drive to force it to match the size of the drive the image file came from? I'm way far from expert on this stuff, but this sounds like a bad thing to me.
     
  2. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    Are you sure that TI is the culprit here?

    Dell laptops (like most laptops) have a "hidden" partition that contains critical Dell proprietry files that are essential to enable the laptop to boot. These hidden files usually comprise of boot-strap code and drivers that are proprietary to that specific make and model of laptop. This partition may be assigned a drive letter such as E: but Windows would not be able to "see" it or access it for obvious reasons.

    The OS (e.g. Windows), your programs and all you data files (e.g. My Documents) would then reside on a 2nd partition which by default is assigned the drive letter C:, because this is the first partition that Windows can "see".

    ATI however can see this "hidden" partition and depending on the make and model (and how well the partition is protected) will be able to image and restore this partition.

    If the Dell "hidden" partition contained a driver for the original disk that was installed in your laptop then when you imaged the disk that information would have been imaged and consequently restored to the new disk. Now, when you boot from the new disk the information that is contained within the "hidden" partition about the disk does not correlate to the new disk because the information refers to the old disk.

    At this point a BSOD (blue-screen) would be expected. However, in your case it seems that the original setup has taken precedence and overwritten the firmware of the new disk so that it corresponds in size to what the setup is expecting.

    It is good to see that you fixed the problem. And your solution may well work for anyone with the same make and model laptop. Unfortunately it is almost a certainty that it will not work for someone with a different make and model. Each laptop model needs its own work-a-round.
     
  3. picker77

    picker77 Registered Member

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    Good point. It could well indeed have been code in a Dell hidden "stealth" partition that did the dirty deed, since the first restore to the new drive was a complete image of the original drive, which would have included that partition. Lending further credence to that possibility is the fact that when I did the next backup/restore (after fixing the drive capacity problem), I did NOT include the Dell 4.6GB FAT-32 "Restore" partition - and everything worked that time around.

    Since it can be easily restored to "out of the box" status (including restoring the full Dell bloatware suite) with a Ctrl-F11 bootup, I'm saving the original Dell drive in case I ever sell the machine. It was also a little surprising to me how much difference in perceived operating speed the new 7200 RPM drive appears to have made vs. the original 5400 RPM unit. That, plus 2GB of RAM, have turned it into a very pleasant machine to use. I can't wait to put a 10,000 RPM drive in it one of these days. :)

    The only bootable utility I could locate that could successfully edit the firmware on the Hitachi drive was their "Feature Tool v2.03", and that info might prove useful to someone, since there are a zillion IBM/Hitachi Travelstar drives out there.

    I'm still at a loss to explain why I lost about 5 GB of drive capacity on the 80G drive during this whole process, but at this point I'm going with what I have, since it works.
     
  4. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    75x1.024 (forK)x1.024(for meg)x1.024(gig)=80.5

    Hard drives get spec'd using K=1000 since that makes a bigger number than K=1024. K=1024 is the binary number 2**10.

    Your computer is reporting it using K=1024.
     
  5. Mem

    Mem Registered Member

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  6. bobdat

    bobdat Registered Member

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    As has already been said, your formatted capacity of 75G seems about right for an 80G drive. Also, part of the loss could be due to any good formatting utility locking out bad sectors it finds during the formatting process.

    The comments about a Dell hidden partition having any influence over your earlier problematic restore are completely wrong. No Dell hidden partition has any special drivers or other software that could influence a TI restore OR the booting of the C partition. Everything needed to boot the C drive is contained within the C partition INCLUDING the software to restore your computer by using the image contained in the hidden restore partition (along with an unaltered MBR). So, including or leaving out the Dell restore partition from a restore will have no effect at all on the function of the C partition.

    Acronis has never addressed the many questions that have been raised over the past months about user experiences like yours (and mine) and others where drive sizes mysteriously shrunk after doing restores with TI. Maybe they just don't understand that shrinking a hard drive can actually occur under certain circumstances. I'm also a Dell owner and I also had a shrinking laptop hard drive (Fujitsu) which was replaced under warranty by Dell after a TI restore went bad. My replacement drive is a Hitachi Travelstar and it hasn't shrunk again after a dozen restores.

    I'm glad you have a setup you're finally happy with.
     
  7. Tabvla

    Tabvla Registered Member

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    Originally posted by Bobdat....
    The above comment is incorrect

    As my credentials are unknown to this Forum I will quote from a recent article by Fred Langa. Fred Langa is one of the most respected and referred to writers on the subject of Windows and computers in general.

    I have taken this quote from Fred Langa's article on the subject of "hidden" partitions.....

    As Fred Langa is more gifted with the pen than I am I hope that the above explanation will help clarify my original post on the subject.

    :cool:
     
  8. bobdat

    bobdat Registered Member

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    Again, your comments about a DELL computer being influenced by Dell's hidden restore partition are completely wrong!

    Quoting someone who you feel is more knowledgeable than yourself on the subject of various manufacturers' restore partitions and boot protocols does nothing to change the fact that your comments, although well-intentioned, remain completely incorrect in this case.

    Have a nice day. ;)
     
  9. starsfan09

    starsfan09 Registered Member

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    ""...... Many vendors now ship PCs with a special hidden partition on it that contains the recovery data, diagnostic software, and perhaps a kind of disk image of the as-delivered, factory-fresh software setup...... the hidden partition cannot be used for anything else...... So, if the hidden partition isn't all that great a solution to system restoration, why not just wipe it out and gain back the space? Well, in some PCs, the hidden partition also may control how the system boots: If you simply delete the partition, you may also make your PC unable to boot from the hard drive......In systems that ship without an operating system setup CD, your only copy of the operating system setup files also may be in a hidden partition. If you remove the recovery partition(s), you may make it impossible to reinstall the original operating system; or may make it very difficult to install new hardware, because the drivers that normally would be on the setup CD are instead found in a (now missing) recovery partition.......""

    Hogwash! I don't believe this at all. The only reason this Dell partition is there so Dell Techs don't have to sit on the phone for many hours troubleshooting. It's an easy way out for them. Deleting these partitions will not affect you Reinstalling Windows XP!!

    I've had my hands on about 7 New Dell computers (2 XPS400, XPS600, Dimension8400, Dimension 4700, and couple of Notebooks.) I deleted these Hidden Partitions, and ....Not one time... has it affected Reinstalling XP.

    Anytime you do Operation Wipe Out, make sure you have is the OS Reinstallation Disk, and of course....all your Drivers (BIOS, Chipset, Video, Sound, Monitor, Ethernet, Modem, and etc.) If you're prepared to Reinstall XP...then you have nothing to worry about.

    I personally use a Dell XPS400. The first day I got it, I took the Dell Partition off, and Reinstalled XP. I've since Reinstalled XP about 20 times. Never had one tiny little problem.
    In fact, Dell Techs will assist you with Reinstalling XP if you need them. They'll even send you the 3 discs to do it with (1) XP disc (2) Resource CD (3) Software
     
  10. shieber

    shieber Registered Member

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    You got Dell support to actually help you instead of just burning up your time for hours on end? I am amazed. Dell's idea of support is the reason I swithched to building my own PCs. Someone that learned I did this asked, "How do you get support?" and I replied, "I used to have a Dell; it's no different now except I don't spend hours on the phone." ;-)
     
  11. starsfan09

    starsfan09 Registered Member

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    Yes. They walked me through reinstalling Windows 98 many, many moons ago when Tech Support was in Austin, Texas.
    They also assisted me reinstalling XP about 3 years ago. Since then, I've done it myself.

    Getting in touch with Dell Tech Support isn't as bad as it used to be. Micheal Dell is investing $87 million to bring ALL Dell Customer Care & Tech Support back to the United States.... when contracts with International countries expire.

    But none the less, I'll build my next computer.
     
  12. seekforever

    seekforever Registered Member

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    Well, we do know that if there is a mismatch in the number of partitions on the drive and what the MBR/track0 thinks there will be a problem. One might think the deletion utility would fix that but...

    The whole situation is another factor in why I don't buy Dells, HPs, Compaqs etc. I want a plain vanilla install with no trickery and certainly no hobbled, time-limited, and extra vendor crap on to cleverly run the PC.

    They usually get you hooked on good pricing then get you to upgrade as you select the system. My preferred method, should anybody care, is to develop a relationship with a small local computer store and build a system based on the motherboard features I want. As a rule hardware prices don't vary much although you can sometimes find better prices on-line. I would sooner pay a few dollars more and be able to get local support if needed and I try to single-source everything to eliminate "finger-pointing" if there is a problem.
     
  13. starsfan09

    starsfan09 Registered Member

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    There's only problems with the MBR because of that Hidden Partition. (Which by the way...is actually made with Norton Ghost)

    Aside from the hidden partition that Dell uses. (Actually, I call it the "get out helping people with problems Partition") They're pretty good.

    I've had a lot of dealings with Dell computers. They do make pretty decent machines. Dell is the only company I would buy from though.
    However, I don't like that hidden partition, so every one I get a hold of, I wipe it OFF...and Reinstall XP. After all that garbage is taken off, and the OS is freshly installed...Dell computers are more stable, and faster.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2006
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