Creating Bootable Backups

Ok, so here are my two questions:

1. I've used Acronis for about two years to clone my single (primary) partition to a separate Hard-Drive, and, for the most part, it's worked great. Then (several months ago) several computers were stolen and mine was replaced with an HP. The new HP has two partitions (one Windows 7 and the other HP factory Image). Yesterday, I tried cloning (with Acronis) to a Hard-Drive of a different size, however both partitions got re-sized. I would like only the windows partition to re-size. Is there any way to clone to a smaller/larger drive while only resizing certain partitions?

2. I've never had much success at cloning with the installed version of Acronis, so instead I've been using a boot disk. Then I wondered if I could use the same boot disk to create boot-able clones of the other 4 (Windows) computers at home. Each, on average, has a Windows 7 and factory partition and a backup partition(≈2 partitions each). I've been looking around and have considered, as a cost-saving measure, getting one large Hard-Drive such as this or this. I am aware of the commonly-known 4 primary partitions per drive rule, but optimistically my second question is Can I clone more than one computer to the same Hard-Drive and later restore said computers should anything happen?

If any of you were wondering, I've been working with Acronis True Image Home 2011.
16 answers Last reply
More about creating bootable backups
  1. Have a look at a company called Apricorn.
  2. 2) You don't need separate partitions to back up to. With Acronis, you specify a backup file name. Have different names for each computer and, voila! All of the backups go on one drive, assuming that it's big enough.

    OH - I reread that. You are doing disk images, creating a bootable disk. You can address both problem 1 and problem 2 by doing image backups. It backs up your entire disk, including the boot sector, to a file on your backup disk. I have restored these with Acronis to a newly-wiped system drive and had the system boot and run just fine, so I can testify that it works, at least some of the time.

    Then you give each image file a different name, and voila!
  3. @ram1009 Thanks, I haven't heard of Apricorn. I have a CD ready, so I'll post how it goes once I've tried it.

    @WyomingKnott I've heard of this and I tried it out today. It seemed to work, but then I realized that my Hard-Drive was too slow to boot from and the computer gave up. Could you please elaborate on the reliability of this method?
  4. As to reliability, I have done it twice at work and it worked both times. That's all I know.

    I'm not sure what you mean by the hard drive was too slow to boot from. The one that you restored the image to, or the bootable external harddrive created by Acronis (if you did that)? In the latter case, I use a bootable Acronis CD. If you are talking about booting from your OS HDD after a restore, I am puzzled. I've never seen a computer "give up" in the middle of a slow boot.

    Can you provide more detail; exactly what you are doing and what unusual message you see?

    Good luck.
  5. @ram1009 Apparently I have to also have Apricorn-certified hardware to use their utility, and since I have not tested it myself, I will not be taking this route.

    @WyomingKnott Ok so it was a, Apple iPod classic 120GB 3600rpm Hard-Drive in a USB enclosure and formatted as NTFS. I've tried with both Windows 7 and XP. When I tried with XP yesterday, the light on the enclosure started flashing, but the computer quickly switched to the next boot device. With Windows 7, the Hard-Drive light started flashing and "Starting Windows" appeared with the colorful, swirling orbs, but before they could merge into the windows logo, the computer switched to the next boot device. Perhaps it's a slow drive or has a few bad sectors. Either way, I plan on buying a quality Hard-Drive; this one was only for testing purposes.

    Oh, and yes, I was using my Acronis True Image Home 2011 boot CD
  6. I really don't know. One very vague possibility is that some mobos won't boot from USB, but then I would think that you would not get even that far.
  7. Yesterday, I salvaged a backup Hard-Drive from a XP computer which is no longer in common use. It was a 60GB Western Digital 3.5" IDE Hard-Drive which I had previously used my Acronis True Image Home 2011 boot CD to make the clone.

    Anyway, I placed it in an enclosure, created a new (full) image, and to tried restore the image to the 60GB drive (both with and without preserving the drive signature). You are right, the computer which I've been trying to clone (which is only around 7.5 GB in size) does not accept USB booting, so instead I've been testing my restorations on newer hardware (surely safe mode would work . . . right?). Well, as you can probably guess, I was met with similar results. What am I doing wrong?
  8. Hedgehog Headache said:
    What am I doing wrong?

    For many years, my answer to that question has been "Using a computer." In reality, I don't know. If you restore the system image backup into the same computer it was made on, it should work. If you restore it to a different computer, it will probably not work because it needs different low-level drivers. Similarly, it won't work if you changed some BIOS settings, such as the mode of the disk controller (IDE / AHCI / RAID).

    Believe it or not, I'm not still entirely sure of your situation. If you are trying to get the original machine back up and running, try the shotgun approach
    Do a BIOS reset
    Put the restore drive inside the machine, directly connected to the motherboard controller
    Do the restore
    Boot from the distribution disk and do a Repair install.

    What I'm not clear about, for some reason, is if you have a perfectly functional computer and are doing experiments, or if this has to work before your machine is usable again.
  9. @WyomingKnott

    Sorry for the confusion. All of the computers which I have spoken of are perfectly functional. I've been looking into this issue as preventative measure for future catastrophe. I lost all of my data last fall, and I certainly don't want this to happen again.

    Rather than buying a backup device for each computer, I'd prefer to have one large storage medium to hold all the computer backups. Then if/when disaster strikes, I'll simply be able to wipe the affected drive and 'restore' it to a functional state, without loosing my files/reinstalling programs (which is handy since some have limited-use product keys).

    The reason for all the questions and tests, is because I do not want to go out and buy new hardware, only to find that I can't restore said computers.

    Later today, I will try backing up a Western Digital 40GB (IDE) XP installation (using Backup/Restore) in a tower. I will try to restore to the same 60GB Western Digital 3.5" IDE Hard-Drive used previously. I've had good success cloning with this setup, so we'll have to see how it turns out.
  10. Ok, that's perfectly clear. Pretty much what I do, so I have some confidence in the approach. But the only valid test is to restore to an internal drive, and if I understand correctly you were not. Just cram a spare drive in to test? I've got twelve spare drives and two hot-swap bays, so this experiment is fairly trivial for me.

    If you are backing up an SATA drive, restore to an SATA drive. If you are backing up an IDE drive, restore to an IDE drive. There are still two possible areas for a problem here: something weird, and restoring to an environment that is not a perfect match of the original.

    But to go way back to the original question, I have found that multiple image backups written to the same storage drive will boot when restored into their original environment. I have a strong personal preference for doing image backups of an OS drive while booted to the backup software. However, I have had perfectly good success booting off a restored Acronis image that was made while the OS was running.

    Some curious thoughts, although these are unlikely. Are you positive that the MBR / boot loader are on the same drive that you are backing up? There are situations where the boot can start from drive B even though the OS is installed on drive A. This could give you problems booting after restoring to drive C. You also have to do disk image backups, not partition, as part of the boot program is outside any partition. You probably already know both of these things, but they are problems that I don't often think about.
  11. Ok, so I tried doing what I said in the last post and could also not boot the copied drive. I'm not sure about the MBR though, care to further explain.

    I'll try over the next few days to get screenshots of the steps I've been taking.
  12. Allright, here are those screenshots.

    *Please note: For improved image clarity, I used VMWare Player (virtualization software). This was only for this test, with my intent being to backup actual hardware.

    Here are the steps I took yesterday to create a backup:
    Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
    Step 4 Step 5 Step 6
    Step 7

    ... and then to recover it:
    Step 1 Step 2 Step 3
    Step 4 Step 5 Step 6
    Step 7 Step 8 Step 9

    Funny thing is, when I tried to boot from the "recovered" virtual hard disk, it actually worked! I tried this again, restoring to 50GB virtual disk (instead of 60GB -> 60GB).
    Strange, I did this twice, and both times the used space on the virtual disk was less than the last. Also I'm not sure, but I don't believe I've always seen the Master Boot Record show up on what would be Recovery Step 5.


    Today, I tried again, this time with the same configuration as I outlined two posts ago. However, this time while I was making the backup and I reached the "Finish Page", I selected "Options" and under "Backup method", chose full backup. Following this, I had to go back, reset my "Archive location", go to the "Finish Page", and then select "Proceed".

    Like before, when it came to recovery, the MBR showed up on Step 5, and I was able to boot from the "Recovered" drive.

    Sneaky Acronis :non:

    Tomorrow, I'll try backing up the laptop mentioned three posts ago using the same 60GB Western Digital Hard-Drive.
  13. If I read that correctly, it's working now. Congratulations! If not, let me know what I missed.
  14. I can't say as I was pleased with today's results. . . same as before.

    Ok, so with what I've tested so far, here is my conclusion:

    The Backup and Restore method does work.
    Pros - you can save multiple backups to the same drive
    - Backups are compressed, so they don't take up as much space
    Cons - to truly create a boot-able backup of a drive, you must select of so conveniently tucked away "Full" option as the Backup type.
    - backups can only be restored to drives of their former type (eg. Sata -> Sata, IDE -> IDE, Ide (PATA) -> IDE(PATA), and USB is a pain no matter what)
    - it's not uncommon for backups to corrupt upon creation/over time
    Unknown - Restored backups must be used with the same motherboard/processor that they were setup with when the backup was made

    Pros - no hidden options, as long as you understand the terminology used, you can perform just about any type of clone you want
    - boot-able cloning is not restricted to drives of their former type (eg. IDE -> Sata, but USB still problematic)
    - boot-able clones can boot (at least in Safe Mode) on computers with different motherboard/CPU configurations
    - greatly reduced chance of corruption (or at least I've never had a problem)
    - Speed; takes about half the time
    Cons - maximum of one clone per drive
    - no compression, content takes up just as much space on the new drive as the old one

    ... and there you have it.

    @WyomingKnott Have any ideas pertaining to my first question?
  15. What, out of the huge mess above, is the first question? I will address "Is there any way to clone to a smaller/larger drive while only resizing certain partitions?"

    And the answer is: You will have to try the experiment. I haven't tried it with that product. I've done it with a much older product, and found that I had to do a full-disk restore to get the MBR. But your tool appears to give you, in step 5, a choice! So I would try
    1) In step 5, only recover the MBR.
    2) One by one, restore the partitions to the new-size partitions
    3) Boot.

    It will not boot the first time in Win7, but it will do an automatic fix the first time you boot it to fix its concept of the size of the boot partition and OS partition.


    Your cons are more facts of life than cons. Full is never the default, because more people are concerned about saving their files than their OS configuration. The requirement to restore to the same hardware with controllers in the same mode is not a shortcoming of the backup software, it's a fact of the way that Windows works. Some backup software has another hidden switch to "restore to a dissimilar environment," with which it will attempt to resolve these driver issues during the restore. I don't know if Acronis home does, but the professional version sure does. Or you could try the tried-and-true method of restoring to the new environment, booting from the OS distribution, and doing a Repair Install.

    An advantage of a clone is that you can slip it in and boot. With an image backup, you have to install the new drive, boot the backup software, and do the restore.
  16. @WyomingKnott

    1. I can see how that could work if the non-re-sizable partitions are before the main (re-sizable one). However, my manufacturer placed this preferably static partition last on the Hard-Drive.


    2. I've tried doing repair installs numerous times throughout my experiments (including the last one). I couldn't even get far enough for the usual "Launch windows Startup Repair" to appear, so I tried using the OS install disk, but all to no avail.
Ask a new question

Read More

Hard Drives Partition Hewlett Packard Storage Product