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Want to Create BOOTABLE Clone Drive of my OS/System Drive

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January 24, 2011 3:12:51 PM

I want to create a BOOTABLE clone drive which INCREMENTALLY backs up my OS/system drive... and in the event of disk failure, can be immediately booted from back to the last system save.

I've looked at various cloning programs (including the mass-consumer ReBit, which does NOT do the above), and am a bit confused as to which does what.

I've been told that copying the MBR is important to creating a bootable clone, but I've also heard that it's not the ONLY thing you need to do...

Scenario: I have a RAID 0 system and I want to insure it by cloning it to a drive, and (when) rather than if, if dies, I want to immediately boot the clone back to normal.

I believe Acronis might be able to do this... but I have no experience there.

Is there any software that will let me:

1. Incrementally clone the OS drive (presumably it won't matter that it's RAID, since the OS will report 1 logical drive to the cloning software).

2. Immediately restore the system by BOOTING the OS from this clone drive upon failure with only the swapping of drives required.

Thanks in advance to any poster.
a b 8 Security
January 24, 2011 4:22:11 PM

What do you mean incrementally backs up the OS to an image drive? You need to clone it each time manually, or clone it once, and then do an incrimental backup using a regular back up software. Then you restore the drive using the image disk, and restore the backup over that.

You can't setup a system that automatically images a drive for you at a schedule.
January 24, 2011 10:06:52 PM

Ok... so in other words, software like Acronis True Image... are assigned to back up the system drive to (let's say) an external drive. It does this incrementally, and copies all the files, folders, etc. onto this drive.

But you're saying this drive is NOT a clone of the drive? ('Clone,' I'm thinking is being used synonymously with 'image'?).

I understand that you can:

1. Take images of the OS drive and store them for later restoration (obviously onto the point the image was made)

2. Run backup software that in effect is mirroring all of your data onto another drive ala RAID 1, thus preserving it in the event of primary drive failure

You're saying that to restore the system - you can use (in my case) Windows 7 Recovery (i.e. boot the install disc) and system restore using the Image already created... then you use the backup software to compare the image to the incremental and let the software fill in any changes since the image was created...

That's to my understanding, the many backup strategies work...

___

I want to be able, however, to immediately boot a drive which is identical to the dead drive, and that's it.

So in essence, my main issue here is the creation of bootable backups. I've spoken to REBIT support, as well as read over different backup software forums, and it seems to me there is an understanding of this out there...

People talk of some software copying the MBR while others don't. I'm not sure though if copying the MBR of a drive is all that's required to make it bootable.

If indeed, it is, then what I want is possible. I have an external drive running 'cloning' software (wich is NOT an image, I understand, as an image is by definition a snapshot at a single instant in time). When my drive dies... I power off, swap my clone drive and boot up... the hardware AND software is none the wiser as to what just happened.... everything is back to normal.

It seems really simple, but I know there's something I'm missing here... something about the original drive, be it the MBR, meta data, etc.... makes it distinctly different from the 'cloned' drive... and I just can't figure out what...

If the drives were, in theory, to be exactly (EXACTLY) the same, as the term 'clone' implies to me, the hardware/software should have absolutely no idea which drive is which... I should be able to freely interchange them without even noticing...

I'm really interested in finding out IF that's possible, or perhaps more relevantly, if NOT - why?


Related resources
a b 8 Security
January 25, 2011 1:14:12 PM

Acronis is an image/clone of the drive. The 2 words means the same thing.

If you want to boot a drive that is a clone of the failed system, you need to constantly create a new image/clone of it. There is no software that does that automatically as it can't clone a drive that is in use. That is why all of those programs need to run off an external boot media. When you talk about cloning and image software, it's the same thing.

To maintain a full system backup up to the minute, you can run an image software, lets say Monday. Then run backup software for the files you use/change from then on. If the system crashes Sunday, you restore the image from Monday, then run the backup software and restore your changed files from Tue, Wed, Th, Fri, Sat, and such.

If you want to have an instant restore of your drive from the day before, you need to run the imaging/cloning software every day. But that is pretty wastefull unless you install/change programs every day.
April 10, 2011 2:36:59 PM

Yet another clueless discussion. Any solution to this? "Incremental cloning" makes absolute sense to me and I want it too.
a b 8 Security
April 11, 2011 7:13:23 PM

Interesting reply, Easus is a good company, you 14 or something?

"Incremental cloning" is RAID1, set it up, you have an ongoing copy of the drive.
April 11, 2011 7:35:12 PM

it's one of million companies producing same kinda software. could be rebundled from another software, i dunno. thanks for you advice, but read the question first. looking for scheduled incremental clone, a clone that can be booted at any time, a clone that hold the same data but NOT instantly (imagine original drives corrupts or loses files and it's immediatelly synced - bad). backup software is still pretty lame and I work with geek machines for 20 years. so far I found some solutions but not complete: viceversa, xxclone.
a b 8 Security
April 11, 2011 8:08:04 PM

doggydog said:
it's one of million companies producing same kinda software. could be rebundled from another software, i dunno. thanks for you advice, but read the question first. looking for scheduled incremental clone, a clone that can be booted at any time, a clone that hold the same data but NOT instantly (imagine original drives corrupts or loses files and it's immediatelly synced - bad). backup software is still pretty lame and I work with geek machines for 20 years. so far I found some solutions but not complete: viceversa, xxclone.


That's why you combine an image of a drive with backups. You can't have a clone of a system without backing up the OS, which you can't do well while it's running. You either need RAID1 which will do this at the firmware level, or cloning with backups to keep up with the changing data. RAID1 is there to mostly recover from drive failure not file damage (although it can work that way also at times), and backups is what you use to keep files synced. No single software will keep both an image of a drive that you can restore fully, and keep it up-dated wile you use the system.
April 11, 2011 8:23:04 PM

hang-the-9 said:
That's why you combine an image of a drive with backups. You can't have a clone of a system without backing up the OS, which you can't do well while it's running. You either need RAID1 which will do this at the firmware level, or cloning with backups to keep up with the changing data. RAID1 is there to mostly recover from drive failure not file damage (although it can work that way also at times), and backups is what you use to keep files synced. No single software will keep both an image of a drive that you can restore fully, and keep it up-dated wile you use the system.

i won't ever have RAID since I have notebook and expect to have smaller and smaller machines in future. backup software can backup system files using shadowing service. that's what the mentioned tools do but i wish they were smarter and handled the whole processing, incl. initial clone of MBR, boot stuff etc. but once it's cloned with some poor software like norton ghost (which requires manual fixing of boot configuration), then it's fine to schedule viceversa every week and it will sync the drives in a time other backup software dream about.
April 26, 2011 5:30:34 PM

hang-the-9 said:
That's why you combine an image of a drive with backups. You can't have a clone of a system without backing up the OS, which you can't do well while it's running. You either need RAID1 which will do this at the firmware level, or cloning with backups to keep up with the changing data. RAID1 is there to mostly recover from drive failure not file damage (although it can work that way also at times), and backups is what you use to keep files synced. No single software will keep both an image of a drive that you can restore fully, and keep it up-dated wile you use the system.


Dont speak Unless your 100 percent sure:) 
Ive been doing it for 10 years with System Guardian LOL and it does it while system is running in Windows XP
RAID 0 doing scheduled copying to a IDE drive the same size and I can select it in BIOS to boot off of either.
Has saved me a lot.
I'm now looking for a replacement because I'm going to Windows 7 64 bit and this Software is XP only has not had a update in 8 years.

DuoCor's System Guardian/XC 2000 is a fast, reliable solution for system backup and recovery. Using two hard drives and a patented technology, System Guardian/XC 2000 rapidly copies files from a working hard drive to a secondary standby drive. Manual and scheduled backups can occur while the system is in use. If the operating system or hard drive fails, the system can be instantly booted from the secondary drive. This patented technology is powerful enough for enterprise system recovery yet cost effective enough for small business and home users.

May 18, 2011 12:46:07 PM

The only program I have found that will do exactly what you want is Shadow Copy Cloner by Golden Trout Software. It makes a clone and then incrementally modifies it to make it match the source, whenever you want. The initial clone takes several hours, but the incremental clone takes maybe 1/10 as long.
May 24, 2011 6:20:20 AM

Casper has a Really cool "SmartClone" technology... after the initial cloning, subsequent cloning will be much quicker because it only transfers updated files and modifies updated directories (like an incremental backup).
Unfortunately for me, version 4 did NOT create a bootable Windows 7 disk (might be an MBR problem) -- sadly, I did not resolve this issue before my 2.5" 250 GB Seagate (st9250410as) boot drive died.
Casper version 6.0 is out now, maybe that'll work with Win7.

I'm about to try Easeus Todo Backup Home 2.5 (Free) in an attempt to get a bootable Wn7 clone... not sure if it'll work, or if it'll do any of that Smart Clone stuff.

If that doesn't work well, I may try the other products on this review website;

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-ways-to-clone-and-copy-y...
a b 8 Security
May 24, 2011 12:45:01 PM

I'm not sure I would want a real time clone. If there is an accidental deletion of files or a virus/malware makes it into the system, you will now have cloned the flaw making the backup near useless.
March 5, 2012 12:53:55 PM

I agree with Hawkeye22 about a real time clone. I just screwed up my RAID1 registry and it immediately mirrored the corruption so now I have two drives that won't boot.

RAID1 is a solution for HARDWARE failure only.

On the other hand if you really do need to be back up and running immediately then RAID1 may be your solution.

I'm not sure about cloning RAID0 to a single disk. The question I have is: Since RAID0 is one type of hardware and a single disk is another, will that affect the bootability? By that I mean: If you fry your motherboard and replace the motherboard and reinstall the same boot disk I've read that you will have some trouble with booting since there was a hardware change.

I am in the process of rebuilding the system that I screwed up. I'm going to use the drives that were in RAID1 separately for storage and use a recycled disk for the OS and applications. Since I have another recycled disk (not identical to the first) I'm going to use that as a back up for the OS/application disk. I would like to just unplug a damaged OS/application disk and plug in the back up and boot. But I take to heart Hawkeye22's warning about a real time clone cloning the flaw. Great point. I think I'll just do a weekly backup/image/clone, whichever one I decide on, since I will not have any data on the OS/application drive.
March 5, 2012 4:50:57 PM

Sounds like a sound policy. I, personally, am not concerned with user-error/corruption per se, as I don't do work that requires that kind of backup resolution (my normal backup routines cover such things) and... I just don't make mistakes re deleting things, etc. :D  (major part of that is... I never delete anything... ever).

You can definitely clone RAID0 to a single disk, I'm doing that currently with Acronis True Image. You're correct that it's two different systems, but the software doesn't see the RAID anyway... since it's displayed to the OS as a single drive. The bits get copied straight over as if imaging. The RAID0 MBR for instance, is copied over verbatim (since again, the OS writes to RAID0 as if it were just any old SATA single drive.

Furthermore, as I've had this happen to me when a mobo ICH10 controller died (I now use only hardware RAID controllers) you can get software which essentially pastes the RAID 0 drives back together, restoring the boot segments, etc.

Then you can take that and image it to a single HDD, which is what I did - now I can boot that recovered RAID0 on a single HDD and pull out the stuff that I wanted preserved.

March 15, 2012 5:16:09 PM

Note, if you are using Windows Vista Business or better, or Windows 7, these OS's already have cloning software built in. See Control Panel--Backup and Restore.
April 13, 2012 11:43:07 PM

I have been using Casper v7.0, the "SmartSense" utility to back-up a Windows 7 o/s for the last three months, without a hiccup ... it does exactly what you are asking.
I have set it up to run once a week, although you could do it more often.

Some data: 60 Gb is indicated as 'used' on my 250 Gb "C"drive and the last 'incremental' back-up took 1 hr. 40 mins. to back-up the approx. 10 Gb of data - it does this to a dedicated partition on an eSata 300 Gb, external HD. Hope that this helps.
June 28, 2012 6:20:38 AM

I'm with Cowbulls and commissar_mo - I too have been a long-time SystemGuardian user (since 2001 in my case) but I have just moved to Win 7 Pro 64 bit and I can find nothing that will do what SystemGuardian used to do. I bought Casper a few weeks back based on their site information but after multiple fails at creating anything more than a copy of my data that was not bootable and after many hours with their support people they refunded me a couple days ago. Damn, and it looked so good too. Too much eye-candy and too little actual clever code.

What most people don't seem to get is that we don't want to restore anything, when the primary drive dies we want to boot right off the backup drive (the old backup drive becomes the new primary drive) and keep on working. Buy a new backup drive, put it in there and keep on trucking. SystemGuardian did exactly that for me over 3 drives that died and it was brilliant, but yesterday they confirmed that they will not be releasing anything that works beyond Win XP.

So, what else is out there? Happy to pay for the right software, but all I can find is variations on a theme of "restore when your primary drive fails" which is NOT what I (we?) want.

Thanks in advance to anyone who can direct me to something that will create a bootable backup drive and incrementally update it. Please, no restore applications.

Rhino
August 10, 2012 9:02:24 PM

Hey - after a long hiatus from dealing with this type of stuff, I saw your (somewhat) recent post here. Thought I'd toss back some things I've learned since my original search.

1. You're absolutely correct on the confusion rampant in discussions about backup solutions. There is a distinct difference between A) a bootable cloned drive, B) an image of a disk and C) an incremental FILE backup.

Many people are familiar with B and C, but often not A, which as you said, was what I prefer. The reasons are many - certainly, most people prefer to have a disk image, make incremental backups, and then restore the image with bootable media (like the OS disk), and write the incremental backups back over the image. This works fine, and is a clean solution.

But of course, another alternative is to simply make an exact duplicate (including the MBR) of the system drive, and when the primary dies (corruption, mech, whatever), the clone essentially gets 'hot-swapped' to borrow a term, and boots the system back to whenever in time the clone was made.

2. Obviously, a bootable clone drive will never be incrementally updated, since there will always be an increment of time between the clone being made, and data being modified, but that's (for some users) ok - since they (and myself) are using the clone merely to boot the OS back to life. I happen to keep incremental file backups as well separately, which ARE real-time, and can later be accessed.

I personally do not like disk images (even though I make them for safe keeping anyway) for completely illogical reasons (I had a disk image in the past which was corrupted on me, and wound up being unable to boot it back... psychological scars as it were).

Having a bootable clone to me essentially makes me feel safer (I can and do always boot the clone after making it to test it) and also obviously will save time in the event of system failure since I can just swap the drive.

3. I have not tried Casper, but apparently some people use it. I just recently learned that Acronis True Image 2012 very easily creates bootable clone drives. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems very straightforward; I'm going to be using this. A problem that's somewhat unique to me is that I have WD advanced format drives, which (irritatingly) create problems specifically when you attempt to clone a drive to them due to a different offset of writing the data, etc.

So originally I was concerned about this, and was looking at Casper; WD also provides their own utility in cooperation with Acronis which can work with these drives. But, I then found that Acronis True Image 2012 (along with a few of their other products) are NOW compatible with WD Advanced Format drives, so, I'm set to try it.

Thought I'd just reply.
August 10, 2012 9:05:07 PM

Just an addendum since I might have misspoke - I do not BELIEVE there is a way to keep a clone drive that is REAL-TIME incrementally updated, since the cloning the of the drive necessitates an instant in time to copy it.

RAID1 co-writes in duplicate (thus creates a 'clone' of sorts, but with the concomitant problems of RAID), but this isn't a backup solution.

If indeed, I'm wrong about this, (I have to try it to find out), then Acronis PERHAPS CAN maintain a live-clone drive which is incrementally updated; this seems reasonable, but I'm just not sure, and Acronis Support seemed to be confused as to what I was asking about, and supplied an in-kind confusing answer.
August 12, 2012 1:06:45 AM

Thanks for that commissarmo, I sure do appreciate your reply.

I have been in communication with Acronis support myself, trying to learn their method of using English too.
Broken it down to this in the most recent message:

"Just to confirm then:
1. I can create a bootable backup (internal) drive from an SSD to a HDD (or from an HDD to an SSD)?
2. I can then incrementally update the bootable internal backup on a schedule?
3. If the main drive fails I can boot up from the bootable internal backup and add a new drive as the new internal backup?

If I intend to clone my Windows 7 Pro 64 bit Disk 0 (which is an SSD) it has a 100MB partition (type Basic, called an "EFI System Partition") before the 2 accessible partitions - will this pose an issue? (Casper was unable to cope with this and thus could not clone, which is why I am asking you before I buy.)"

Lets keep each other posted.
Rhino
August 22, 2012 12:45:54 AM

Here is a recent reply from Acronis:
"Adding to previous answers, I would like to bring to your notice that there would not be such adding incremental files to the cloned hard drive. Once you feel that the primary hard drive is healthy enough to be backed up, you may can perform the clone operation to secondary hard drive.

If you make any changes to your primary hard drive, you would have to repeat the clone procedure again. Like wise when the primary hard drive fails, you can make the secondary hard drive as the primary and boot your computer. "

and a follow-up reply today:
"As we mentioned in the previous email, it is not possible to add incremental files to the cloned hard drive.

However, you can take a incremental backup and you can save those backup in external hard drive."

So Acronis will not do what SystemGuardian used to do, dammit. The search continues.

I'm prepared to offer a $20 prize to anyone who can direct me to proper bootable backup software that can be incrementally updated. Payment by Paypal.

Rhino
August 23, 2012 8:36:11 PM

And the final reply stating that Acronis will not support a bootable backup that can be updated, so it will not do what SystemGuardian used to do, dammit all:

"I understand you queries and I would like to take this opportunity to explain the difference between backup and cloning in terms of Acronis Software.

Cloning is basically a disk level operation and the outcome of this will be a bootable drive and you may use this and boot the computer when the primary drive crashes. The downtime here is less, however, you cannot incrementally add files in this procedure. Every time you clone a drive it will be for the full disk and not for the changes only.

Alternativelty, you may choose to create a Disk level backup. Here you store this on a device like external drive and at the time of disaster, you have to restore the backup archive. Only after restoration you will be able to boot the target drive.
You may choose to perform incremental backup here and there are various backup schemes which you can customize.

Here is a Knowledge Base article that explains the difference between a backup and cloning:
http://kb.acronis.com/content/1540

Let me know if this answers your questions.
I look forward to your response."

So the search continues.

Rhino
October 13, 2012 3:38:58 AM

Our software is SO primitive still (Windows, Linux, Mac, all of them) - When is someone going to just completely alter the entire paradigm of digital data beyond MBRs, aligned partitions, clones, backups, operating systems... there is definitely a better way to store bits in a secure, redundant and SIMPLE fashion - even VonNeumann architecture could probably give way to biologically based neural networks. End Rant.

@ElectricRhino - it takes me months in between when I have time to address these issues, but I have found some interesting software, perhaps you know of it already:

http://www.***/

This software is basically ONLY used to CLONE drives, and whilst it doesn't do the incremental cloning you speak of, it does allow the SCHEDULING (unlike Acronis, or nearly any other software I've found out there) of the Clone operation, which allows for automated maintenance of a (relatively) up to date clone drive.

While it won't be the incremental version you've mentioned - presumably if you do it frequently enough you can mimic that functionality to some extent.

There's a free trial I'm going to test.

-----

On a more general note - currently my strategy is to use Acronis to create Images with incremental backups of all my data AND primary OS drive. I used the PlusPack add-on to Acronis TI2013 to create a Win-PE bootable media Disc which provides the boot environment to restore the images.

I then maintain a separate clone drive which I've been doing manaually with Acronis.

---

Basically, Cloning of HDDs is apparently deprecated as a backup solution for its inflexibility. And while this has merit, I think what is not well conceived is that it's NOT a replacement for backup, in fact.

What "Cloners" are REALLY trying to achieve is what RAID in theory does (but has all manner of complex issues that a non-server running person probably doesn't want to deal with (drivers, firmware, etc.).

A clone drive is essentially just a slave-drive as they called them back in the early 90s - a REDUNDANT harddisk that, while not as seamless viz. uptime as RAID (as the system DOES go down for a time), still restores the exact system to its pre-fail state more-or-less instantly, without the need for BOOT environments, and without the need to worry about RAID issues.

In my opinion - it's a redundancy strategy, not a BACKUP one, but that doesn't means it's less useful. I think if people understood it better, and it was marketed better (particularly with the cheap prices of large HDDs out there), I think it would catch on tremendously. It makes SO much sense afterall.

Analogously - it's like a backup electrical generator - in fact, the most sophisticated format of this doesn't even exist yet to my knowledge - which would be completely independent clone drives that fail over seamlessly (again, RAID-like, but without the problems).

October 13, 2012 3:39:52 AM

http://www.***/

link fail.
October 13, 2012 3:41:46 AM

argh it's called

Handy Backup
October 13, 2012 8:56:11 PM

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