back to article Faustian descent into backup hell: A play in two acts

A laptop user wanting to remove the backup software Acronis True Image found himself in a Kafkaesque world: the vendor's own clean-up software could potentially render his laptop unbootable. But then a Ghost came to the rescue. The sequence of events played out like an Elizabethan play, so that's how we've treated it. …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    that is all.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      It even works to copy a mac drive with a bootcamp partition.

      (although then resizing *both* partitions to be bigger seems to be an impossible task, I resorted to embiggening the mac side, and then reinstalling windows).

      1. Captain Underpants


        What you want there is Winclone. Run it in OS X to generate an image of the used space in your bootcamp install. Stash image elsewhere, use Clonezilla to do what you like with the drive, faff with partitions to your heart's content, then use Winclone again to restore Windows install to new bootcamp partition.

  2. nematoad Silver badge


    ... have got hold of a copy of Clonezilla. It is Linux so that might scare some people off but as Mr. Collins was in a hole anyway what had he to lose? Cetainly not his data. Link:

  3. AndrueC Silver badge

    I have TI2011 at home. It only has two problems: ..larly............slow...................when..............booting.................into......................................the.............


    But even in normal use it..


    ..crashes sometimes.

    I still use it though because:

    a)I paid for it.

    b)It does work. You need the patience of a saint and the vocabulary of a sailor but it does work.

    1. Bronek Kozicki

      "I still use it though because: a)I paid for it."

      that was my reasoning too, until it dawned on me that if I ever need to restore backup by Acronis, and it turns out to be as unreliable as its GUI, I might end up in trouble (just like Richard did).

      Eventually moved to Shadow Protect Desktop - it costs more but is much more reliable. I used its restore functionality more than once, with nonstandard RAID drivers and unusual OS boot (differential vhd) and it worked well each time, with a little help from Windows PE command prompt. Alternative backup solutions discussed here

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        A very valid point. In my case though I've performed at least two restores. Once when I replaced the 250GB HDD with an SSD and once after Windows update shagged my server. But you make a very valid point - people that don't actually test the restore functionality often get nasty surprise. Any pillock can back data up - it's restoring it where the problems lie :)

  4. IDoNotThinkSo

    Faustian pact alright

    Why pay money when you can just stick in a linux cd?

    dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/media/disk/part1.img

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yup. Or even ...

      rsync -avp --delete /source/ /dest/

      Linux is brilliant.

      1. Paul 129

        RE: Linux Brilliant

        I agree Linux is the best way of doing this, I do it all the time. But rsync lol, good luck with the windows file permissions, booting etc.

        Given the source was windows ntfsclone is the best solution It can save a compressed image, Its fun to pipe over the network via netcat, and faster than ghost if you get it right.

        For either ghost or ntfsclone to work you need NTFS to be in good shape, Not always the case. This could trip up both Ghost and true image. It sounds like it did. So that leaves dd. But dd wont work if you have disk errors. Laptop drives tend to be first thing to go on a laptop. Whilst dd can be given options to ignore hardware errors a better option is to use ddrescue.

        Oh and please note that for best results you use these tools, on the partitions. Now you still need to backup the mbr with something like dd if=/dev/sda bs=446 count=1 and its a good idea to dump the original partition info as well.

        Now the final piece of the puzzle is getting windows to boot up. In microsoft language the MBR is NOT the first sector of the disk. Its the first part of the MS partition, it seems to be linked to hard disk geometry. So if your restoring on a different drive there's a good chance you'll need to use ntfsreloc otherwise you'll be hunting for a windows recovery disk to fix the boot.

        Sorry guys, a single line solution is not enough.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Which is why ...

          Many of us don't use Windows

  5. Grashnak

    Why would it matter?

    The software is just cloning a hard drive - why on earth could it possibly matter if that hard drive is in a laptop or not? Why should it matter where it is at all? It could be nailed to a board for all that matters.

    Condolences for the bs and thanks for convincing me never to touch Acronis's products.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Their software does some weird stuff. I used to write data recovery software for a living and imaging a disk under Windows does not need bizarre device drivers. It just needs SPTI. \\.\PhysicalDrive0 and friends are all fine for a working drive. They are a bit of a pain with failing media but even there they do well enough in most cases. A little logic to detect time-outs and you can image almost any drive where imaging is a reasonable activity(*).

      I have my own disk imager (several in fact developed over nearly 15 years). The only reason I'd use something like Acronis is because most of them can resize the partition up /and/ down(**). I know enough about file systems to be able to code that but never needed to as part of my job and can no longer be bothered.

      (*)There comes a point when you need to work on the hardware before trying to access the media. That's the point where SPTI falls down. INT13 under DOS is better in those scenarios but frankly you'd still be better of trying to fix the problem.

      (**)Credit to Acronis:I restored the backup of my server's old 250GB volume to a 60GB SSD and it worked. Bootable and everything. The only silly thing was that it took me nearly half an hour to get the recovery console to the point where it started writing the data. Then it completed the task in about ten minutes. As I wrote elsewhere -

    2. James O'Shea

      Acronis & laptops

      I've backed up this very laptop using Acronis numerous times. I boot off the Acronis disc (which runs Linux, so back off Tuxers) and tell Acronis to do a complete clone of my internal drive to an external drive. Acronis detects the two partitions on this drive (the restore partition and the system partition) and clones 'em both to the backup drive. As a test I also did a normal backup to a different external drive and then nuked the internal drive and restored from the clone; no problems. This laptop shipped with Vista Business 32; I upgraded to Win 7 Pro 64 as soon as I could (translation: the millisecond after I got hold of a free disc image of Win 7 Pro thanks to the MSDN Alliance) and used Laplink PC Mover to copy over everything, including applications, from the clone to the internal drive, so I _know_ that the clone backup works. (I also tested the regular backup; that works, too. PC Mover won't see it, though. Which is why I did the clone.)

      I have no idea what on Earth they're blathering about, as I _know_ that it's perfectly possible to use Acronis to back up from a laptop... as long as you're going to another drive. It has to be another physical drive as the clone process will kill all data in all partitions on the target drive, so you can't clone to the same drive, not even to another partition. I suspect that what they _may_ have meant is that you can't clone to the same physical drive... it's just that you can't do that with a desktop, either.

  6. ColonelClaw

    My complication had a little complication

    Somehow I'm reminded of Terry Gilliam's incredible nightmare 'Brazil'

  7. Buzzword

    Macrium Reflect

    I think Macrium Reflect does what you need. It lets you copy a drive from your laptop to an image file either on a USB drive or on a network drive. It uses the Windows Shadow Copy service to enable live ghosting, so you can image to the network while Windows is running without losing filesystem integrity. There's even a free version for one-off simple imaging; though if you're making regular backups then the paid version is worth it.

  8. SnowCrash

    We use the corporate version of Ghost for imaging and have never had any problems with it. I would never use a Norton branded bit of software. played with True Image and it was ok. Uninstalled it fine :)

    My advice would be to have several different backup solutions, including NAS, Cloud and removable drives. Trusting a single solution can only cause pain later on.

  9. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I'd use Linux partimage or ntfsclone

    partimage has a GUI, but I think it doesn't do GPT partiitioned disks, and its NTFS support is experimental. But so is ntfsclone's, really. It does say that the experimentiness only means that if it believes it doesn't understand how the hard disk is laid out then it will say so and halt, and I don't think I've seen that.

    I have however had both fail on a Windows XP system volume due to a disk bad sector run, which probably they correctly wouldn't touch if they really understood it. Rather alarmingly, it appears to be located in the Windows registry. Actually, I think that the bad sector map may be getting misread by the Linux tools.

    The obvious gotcha with dd, which I then used to copy the entire disk partition surface that wasn't the bad sectors, i.e. before the bad bit and after it, is that you are indeed copying the entire disk surface, whether it belongs to a data file or not. To address this economically, I used gzip compress, split or something that sounds like split, and prior to the backup, filled the disk with files containing only allocation-unit multiples of the space character, many quite large, then deleted them. Thus the unallocated disk space mostly contained long runs of the space character, and zipped satisfyingly small.

  10. Anonymous Coward 15

    And you need the WAIK too?

    Why not use the WAIK tools like DISM and ImageX?

  11. TeeCee Gold badge


    Hmm, I use Acronis. Now he says he needed a product to image his C: drive to rebuild in the event of failure. That's the normal backup process (full, incremental or differential), just select "whole disk" rather than specific partitions or data. No reboot required and you can even do other stuff while it chugs away in the background.

    In case of failure, bung in new disk, boot off boot CD (Plus Pack) and restore. Works a treat and I have used this in anger on more than one occasion.

    Sounds like what he's trying to do is clone the disk. Why? (No, it won't do this to a USB disk, it has to be attached to an internal controller. Something to do with the way a USB disk is mounted and before any 'tards chime in, Acronis' offline cloning routine runs under, er, Linux....)

    First problem: Backing up in the conventional manner allows you to maintain multiple generations of backup. Trashing the "other" disk to write a new clone image does not. Even if you select to run only one image and overwrite on each backup, Acronis writes the new one *before* trashing the old one as the housekeeping for number of backups runs after the backup part of the task completes successfully.

    Second problem: When does a disk most likely fail? When it's being heavily accessed. The two major crashes I have had *both* occurred during the backup process.........I'd have been fucked using that approach.

    You can mount Acronis' convential backup images as drives if you need to access the backed up version of the data and can't be arsed to restore it somewhere. Or you can just click on a backup image and access it directly, if mounting the thing is also too onerous a task.


    Ok, the full restore can take a while (4 hours last time I did it), but is that the end of the world, given that the alternative is dicing with death?

    I've also uninstalled TrueImage without any problems.

    Last, but not least, downloading SeaTools from the Seagate website gives you the standalone, bootable version of Acronis, if you're ever stuck with an Acronis backup image and no software...

    1. Captain Underpants
      Thumb Up


      Glad to see I'm not the only one wondering what this guy was doing. I mean, yeah, the tool shouldn't let you break something that badly, but by that logic cars should be built to prevent you from speeding or hitting anything ever.

      Seagate and Maxtor both have branded versions of the freebie Trueimage utility, and the only requirement for either to work is that there is a correctly-identified disk of their brand attached to one of the machine's internal controllers. Quite handy really.

    2. Jedit
      Thumb Down

      This is not a PICNIC

      Regardless of how a piece of backup software is used, uninstalling it should not have the potential to damage the OS.

      1. Captain Underpants


        Oh, I think it's safe to say that errors were made by all.

        However, using the Clone Disk function was the wrong choice to start with, in much the same way that choosing to drive a car into a brick wall at 90mph will have an adverse effect on the driver, given that what he wanted to do could be achieved by using the Back Up option instead and backing up the entire disk.

        I figured this out first time using the software, without resorting to the manual. It's not hard, though I'm the first to admit that both Acronis' documentation and Acronis' support sound like they need a serious overhaul based on this story.

        Plenty of blame for everyone involved, in other words.

    3. James O'Shea

      cloning to USB

      "Sounds like what he's trying to do is clone the disk. Why? (No, it won't do this to a USB disk, it has to be attached to an internal controller. Something to do with the way a USB disk is mounted and before any 'tards chime in, Acronis' offline cloning routine runs under, er, Linux....)"

      I clone to a USB-attached hard drive all the time. It works. it's _slow_, so I usually set it to run on Sunday nights and go to sleep; by morning I have a backup.

  12. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    One word: rsync

    There are rsync versions for Linux, Windows and unices in general.

    IME its the best backup solution I know because, once the initial copy has been done, subsequent copies only do the minimum amount of work to bring the backup inline with the filing system being backed up. In my case this takes somewhere between 8 - 15 minutes.

  13. jason 7

    Never bother with full Backup

    My Docs is all thats needed. Often quicker to just rebuild the PC from scratch and copy the My Docs back.

    Its not like it happens often (if at all). If it does then you are doing something wrong or need to find a different hobby/role.

    Cobian for me.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. El Cid Campeador

        Drivers too

        And (if you're running Windows) unless you've imaged the drive or have the original restore disks, have fun tracking down goofy drivers for the hardware... used to fix computers at the retail level for a living and I hated seeing busted laptops-- the customer NEVER had the restore disks or a backup and some of those websites seem to have been organized by 1) taking all data for the site, printing it out 2) placing the pages in a ring binder with the rings open, 3) throwing the binder down a flight of stairs and (profit?) using the ensuing mess as their site map.

  14. Dave Murray Silver badge

    Never use a Norton product and apparently never use one from Acronis either.

  15. Hull

    Same here, wish you had posted this two days earlier.

    I wanted to make an image of my newly bought Lenovo X220 tablet system, because I wanted to migrate to a separately bought SSD.

    Lenovo recommends to use Acronis True Image (among others) in their handbook. I didn't want to take the time to make a working linux live flash drive, so I decided to throw my money at Acronis.

    Of course it didn't work. (Same problems)

    So now I'm deleting the old installation, made a linux stick and will install a free windows license I got from my employer, wishing I didn't have to install their shitty windows software.

  16. Joe Harrison

    Paragon Free Edition

    Paragon Backup & Recovery 2011 Free Edition works great for me.

  17. Johan Bastiaansen

    I can hardly believe this...

    Crappy back-up solutions??? Who would have thunked?

    I bought a Maxtor external hard drive a while back, and the box said it would be a nice back-up solution, with a simple automatic back-up program. Disclaimer inside said it wasn't to be used for back-ups.

    And I clearly remember carefully backing up a 5MB hard drive on a stack of floppy disk decades ago. This took about an hour every week. When I needed to restore it, it turned out nothing was ever written on any floppy. Forgot the name of this "back-up solution".

    Another nightmare? We sold a tapestreamer to a client with backup software. The bloody thing was whirring and spinning, tapes had to be inserted. When the client needed to restore some files, it turned out not a single file was selected for backing up. Since most computers come with a screen, one would have thought the developers would have used this to flash a rather urgent warning. But alas, the idea never crossed their mind.

    A client is somebody who gives you money. That doesn't mean he's entitled to anything.

    God job by the support team though. They're the one who have to look the customers in the eye, while the really smart people f*ck up from behind the comfort of their desk.

  18. Mystic Megabyte


    One 500Gb external USB drive = £36

    Clonezilla = Free

    One blank CD = 10p

    Norton Ghost 15 =£35

  19. Tom 38 Silver badge


    dd if=/dev/da0 of=/tank/snapshots/laptop.img bs=8M

  20. Captain Underpants


    I'm baffled.

    I use TrueImage Home to make backup images of entire disks *all the time*. You need to be able to dump the backup onto a separate drive, yes, but other than that, it's a doddle. Yes, it's a slow process if you're using a USB-SATA caddy, but that's the way it goes.

    Where was the backup/cloned copy going to be made in this circumstance? I think that's where Chris has gone wrong and caused himself grief. Not that this excuses Acronis Support for being pretty obtuse and far less helpful than they should've been.

  21. oceanhippie

    Free me from ghost and arctronis or whatever its called.

    We use these products a lot at work. I hate them, I have never built a pxe boot server before. I built one with fog (free opensource ghost) to which I'be added net boot of clonzilla, and the Linux vm it runs on and the frankenstine sever that that is the vm host in less time than I have wasted on one imaging attemt with the above God awful products.

  22. ender

    I've been using TrueImage Home to make a daily backup of my SSD for about 2 years now. It's very fast (both when doing full backup and when doing incrementals), but it has a few quirks:

    - FTP backup is apparently impossible to set up in 2011 - when you try to set it up, it changes forward slashes to backslashes, then complains that ftp:\\server-address doesn't exist

    - backup to a network share works, but you really should run TrueImage as a different user if you want to do that, because otherwise it'll forcefully disconnect all your network drives, and close any files you have open over the network

    Also, while backup is quick, restoring of a full image and cloning are both awfully slow (restoring individual files is fast). For some reason, when writing to disk, TrueImage likes to do about 20 seconds of writing, then takes a few minutes break, rendering what would be a few minutes of work to several hours.

  23. The Fuzzy Wotnot


    "Richard, please note that as you have received the refund for Acronis True Image Home 2012 ... you are not entitled to support. (!)"

    That's the best laugh I've had all day. I think support would have got a severe earful and a demand to speak to their line manager or perhaps an adult in the building, if they could find one!

  24. Colin Millar

    Whats with the cloning thing?

    Does anyone do that anymore?

    Really only useful for rolling out networks of the same PC and even then you still get individual issues even with the (supposedly) exact same hardware.

    Until you are at some kind of corporate level Cobian provides everything you need - including ftp and network backup which actually makes it likely that you will use the thing. Windows 7 HP on the other hand tries to blackmail you into an upgrade before their backup is of any use.

    As for Acronis I wouldn't buy something from a backup company that says

    "cloning, unlike backup, always requires a second hard drive"

    Technically true but a copout - backup to the same hard drive is only useful for accidental deletions and is not really the point of the excercise.

    Do some people feel a moral obligation to keep crap software companies in business?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Richard and the

    Couple of good comments here.

    Not withstanding the bizarre Acronis support runaround, the problem is really EBKAU..

    The post starts with "I needed a product to image my laptop 'C' drive" : so no problem there ATI good to go.

    BUT .. then seems to describe making a clone which is an entirely different KOF, particularly in a laptop.

    As to some reason to use Ghost or blame ghost for a problem copying "a folder" from drive to drive ... wot ??

    Lots of missing info there ?.

    What is the purpose of this article ?..having a bit of fun with Acronis...Ok, sort of dopy run around, good for a few laffs but not really an issue with Acronis tools as such.

    Ok so Symantec set them selves up but possibly not their fault. ??

    Dear Richard Collins... better research and planning for something as critical as saving one self, from some one so obviously tech capable ... not really covered in glory here eh?

    It isn't as though the web is not covered with mountains of info re options for what you wanted.

    Dear Vulture .. demeaning yourself with fabulous inflamatory leader .. lovely literary allusion, quite the eye grabber, sadly pointless and poor effort.

    At least you do commend the software vendors.

    Personal POV: Terabyte IFW or Shadowprotect if a Linux boot is too tricky

  26. Inertia

    windows components

    Possibly mentioned already - You don't need to download 1.7gb - the software allows the choice of making a win or nix booter. the nix is about 70mb.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're doing it wrong

    You say this is a laptop? With 5 hard drives? Not very portable that...

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows 7 has built-in system image utility

    which works perfectly, unless I am missing something?

  29. ender

    > Until you are at some kind of corporate level Cobian provides everything you need - including ftp and network backup which actually makes it likely that you will use the thing.

    I tried to use Cobian to back up my system drive (80 GB) to my network. It took 5 days, and after it was done, I didn't find any way to actually restore something from the backup.

    > As for Acronis I wouldn't buy something from a backup company that says "cloning, unlike backup, always requires a second hard drive"

    Cloning in this case means disk-to-disk copy. At least in TrueImage's case, creating an image of the current drive isn't called cloning (and the image destination can be anything).

    1. Colin Millar

      If you are going to reply please read more carefully

      The point about "cloning, unlike backup, always requires a second hard drive" wasn't to do with cloning but backup - which to be worthwhile always requires a second hard drive too - it was a copout by Acronis to suggest that the client is somehow doing something extra by wanting to back-up to a different physical drive. It doesn't matter if it's called cloning, imaging or file backup - the standard is to copy to a physically different piece of media.

      And why is Cobian a Fail because you can't get it to work? If your running an 80GB system image backup on a network at 100m and it runs over 2 hours then the problem isn't the software. Letting it run for 5 days - now that is a fail.

  30. ender

    > Windows 7 has built-in system image utility which works perfectly, unless I am missing something?

    It works very well if you're backing up to a local (eg. USB-attached) drive. It fails pretty badly if you're backing up to network (only allows a single copy to be held, it's pretty slow at creating said backup, and while it's backing up to network, the whole machine is laggy).

    (and according to somebody a few posts up, it's crippled in the home versions of Windows)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This appears to be a plug for Norton Ghost

    However, the comments in the 1-star ratings on for thjat product have put me off of buying it.

  32. Infernoz Bronze badge

    Should have got Easeus software

    Acronis disk software is pants, it crashes or has device issues on many newer motherboards; it's a joke!

    When I last needed to clone a drive, Easeus was the only software developer I could find whose software fully supported this for Windows 7 64-bit on Intel RAID drive; no other software could do this period! They can even clone partitions to resized partitions on another disk on a USB attached drive, just like Partition Magic could for less challenging configs.

    No Clonezilla couldn't do this, not even close!

  33. ender

    > And why is Cobian a Fail because you can't get it to work? If your running an 80GB system image backup on a network at 100m and it runs over 2 hours then the problem isn't the software. Letting it run for 5 days - now that is a fail.

    It's a gig network actually, and I let it work for 5 days because I had some other long-running process working at the same time. I tried Cobian a few more times later (with some different settings), but since it never looked like it was doing any better than in my initial attempt after a few hours, I killed it (just for comparision, Windows 7 built-in backup took around 45 minutes for a full backup over the network, and TrueImage needed 20-30 minutes).

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021