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Creating A Windows Vista Dvd For Disaster Recovery


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#1 Benny Bolas

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Posted 31 August 2007 - 10:59 PM

Hi, everyone,

Looks like a nice community you have here. Thanks for having me.

Basically, I am looking to create DVD that can be used to restore an entire Vista installation. This is very easy to do in Vista Business and Vista Ultimate, because those two versions of the operating system contain the "Complete PC Backup" utility. I have successfully backed up entire Vista PCs, burned the WIM images to DVDs, and restored the PC using the burned image. Naturally, I am looking for the same type of functionality, but for versions of Vista that lack the Complete PC Backup utility.

I have tried products such as Acronis TrueImage 10 Home and Paragon Software DriveBackup 8.5. While these tools are inexpensive and simple to use, they do not work as one might expect. With either of the aforementioned products, I invariably have MBR or boot-loader problems (most often, "NTLDR is missing") after a restore attempt. In other words, I can always create the images just fine, but after I restore them, Windows rarely boots. Sometimes, I am able to use the original Vista installation DVD to load the Windows Recovery Environment and subsequently "automatically detect and fix problems that might prevent [my] PC from booting". This, however, does not work all the time. Apparently, I lack a solid understanding of how the MBR, boot-strap, etc. work in conjunction to render a Vista machine bootable.

I build custom PCs for friends and family, and could dramatically reduce the number of support phone calls that I receive if I were able to provide a facility for restoring their PCs to a given PC's "original condition" (the day I dumped the computer off on the doorstep).

I have downloaded the Windows Automated Installation Kit (AIK) from Microsoft's website, but it looks like overkill for what I'm attempting to accomplish.

Worst of all is that this functionality should come standard with any operating system (and, no less, one that crashes as often as Windows). Shame on Microsoft for making this feature available only to Business and Ultimate customers. F*&#ING jerks.

Thanks for any help or insight...

Ben

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#2 usasma

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 06:17 AM

Well, that shoots the heck out of my recommendation for the BDD (Business Desktop Deployment kit) - it requires that you use the WAIK. But it is a comprehensive solution that has the flexibility to install almost anything without user intervention. That being said, it is a bit of overkill for the average home system builder.

Acronis True Image Home v10 is Vista compatible and I've had no issues with using it to image and restore drives. The drawback to these methods is that you've got to do it from an image of that system only - an image from another system (even an "identical" one) will have differences that Windows will hiccup at.

Another issue that might affect this could be the use of SATA drives and a difference in how the hardware recognizes and uses the drive prior to Windows loading.
My browser caused a flood of traffic, sio my IP address was banned. Hope to fix it soon. Will get back to posting as soon as Im able.

- John  (my website: http://www.carrona.org/ )**If you need a more detailed explanation, please ask for it. I have the Knack. **  If I haven't replied in 48 hours, please send me a message. My eye problems have recently increased and I'm having difficult reading posts. (23 Nov 2017)FYI - I am completely blind in the right eye and ~30% blind in the left eye.<p>If the eye problems get worse suddenly, I may not be able to respond.If that's the case and help is needed, please PM a staff member for assistance.

#3 Paws

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 11:35 AM

Hi Benny Bolas,,
When using, for example, Acronis it's a good idea to create a bootable CD ROM (Acronis has a wizard for doing this)

If then subsequently Windows fails to load, and the usual methods can't get it to boot into Windows, then restart your machine with the Acronis boot CDROM in the drive and it will boot into an Acronis desktop. This will provide you with, for example full USB driver support so your disc image can be restored from a USB External hard disc. You obviously can also restore your disc image from other media, a separate partition on your hard drive, a second internal hard drive or optical media.
For disaster recovery the external USB hard drive is very convenient, and can be kept off site for greater security.

In the event of serious trouble that is not amenable to the usual steps, I can reformat and restore and be up and running again with a perfect system in well under the hour.
Apart from using Acronis on my own and customers machines I have no connection with Acronis.
Regards
paws

#4 Benny Bolas

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Posted 01 September 2007 - 02:44 PM

Thanks for your responses, guys. I do appreciate it.

usasma, I am definitely not giving up on the BDD/WAIK solution; I am willing to jump through some hoops if it means creating WIM images for Vista Home installations that can be used for disaster recovery purposes.

Maybe the question I should have asked is this: can the aforementioned tools be used to create a WIM image that can be applied to an empty hard disk using the Windows Recovery Environment on a Vista Home installation DVD? (My understanding is that all Vista installation media is the same and only different WIMs are used to apply the various flavors of Vista.)

I would be thrilled -- just THRILLED -- to be able to create a master installation disc that I could install for custom PCs that I build. As it now stands, I have to customize and configure every single machine, which means installing Firefox, virus scanner, OpenOffice.org, etc. But how does product activation function in that scenario?

Paws, I have done everything you describe in your post. I use the bootable TrueImage disc and create/restore my images in that environment. My problem always comes when I restore the image and then restart the machine. Every single time there is a boot problem (usually "NTLDR is missing"). Then, I have to use the Vista installation disc to correct the boot problem, and that only works about half the time.

What could be causing this? Is it something with the way I am creating the image (perhaps forgetting to check some obscure box somewhere in the backup options?)? Could my problem be MBR-related? As I recall, TrueImage gives the user the option of restoring the MBR during the image restoration process. I typically leave that box unchecked, because I never saw any need to restore the MBR, since I was only attempting to overwrite the partition containing the operating system. As a point of note, I never format partitions before I attempt to restore them, as it seems unnecessary and a waste of time. But maybe I am wrong.

And, once, I received a bizarre error when attempting to restore a TrueImage image through the bootable media that Acronis provides. I didn't write the error down, but the Acronis site had nothing in relation to the error, nor did anyone else on the Internet. Hopefully, it was a "freak thing" and will never happen again.

Any help is appreciated.

Thanks!

#5 usasma

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 06:20 AM

Yes, the BDD is designed to do this - you customize it in many ways, even to slipstreaming SATA drivers into the installation DVD. BUT, as each machine will differ, is it worth the added effort? Windows setup is a largely unattended process to begin with - and you can use things like the AIK to automate it.

You can read more about BDD and the AIK at: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/default.aspx

I suspect that you're trying to take a Windows installation from one machine and image it to another. This isn't a simple process, and it's not one that Acronis is designed to handle. Windows has identifiers built into it that will recognize that the hardware has changed - and with enough changes it'll refuse to boot. This is highly reminiscent of attempts to move XP to a new system - and the problems that went with it.

In general, before making the image you've gotta uninstall all the hardware that will differ between the machines. Then make the image without rebooting, then restore the image to the new system and hope that Windows will pick it all up. If it doesn't then you'd have to try a repair install to get Windows working (and that didn't always work).

I'd think that the BDD and AIK are the best options for you. Try googling "unattended vista install" (without the quotes) and see all the assistance that's out there.

Good luck!
My browser caused a flood of traffic, sio my IP address was banned. Hope to fix it soon. Will get back to posting as soon as Im able.

- John  (my website: http://www.carrona.org/ )**If you need a more detailed explanation, please ask for it. I have the Knack. **  If I haven't replied in 48 hours, please send me a message. My eye problems have recently increased and I'm having difficult reading posts. (23 Nov 2017)FYI - I am completely blind in the right eye and ~30% blind in the left eye.<p>If the eye problems get worse suddenly, I may not be able to respond.If that's the case and help is needed, please PM a staff member for assistance.

#6 Benny Bolas

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 06:31 AM

Thanks for all the help and encouragement, usasma. What I did was spend about 12 hours at the rig, figured it all out, and wrote a tutorial to share my experience with others who may have a similar interest/need.

I probably should have submitted the topic as a tutorial, via email, and followed all of the tutorial guidelines, but I was ready to throttle somebody after an hour of BB tagging! That'll have to do. Here's the other thread:

http://www.bleepingcomputer.com/forums/t/106779/free-bootable-disaster-recovery-in-vista-even-home-basic/

Edited by Benny Bolas, 02 September 2007 - 06:42 AM.


#7 usasma

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Posted 02 September 2007 - 08:01 AM

It's a great tutorial Ben and I'll be using it myself! Thanks for all your hard work!
My browser caused a flood of traffic, sio my IP address was banned. Hope to fix it soon. Will get back to posting as soon as Im able.

- John  (my website: http://www.carrona.org/ )**If you need a more detailed explanation, please ask for it. I have the Knack. **  If I haven't replied in 48 hours, please send me a message. My eye problems have recently increased and I'm having difficult reading posts. (23 Nov 2017)FYI - I am completely blind in the right eye and ~30% blind in the left eye.<p>If the eye problems get worse suddenly, I may not be able to respond.If that's the case and help is needed, please PM a staff member for assistance.




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