Trying Out New Software

Discussion in 'backup, imaging & disk mgmt' started by nozzle, Nov 19, 2013.

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  1. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    I would like to try out new software but don't know which program to use to return my OS to where it was before trying them out.

    I read about AX64 incrementals; Shadow Defender light virtualization; Rollback RX and its clones. I thought I would go to the experts and see what they would use.

    I use IFW but hesitate using images for software testing for fear of increased wear on my hard drive.

    I don't want to mess up my registry like Acronis might do and I don't want to slow down my computer. I don't need an "always on" solution, just one I can use to test software.

    Any suggestions will be appreciated.

    nozzle
     
  2. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    nozzle,

    That doesn't worry me with a HD. My test computer undergoes several restores daily, for a few years. With a SSD I wouldn't do that although my SSD undergoes a few restores monthly. But with the SSD restores I use the IFW /wco switch. Restore changed sectors only. I've tested these restores and less than 0.2 GB of data is written to the SSD during the restore. That's less than 1% of the data that would have been written without using /wco.
     
  3. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    Thanks again Brian_K. You have always been helpful to me and I really appreciate it. You are like a lighthouse showing the way to folks like me who are in the dark about computing.

    Happy imaging.

    nozzle
     
  4. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

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    Nozzle, Brian's suggestion for the use of an imaging tool is excellent.

    Software testing may also be done very effectively under almost any "lite virtualization" tool. A good FREE one is Toolwiz Timefreeze...
     
  5. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    Dear Froggy. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm going to try it out (after imaging of course :D )

    Be safe

    nozzle
     
  6. J_L

    J_L Registered Member

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    For most programs, Sandboxie is the most convenient. For programs that hooks deep into your system (like antivirus) and no reboot is needed, light virtualization is fine.

    I would recommend AX64 Time Machine instead, because it's an imaging+snapshots solution that stores multiple "restore points" every hour or whenever you decide, supports reboots, and has fast snapshot restore within Windows plus flawless image restore via its rescue media.

    Alternatively, if you don't want the software to touch your system, you can use a virtual machine like VirtualBox. That is essentially running another operating system on top of yours.
     
  7. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    Thank you J_L for your suggestion. I have a question concerning AX64. What's the difference between AX64 and Drive Snapshot with incrementals (other than auto imaging which I really don't need)? Don't they both hot boot in Windows?
     
  8. pajenn

    pajenn Registered Member

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    Brian's suggestion is probably best to try since you are already using IFW, although I haven't tried it so no personal opinion.

    In terms of the other solutions:

    --AX64 incrementals work great if AX64 works well for your system, but you need a second hard drive or parition (internal or external) to store the snapshots.

    --Shadow Defender can reset your computer to it's earlier state on reboot, so it works great for testing software that doesn't require a reboot. unfortunately most firewall/antivirus and other complex software that want to install drivers will require a reboot.

    --Rollback RX is also excellent in terms of fast snapshots and restores, even faster than AX64 in my experience and doesn't require a second hard drive or partition for backups, but it can be more problematic in other ways. specifically it locks down the sectors of your computer in use at the time of each snapshot so you cannot defrag the partition, it eats up your free space (unused sectors), and can cause instability for some systems. YMMV.

    --Sandboxie is excellent for testing out simple programs and it's free. Just run the installer with Sandboxie, run it inside the sandbox and delete the sandbox when you are done testing. The problem is it only works for simple programs and will give errors (not work) for many installers - but it's worth trying before you start creating backup images.

    --other options: Use a program like SysTracer or Regshot2 to take a before and after (non-image) snapshot of your system for an install and then compare the two to see what has changed. i.e. these are not backups, just logs of what files and registry entries have been added/deleted/modified. However, these snapshots can take longer than AX64 incrementals or RollbackRX snapshots and can be harder to analyze -- it takes some practice to learn what are real changes and what is just noise, and then manually checking for leftovers after uninstalling a program and removing these leftovers can be cumbersome. Restoring the system is easier. That said, you may want to create these logs anyway just for safety in case you uninstall some program a few years later at which point restoring a two year old backup would probably not be worth it.
     
  9. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

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    Nozzle, it's not a HOT BOOT issue. Most imagers, when restoring, will restore the complete BASELINE image along with any needed incrementas or differentials. I believe Drive Snapshot works this way,

    AX64 TM, on the other hand, can restore (2) different ways. It can COLD restore just as other imagers can (from BASELINE to needed time point), but it's fairly unique in its ability to HOT restore. When it HOT restores under Windows, it only restores the needed information to get you from where you are to the needed time point... it's very quick. It's quick because the DIFFERENCE data in the HOT restore is way less than the FULL data needed in the cold restore. Typically the only time you need to use the AX64 COLD restore is when you have an unbootable (broken?) system volume. All the rest of the restores are done HOT.

    Hope that explains the difference.
     
  10. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    Thank you pajenn for your descriptions of the other programs that can be used for software testing. Wilder's is certainly the place to go when you have a technical pc question. So many experts helping novices like me. Good on you all.

    nozzle
     
  11. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    So AX64 uses "differentials" and not incrementals. Doesn't Drive Snapshot have that ability or am I barking up the wrong tree?

    nozzle
     
  12. J_L

    J_L Registered Member

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    Nope, it's faster than incrementals. That term only applies to Drive Snapshot's backup anyways, when it restores the whole image is written on the drive.
     
  13. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    So, let's see if I have this straight. Drive Snapshot always writes the full image with incrementals or differentials included, whereas AX64 is able to write only the changes made since the last image taken which means less data to restore. Correct? If so, I've learned something new :D .

    nozzle
     
  14. J_L

    J_L Registered Member

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  15. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    Thanks again J_L. My curiosity is satified (sort of :) ) One can really receive an education through this forum.

    nozzle
     
  16. pajenn

    pajenn Registered Member

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    AX64 incrementals and restores (from within Windows) are much faster than Drive Snapshot's differential snapshots and restores. AX64 is definitely the faster, more convenient solution for software testing purposes. I only trialed AX64 for 30 days and liked it and may buy a license after it matures a bit. If I do I would use it for software testing purposes instead of Drive Snapshot. Now Drive Snapshot does have some advantages over AX64; namely the "baseline" imaging is significantly faster on my system with Drive Snapshot, and I can run it from a custom rescue disk that supports my disk encryption software -- presumably not an issue for most users.
     
  17. J_L

    J_L Registered Member

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    You're welcome. Do note that there are bugs you may experience with AX64's hot restore that makes it appear stuck. Usually, it's still working in the background, but it may actually be stuck if nothing changes for more than an hour (depending on amount of data restored). Hot restore failed only twice for me after using it regularly for half a year.

    You can still cold restore the same image though, it works fine unless the backup is corrupted. To verify your backups, just mount it and you can see if the files read/copy properly. You can even chkdsk the mounted drive, but it's read-only.
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2013
  18. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

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    Sorry about the similarity in terms. DIFFERENTIALs are very different than DIFFERENCE data.

    Look at it this way... DIFFERENTIALS are needed to get from a previous time point, usually a BASELINE image, to the point you want to go to. So a restore requires the restoration of the BASELINE followed by the restoration of the DIFFERENTIAL.

    In AX64's case. What's actually restored is only the data between where the system is at the time of restoration and the time point you are going to. If that time is only say 1.5-hours (possible software test), then the DIFFERENCE data is only the changes since 1.5 hours ago (your test program installation). This restoration is very quick since that data set might only be a few hundred megabytes... no BASELINE restoration is required. AX64 knows what changed during that time, and knows how to change just that data back.
     
  19. nozzle

    nozzle Registered Member

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    Thanks for the explanation Mr. Froggie. No wonder everyone is excited about AX64. Fast backups and recovery. Hope they release the new edition soon. I guess I'll have to read the AX64 thread to get a firm grip on the proggie.

    nozzle
     
  20. TheRollbackFrog

    TheRollbackFrog Registered Member

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    I'd start with the web site... the Wilder's thread is like reading a loooooong novel (War and Peace) :argh:
     
  21. JDGILL

    JDGILL Registered Member

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    I never knew about the /wco switch, is it possible to set this as the default option when using the recovery CD as it seems to make sense to use this all the time?

    Thanks.
     
  22. Brian K

    Brian K Imaging Specialist

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    On the Options window put a tick in Write Changed Sectors Only and click Save Defaults. This puts WriteChangedSecsOnly=1 into the relevant ini file.
     
  23. JDGILL

    JDGILL Registered Member

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    Thanks Brian.
     
  24. Jim1cor13

    Jim1cor13 Registered Member

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    Hi nozzle :)

    In my own software testing, I utilize Farstone RestoreIT 2014. It is a rollback system restore software that I like due to the fact one can simply turn it off, and perform disk maintenance, create image backups using your favorite imager, and then simply turn it back on or re-enable its functions compared to having to uninstall the entire software such as exists with most rollback style apps such as RRX which needs uninstalled to do routine disk maintenance. I found RestoreIT 2014 to simply be both reliable in its restore features and certainly more flexible than others when it comes to routine disk maintenance and offering easier control over the application itself. When disabled, of course all snapshots are removed, but this should not be an issue if the restored system is stable, and one chooses to turn it off to take an image, etc.

    It was recently offered on Glarysoft deals for 14.95US$ which is quite a good deal compared to its retail price of 44.95. Not sure if that offer is still valid at Glarysoft but it was just a few days ago. I believe it was 71% off at 14.95 It is still showing available here:
    http://giveaway.glarysoft.com/deals/

    Just my personal thoughts if it applies to your needs. Some do not like it because it does not allow dancing between snapshots, such as RRX, but for complete sector based system restore features and flexibility, it works as advertised, at least for my simple needs. :)

    Jim
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2013
  25. RollingThunder

    RollingThunder Registered Member

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    Revo Uninstaller works great for this type of thing. When you install using Revo the software compiles a before script so it is capable of returning your system to baseline before install if you are not satisfied with the software. If you just want to look at a piece of software before installing to your main volume consider a VM as a test bed. Shadow Defender can work for a virtualized install for evaluative purposes as well. Hope this helps.

     
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