Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Acronis True Image 2009 - Cloning a Disk

With my hard drive failing in the laptop recently, I scrambled to do something. I was on the road, and didn't have a lot of choices, especially as I was in a weird place. I was on vacation, and I didn't have super immediate needs, but I did have a commitment to speak on behalf of SQLServerCentral at the Richmond SQL Server and .NET Users Groups.

So I did a few things. I grabbed a netbook, which would give me short term help, and also I tried another solution I'd read about. I got a Black Widow, external SATA dock and a copy of Acronis True Image Home version along with a new SATA drive. I managed to get my laptop to boot, and then copied off the latest versions of my documents to an external drive.

NOTE and WARNING: Your hard drive will fail at some point. Make sure you back things up. A cheap, 1TB external USB drive costs about US$200. Get one, and periodically copy things off. I'd done this before my trip, but I was 4 days late in changes to a few things. I was lucky I could get the latest versions of things.

Once I was sure things were working, I took a deep breath. At this point I didn't see the external USB drive because it was completely blank. The hardware showed up, but no guarantees there was a drive there. I probably could have tested it somehow, but I was pressed for time with family calling for things. So I inserted the Acronis CD in the drive and booted to it.

When it starts, it's a GUI, and it's slow. It's loading off CD, and that gives you new appreciation for how well things work off a disk drive.



It's mainly a backup program and gives you lots of options. I had to move down to the clone disk option. The guy at Best Buy said I'd want to walk through the advanced selections to choose the new size of the partition. My old drive was 160GB and the new one was 320GB. I could live with two partitions on the new drive, but I've prefer one.

So I walked through, choosing the source disk and target disk, setting the partition to be the whole disc. Read carefully as the options were slightly confusing to me. I managed to get this right, and things are confirmed in your settings.

My screen didn't look like this one above, as I'd set one large partition for the target drive.

Once I started it, I had a couple graphs on the screen showing progress. The estimated time on my Qosmio F40, dual core 2.2GHz machine with SATA drives, was about 3 hours. So I moved on with vacation, slightly worried about it. I returned late that night, but was afraid to make the switch at that time. I rebooted the laptop, and it was working, so I left things alone. Well, that and I didn't have a screwdriver to work on the laptop. I packed up the new drive in it's plastic casing and went to bed. I had an early 100 mile drive down to Richmond the next day.

When I got time in the afternoon to try things, I removed the drive from the laptop with it's case and then put the new drive in the casing. I slipped it back in the slot at the front of my laptop and rebooted to find ...

The Acronis CD program starting.

I was confused, but then I realized that it was booting from CD. I switched the drives back, which was a slow process. And the same result, which didn't surprise me as the drive was failing. So, I left things alone, grabbed the netbook and a copy of the presentation on flash drive, and went to talk. I'm glad I did that as I had issues with the netbook as well.

When I returned, I opened the laptop and looked at it awhile. I mentally went through the steps and realized I'd inserted the drives upside down. I quickly reversed the original drive, praying that it hadn't damaged the connectors, and it worked. The SATA connection looks fairly symmetrical, so that's good. I then removed the drive, changed out the old for the new in the case and re-inserted it, and I had my laptop back, quicker, and with an extra 150GB of space.

Since then I've been using the new drive and it has performed flawlessly. All of my stuff works, the settings, the configuration, security, everything is as it was. I was skeptical that this would work, thinking there might be some system partitions or things, but the Acronis software has run very well. If you need a backup of your hard drive, want to put in a larger one, or have a drive failing, I highly recommend this process. My cost:

  • Acronis Software - US$40 from Best Buy (it's $50 online)
  • Black Widow - US$60
  • New SATA drive, 320GB - US$90

For a total of US $190. That's much cheaper than a new laptop, and it's certainly worth the time it saved me in rebuilding a new drive and installing things. I'm actually tempted to make an image of this hard drive periodically rather than back things up to ensure that I can recover if something happens.

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