Upgrading your hard disk with Acronis True Image

Last Saturday the hard disk in my notebook computer started making strange noises. It performed lengthy retries and eventually produced write errors from Windows. This is usually a sign that a drive is on it’s way out. Not a good way to start a relaxing weekend, I thought.

My notebook is a 6 year old Dell. I bought it second hand on eBay. A disk upgrade from 12 GB to 40 GB about 4 years ago and a more recent memory upgrade to 512 MB have kept the 650 MHz Pentium III machine quite viable for me. I don’t see the point in purchasing more CPU power than I need, just as long as the rest of the system is adequate. It’s been quick enough and it was a reliable performer. Though I was worried about how long it would last, I was not keen on having to reinstall all the software on it if I were to move to a new machine.

Most of my data these days sits on external USB 2.0 hard disks. That way, if one machine goes down I just plug the drive into a USB port on another box and life goes on. I keep copies of the same data on multiple drives, but still, you always need a C: drive. The Windows registry and all the application settings in there don’t travel that easily. With the disk errors announcing the eventual failure of the drive it looked like I didn’t have much of choice.

I went out to local computer stores and ended up buying two items:

  • a 300 GB USB drive (IO DATA / Maxtor). Eventually I didn’t need this for the upgrade, but my 160 GB USB drive had too little space left for making a 40 GB image and I would have had to get something bigger soon.
  • a 60 GB USB notebook drive (Logitec) – I was originally looking for an internal drive (2.5″), but the USB version proved very useful.

My first approach
To be on the safe site, I first copied a few essential folders from the internal drive to the USB drive. Next I installed PowerQuest Disk Image 7 (DI7), which allows you to copy an entire drive to an image file on another drive and later restore it to another disk. That’s how the upgrade from the original 12 GB drive had been done. I had no luck. As soon as I started DI7 the program terminated, no error message. Probably the activiation mechanism realized I had previously activated the software on another machine, a desktop which I had used to try to copy the notebook drive to another internal drive because there I can hook up multiple drives to ATA cables.

I talked to a friend and he mentioned Acronis True Image. At just under $50 it was $20 cheaper than Noprton Ghost, the equivalent product from Symantec, which acquired PowerQuest’s product line. I found the product was available with a 15 day free trial and the reviews looked good.

Later in the afternoon my hard disk had recovered somewhat, but I still wanted to move on to the new drive because computer problems that go away on their own have this nasty habit of coming back on their own…

I installed Acronis on the machine (download Acronis True Image 9.0 Home 15 days trial here) and hooked up the notebook drive. It first wasn’t recognized because my notebook USB card did not supply bus power, but once I hooked up the USB power cable to the USB hub of my desktop monitor the drive came up. I selected the “Clone Disk” option, asking it to copy from the first hard disk to the USB hard disk. Then Acronis told me it was going to reboot the computer, which it did. I left it like this overnight.

In the morning I rebooted and found the complete original data on the USB drive. I then shut down the machine, removed the 40 GB notebook drive, opened the external USB case and transplanted the drive inside the notebook. The first reboot was unsuccessful, Windows reset the machine, but after the second reboot I was in business. I ran scandisk, viewed a couple of folders, everything worked. I had all my data and programs on a new drive and 30 GB of extra free space. This is excellent. I fully recommend Acronis True Imagine for anyone who wants to upgrade a hard disk in their machine. Using a USB hard disk as the target drive this process is fairly painless even if only one hard disk at a time can be fitted inside the machine.

Acronis and network drives
There was one small hitch, which I found later in the day. I could no longer map a network drive to the 160 GB USB drive on my notebook from other machine in the network. The NET USE command from a DOS prompt gave the following error message:

System error 1130 has occurred.

Not enough server storage is available to process this command.

A quick Google search found a ready-made solution to the problem. Aparantly, Acronis installs a driver that watches writes to the disk drive so that it can determine which data needs copying on an incremental backup. This driver causes problems for the network server on Windows. The solution is to set a registry value in Windows to make the network server allocate more space when handling disk requests.

4 thoughts on “Upgrading your hard disk with Acronis True Image

  1. Pingback: import this. » Blog Archive » Acronis presentation at CPLUG

  2. Hi !
    I am very distressed (understatement – I’m really horrified and depressed) about an apparently freak and unusual occurrence that caused my external hard drive (and all its contents!) to not be recognized in Windows.

    I have a 20-month old 160 GB Western Digital external hard drive (WDC WD1600JBRTL) that I use on Windows PCs all the time (and which has priceless and irreplaceable pictures and other files on it.) (This drive is sold/purchased as an internal drive, and I had a university techie staff member place it into a WD external case.) I plugged it into a Mac OS X computer before, so I thought there would be no problems. The other day, I plugged the external HD into a Mac OS X (10.2) via an unpowered Targus USB hub. The Mac screen said nothing – no window popped up like happens after Windows machines recognize a new device. The red access light on the external drive was flashing very quickly as if the Mac was trying to mount/recognize/do something to the drive, but after 5 minutes or so, the red light stopped flashing and still no recognition. I made sure the red light was off before unplugging the external hard drive from the Mac and then plugged the drive into the regular PC I normally use the hard drive on. The drive was recognized, but when I clicked on the drive letter, a window popped up saying the drive is not formatted, would you like to format it now. I knew this was bad, as this had never happened before. I plugged the external drive into another PC and got the same thing. “This can’t be happening to me” is what I thought. I have no idea what the problem is or what caused it. Obviously, the Mac did something to my drive, but why and what did it do? I never told it to do anything, and it didn’t even seem like the Mac recognized the drive. the red light flashing meant something was going on, but I have no idea what. I did some online research and talked with a few tech folks, and they said they think something obviously went wrong when the drive was plugged into the Mac. It sounds like the Mac altered/corrupted the partition table/file table/file structure. (I never put partitions on the drive. I used it as is out of the box. I just created folders under the main drive letter and put files in those folders.)

    I took it into a University Computing Center, and the techies there saw my drive is a FAT drive. They were able to run onTrack Easy Recovery on the external drive. This program apparently just reads the drive and does not write anything to the drive. They said it looks for all data on the drive. I asked how Easy Recovery can see the files on my drive but Windows can’t. They answered by saying that Easy Recovery looks at data bit by bit whereas Windows looks for files/folders – the big picture. After 2.5 hours or so, the scan was done, and a list of files appeared. It looked like my files were recovered, as I recognized the filenames. But, that was very misleading. We saw some files been marked by Easy Recovery with a “DX” notation next to the filename. The tech guy said that was a bad thing, meaning the file may be corrupted and not recoverable. We then copied those recovered files to an extra external hard drive. It recovered most if not all of the files themselves, but many of the text files (Word/.doc, and .rtf) were either empty (blank white screen when file opened) or full of squares or lots of junk characters/jibberish. The most important – and priceless – picture files would not open at all. The filenames were there, but when clicked on, the files try to open but just hang there blank. The file size indicates the huge amount of data that is in the picture file, but no picture opens. Some of the original filenames were saved, while others were changed or mangled. Some text files had content that belonged in other text files -.i.e. the filename was wrong. Some of the files were fine, but most were junk. I opened some of the files, and my heart just sank when I saw the pages upon pages of small squares that used to be my Word/.doc/.rtf documents. My pictures of my travels are gone. I’m a Park Ranger, so I have worked at national parks and monuments and taken many beautiful pictures of these places, but now the pictures are gone.

    The university computer techies said the Mac should have recognized the hard drive even with the USB hub. They think the Mac changed the FAT/file structure. They think it was some freak and unusual event that caused this to happen, and they have never seen or heard of such a thing happening before. That makes me feel better – that I didn’t do something stupid by plugging the drive into a Mac – but I do feel I did something stupid by doing that. But, that doesn’t get my files back.

    I have not tried any partition repair utilities, as I want to get advice of what to do and not to do before I take any action. I am willing to spend a few hundred dollars on a repair if need be, but I read that it’s best not to do anything yourself and leave it up to the experts. So, I’m wondering what I should do, what I shouldn’t do, etc.

    I would just like to undo or repair the damage and get my files back. I don’t want to do anything that might prevent a more successful recovery. If I have a guarantee that my files can be found intact and usable – not jibberish and junk – I’m willing to spend a few hundred dollars and say I’ve learned my lesson – I need to be more careful about plugging things into computer and I need to backup my files. If there is an easier or cheaper way to try that won’t hurt the drive and its contents – and won’t harm or prevent recovery future efforts – please let me know.

    Countless hours, days, months, even years of work are in those files on that drive. I have got to get them back.

    Please help.

  3. Creat a new extra partition on your hard drive. Copy the *.tib files from you external drive to the new partition. Now run the TI program and when prompted point it to the ‘new’ location of your backup files. I’d imagine this might work well.


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