Geeks With Blogs
Brian Biales because blogging is just the easiest way to remember things

Well, I've finally made time to start my own blog, and here it is, my first post.  Most of my work involves Microsoft .NET, web pages, rich clients, communications, and so forth, and I'm sure I'll be blogging about some of those experiences soon.  But I plan to also blog about any technology issues that come up that I think are interesting enough to share, including new discoveries regarding Java, Linux, and open source projects which aren't necessarily new but are either new to me or something I think is worth repeating. 

So with that in mind, I thought I'd start today by sharing my weekend experiences regarding backup following my recent purchase of a large external USB drive bought specifically for that purpose.  A friend recently had their home hard disk crash, and it really reminded me that while I keep all my "real work" checked into a source control system that is backed up, and my important documents on two drives at home, my home machine has an awful lot of hours in tweaks and little utility installs and downloads and even all those games my kids use on it... I want to backup my entire C:\ partition at home, so that if it ever crashes, I can restore it in its entirety.  Some argue rebuilding a machine periodically from scratch cleanses it of things that slow it down and don't belong anymore.  I might agree, but I'd rather it be done by choice that circumstance...

Now I got the drive the day after I ordered it ( really delivers fast) but I don't own any recent partition editing or copying software, and while some external drives come with software installed, this one did not.  I tried an old version of Partition Magic, but it didn't even think the new drive was healthy...

So I did a little research to see what I could get with open source or other free software, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found, which I will share with you now...

The Gnome Partition Editor, or  GParted, an open source, GUI partition editing application based on the GNU libparted library, looks a lot like Partition Magic, but runs under Linux.  But if you are basically a Windows based user as I am, you can easily download an ISO image of a CD that boots a small linux kernel and runs this program.  It is graphical and, to my pleasant surprise, very full featured: able to grow, shrink, move, copy, create, and delete partitions, including FAT, FAT32, and NTFS partitions.  I used it to change the partitions on my new drive, and it worked flawlessly.  To try it yourself, follow the link below. I downloaded the latest build of the live cd: version 0.3.3-6

Now, I could have used GParted to copy my C: drive partition to a new partition on my new drive, and that would serve my purpose.  But I found the next product even more interesting...  My C:\ drive is an 80Gb partition, and copying that amount of data takes hours.   I would have to have the machine offline for quite a long time to use GParted to copy the partition this time, and every time I want to perform a fresh full backup, I'd have to do this manually...  Well, we all know how often we get around to manual tasks like that.........

For backup of XP, I discovered a free program called DriveImage XML, from Runtime Software, which actually uses Volume Shadow Services (VSS) (an XP or Windows 2003 server option) to allow you to backup the currently active partition.  So during the day this weekend I created the backup, which took several hours, without having to disable the machine.  I have restored it to another partition just to test the DriveImage XML software.  It worked great.

Of course, if your hard drive dies, how are you supposed to run this program so you can restore it?  Well, the other cool thing about this software is that you can download a CAB file to create a plug-in for BartPE (which is a CD ROM Bootable XP) so you can create a bootable BartPE CD that can run the full DriveImage XML software, enabling you to restore your main, bootable partition.  This CD can also be handy for backing up OS’s like Windows 2000, which cannot be backed up while the partition is “active”.  If you boot from CD and run the software, it can “lock” the drive and back it up just fine.  While it can seem a little involved the first time you look into building a BartPE CD (I’ve tried out BartPE before) It is actually very straight forward to do, and trivial to add this software plug in to the CD.  I’ve created a CD and tested running the DriveImage XML on it.  It worked just fine.  

Another interesting thing is that this software actually backs up the data to an image file or series of image files, made small enough to fit on CD's.  You could actually burn these to CD's or DVD's and be able to restore from this removable media.  There is a single XML file that contains the file structure, and makes restoring single files or directories very easy.  I am really impressed.

You can get the backup software here, and this website also discusses where to download the BartPE plug in file, and how to configure it in the BartPE “PEBuilder” program.  They have other useful data recovery software for sale there as well, which I've never tried and so I cannot comment on.

You can read about and download BartPE from here:

I'm very happy with the new USB drive, a My Book Essential Edition, it is silent, not bad looking, is 500GB, and was on sale at  I beat on it all weekend and it never got warm or had any issues that I understand other external drives have experienced.  There were cheaper ones, but this one had 43 excellent reviews.  It doesn't do firewire, but it is Mac compatible as far as I know...

So there it is.  My first blog.  Hope you find it useful!

Posted on Sunday, February 25, 2007 10:50 PM Disk Partitions , Backup , Open Source , Linux , Windows XP | Back to top

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