Creating drive image backups with DriveImage XML on Windows 7

by paul 10. June 2009 00:01

I’ve been installing the release candidate of Windows 7 on most of my machines of late and since I didn’t want to dual boot the systems or lose the existing install of Windows XP I decided I’d try out some drive imaging software to backup the existing data on the drives.

I came across DriveImage XMLl which is a great little app for backing up your drives and would you believe it’s also free for personal use, can’t argue with that. Over the past few weeks this app has really saved me countless hours of re-installs as I troubleshooted problems with Win7 and then fresh installs of WinXP on the new server I was building. However I initially had some problems creating a successful backup on Win7 so I thought it would be useful if I document it for others and just generally gave an overview of DriveImage XML.

DriveImage XML uses either volume locking or volume shadow services to create a hot image of your drive while Windows is running, by default it tries to use volume locking first and if that doesn’t work it will try volume shadow services. In WinXP this all works fine, but in Windows 7 it firstly fails to lock the drive and the volume shadow service isn’t running so it can’t use that either. It will warn you and you can attempt to carry on, which is what I initially did and I managed to create a successful backup, but there’s a better way!

First we need to make sure that the ‘Volume Shadow Copy’ service is running, so open up the services control panel applet (start –> services) and scroll down to find the ‘Volume Shadow Copy’ service. As you can see from the screenshot it’s set to manual, so let’s start it up.

CropperCapture[1]I’m assuming that you’ve already downloaded and installed DriveImage XML, so either find it in the start menu or find the executable in explorer, either way we need to click on the app and choose ‘Run as administrator’ from the popup menu, this makes sure that it will be able to access all of our files.

CropperCapture[3]When DriveImage XMLl starts you’ll be presented with the following screen:

CropperCapture[2]Since we want to perform a backup, click the backup option.

DriveImage XML will then show you the hard drives installed in your system, select the OS drive and click next.

CropperCapture[4]Now choose where you want to create the backup image, ideally this should be on another drive and also you’ll need to make sure that there’s enough free space, then give the image a name, as you can see from the following screenshot I’ve named the backup Win7.

For the ‘Hot Imaging Strategy’ make sure you choose ‘Try Volume Shadow Services first’, I also uncheck the ‘Split large files’ option so that I end up with one large backup file rather than lots of small ones. Click next to continue.

CropperCapture[5]DriveImage XML will now start doing it’s thing, depending on how much data you have on your drive it shouldn’t take that long to create the backup, mine only took 5 minutes for an 8gig backup.

CropperCapture[6]CropperCapture[8] 

CropperCapture[9]

When it’s finished you should find you have a large ‘dat’ file and an ‘xml’ file:

CropperCapture[11]And that’s all there is to it, of course at some point you’re going to need to check that your backups actually work, for this I’d suggest using a spare drive if you have one and restoring the image there rather than testing it on your main system drive.

One thing I came across when doing the restore’s is that DriveImage XML expects you to restore to an equivalent or larger size disk to the one you created the backup from, which when the backup is only 8gig seems a bit strange. Anyway, I found a way around the problem by editing the XML file to say that the logical drive was actually smaller than it was, just edit the total space value to be equivalent to or smaller than the drive you are restoring to and also remember to adjust the free space value, after that all should be ok and I was able to restore an image from a 160gig drive to an 80gig drive without any problems at all.

CropperCapture[12]

Having now used a drive image backup application I can’t believe I’ve lasted so long without it and especially just how much time it’s saved me. It means you’re free to install drivers, apps and anything else without having to worry about whether it will screw up your system because if it does you just revert to the last image you took. Some people may be thinking isn’t that what System Restore does, but anyone who’s ever used system restore will tell you that it never seems to fully clean everything out and your system isn’t quite as it was before.

On a final note, if you want to run DriveImage XML from a BartPE bootdisc, there’s a Portable Edition download on the website and this is how I’ve been using it over the last couple of weeks.

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drive image | backup | windows 7 | win7

PSP Go disappoints (to me anyway…)

by Paul 3. June 2009 23:34

pspgo When the PSP was announced 4 years ago I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one and when I did pick one up I was really impressed with it. It was far from perfect, but it had a fairly decent selection of games and a reasonable control scheme for a handheld.

Fast forward 4 years and rumours of a PSP 2 have been around for ages with many people including myself hoping that they would fix the deficiencies in the first gen device, in particular I was hoping they’d:

  • Sort out the D-pad: for a lot of games it works fine, but for things like Streetfighter it’s awful, you need a D-pad that can easily be rocked into the corner quadrants.
  • 2nd analogue stick: FPS games that have come out for the PSP have made the most of the controls, but a 2nd analogue stick would be killer.
  • Ditch the UMD format: OK, they got this one right, UMD’s were/are a pain in the backside, I used to rip my games and play them from the memory stick.
  • Ditch the memory stick format: I’m sure I read recently that Sony are starting to use MicroSD cards, why they can’t do this on the PSP baffles me.
  • Price: £214 seriously! If you want to compete with the DS you’ve got to have a lower price point, no matter how good the device is, parents will always look at the lower priced option.
  • Games: the last time I purchased a game for my PSP was probably 18 months or more ago, there’s just not enough quality or original games coming out for the platform. Name me the truly original, first class games for the PSP… I can only think of a handful, the rest are all ports of PS2 games.

I like the idea of the digital distribution of content, I think the iPhone app store has shown everyone how effective it can be, my only concern is Sony’s track record with their dodgy software.

Overall I don’t think I’ll be purchasing a PSP Go, my current PSP sits in the cupboard and doesn’t get much use as it is and the new device just doesn’t offer me the features I was looking for.

When you think about it, all Sony have really given us is a slimmed down version of the PSP and one that can’t even play the existing UMD games!

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Adding 2TB of storage to the media server

by paul 2. May 2009 23:00

If you've read my post on the Thecus N4100+ NAS drive then you'll remember that I bought 4 500gig hard drives for it that I didn't end up using with the NAS due to its performance problems, this post aims to explain what I did with them.

The most obvious choice was to add them to my existing server, the problem with that though was that the server motherboard only had 2 SATA ports and they were both being used already.

I had a look round at a few enclosures that could house 4 drives, then at some that could house 2 drives before giving up as they were all just too expensive. Heck all I want to do is fit a couple of drives and then plug them into the server, it's hardly rocket science and yet everyone seems to want to charge an arm and a leg for them!

sataCardI’m sure it was via a forum post on www.team-mediaportal.com that I then stumbled across the notion of using a PCI add-in card to expand the number of SATA ports, seems obvious really when you think about it! So after a little digging around I came across this card on DABS and placed the order. 

My only other issue was how I was going to mount the drives as I already had 5 drives in the case and not enough space to mount 4 more especially without running into heat issues and just as before finding a basic enclosure to store 4 drives in was a problem. Since the server is in the loft, having a nice shiny case to store them in wasn’t really necessary, so instead I took a couple of hard drive mounts from some old cases I had lying around and used them instead, not pretty but it works!

drives  IMG_4191

The performance of the drives via a PCI add-in card was never going to be the same as a native SATA interface but for what it’s used for it works well enough, certainly well enough to stream HD content across the network, in fact the only issue I’ve had with it in the year or so of use is the dodgy software that came with it which tends to eat RAM like it's gone out of fashion…

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Storage

Blog upgrade

by paul 5. April 2009 22:21

Finally got round to upgrading the blog from BlogEngine.NET 1.2 to 1.4.5! Everything seems to be working ok, so it looks like I haven't broken anything which is a good thing but if anything appears amiss please shout!

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Server reboot

by paul 4. April 2009 22:15

Rebooted the server today and it appears to have re-published all of my previous posts (that's right all 10 of them ;-), so my apologies if you thought I'd suddenly become a prolific blogger!

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About me

I seem to have a passion for media centers, I now have 4 in my house, so it seems only appropriate to compound the addication by blogging about it.