Jump to content
WnSoft Forums
Lin Evans

Cloning Your Hard Drive... Software Suggestion

Recommended Posts

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.

Hello Barry,

It's not stressful at all, it's just a program that guides you to making a copy of your C: drive on another safe drive, like a second drive in your machine, or more commonly these days a usb or firewire external drive.

I make routine image backups more or less monthly, and I have had to restore from the backup at least twice I can remember, because of difficult-to-remove malware infections.

The problem with your approach is that the C: drive contains not only the operating system, but also the registry and other secret areas that are accessed only by the OS, and these areas, especially the registry, contain information necessary for your programs to run, like product keys, validating data, file associations, etc. without which your programs are toast.

So, a new drive and a new installation of windows will not allow you to run existing programs, you will have to install and validate or activate every program you use, in other words a clean install, including all the windows updates to date, dozens of them. There's no way you can reinstall windows while retaining existing programs.

Acronis or Paragon or other imaging programs (the original ground-breaking program was Ghost) will make a complete image backup of your C: drive; the partition table, OS and all the updates to date, secret areas, registry, programs, emails, everything. It takes typically 15 - 30 minutes to do the backup, and, if necessary, a similar time to restore the backup. You can do a partial restore if you want.

Some imaging programs will restore only to the same size disk or partition that the backup was made from, which can cause headaches if restoring to a partitioned drive, but later and better programs can handle restoring to a different-sized drive, usually larger.

I have two 1-terabyte mains-powered usb outboard drives I use for storing my Paragon backups as well as data backups. These usb-powered drives are nowhere near as robust as mains-powered, while they may be ok for data backups I wouldn't trust them with image backups at all.

The repair man. Boy, the horror stories I have heard and read about 'repair men'. Fitting new hard drives because of malware infections, losing all the customer's data and programs - claiming that backups are the customer's care - well maybe they are, but would it hurt for them to check? The problem is it's an unregulated business, anybody with a screwdriver can call themselves a repair man. They are a last resort in my opinion.

Regards,

Colin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem with your approach is that the C: drive contains not only the operating system, but also the registry and other secret areas that are accessed only by the OS, and these areas, especially the registry, contain information necessary for your programs to run, like product keys, validating data, file associations, etc. without which your programs are toast.

So, a new drive and a new installation of windows will not allow you to run existing programs, you will have to install and validate or activate every program you use, in other words a clean install, including all the windows updates to date, dozens of them. There's no way you can reinstall windows while retaining existing programs.

Of couse not, that is pretty obvious and I hope I never suggested that was the case, but here's the thing. I seem to have managed without all these new fangled gadgets since I started using Photoshop 4, not CS4 so what are talking here....20+ years

I have had a few formats and installations of Windows, but as for updates. I don't have to do anything, I just leave the PC on and it does it all for me.

I just have this view, that many photographers spend more of their time, messing with their tools and less on the reason for having to the tool in the first place. Yes, I know all this is a personal choice, but to listen to some, you would think the world will come to an end if you don't have them and it doesn't hurt to balance the view, by saying.

That I have managed 20 years OK, so why worry now?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well Barry, I sincerely hope you never have a disk crash and instantly lose everything on your C drive. Should that happen, you'll wish you had a recent image backup. I've seen that happen, and great was the wailing and gnashing of teeth (figuratively, of course!)

Colin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm afraid I agree with Barry on this topic. We know the risks, we backup our data drive, and just reinstall the os and apps if the boot drive fails. I know the software exists to speed up the restore process, but I have multiple computers so downtime is not a big deal. My laptop has a single drive but the files in my user profile are backed up immediately to my 2TB mirrored Synolgy NAS.

Tom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Tom,

I suspect that the best way to go depends on several factors. Having multiple systems helps - I too have multiple systems. If - and it's sometimes a BIG if, one has all the application programs and unlock codes for their software stored and available for reinstall, then it's just a matter, as you say, of installing the new drive, operating system and applications. Much of this can be automated from the backups if they are current. In my own case, I have probably right at 200 application programs, the majority of which I purchased on-line so have no install CD's. I generally keep my unlock codes in a text document so I can easily recover them, but having suffered crashes in the past many of them have been misplaced over time. I have actually purchased some of the same software over and again because of crashes and poor backup habits so in my own case having a cloned drive is a huge time and effort saver. With the incredibly low cost of internal hard disks today, It's cheap insurance and only takes a few minutes to temporarily install a second drive in a desktop unit and let the clone software run overnight. In my case and because of the huge number of files the clone process took about five and a half hours, but the peace of mind of knowing that if my system crashes I can, within about two minutes be up and running as if nothing had happened is invaluable to me.

Over the years I have had numerous backup systems from external hard drives to incredibly expensive optical drives and LTO - Ultrium tape libraries, I've had them all, but never really was tremendously organized with my procedures. My late wife would probably roll over in her grave if she heard this. She was a VP and Marketing Director in the tape library business for Hewlett-Packard for many years and fortunately, through her and her engineering contacts, I had access to incredibly expensive (for home use) tape backup systems. She used to laugh at me when I suffered hard drive failures and having all these expensive and complex systems for backup, never really availed myself of the technology so had to spend days rebuilding files, reinstalling applications, searching for unlock keys, etc. She would be very happy to learn that I finally learned my lesson the hard way and now just clone the drive and laugh at the possibility of a system crash. Of course if she were giving me advice, I would not only have a cloned drive available on site, but have an additional one stored off-site so in the event of a fire or other natural disaster, all would not be lost. I think we all have systems which we have worked out over the years for protecting the data we find critical and what works best for our individual cases. It's indeed not a one size fits all situation.

Best regards,

Lin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why is it that a simple post about a recommended software to do a job always turns into a 5 page diatribe based on personal preferences?

B)

DG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well Barry, I sincerely hope you never have a disk crash and instantly lose everything on your C drive. Should that happen, you'll wish you had a recent image backup. I've seen that happen, and great was the wailing and gnashing of teeth (figuratively, of course!)

Colin

Greetings,

Not to beat a dead horse, but I just want to give my two cents on the Acronis backup program. Lin stated that his experience with Acronis was a major pain. Not sure if that was an older version or not. For me, it is very easy to do an image backup with it. I have 3 physical hard drives in my PC that are all backed-up with just a couple clicks. It takes several hours, but what is the alternative? However, Lin did a clone of a failing hard disk before it failed. I think the problem with many of the 'backup' software programs is that you have to have an operating system that is running on the drive you want to restore with the restore program installed. This really makes no sense to me. This brings me back to Acronis. The great thing about Acronis is that you can make a restore disk. I have had to use it several times. When your PC won't boot and all you see is the blue screen, all you have to do is insert the disk and your PC will boot up. You will be in your OS and then you can do a restore of the entire backup (programs and files) or just a single file. So doing an 'image' backup, for me, has saved my bacon many times. I recently had a drive crash and just put in a new drive and restored the 'image' to the new drive, using Acronis. I have just too many programs and data files to even think of having to re-install or lose when a drive crashes (and they will).

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gary,

I think that you echo the opinion of most people here?

Which software you use is down to Personal Choice and where you live?

I use a UK based company. Buy British!! B)

DG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Gary,

Almost all of the present clone software packages also have the option to create a boot disk to get the system up and running. Some of them also have backup functions such as Acronis True Image. The one I recommended is strictly a cloning software rather than a cloning and backup software. All of the imaging software in the world won't help you with a total hard drive failure. Yes, you have your backups of your application software and your data files, but if the hard drive itself is trashed (not just files corrupted or missing boot sector, etc.) you have to purchase a new hard disk, install an OS on it, recover all your files from the imaging software and then register each to make them work meaning you must enter each unlock code for each software which requires it.

By cloning your drive, and then optionally mirroring, you prevent this and only need to recover the data installed since the cloning operation or, in the case of mirroring, just disconnect the defective drive, make a simple bios change and you are up and running immediately. They are just different ways of achieving the same result. My comments about Acronis do indeed refer to an earlier version but on the ease of cloning with Acronis and not referring to its backup capabilities.

Perhaps imaging software now has the ability to restore the boot sector and registry? If it does this I wasn't aware of it. If so, it would appear to be functionally identical to cloning software?

LATER:

It appears that I'm out of date about imaging software which apparently can also backup the registry and boot sector and restore it as Gary did with Acronis. My old version of Acronis could not do that - it was both clone and backup, but could only clone to an identical size drive and to do this one either had to have the capability of installing two drives in the single enclosure or purchase an enclosure with power supply to temporarily house the cloned drive. With incremental backup capabilities, it seems that perhaps even an external hard drive could be used to temporarily hold the image to be restored to a new internal drive in the event of total hard disk failure....

I found this which is dated 2009, but may be helpful in deciding which way is better for you....

http://www.pcworld.com/article/164972/image_or_clone.html

Best regards,

Lin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Gary,

... The one I recommended is strictly a cloning software rather than a cloning and backup software. All of the imaging software in the world won't help you with a total hard drive failure. Yes, you have your backups of your application software and your data files, but if the hard drive itself is trashed (not just files corrupted or missing boot sector, etc.) you have to purchase a new hard disk, install an OS on it, recover all your files from the imaging software and then register each to make them work meaning you must enter each unlock code for each software which requires it.

By cloning your drive, and then optionally mirroring, you prevent this and only need to recover the data installed since the cloning operation or, in the case of mirroring, just disconnect the defective drive, make a simple bios change and you are up and running immediately. They are just different ways of achieving the same result. My comments about Acronis do indeed refer to an earlier version but on the ease of cloning with Acronis and not referring to its backup capabilities.

Best regards,

Lin

Lin,

I don't think I agree when you say "if the hard drive itself is trashed (not just files corrupted or missing boot sector, etc.) you have to purchase a new hard disk, install an OS on it, recover all your files from the imaging software and then register each to make them work meaning you must enter each unlock code for each software which requires it." Yes, you have to purchase a new hard drive, but you just have to restore the backed-up image to the new hard drive. You don't have to install a new OS or unlock codes or re-register programs or anything like that. The newly imaged disk drive will work just like the old one. That is how I got my new hard drive, that replaced my crashed drive, to work. I only had to do the restore of the image. Piece of cake. That is why I favor the way Aronis works. Having mirroring working is probably the best to have in addition to imaging, but for most people, doing frequent backup imaging is the minimum to be safe.

Also, don't you have to have both drives operational when you do a clone? If the original drive is trashed, the only resort is an image backup, if you have one. From my understanding, 'cloning' will copy a partition from one drive to another to make that drive an operational hard drive (not the same as 'imaging' which is use only to restore files or partions).

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Gary,

You answered apparently while I was modifying my original reply. Yes, the clone software only works when the orignal drive is operational. But in that respect, so too does the imaging software. Both apparently will, as you say, restore the entire operation to a new drive. The difference is that you must use the recover disk to boot your system so that the imaged information including OS, registry and boot sector is made functional on the replacement disc. The cloned disc just has to be installed, or in my case connected which takes only a few seconds to get things working. The advantage of the imaging "plus" incremental backups of the imaging software is that everything is up to date and according to the article I linked, there is less probability of a virus infecting both Windows partitions. Of course that's not a problem with the way I did it because only one drive is functional at a time. Were the drives mirrored, then the probability exists for a virus or malware to infect both.

Best regards,

Lin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lin,

Think of it this way.

I have a 1TB HDD solely for Images which are named by date.

I keep adding Images at regular intervals until the 1TB is full. At that stage I delete the oldest image(s) before adding the newest.

If I have a virus/malware problem I would go back until I find a virus/malware free Image.

When I first started using Macrium I was able to create a Boot Disc for the Laptop but my XP machine refused to boot from the one I made for it. After two e-mails to Macrium he/they suggested that I use a USB Memory Key for the XP machine. Problem solved.

DG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Dave,

So you set the bios priority to boot from the USB device and if necessary, that boots the system. Then you do the restore from the latest virus free image which then only requires restoring (if available) any files subsequently added after the date that image was made?

Sounds reasonable. Either way, since virus or malware infestation is nearly always limited to the C:\> drive, for speed of recovery or cloning, keeping the C:\> free of all except applications would be the best strategy. Unfortunately, I have a rather large amount of data on my C:\> drive which I probably "should" migrate to external or backup discs, but to do so would confound programs such as PTE because of the change in location of the data files. I've begun to try to keep zipped backups of all my projects now to eliminate the time sink of searching out the new locations for relocated data. Hindsight - LOL

Best regards,

Lin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, I had to go with whatever was available. For some reason (it's a long time ago) the XP machine didn't look at the CD Drive but it looked at the USB drive. I just wanted to prove that if I had a catastrophic failure the system would work.

.....and Barry kept pestering me to prove that it worked.

If you have a working drive and just want to restore you don't need the Boot Disc - you just open the software and Restore. The Boot Disc is for catastrophic failure.

I have always tried to keep ALL temporary files etc well away from the C drive. If there is an option to save Temporary or Cache files on a different drive I always take that option. It keeps the C drive as clean as possible between Images.

The one thing that has eluded me so far is my Outlook Files.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lin,

PTE is probably the one software product that doesn't get confused by movng everything around. I can take my backup drive (K: - a clone of my main data drive J:) remove it from the system, unplug it, take it to my laptop, plug it in there (where it becomes drive F:) and then launch PTE on the laptop and navigate the File>Open dialogue into drive F:, to any PTE Project folder, and double-click the .pte file. Hey presto! The project opens up fine. It is just like it would have been had I opened it on the desktop system from the main data drive (J:). OK, I'm talking about Windows 7 rather than XP. Maybe you need to catch up with reality and pension off those XP systems :)

regards,

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The one thing that has eluded me so far is my Outlook Files.

Dave,

Switch to Thunderbird! :) All my e-mail is on my J: drive (external HDD)

regards,

Peter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I might try that but it means starting fresh.

I have mail and contacts going back 15 years.

Establishing that network on a new system might be difficult (time consuming) but it is definitely worth looking at.

...................................................................................................................................................................

Also, I like the idea of a single drive for PTE and Images.

I have Drives for Images and Music but I have haven't thought of combining PTE Projects with the Images Drive.

Plenty to think about.

DG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Peter,

I have multiple OS systems on different machines - everything from XP to 8.1 but I keep XP on my development machine because it has features which I like. My issue with PTE finding files may be only on the XP system, truthfully, I haven't tried it with any other OS, but it does present problems now and then.

Best regards,

Lin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not know that much about computer systems, when I had my hard drive fail 3 years ago, I had it replaced but it took a very long time to put all the programs I had on it back. specially the ones I did not have disc for.

When I bought a new computer 1.5 year ago, it came wit Windows 7 and it had a separate SSD as C drive for my programs and a 1TB hard drive for my files and pictures. When I read up on Windows 7 it said that you could create a System Image Backup automatically.

Since then I have bought a 2TB USB drive and have Windows automatically ones a week, create the system image backup and also a backup for all the files and pictures.

When I read all the postings here on this topic, I can not understand why no one has mentioned the System image backup thru Windows 7.

I hope it works when I have to replace my hard drive.

Bert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Bert,

Hopefully it will work just fine. There have been lots of issues with Windows 7 and cloning per this:

http://www.anotherwindowsblog.com/2011/02/windows-7-not-genuine-after-disk-clone.html

Can't say from personal experience since I have never backed up my own Windows 7 system with a cloned drive.

Best regards,

Lin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not know that much about computer systems, when I had my hard drive fail 3 years ago, I had it replaced but it took a very long time to put all the programs I had on it back. specially the ones I did not have disc for.

When I bought a new computer 1.5 year ago, it came wit Windows 7 and it had a separate SSD as C drive for my programs and a 1TB hard drive for my files and pictures. When I read up on Windows 7 it said that you could create a System Image Backup automatically.

Since then I have bought a 2TB USB drive and have Windows automatically ones a week, create the system image backup and also a backup for all the files and pictures.

When I read all the postings here on this topic, I can not understand why no one has mentioned the System image backup thru Windows 7.

I hope it works when I have to replace my hard drive.

Bert

Bert,

I really don't know the answer to this question, but what happens when your disk gets the 'blue screen of death'? It won't boot. To do a restore using the Windows System Image backup, won't you have to have a working version of Windows7? If you can't boot up the disk to Windows, how will you go about doing a restore? Can you create a boot restore disk so you can start a restore process? I really don't know but that would be what I would worry about. If you haven't tried to do a restore at all, I think you might try to do a restore of just a file or two to see if it works, at least while your disk is working. And how to do it when your disk does not boot. Just some thoughts I have.

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Gary,

Thanks for your advice, I had forgotten, but I just checked and I had made a recovery boot disc for windows 7. You mention to doing a restore even for 2 files, but I am afraid of doing that as everything is working fine and I don't like to mess with things I don't know to much about.

The only issue I have had in last year was that sometimes a program (also PTE) started to behave different. A system restore always corrected that problem.

When the hard drive crash comes, I keep my fingers crossed and hope I did the right backup.

Bert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Gary,

Thanks for your advice, I had forgotten, but I just checked and I had made a recovery boot disc for windows 7. You mention to doing a restore even for 2 files, but I am afraid of doing that as everything is working fine and I don't like to mess with things I don't know to much about.

The only issue I have had in last year was that sometimes a program (also PTE) started to behave different. A system restore always corrected that problem.

When the hard drive crash comes, I keep my fingers crossed and hope I did the right backup.

Bert

Bert....Not to argue with you but that is just like closing your eyes and walking across the street, hoping you won't get hit by a car. Not testing a restore process is putting all your eggs in one basket. Why not give it a try? You will sleep better knowing it might work when you need it. At least, give the recovery boot disc a try. Just see if it will boot up as expected. You can't go wrong doing at least that. :) :) :)

Gary

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bert,

I am afraid of doing that as everything is working fine and I don't like to mess with things I don't know to much about.

I would recommend you test the boot disc and at least see the menu/ process involved as Gary suggests. This way you have a first-hand idea of what to expect when the issue turns real ... instead of going in blindly into the unknown and under stress.

I would at least try this part in your initial test run at using the disc :

Most boot recovery discs allow you to perform several functions and not just recovery. If your disc features in its menu display something like (check/verify) validate integrity of a image file ... performing this step justs checks the selected recovery file and does not perform any HDD drive recovery action. This way you get to test the boot disc, sample the menu view and its features, check the integrity of the selected image file (without actual file recovery/install), and get a idea of the amount time its going to take when recovering really happens ... all in a calm, quiet, and prepared setting.

*Testing also allows you to make sure your mouse and/or keyboard is functional in this situation. Some USB mice and USB keyboards might have issues and not function due to special drivers required that are not available.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Stu and Gary,

Thanks for your advice to test the boot disc.

I did test the recovery boot disc and it started windows on my computer.

I have also a windows repair disc, that took longer and downloaded (windows?) files. than it gave me choices to reboot , repair, windows restore and exit.

Windows repair was highlighted and I could not highlight any other task,because there was no mouse arrow and also the up and down arrows on the keyboard did not work.

Did the repair and it said there was nothing to repair. Could finally get to exit it.

Is it normal that the mouse does not work? And is there a way that at least the arrows on the keyboard can work when I use the repair disc.

Thanks,

Bert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×