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pzkpfw
2012-Dec-30, 04:29 AM
Lots of IT folk here, so thought I'd run this past the forum...

My Daughter will be in the U.S. for 2013. A kind of low-wage deal with Disney Corp at one of their sites. It's a pretty good thing, and gives her an O.E. (Overseas Experience; all N.Z. young folk are supposed to spend time away from N.Z.) in a safe environment, with a job. And she's always been a huge Disney freak.

I've been rebuilding an old HP Mini Netbook thing for her to take - and Skype us and all that.

I'd like her to be able to re-build it if it all turns to custard. Something like:
1. Image the HDD to a USB memory stick.
2. A wrapper on the stick allows it to be booted from.
3. When booted from, it copies the image back to the HDD.

Needs to be dead simple. (As in, I'm not going to be dual booting the Netbook, or sticking Linux on a partition or anything like that).

Suggestions?

Thanks,

grapes
2012-Dec-30, 11:09 AM
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Solfe
2012-Dec-30, 03:15 PM
Norton Ghost is a wonderful product, but the only way I have seen it used is connecting a pc to a "ghost machine" with all the various images. That sounds impractical in your situation.

I have used a Windows XP boot USB tool. The problem with these gizmos is they are not really "approved" by Microsoft (meaning they might not be legal) but they really work.

What operating system do you have? EDIT - What netbook do you have? HP has wonderful backup software preinstalled on some products. That would be the best solution in your case.

Hlafordlaes
2012-Dec-30, 04:01 PM
I've had good luck with Acronis True Image (http://www.acronis.com/homecomputing/products/trueimage/). It's not free, but there's a promo right now. It does exactly what you are looking for, plus other stuff.

pzkpfw
2012-Dec-30, 09:03 PM
Thanks so far, folk.

It's an old HP Mini 1001TU Netbook. One of the very early HP netbooks (60GB HDD!). Rave reviews for the keyboard (at the time) compared to other netbooks then available.

It runs XP. I've currently got it back to SP3. I don't think it ever had a restore partition (as my HP laptop I bought around the same time does).

DonM435
2012-Dec-31, 01:50 AM
The trick is to image the C: drive as soon as you have it the way you want it. I like to partition a disk to effectively have a rather small C: drive, with all of the rest of the physical disk as a data drive, so that I can wipe C: and restore it whenever I have to.

I used to like Acronis True Image through about 2010: easy to use, and it saved me a couple of times. But the next versions were too darned "user-friendly," doing things automatically with one click (and setting up some monstrosity known as "continuous backup" or some such, by default). I have to work hard to get it to do what I want now, and have no faith that it'll workj when I need it.

Solfe
2012-Dec-31, 02:30 AM
Hp has a ton of options for recovery here. (http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=bph07143&cc=in&dlc=en&lc=en&product=3956747&tmp_track_link=ot_search) They range from simple walk throughs to purchasing options.

One other thing that I can think of that may be of help is a Linux variant called xPud. As a day to day system it is horrible, but it is so tiny that even a very old USB (1 GB) drive can hold the whole system. The reason I use it is to check the hardware and recover images and such from virus disable machines. Since you are considering worst case scenarios, the ability to recover files makes the process less painful.

Here is a link to pictures and stuff (http://unpwnd.com/?cat=4) for xPud. The machine in the pictures is an Asus EEE 4G, which I think has about the same capacity as your machine.

pzkpfw
2012-Dec-31, 05:21 AM
Ah, according to this ( http://www.toptrix.net/2012/03/bootable-usb-making-tools-windows-linux.html ), this tool ( http://www.joshcellsoftwares.com/2012/06/WinUSBMaker.html ) will do what I want.

Just need to get .Net 4.0 on the thing...

Solfe
2012-Dec-31, 05:58 AM
Ah, according to this ( http://www.toptrix.net/2012/03/bootable-usb-making-tools-windows-linux.html ), this tool ( http://www.joshcellsoftwares.com/2012/06/WinUSBMaker.html ) will do what I want.

Just need to get .Net 4.0 on the thing...

Oh boy, I am useless tonight. On that second link, I clicked on the buttons to see how the product worked. You know, the buttons in the screen shot.

Sleep is screaming at me to go to bed.

Hlafordlaes
2012-Dec-31, 01:20 PM
The trick is to image the C: drive as soon as you have it the way you want it. I like to partition a disk to effectively have a rather small C: drive, with all of the rest of the physical disk as a data drive, so that I can wipe C: and restore it whenever I have to.

I used to like Acronis True Image through about 2010: easy to use, and it saved me a couple of times. But the next versions were too darned "user-friendly," doing things automatically with one click (and setting up some monstrosity known as "continuous backup" or some such, by default). I have to work hard to get it to do what I want now, and have no faith that it'll workj when I need it.

Yes, I only have experience with earlier versions of Acronis and suspect it has become bloated.


Ah, according to this ( http://www.toptrix.net/2012/03/bootable-usb-making-tools-windows-linux.html ), this tool ( http://www.joshcellsoftwares.com/2012/06/WinUSBMaker.html ) will do what I want.

Just need to get .Net 4.0 on the thing...

You might consider making a slipstreamed copy of XPSP3 for easy re-installs that include drivers and recent OS updates. For guidance, you can check out this forum (http://www.wincert.net/forum/forum/8-microsoft-windows-xp/) on Wincert.

JustAFriend
2012-Dec-31, 03:00 PM
Clonezilla (http://www.clonezilla.org) is what I use to clone all my desktops, laptops and my son's netbook.

Lets you clone to a cd, dvd, drive or usb stick.

...and it's FREE.

caveman1917
2013-Jan-02, 08:17 PM
The question is, must it boot to xp from usb for doing the recovery or not? Otherwise i think it would be a lot easier to do as Solfe recommended, put some minimal linux such as xPud as the recovery system. If you want to keep it dead simple you can still include a script that will write the image to disk, so your daughter, when the system booted from usb, still merely needs to run a script. But it also gives you the ability to try to recover important files or check the hardware for failures.

Does XP give you the tools to directly write image files to disk? If it doesn't then booting to XP won't help you much, and even if it did it's still going to give you lots of bloat compared to using some minimal linux as the recovery system.

Solfe
2013-Jan-02, 08:53 PM
When you reinstall vs. repair XP, you are generally always booting from some media that is not your normal choice. It could be a partition, a disc, a network drive, or USB/SSD. Making a native XP booting USB stick is much easier than going Windows to Linux and back again.

My suggestion for xPud was one recovery tool, not a windows reinstall tool. You could in theory use the xPud software to do that, but it would require a lot of work. I suggested that tiny Linux OS as a way of checking hardware and to save files and frustration because its free and uses small and outdated USB sticks.

It looks like there are a lot of options for creating a USB stick XP. Here is another walk thru of the process (http://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Notebook-Operating-Systems-e-g-Windows-8-and-Software/How-to-install-Windows-XP-from-USB-flash-drive/td-p/529005). This is hosted on some HP website, has good screenshots, but does not appear to an official document.

caveman1917
2013-Jan-02, 09:05 PM
As i understood it, the point wasn't to either reinstall or repair XP, but to be able to write a HDD image saved on a usb stick back to the HDD. As far as i am aware, XP does not directly allow you to do that, irrespective of where you boot it from. It will only give you the option to either reinstall XP or try to repair it. So you have a HDD image file stored on a usb stick and what you need is to write that image to the HDD (not reinstalling the OS - although that will be the result), this is what a minimal linux will easily allow you to do. All you need to do is be able to dd the image file. For XP you will need some extra tools for that, meaning you would have to include those in the boot medium. The necessary operation is not a reinstallation of windows, but the writing of an image file to the hard disk.

I think the easiest way to do it would be to put some minimal linux on a usb stick along with the image file, boot from it and dd the image file to the hard disk. You could even put the dd in a script to make it really simple. That, when booted into xPud or some other minimal linux, you get to do file recovery and hardware checking is a bonus.

pzkpfw
2013-Jan-03, 03:15 AM
As i understood it, the point wasn't to either reinstall or repair XP, but to be able to write a HDD image saved on a usb stick back to the HDD. As far as i am aware, XP does not directly allow you to do that, irrespective of where you boot it from. It will only give you the option to either reinstall XP or try to repair it. So you have a HDD image file stored on a usb stick and what you need is to write that image to the HDD (not reinstalling the OS - although that will be the result), this is what a minimal linux will easily allow you to do. All you need to do is be able to dd the image file. For XP you will need some extra tools for that, meaning you would have to include those in the boot medium. The necessary operation is not a reinstallation of windows, but the writing of an image file to the hard disk.

I think the easiest way to do it would be to put some minimal linux on a usb stick along with the image file, boot from it and dd the image file to the hard disk. You could even put the dd in a script to make it really simple. That, when booted into xPud or some other minimal linux, you get to do file recovery and hardware checking is a bonus.

Yes, the point was to be able to write an image of the HDD to USB stick, then later have that image written back to the HDD from the stick (even if the OS on HDD was by then toast). However, I'd describe the purpose as being one way to reinstall XP. (Because the end result, given I'd make the image right after a clean install, would be the same as if I simply repeated that clean install).

I'd envisaged there'd be some small utility in existence that'd let me do it. Essentially a cut-down single-purpose bootable bit of software that do the image writing (you can make an MS-DOS bootable USB stick). It seems that all approaches available use some variety of Linux to provide the framework (i.e. OS to boot to, to run the image copying on; and that copy can even be a Linux facility).

I guess that makes sense. In some ways, it seems overkill. But in others, I suppose it's is the easy way.



(There was a time, electronics magazines would have schematics for circuits that would flash lights. They might have used RC networks with a couple of transistors. Later a 444 timer IC would be common to see. Nowdays, people use PICs to do it. A whole programmable IC just to make some LEDs blink. Somehow that seems to me a vaguely valid analogy.)

Hlafordlaes
2013-Jan-03, 04:15 AM
If the purpose is to create a low-maintenance recovery strategy for your daughter while on her own, imaging is the way to go. Checked out JustAFriend's link and that looks optimal.

But part two of her ability to recover is to be sure to partition the drive and place all user data, including Favorites, on the D: drive. Setting up the user files would be done when you've finished a full install, OS updates, anti-virus etc and just before imaging. Easy tool under XP to migrate user files so the OS and programs will always redirect there is TweakUI (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/xp-downloads#2TC=featured), from MS. Good to run Media Player and IE at least once or twice after migrating folders.

After a recovery, everything will seem like normal.

Part three: Have her do a re-image (recovery) with you before she goes.

PS The tool I use to prepare pen drives for OS installs is the aptly named WinSetupFromUSB. There's a 64bit version, too. See the thread (http://www.msfn.org/board/topic/120444-how-to-install-windows-from-usb-winsetupfromusb-with-gui/) over on MSFN, a trusty site.

Solfe
2013-Jan-03, 04:45 AM
Clonezilla does look really good. I am going to give it a spin myself.

Pfft. Changin' OS like most people change underwear. :)

caveman1917
2013-Jan-03, 07:40 AM
Yes, the point was to be able to write an image of the HDD to USB stick, then later have that image written back to the HDD from the stick (even if the OS on HDD was by then toast). However, I'd describe the purpose as being one way to reinstall XP. (Because the end result, given I'd make the image right after a clean install, would be the same as if I simply repeated that clean install).

True, but you could make the image after you installed skype and such, so you (or rather your daughter) wouldn't have to go through those steps again after failure.


I'd envisaged there'd be some small utility in existence that'd let me do it. Essentially a cut-down single-purpose bootable bit of software that do the image writing (you can make an MS-DOS bootable USB stick). It seems that all approaches available use some variety of Linux to provide the framework (i.e. OS to boot to, to run the image copying on; and that copy can even be a Linux facility).

I guess that makes sense. In some ways, it seems overkill. But in others, I suppose it's is the easy way.

Even if it was only for that single purpose, you'd still have to write an (however tiny) OS to boot into that provides you with the necessary facilities to write the image to the HDD. I don't think we could expect people to write an OS specifically for that purpose when tiny OS's that do the job (ie minimal linux ones) are already available.

What i would do would be to install XP and everything else necessary. Then install some bootable tiny linux distribution on the usb stick and dd the HDD to an image file on the usb stick. Then make a script out of the dd command to rewrite the file to the HDD. So when your daughter's computer fails, all she has to do is plug in the usb stick, wait until it has booted and type "recover" (or whatever you named the script).

You could also use clonezilla as suggested, however being mainly a wrapper for dd i don't see the advantage, and it limits you to booting into debian (at least out-of-the-box) rather than being able to choose your own tiny linux distribution.

pzkpfw
2013-Jan-03, 07:51 AM
True, but you could make the image after you installed skype and such, so you (or rather your daughter) wouldn't have to go through those steps again after failure.

Yes. But I was mainly pointing out that I disagree with your characterisation of it as "... the point wasn't to either reinstall or repair XP ...".

Because that's very much exactly how I saw it when I originally asked the question.

Whether it includes more than "just" XP or not isn't so much the issue. It's just - machine has toasted itself... do a complete reinstall/rebuild/whatever back to known working state.


Even if it was only for that single purpose, you'd still have to write an (however tiny) OS to boot into that provides you with the necessary facilities to write the image to the HDD. I don't think we could expect people to write an OS specifically for that purpose when tiny OS's that do the job (ie minimal linux ones) are already available.

Of course not. It just "feels" like even the tiny Linux ones are overkill. That's why I mention the MS-DOS USB boot possibility. It feels simpler. I do understand why they turn out to be Linux based.

And I would expect it would be possible, to write software that runs on boot, that doesn't use an OS in the traditional sense; but yes, this would be harder. (After all, the OS itself is essentially "just" software.)


What i would do would be to install XP and everything else necessary. Then install some bootable tiny linux distribution on the usb stick and dd the HDD to an image file on the usb stick. Then make a script out of the dd command to rewrite the file to the HDD. So when your daughter's computer fails, all she has to do is plug in the usb stick, wait until it has booted and type "recover" (or whatever you named the script).

You could also use clonezilla as suggested, however being mainly a wrapper for dd i don't see the advantage, and it limits you to booting into debian (at least out-of-the-box) rather than being able to choose your own tiny linux distribution.

Yep. Something like that.

caveman1917
2013-Jan-03, 08:20 AM
It just "feels" like even the tiny Linux ones are overkill.

I understand the feeling. Sometimes when i'm programming something i try to optimize it such that it may use say 5mb of memory rather than 6mb, which makes no difference whatsoever on the 32gb ram system i'm working on, yet it just doesn't feel right not to optimize it :)


And I would expect it would be possible, to write software that runs on boot, that doesn't use an OS in the traditional sense; but yes, this would be harder. (After all, the OS itself is essentially "just" software.)

I suppose between completely writing your own OS from scratch and using an out-of-the-box linux distribution, you have the option to build your own distribution to suit your needs. Compile the kernel with only those options you need and add only those modules you'll need. That would get very close to the "optimal" whilst still being relatively easy to do.

pzkpfw
2013-Jan-03, 08:57 AM
I'm out of date with what facilities the BIOS provides these days. (Did I read the other day the BIOS itself is going out of style?). Are there still calls (to the BIOS) a given piece of run-on-boot-with-no-OS software could make to manipulate the HDD?

Or are the layers of drivers our OS of choice uses a very specific necessity today?

(I'm basically in fantasy land here, just wondering if this would be "possible" (if not "feasible")).

caveman1917
2013-Jan-03, 09:28 AM
I'm out of date with what facilities the BIOS provides these days. (Did I read the other day the BIOS itself is going out of style?). Are there still calls (to the BIOS) a given piece of run-on-boot-with-no-OS software could make to manipulate the HDD?

Or are the layers of drivers our OS of choice uses a very specific necessity today?

(I'm basically in fantasy land here, just wondering if this would be "possible" (if not "feasible")).

I suppose you could do it with BIOS calls, but there are some limitations. You cannot mount your usb drive as a file system, so you cannot save the HDD image as a file on your usb. This is by itself not problematic as you can write the image to a partition on your usb stick. You need to know the drive number of the usb drive (so you can only put the usb in one slot), but this is something that can be overcome too. The big problem however may be addressing limitations, which may be lower than the first 8gb of the drive (as stated here (http://wiki.osdev.org/ATA_in_x86_RealMode_%28BIOS%29)) which is close to what you'll need for an XP install up to service pack 3.

pzkpfw
2013-Jan-03, 09:56 AM
I suppose you could do it with BIOS calls, but there are some limitations. You cannot mount your usb drive as a file system, so you cannot save the HDD image as a file on your usb. This is by itself not problematic as you can write the image to a partition on your usb stick. You need to know the drive number of the usb drive (so you can only put the usb in one slot), but this is something that can be overcome too. The big problem however may be addressing limitations, which may be lower than the first 8gb of the drive (as stated here (http://wiki.osdev.org/ATA_in_x86_RealMode_%28BIOS%29)) which is close to what you'll need for an XP install up to service pack 3.

Given the netbook in question can boot off a USB stick, I wouldn't think the file system is a specific issue. I can see the addressing limitations would make copying an image back to the HDD a hassle. A first partition of just enough for XP itself might solve that. It's a 60 GB HDD, and after SP3, only 4 or 5 GB were used; so that'd be doable.

Nice thought exercise.

caveman1917
2013-Jan-03, 10:08 AM
Given the netbook in question can boot off a USB stick, I wouldn't think the file system is a specific issue.

The file system doesn't exist on that level. What i meant was that, when you make the image, you can't save it as a file on your usb stick because the file system may not store that file as one continuous block, which is what you need to later write it back to the HDD since you only get access to blocks of bytes on your usb stick, not files. This is no problem as you can write to a partition on your usb stick rather than a file, but it's just something to keep in mind.


Nice thought exercise.

Indeed.

Solfe
2013-Jan-03, 11:55 AM
I boot my system off the USB or SSD all the time, but there are some practical considerations. I can't help but notice that USB are faster than SSD but I tend to buy USB sticks more often. Both are slower than the internal SDD or hard drive.

The other major issue with USB sticks is, even though you have 3 USB ports, it is less than optimal having stuff sticking out of the side of the notebook. Accidentally, removing the USB stick while the laptop is on stinks.

I do this with a variety of Linux systems and one particular stick with XP. Personally, if you can swing it, use two XP USB sticks - one for installs and one that boots and runs. Having a USB that will actually make the notebook "go" saves so many headaches even when you know you will reinstall.

"Secure boot" or "extended something or other" is the new BIOS. I haven't used it yet.

Hlafordlaes
2013-Jan-03, 03:16 PM
The new UEFI (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Extensible_Firmware_Interface#Extensions) BIOS's so far are simply graphical, but on some machines provide a pre-boot environ that includes web access.

I expect pzkpfw's mission in the OP will be easily solvable soon, though not for most current HW. Portable devices based on UEFI or similar should soon provide web access to a cloud-based copy of an OS image and user data. Recovery will only require web access, and little local software.

This is shaping up to be an essential lock-in service for vendors, especially Google and potentially Amazon, and there is still oppty for an enterprising entrepreneur in this space. I've been tracking this and the emerging set-top mini-PC and am convinced that soon we'll see a cloud-accessing set-top acting as a home IT shop, allowing synching of all devices and recovery of their data thru one simple TV-based hub.

One way to say it is that personal tech has never been good to dummies, who can ruin a fully working OS in a moment with a bad click on a web site, and whoever cracks this last problem of recovery in a truly seamless, user-independent way will have a market.