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Lin Evans

Cloning Your Hard Drive... Software Suggestion

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I spent most of the day yesterday tending to a failing hard disk. My old XP development system has a 500 GB SATA disk drive which has been somewhat problematic and lately began showing signs of failing. I decided to clone it to an updated Seagate Barracuda 1TB drive. I have Acronis sofware but it has always been a major pain in the behind to use so I began evaluating alternatives. I finally settled on FarStone DriveClone 10 and I'm happy to say that it was a painless and surprisingly simple process. This software not only allows cloning to a larger drive but also one can clone to/from an SSD, etc. The software performs defragging the old disk before the clone and also removes garbage such as Windows Temp Files, etc. You can even continue using your system while the process is working. All I had to do when it was finished was reassign my cascading drive designators for USB external drives, correct the BIOS to the new drive and everything works perfectly and I have 600 gb free on my drive now. I just left the old drive in the system and disconnected the power and data cables at the drive so if I ever need to do this again, I can simply reconnect and be operational instantly. Here's a link to the FarStone product for anyone interested:

http://www.farstone.com/software/Drive-Clone.php

Best regards,

Lin

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I use Vice Versa Plus (www.tgrmn.com), and am currently working with v2.4.2. This is not a real-time cloning tool, at least, not in the way I use it. Every night I use Vice Versa to compare the contents of my main data drive (J:) with those of its clone (K:). The software identifies the differences and changes the contents of K: so that it matches those of J:

regards,

Peter

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Hi Dave,

I've so far used Norton Ghost, Acronis True Image and FarStone DriveClone 10. Of these I really like the FarStone product for two reasons. 1. It's incredibly EASY to use and isn't cluttered with backup features though they have another product which includes backup features as well. 2. It gets rid of unnecessary file and clutter.

There are a number of excellent products out there - some rated higher on Top 10 Reviews (the one you use has exactly the same rating as FarStone's product) and cheaper to boot, but after trying to get information from the various product web sites, the "only" one who quickly answered my questions was FarStone. The Top Ten Reviews wasn't impressed with FarStone's support so maybe they are trying harder now. Of course Top Ten Reviews is definitely NOT the end word in anything - they rank Proshow Gold over PTE primarily because it has "more transitions" LOL. I actually wrote them and explained that PTE has "unlimited" transitions because users can create their own. These review sites such as Top Ten don't have either the staff or expertise to really dig deep and truly understand the products they review, it's pretty superficial so I take their ratings with a grain of salt.

My guess is that users would not go wrong with any of the current products, but ease of use is probably paramount, especially for those inexperienced with the nomenclature and process of cloning.

Best regards,

Lin

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Hi Peter,

What you are doing falls under the umbrella of off-line "mirroring" I suspect. I'm not keeping both drives operational so don't use the mirroring feature of FarStone's product. The important thing is that there are numerous products out there and it's not a bad idea for users to either clone a drive for backup or clone then use mirroring to provide redundancy.

Best regards,

Lin

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Lin,

The best terminology to use is IMAGE rather than CLONE.

This type of software creates an IMAGE of your C drive which can be RESTORED if any problems occur. The image can be made at regular intervals, usually before adding new software so that if your computer gets "messed up" there is an easy way back.

Nothing to do with Data Storage or Backup. Purely a C drive thing.

That is why I advocate - NO DATA ON YOUR C DRIVE.

DG

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Hi Dave,

AFAIK Imaging is generally done via a compressed and stored volume rather than incremental mirroring - see this article:

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2029832/backing-up-your-entire-drive-cloning-vs-imaging.html

I agree that having your data on a different drive or partition is probably a great idea especially if using SSD rather than a hard disk. I generally do put data on my C: partition but agree that it's not the best practice.

Best regards,

Lin

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Personally I use Acronis WD Edition. Its a free edition for users who have Western Digital Drives. It has just the basic features needed to perform full drive images/restore and drive cloning. Can mount/unmount the image file if needed to drag out/copy just particular files. Set of 3 compression levels or dont compress. I have used it for serveral years now (when I finally gave up on using Norton Ghost when my old version would not work with SATA 3 drives) and have been very pleased in its ease of use. Its been absolutely fail safe in many different restore senarios ... works just perfect for my needs.

WD Downloads

http://support.wd.com/product/downloaddetail.asp?swid=119&wdc_lang=en

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Maybe I am just lucky but I no longer need drive imaging/cloning software. My c drive has the os and apps. Data on d drive.I rarely need to replace drives with larger size drives. In the past yes. It was fairly common. Now everything I have is larger than one TB. At home I backup to a large NAS. At work all the server operating systems run on virtual machines so we create snapshots and clones all the time. Amazing how much the technology has improved.

Tom

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Hi Tom,

I think the primary reason for cloning is to preserve the application software codes from the registry. Obviously, whether your software is installed in the default c: Windows "Program Files" folder, or whether you installed it on a partition or even a second drive where possible, the issue remains that if you loose the drive with the registry, all your software will have to have the unlock codes replaced when the applications are reinstalled or pulled off the backups. To prevent that, one needs the registry just as it existed on the crashed drive.

Many times over the years I've had to perform a low level format on a drive which wiped out the registry. I realize that there are applications which can backup the registry, but even then reinstalling application software can be a major issue if you have a lot of it. In my case, I have literally hundreds of application software titles on my development system. It would take days to rebuild if I totally lost it and I might not even be able to find the unlock codes for many of my older programs which I still use on a regular basis. That's my main reason for using clone software. In the event that my drive with the registry fails, I can, in a few short moments remove two screws, plug in a data cable and a power cable hanging in easy reach of the clone disk and with a quick BIOS change be back up and running in about 45 seconds. Yes, I would have to retrieve my backups since the clone, but the vast majority of my work would be nearly instantly available. Even better would be a mirrored clone so that all I would need to do would be disconnect the power from the crashed drive, and make a BIOS change and I would have the mirrored drive up an going in short order. I suppose lots depends on how many applications one runs, but it would be a total nightmare for me to try to reinstall hundreds of applications even from a backup and then try to re-enter all the unlock codes. Maybe I'm missing something???

Best regards,

Lin

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Hi Barry,

That's "essentially" what is being done, but on a sector by sector basis because a copy requires sufficient RAM to hold the data and even the consumer systems with maximum amounts RAM rarely exceed 32 gb. Here's some of the current software and as you can see, the majority do sector copies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_disk_cloning_software

Best regards,

Lin

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I have pretty good discipline when it comes to backing things up and these days I rely more and more on Mediafire desktop synchronization. Usually, but the time I start having OS issues I usually feel its time for a clean sweep and a fresh install of what I want anyway. Usually takes a couple of days to do it though, even if your organised

I have never used any of those ways to protect the C drive. There is just too much to learn sometimes :unsure:

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Hi Barry,

I agree and originally, when I first purchased Acronis True Image, I was totally baffled at all the necessary work to clone a drive. In those days one either had to purchase an enclosure with power supply to house the drive to be cloned, or install it in the system and it had to be the exact same drive as the one being cloned.

Today, it's actually a pretty painless operation and the newer software can clone to a larger drive without problems. All you have to do is put the new drive in the system, hook up the power and data cables, install the clone software on the original drive and press a couple keys and everything is taken care of. After the clone process is finished which could take anywhere from a couple hours to overnight, you can either leave the cloned drive in or take it out and put it in a storage box in case the original fails at which time you simply "replace it" with the cloned one from the box. Then just restore the incremental backups since the date you cloned the drive and you're off and running as if nothing had happened.

Best regards,

Lin

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What about this SMART technology. Last time I had a drive fail, it told me it was about to fail before it did. I backed up everything and sure enough it did, but that wasn't a C drive

With something like Acronis, if I recall correctly the mirror has to be extracted so how does that happen if your C drive has just failed. If the drive was right ready to use then my idea of making your own copies would work, but it doesn't.

I assume Acronis includes all the boot software to take you through the repair

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There's another program, put out by Paragon, a German software company that I have used, it's a bit like Acronis, but I have had Acronis fail with corrupted image backups, I haven't had that problem with Paragon.

From a desperate recovery position, freezing the bad drive can sometimes enable the recovery of data. I have done this once, to enable an image backup from a supposedly dead drive. I put the drive into the freezer at -18 degrees C, and was able to read the drive while it was very cold.

And I just remembered there's another program, xxclone, a companion to xxcopy, that will image copy direct to another drive. It has a great writeup, it will clone to different-sized drives, and it's free for personal use. have a peruse at http://www.xxclone.com/index.htm

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Hi Barry,

I don't think programs like Acronis True Image can be of much help if the C: drive is already trashed. Their advantage is in preventive care so you have insurance after the fact. In my case, an old friend many years ago when I got the XP system showed me how to set up a redundant boot sector with XP. This person made his living recovering data from dead drives and told me that Windows NT version 3.xx file system keeps a duplicate copy of the NTFS boot sector at the logical center of the volume, and Windows NT version 4.0 keeps a duplicate copy at the end of the partition. Since XP was derived from NT, they share certain characteristics which can be used to circumvent a dead boot sector. I've long since forgotten how this was accomplished, but it's what was happening to my C: drive. When my drive booted, I always saw a choice of two options for loading Windows. I've always chosen the first of these. Suddenly I got an error message stating that the boot sector was not found and the drive wouldn't load Windows at all. I chose the second choice and though I had to "press F1 to continue" it successfully loaded Windows XP. That's when I cloned the drive. It still gives me the same message with the new drive (I suppose the trashed boot sector was cloned as well) but by pressing F1 I'm able to load the new drive and everything works perfectly. I'm fairly confident that it would be possible to write a good boot to the old location on the new drive, but as long as it keeps working I'll just muddle along...

Best regards,

Lin

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There's another program, put out by Paragon, a German software company that I have used, it's a bit like Acronis, but I have had Acronis fail with corrupted image backups, I haven't had that problem with Paragon.

From a desperate recovery position, freezing the bad drive can sometimes enable the recovery of data. I have done this once, to enable an image backup from a supposedly dead drive. I put the drive into the freezer at -18 degrees C, and was able to read the drive while it was very cold.

And I just remembered there's another program, xxclone, a companion to xxcopy, that will image copy direct to another drive. It has a great writeup, it will clone to different-sized drives, and it's free for personal use. have a peruse at http://www.xxclone.com/index.htm

A while back I had the C: drive fail on one of my systems shortly after doing a complete backup of data and application programs to a new1TB external USB Seagate drive. I went to the Seagate and it was as dead as a door nail. The drive simply was not spinning! I called Seagate explained the flashing light codes and they sent me a new bottom end which consisted of the power supply for the drive. It didn't help, still dead. Seagate offered to send me a new replacement drive, but the small cost of the drive was inconsequential, the problem was that all my data from the crashed drive was on this backup. Seagate also offered to "try" to recover the data for $1500.00 !! I wrapped the drive in Ceran Wrap plastic and froze it for about 24 hours then took it out and hooked it up. It still wouldn't spin. I was ticked off and I slammed the drive down on my sturdy desk. It started running just fine and it's been working perfectly since and that was over three years ago. Go figure..I was able to copy all the data from it without a single error and I still use it but of course I wouldn't trust if for anything other than just a redundant backup.

Best regards,

Lin

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With something like Acronis, if I recall correctly the mirror has to be extracted so how does that happen if your C drive has just failed.

You would mirror/clone the original HD drive to a totally different/new HD drive. You would perform this task when the original drive is in perfect working order. Mirrors/clones are direct drive copies ... they are not a compressed file copy. Use the newly created mirror/clone HD dive as replacement if the original HD drive fails. Just unplug/remove the old original HD drive and plugin the new mirror/clone replacement HD drive.

I prefer to create/save full drive image files to restore a HD drive (depending on what you want to save and restore, like the C Drive or any one of its other drive partitions if you have them) These saved image files of the HD drive are a compressed file(s). You should store them on a different HD dive, remote storage drive, usb flash drive, other drive partition or even a network drive. Its not a good idea or logical to store a image file on the same drive you may be overwriting/restoring ... especially if its the OS system drive/partition.

I assume Acronis includes all the boot software to take you through the repair

Yes. The program has provisions to make a bootable CD disc or to a USB drive. However this is only needed if PC cannot boot into Windows. The boot program then allows you to select where your image files may be stored so the HD drive /partition can then be restored/recovered. The program normally works in Windows to restore if the OS system itself is functional

* Here is the program GUI of the Acronis WD Edition. Its really simple to use once you understand the terms and uses of clone, mirror, and image file. The GUI is not cluttered with multiple/confusing features.The WD program has all the basic needed features ( no auto/time stuff like the full version) to create and restore a HD drive/partition. Best of all its free for users of Western Digital drive products. (only one of the drives has to be made by WD .... even if its only a plugin WD USB remote type)

post-45-0-82268500-1399164727_thumb.jpg

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Still sounds complicated and stressful to me and the only time you know if it works is when the disaster has happened. I appreciate the explanation, but I just keep the C drive free of anything essential and if it is essential it would be on two drives at least.

Then if the C drive dies I just put in a new drive and install a new version of windows and take the opportunity for a tidy up. I think most people would take their computer to the local repair man to be honest.

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Hi Barry,

This is like Deju Vu all over again. :) It's like the Nikon vs Canon debate at the Camera Clubs.

You and I had this discussion years ago. Drive failure is not the only reason to use Imaging software - problems with Registry, Viruses etc can all be very time consuming so restoring an image of your C drive to when it was working perfectly, which usually takes no more than about 30 minutes, is a "hands free" option and allows you to do something else, like go have a cup of tea or take some pictures, instead of using a screwdriver.

A 1TB USB drive will hold sufficient Images of your C drive to go back ten or twelve iterations if required to get to a time when it was running smoothly. I am not one who likes to take the covers off a computer - if it can't be done without resorting to that then PC World does it for me. But using Imaging Software is just like installing a new programme.

Each to his own - but I will go the "Stress Free Imaging" route :) .

Best wishes,

DG

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Yes, but experience is a great thing and I have never experienced any major problems that had me wishing I had some super software to protect me, so I take a different approach. Do I have more problems than others? no, do I spend ages learning software that adds zero to my hobby? No. Do I spend my time producing 50 times the images that most do? yes

See where I going with this. Forgive me for being a little sceptical, but sometimes I think the attraction for many is the technicalities of the computer. The reason for having it takes a back seat perhaps

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Gentlemen,

This is an interesting topic. Here is my twopenyworth and some questions.

I use Nero 11 and have used this to create a rescue cd. This cd allows me to create multiple images of my C:\ drive (a SSD). I make a new image after every installation of new software or any major upgrades.

As so far I have had no C drive crash, I have never done a restore and am not sure how to do a test without buying a new drive and restoring onto this.

Questions:

1.If I buy a new SSD which is a higher capacity than the existing one, will the image rstore correctly?

2. Cloning vs Imaging. I assume that if you clone your C drive, you must have to repeat the clone process for aany major changes in your current C drive.

3. Peter's solution of an effective continuous mirror drive looks interesting and makes sure that the mirror is up to date. But will the mirror drive be bootable?

Jeff

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Hi Jeff,

Maybe I can answer some of your concerns. If you perform a "clone" of the SSD to a new larger SSD then it will be virtually identical to the original when cloned with the proper software except it will have additional space available for writing. In this sense, it will boot just as it did from the original and nothing will seem a bit different except you will have more sectors available for use on the new and larger SSD.

The cloning must be done when new application software is added, or you must install to both drives because the registry must be identical on the two drives. Nearly all software today writes to the registry and records the presence of the unlock key. Without this, your software applicaton will not run on the new drive unless you install the new software there. Just copying the application as installed will not suffice, it must be registered to work.

Imaging and mirroring are essentially the same in function. These processes preserve the integrity of all the data and appllication files by duplicating them on each drive but they do not write to the registry AFAIK. In general, the registry and boot sectors are only written to with a true clone operation. The value of mirroring or imaging is that should a file or files become corrupted on one drive, you can copy them the mirror drive or imaged drive assuming that the corruption has not been written to the opposite drive as well. Think of mirroring as real-time backup opposed to off-line backup when you decide it's time. Think of cloning as an off-line duplication of your entire system on a second drive.

I do not know whether it would be possible to install a new SSD or hard disk and install the OS then copy from the mirrored drive to the new drive and have everything work properly. I've not tried this, but my understanding is that mirroring is essentially a level zero RAID operation. RAID allows rebuilding corrupted or lost files from partial data striped across two or more hard disks.

Best regards,

Lin

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3. Peter's solution of an effective continuous mirror drive looks interesting and makes sure that the mirror is up to date. But will the mirror drive be bootable?f

Jeff,

Please bear in mind that I misunderstood the exact nature of what was being discussed. I had interpreted the topic and first few posts as talking about backing up of data drives. My solution, described in my first post into this topic, described how I operated the backups of my data drive.

To bring my story up-to-date: since I made that post I have had two external USB drives crash on me. Thankfully, in one sense, they were my backup drives and not my prime drive. But I was left for 72 hours with no backup of my data - and a lot of worry! The failed drives were so-called "portable HDD" drives that draw their power via their USB connection. I originally bought four of these three years ago - three have now crashed. I have two mains-powered HDDs: one is 8 years old, the other is five years old. Draw your own conclusions!

I am now in active dialogue with my local PC shop, discussing a new tower system that will have two SSD, RAID 1 mirroring each other and two normal HDD, RAID 1 mirroring each other. I will redeploy my two mains-powered external HDDs as the targets of a weekely backup of the SSD and the HDD. If the new devices are truly RAID 1 then, if one side fails, the other should switch in automatically and assume full capability. It should then be possible to unplug and replace the failed device and tell the RAID controller to re-establish the mirror. That's the theory, as I understand it.

Could be a couple of weeks yet before I commit to this solution. I need to be sure that I have copies of all the software that I will need to re-install (or that I know exactly which website I need to visit to download it from. I have one more major decision to make on the software: do I reinstall Photoshop Elements and Lightroom from CD/DVD or do I switch to Creative Cloud?

Watch this space (well, probably a new topic on the forum so that this one doesn't get totally hi-jacked) for updates on this.

regards,

Peter

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