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Internal Hard Drives - "free space" varies greatly for no obvious reason, drive designation

Posted on 2009-02-19
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Vista Home Premium (32), 500GB system drive (WD) plus secondary internal 500GB WD.  After restoration using Acronis True Image 11, "Computer" window indicates free space on system drive of approx 360GB out of 465GB, but then after a day or so (some usage and a few reboots), free space goes up to 413GB out of 465GB.

The equivalent issue has arisen after several different restorations.  I did a series of restorations starting in Jan 09 after computer had trouble booting up.  Secondary internal hard drive replaced under warranty (why corrupted secondary HDD  interfered with boot up is beyond me).  Restored with backup file created about time of problem, but same issue of extra free space arose when I used a back up file from 7 months ago, when no known issues.

Before any of recent restorations, c: drive was showing about 380GB free.  Each time I restore (using Acronis True Image, NOT Windows Restore), the free space after restoration seems to go up to about 407 to 413GB, either immediately after restore, or after some usage and reboots (initial free space after restoration has been indicated as low as 360GB).

No clean up of files, or emptying of Recycle Bin to explain extra free space.

Comparison of main folders in C: drive when shows 360GB free and when shows approx 407GB free does not indicate any missing files - the folder content is fairly equivalent. ALL PROGRAMS SEEM TO BE WORKING FINE, DIAGNOSTIC TESTS (using SiSandra Lite and Windows disk check of both internal hard drives) INDICATE NO PROBLEM WITH DRIVES OR PROCESSES OR MEMORY, ETC, AND ALL DATA FILES APPEAR TO BE PRESENT.

Size of Acronis Back up Archives also varies greatly for no obvious reasons (between 43GB and 85GB), but size of Back up archive does not seem to be at the heart of this issue  (for example, whether using Acronis True Image to  restore with a 60GB back up file, or with an 85 GB back up file, the C:\ drive, eventually, shows over 400GB free - though initially after restore it MAY show as little as 360GB free).

Perhaps related (though I doubt it), after Acronis restores it wipes out all Windows restore points, and often the Windows Restore utility lists a phantom C: dirve ("C: Missing") as well as an active C: drive. The Active C: Drive  needs to have a check put in the box next to it for future Windows restore points to be created, and once that is done the phantom  C: drive disappears,  While I recognise that wiping out the Windows Restore Points can free up up to 15% of HDD, nowhere near that space in taken up by Windows Restore points in the short time between the restorations I have done with Acronis.

Also POSSIBLY related is the presence of two internal 500GB WD HDD.  The computer has no trouble finding the system drive but windows system information shows the C: system drive as Disk 1, Partition 0, while the secondary internal drive is Disk 0, Partition 0, and also has an "Acronis Secure Zone" partition of about 40GB designated as Disk 0, Partition 1.  Acronis reads these internal disks as the system drive being "Secondary Slave" and the secondary internal drive being "Primary Slave" .  The computer shop  (where still  under warranty) reports that these designations are not relevant for this setup with two internal drives, as long as Windows finds the system disk right away, and it does (except when had corrupted, and non-boot up issue in January).

This question is similar to one I posted about a week ago, but I developed substantial additional information since then and that prior question is no longer open.

Since all programs appear to be working and all data present, I am NOT inclined to reconstruct my computer from scratch, but would greatly appreciate advice on what might be causing these oddities, and maybe what further tests I can/should perform.  I tried to create an Ultimate Bootup Disk (UBCD) but after burning ISO onto CD with imgburn could not get computer to boot off that CD (though it will boot of Acronis Recovery CD), so have not been able to use those diagnostics.  The ICH9 chipset MAY have something to do with UBCD not booting, Needed a special ISO from Acronis for that chipset to get Acronis recovery disk to boot up and work.

Any advice (except "reconstruct machine, reinstall VISTA)  most appreciated.   At this point I am inclined to let sleeping dogs lie while computer seems to be working fine, and if it all comes to grief later I will have backups of all programs and data if I need to reconstruct at some time in the future.
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Question by:LRG15
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Frosty555 earned 1800 total points
ID: 23688962
Vista allocates up to 15% of hard disk space to system restore (so up to 75gb for you), and the volume shadow copy (which it shows to you as "previous versions" for files). Every time you make a change to a file, the shadow is updated with the old data, and your free space goes down a little. Whenever an old shadow is discarded, all the "previous versions" of all the files get deleted, which can be a pretty significant amount of space.

The data for this is stored in C:\System Volume Information, and you can't access it without taking ownership of the folder and mucking with security settings. If you download FolderSizes (free trial), you will be able to see the size of the folder. http://www.foldersizes.com/

You can resize the amount of space used by volume shadow copy using the following command via an administrator command prompt:

vssadmin resize shadowstorage /On=C: /For=C: /Maxsize=5GB
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by:LRG15
ID: 23689658
Frosty555 - thank you for your reply.  I'll be a very happy camper if I can confirm that is the case with my computer and there is not some underlying fault that is going to rise up and bite me later.

I'll follow your suggestion and see if I can confirm that.  But first a question: I thought the shadow copy was just for higher grades of VISTA (Business/Ultimate/etc) and not on VISTA Home Premium.
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by:LRG15
ID: 23689684
Frosty555- can't find that folder "C:\System Volume Information.

Have options set to show hidden folders and files
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by:LRG15
ID: 23689759
Then again, had one more box to uncheck to make it visible - found it! though just putting cursor over it there seems to be no content, which cannot be correct as have done a number of restore points
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by:nobus
ID: 23693079
it always shows empty - no error there
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by:LRG15
ID: 23697695
Frosty555:  Followed your suggestion - downloaded and used folder sizes and its shows system volume information of 14.1GB EVEN THOUGH RESTORED RECENTLY AND HAVE VISTA HOME PREMIUM WHICH DOES NOT HAVE SHADOW FILE FACILITY.  

I doubt all 14.1 GB is restore points - maybe that is just space reserved, or maybe it is keeping a shadow copy but Home Premium does not give you the "Previous Versions" tab in Properties so you cannot access the shadow copies. None of that is logical, but obviously something ILLOGICAL is happening here.

I'll track the System Volume Information for a few days (and also see if anyone else might have a comment on these issues), but it seems you have hit upon a likely explanation for at least some of what is going on with my computer.  

Thanks again, and I'll award points in about a week.

nobus:  As always, thanks for your contribution.
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by:Frosty555
Frosty555 earned 1800 total points
ID: 23698795
Vista Home Premium does have volume shadow copy services. It just isn't enabled by default. System Restore still uses volume shadow copy even if it isn't exposed directly to you. 14gb sounds about right for a default vista machine. My own system restore uses about 40gb average.

If you use the command line utility that I gave you in my first post you can limit the amount of space system restore uses from the 14gb it's using, to whatever you want the maximum to be.
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by:LRG15
ID: 23702465
Frosty555

I am happy with the 15% of HDD default for Restore utility (I have oodles of space free), so right now no need to use the command line utility you suggest --  BUT can you advise how I can get access to ShadowCopy  on Vista Home Premium?

On another forum (Wilders, Acronis True Image), one poster mentioned a shareware program called ShadowExplorer which may accomplish this, and I was just about to hunt after that......but can you advise of a way to do this within Vista?

Thanks again for additional comments and assistance.
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by:LRG15
ID: 23702854
Frosty555
Frosty555,

Have tried ShadowExplorer and its works well.

Still not absolutely confident that the variance in free space on system drive AND the variance in size of Acronis backup files is ALL attributable to Vista Restore and ShadowCopy space (System Vlume Information is currently up to 20GB).  If this was "normal", one would think there would be some prior discussion of this somewhere on this site.  However, I have learned enough from this exercise (with your assistance) to award points.

Will just leave it open a few days to see if any other contributions, but will be awarding you some or all of points.

Thanks again
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by:Frosty555
ID: 23703206
Well, I'm not sure if it's normal, but I can definately say that I've experienced it before on my own vista machine. I liked system restore better when it just made a copy of the system files and then shut up and went away ;) I finally broke down and disabled it completely. I'm sure it'll bite me one day but for now I'm enjoying not having my computer churn for HOURS every day.

The only other thing I can think of that would have any real influence is temp files. If acronis is smart enough not to back that up, you can have a pretty big chunk of temp files from IE cache, archiving programs, backup programs, cd burning software, they all make pretty chunky temp files while they do their work and there's no guarantee that it ever gets deleted.
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by:nobus
nobus earned 200 total points
ID: 23703660
did you run a chkdsk on the drive? note the free space before, and check after
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by:LRG15
ID: 23707193
nobus:

ran chkdsk on both C: system drive and secondary internal, and no problems shown.  Unfortunately did not note free space before and after.

Per your suggestion in another thread, I also had the WD diagnostics program for both internal and external WD HDD's, and will probably run that also.

Frosty555:

Acronis has a filter and I can filter out *.tmp files, but I haven't.  I'll do a search for *tmp files just to see what's there - I suspect a lot is there, but probably not relevant to Acronis backup.
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by:nobus
ID: 23708883
>>  Unfortunately did not note free space before and after    <<   bummer...chkdsk can set the free space different, by repairing the system file tables
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by:LRG15
ID: 23709014
nobus:

I believe I had chkdsk set to just report on problems and not to do automatic repair
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by:nobus
ID: 23710113
that does not matter - it resets them if problems were found
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by:LRG15
ID: 23716645
Frosty555:

I have about 1GB of tmp files and temporary internet files.  Not enough to account for the multi-GB variance, and Acronis does NOT exclude them from backup unless I use the filter to so instruct.

I am hoping the restore points/shadow copies are the main source of the variance, so I am just going to monitor the situation for now (and keep doing current mirror images and backups), and run on the assumption that there is no underlying fault of any significance.
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Author Closing Comment

by:LRG15
ID: 31549103
Not sure if completely solved the mystery, but will monitor the situation and see how it goes
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