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FreeBSD Diary

September 3, 2004

Original on the FreeBSD Diary Website


Disk Cloning with Acronis True Image


Ever needed to clone a disk? Your 5 Gb drive is just too small? Time to move it all to a new 160 Gb drive? Then you're in the right place. I'll show you how I tried to do this in Windows XP Pro (using Acronis True Image) and under FreeBSD (using dd). Why? Because I can!

Actually, it's not quite just because I can. Last Sunday, my Windows XP Pro workstation died. It was a hardware failure. Nothing happened at power on. Sure, the fans spun, and the disks turned, but nothing else. I tried another monitor, another video card, and then another PSU. It's dead Jim.

I'll show you how I tried to use dd to clone an XP disk, and I'll introduce you to a wonderful product product to ghost a computer, Acronis True Image 8.0.

Actually, this article turns to be more of an endorsement for Acronis True Image than anything else. What can I say? It did what I needed it to do. In the next article, I'll show how I set up a RAID–5 array and populated that via dd.


Hardware is not the answer (but it is a start)

So where did I go? OEM Express right here in Ottawa. They have been my main source of hardware since 2001. After getting a new main board, Windows XP would boot, but only so far, then it would reboot. That was very frustrating. Fortunately, Google is my friend. By booting XP in the safe mode, I noticed it was rebooting at the same place. I took the string, and searched for it via Google. The recommendation was to repair the install using this URL: http://www.michaelstevenstech.com/XPrepairinstall.htm. Before you follow those instructions, be aware that I had to get a new product key from Microsoft after doing the repair.

The repair was eventful. Eventually, I got this message:

The procedure entry point GetIUMS could not be located in the dynamic link library msdart.dll

And again, Google to the rescue! The solution involves ignoring the error message, waiting half an hour or so, and then and pressing ENTER many times. Eventually, I got my system back.

But then Windows had to be activated. I entered my product key, but that was rejected. So I called Microsoft, who gave me a new product key! That allowed me to get back up and running.


Why go to RAID?

The simple answer is: because I can. RAID (Redundant Arrays of Independent Disks) can provide redundancy should a hard drive fail. There are different types of RAID, some allowing mirroring of disks, others allowing for striped disks. Pick the one that suits you best. For most applications, RAID–1 (mirroring) or RAID–5 (striped array with rotating parity) make the most sense. I already use RAID–1 on two machines, and I'm about to introduce RAID–5.

Traditionally, RAID is usually made up of SCSI disks. Not any more. IDE RAID is becoming more and more popular. And why not! IDE is cheaper than SCSI and the speed differences are acceptable for many people.

RAID can be implemented in either hardware or software. I've heard people claim they'd never trust software RAID because it's software and it'll have bugs. They'd rather trust the hardware. I don't buy that. Hardware RAID has software on the card. It's called firmware. I guess such people think firmware won't have bugs.

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Acronis True Image to the rescue

I was chatting to people on IRC about my hardware failure. I mentioned I planned to ghost the disk ("ghost" being a synonym for clone, derived, I expect from Norton Ghost, a well respected disk cloning application).

Cloning an XP disk is not as simple as it sounds. During my googling, I found a few references to ID generation. That is, XP keeps an ID somewhere on the drive and this ID has to be reset when cloning the disk. The references indicated that commercial products such as Norton Ghost and Acronis True Image can reset this ID appropriately. A straight dd won't do that.

My experience supports that idea, but I have no proof. I may be encountering some other problem. I found that Acronis True Image did what I wanted. Using dd failed. Mind you, I'm now unable to boot from the original system drive. I don't know why. Perhaps it has been corrupted during the process. I suspect that is why I didn't get dd to work. Read on!


Disk Cloning with Acronis True Image

I expected that installing RAID under XP would be the most challenging. It was actually straight forward. I installed a 3Ware card, hooked up the drives, and pressed ALT–3 when presented with that option during the booting process. I configured the disks for RAID–1 (mirror).

The difficult part was to clone the existing XP boot drive into the RAID array. A hardware RAID array looks exactly like a single drive to the operating system. That should simplify things.

The cloning software I chose was recommended by someone in the Bacula IRC channel. They mentioned Acronis True Image 8.0 for implementing disk ghost. This product has a free trial version which lasts for 15 days days allowing you to ghost your computer and then to purchase the full version to recover tour hdd in case it fails.. I tried it. It worked. I cannot tell the difference between the original drive and the RAID array. Acronis True Image has a nice little Wizard which guides you through the cloning process. I will not go into detail.

Warning! As with all such operations, proceed slowly, read everything being presented to you, and exercise caution. You have the potential to do the wrong thing and destroy your original disk.

After Acronis True Image did its stuff, I was up and running XP off the RAID array. It was simple. A no-brainer...


Not much else to say

I was quite sure that dd would work. I hope others can contribute their comments.

I have great words to say about Acronis True Image 8.0. I looked at using Norton Ghost. Actually, I bought Norton Ghost, but will be returning it unopened. The advantage I see in using Acronis True Image is its price and download. Acronis True Image costs less than Norton Ghost and you can download it.


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