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Cloned HDD

Posted on 2016-09-05
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Last Modified: 2016-09-10
Hello
I want to be able to test software and windows settings without damaging my system
I know there are multiple solutions but would like your feedback on the following option please
- I buy and install a new HDD
- I assigned letter D: for this new HDD, my original is on C:
- I clone regularly C: on D:
- I keep D: in my pc; I don't remove it
- When I want to test a software, I boot my PC on D: instead of C:

Questions are
- Is this technically feasible? Can I keep my 2 HDDs in my PC and switch from one to the other by rebooting?
- Is there a cloning software that would do incremental cloning from C: to D: and not full cloning (to save time when I update D:)

Thanks
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Question by:gallandjc
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by:noxcho
ID: 41784353
Yes, this is possible. With one but. You do not need to assign any drive letter to a second HDD. Usually it is kept unpartitioned and the copy HDD operation makes the format and partitioning itself during copy operation.
I don't know about incremental copy but this tool can definitely clone a HDD, even on schedule basis: https://www.paragon-software.com/home/dc-professional/features.html
If incremental copy is important then as an alternative you could use backup with Full+inc+inc+inc chains.
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by:jerseysam
ID: 41784397
Have you considered using a Virtual Machine for testing, then you can just revert to snapshot each time. If using Windows 8 then Hyper-V can be installed as a windows feature
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by:gallandjc
ID: 41784480
Yes I have tried using the virtual machine but it is very slow; long boot time and slow system. I am thinking that cloning my system on a 2nd HDD will make the process of testing a software faster and more pleasant.

Once I have cloned C: to D: , will I have a boot menu after powering on the PC asking me which HDD to boot from? Will windows create this boot menu automatically?
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by:jerseysam
ID: 41784487
You can just load BIOS on power on and chose which drive to boot from each time? If you dont change then it will boot form the last drive it used
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by:noxcho
ID: 41784501
Once I have cloned C: to D: , will I have a boot menu after powering on the PC asking me which HDD to boot from? Will windows create this boot menu automatically?
Not necessarily. And it is better when you do not get this prompt. Because the record about the second drive is set in bcd and you want an exact copy.
You can change the order of HDD in BIOS if you need it or press F11 key (in you case can be different key) to call for BIOS boot menu and select which drive to boot from.
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by:Bing CISM / CISSP
ID: 41784589
> Is this technically feasible?

yes. but not recommended for a sandbox test, as explained below.  

> Can I keep my 2 HDDs in my PC and switch from one to the other by rebooting?

YES.

be aware such a way CANNOT fully separate the production and test environments as the OS on one disk can access the other and potentially make changes there, depending on OS and application configurations. especially once you loose security controls and cause malware infection in test environment on the test HD, the infection will very likely spread from test HD to production HD. you would face serious risks this way.

> Is there a cloning software that would do incremental cloning from C: to D:

AFAIK, NO. commonly a disk cloning utility only clones the whole disk.

> Once I have cloned C: to D: , will I have a boot menu after powering on the PC asking me which HDD to boot from?

NO. you need to press a specific key to enter BIOS and choose the HD to boot. see detailed instructions below.

http://www.boot-disk.com/boot_priority.htm

Will windows create this boot menu automatically?

NO. your OS will not be aware of your cloning work as the job is to be done while the OS is not running.

finally, as other experts recommended above, P2V is a good practice for your scenario. it should NOT be that slow. I would rather troubleshoot a slow VM issue than clone the HDs. :)
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by:Laroy Shtotland
ID: 41784705
I'd also vote for a virtual machine. Give VirtualBox a try!

And why not using an external USB HDD?

AFAIK DriveImage XML can do incremental backups and you don't have to reboot your computer to run the cloning process. It can "hot image" your drive so you can start cloning while you keep working. However it is far from perfect. While it gets the job done, it's a little ugly, and not the most user-friendly app on the market.
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by:gallandjc
ID: 41784720
Ok so I tried again my virtual PC, using VMware
- The VM file is stored on a HDD 7200 rpm SATA in my pc
- Takes minimum 5-6 minutes to boot, even after defrag of the VM file
- My main system is on a SSD. Takes 1' max to boot.
Would you think that 5-6' boot time is "normal"? The VM file is around 350 GB since it is not a fresh install but a clone of my main system
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by:jerseysam
ID: 41784729
You may need to increase the resources on the VM ie more RAM and also double the cores per processor or add a processor depending on your system resources. Obvisouly boot time on SATA will be greatly longer than SSD anyway
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by:gallandjc
ID: 41784737
I set it up to use 6 GB of RAM (I have 12 GB) and 2 processors / 4 number of cores per processor. I don't think I can allocate more, if not please let me know.
So the idea would be to install a new SSD SATA and use it to store my VMware file?
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by:jerseysam
ID: 41784750
That should be more than enough resources to be honest.
Yes a new SSD for the VM locaiton would be good :)
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by:noxcho
ID: 41784829
Maybe try VMware Player instead of Virtual Box?
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by:dbrunton
ID: 41784927
Possibly a silly question, but you do have virtualization enabled in your BIOS don't you?
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by:noxcho
ID: 41785028
Without it enabled the installation of Oracle VB would be impossible. At least on my PC it did not install till I enabled it.
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by:dbrunton
ID: 41785047
Yeah, I'm just looking at his boot time of 5 to 6 minutes.

Evidently VB will do software or hardware virtualization but for 64 bit guests it needs the hardware.  For 32 bit guests it can use software.  But I suspect he is running 64 bit OS with 12 Gb of RAM.
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by:kapsionu
ID: 41785109
+1 dedicated SSD to the system - it's not so expensive, Virtualbox for virtualization and dedicated GPU is must have. Hyper-V is not for Workstation use, it's RDP connection is not even worth to mention. VmWare play is nice but too "VmWare oriented" and HW support is also kind of clunky. First things first - disk2vhd from boot drive and it can be repaired within Virtualized environment to boot up etc. After that it only needs to keep up with major changes in host OS and different levels of snapshots is very useful to test different combinations or different update level and compatibility. 1 thing to remember - always allow max. video memory amout of 128MB to every Guest OS - this is clunky in Virtualbox to keep it on recommended level.
PS! Have used different solutions for testing and Virtualbox is still far ahead. Currently working on mirrored host system on SSD's and dedicated SSD's with raid 0 or 10 if needed more performance to 5-6 virtual guests on Win10 Ent simultaneously. Spindle HDD is major headache anyway - keep away from it and keep archive data on it not live or test systems :).

Best of luck!
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by:garycase
ID: 41785157
Two approaches ...

I.  First, I absolutely agree the best choice is to simply use a VM for your testing.     But your 5-6 minute boot time for a VM makes me wonder what hardware you're using -- that is VERY long for any modern processor with hardware virtualization support.    My spare test system has a 4-5 year old Core i5-2500k and NONE of my 40+ VM's take more than a minute boot.   They ARE stored on a dedicated 1TB SSD, but even before I moved them all to that SSD the max boot time was ~ 90 seconds.

You could either use the free VMWare Player and "image" the VM's by simply copying the folder containing the VM or, better yet, buy VMWare Workstation and then you can use Snapshots, which make reverting to a previous configuration trivial and VERY quick.

What CPU are you using for this system?

II.  You can do as you asked and simply use a second cloned hard drive.   If you want to do this, I'd recommend buying Boot-It BM [ http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-bare-metal.htm ] and using it to both do the cloning (with the included Image for DOS) and to manage the boot process.    This will let you have two completely independent disks, which aren't "aware" of each other; so your testing can't accidentally corrupt the other disk.    You'll get a nice boot menu that lets you select which OS to boot when you restart the PC; and both copies of the OS will be on a C: drive (which will, of course, actually be a different physical drive for each OS).   I can't image using anything else for my multi-boot systems on "real" hardware.   I still have one system that I use an older version of Boot-It on (I use VM's for most purposes these days) ... and here's the boot menu for that system:    Note that EVERY OS boots to a "C:" drive, and they're all isolated from each other, even though there are only 2 physical drives in that system.

Boot Menu with Boot-It
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by:nobus
ID: 41785592
another option is to use Deepfreeze - this  resets the pc at bopot time as it was before
http://www.faronics.com/press-releases/article/deep-freeze-8-30-now-supports-windows-10/
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by:gallandjc
ID: 41785897
Thanks but looked at DeepFreeze but more adapted to classrooms or public computers; not flexible enough and would favor either cloning or virtual machine.
Indeed, don't know why my virtual machine takes so much time too boot and operate.
My config=

Main OS Windows  on Samsung SSD 850 PRO 1TB SCSI Disk Device  (1024 Go, SATA-III)
PCU = QuadCore Intel Core i7-2600, 3500 MHz (35 x 100)
RAM = 14 GB DDR3-133 SDRAM
VM file on internal SATA HDD = WDC WD4003FZEX-00Z4SA0  (4000 Go, 7200 RPM, SATA-III)
--> May not be the fatest HDD...and very noisy!!
The VM file size is 345 GB...big...

I think this should be ok for having a responsive VM.
Are there  any preferred settings in terms of RAM and CPU allocation for my specific config?
I think that allocating too little or too much RAM is not the best thing to do. Not sure about CPU.
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by:kapsionu
ID: 41785926
If You have some extra space on SSD, make additional virtual HDD let's say ~10-15GB to Boot SSD drive and reallocate it to Guest OS, reconfigure "userprofile" and "global" TEMP and TMP variables to lets say mapped D: drive some kind of folder name like TEMP and also reconfigure Guest OS paging file to D: drive with let's say 4-5GB of fixed size. Thats it, youre just found extra boost of Guest OS on currently working environment.
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by:gallandjc
ID: 41785971
sorry but I am not an expert as you are... Don't really understand your suggestion
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by:noxcho
ID: 41786096
Can you try it with VMware Player?
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by:gallandjc
ID: 41786131
I use VMware Workstation. Would VMWare Player be faster?
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by:Bing CISM / CISSP
ID: 41786156
> Would VMWare Player be faster

not really.
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by:noxcho
ID: 41786241
Then it is the same. I had somehow idea that you were using Virtual Box. But if the problem is with VMware then it is something else.
When the Virtual Machine starts and takes so long to load - can you check in Task Management - Performance control what is used mostly - CPU or RAM or HDD?
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by:garycase
ID: 41786541
Agree that Deep Freeze is completely wrong for this issue => it's designed for classrooms/libraries/kiosk situations where the goal is always to revert a PC to a fixed state.     What you want is a cloned setup that allows testing on one configuration while not touching the other => either using virtualization or a 2nd bootable copy of the OS (using Boot-It) is a far better idea.

An i7-2600 should be able to run a VM very nicely.   But you DO have a VERY large virtual hard drive.


I'd do the following:    

Go to virtual machine settings for this VM; select the hard disk;  then click on Defragment and wait for that to finish.   Note that this may take a long time.  Then click on Compact and wait for that to finish.   Then repeat the Defragment.

Change the allocated memory to 4GB; and the allocated CPU's to 1 processor with 2 cores/processor.

Now see how it boots.
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by:gallandjc
ID: 41786936
Garycase: thanks for interesting suggestions in both posts. Yes the file is very big. The reason is that I imaged my current system and did not image a fresh install of windows 10. The rationale beeing that If I want to test a software and see potential issues and conflicts I have to start from an exact copy of my PC as it is (the conflict may not arise with a fresh install)
Busy today but I will test your defrag/compact solution tonight and provide comments
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by:garycase
ID: 41787001
You indicated that your "real" PC boots in < 1 minute.   Note that a physical clone of this should boot in exactly the same time IF the 2nd drive is also an SSD; or a bit longer if you use a rotating platter drive for the clone (but I'd still think no more than 2 minutes)      This is what you would see using the Boot-It solution and a physical clone.

If your goal is to work with what's effectively an actual clone of your current system, there's another alternative:

Virtualize your REAL system.    i.e. install a clean copy of Wndows with NO additional programs except VMWare Workstation;  then create a VM and install Windows in that, along with all of the programs you use -- i.e. make this your "real" system.    Do this on your SSD so it works as quickly as possible.    Now, when you want to test something, simply create a Snapshot [Name it so you know exactly what the state is -- i.e. "Windows b4 trying XYZ"]; and then try whatever you want.    You can then return to the previous state by simply reverting to the Snapshot.

You can set up your host (the bare bones Windows) to automatically run the VM when you boot.

One other thing you should definitely confirm (this was mentioned in an earlier comment as well):   Go into your BIOS and be CERTAIN that hardware virtualization support (vt-x) is enabled.
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by:garycase
ID: 41787003
... I assume it's obvious, but the best performance would be with two physical drives, so there's no virtualization overhead => especially on a 2nd gen i7  (the newer generations have better virtualization support).    But the convenience of a virtualized system is hard to beat, so it's a tough choice.
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by:kapsionu
ID: 41787199
I do not recommend virtualizing of working environment also if there is 3D graphics need - metro animations, some video watching on HD or any kind of involvement with DirectX or OpenGL. Thats why I recommended in my first post to virtualize copy of current system and keep up with updates. Also there are very questionable support for like external USB hardware remapping from host to virtual etc. I would never want to work explicitly in guest OS, this has hidden flaw's You and only You start to discover depending on Your usage habits - mostly they are not nice unfortunately.
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by:gallandjc
ID: 41787744
Yes, Vt-X is activated when I look at the BIOS settings.
My plan is to buy another 1GB SSD this WE and install it.
Then I could
1- Test it as a storage for my VMware file and see if I can significantly improve performances
2- If not use it as a clone of my main system

I only want to use this 2nd HDD (VM or clone) when I need to test new software, not as my regular system.
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garycase earned 500 total points
ID: 41788355
Given that you

(a) want the "test" drive to be as exact a clone as possible of your real system;

and

(b) are going to use it relatively infrequently

...

then your plan is a good one.    i.e. see if the VM performs satisfactorily when hosted on an SSD; and, if not, use Boot-It BM as the boot manager and imager to maintain a perfect clone of the primary drive, which will let you boot to an exact duplicate that is completely isolated from the primary drive (and thus can't cause any issue if something you're testing should cause any corruption).

Note:  If you DO decide to go with Boot-It BM, I'd recommend you buy the special bundle that includes Image for Windows (the bundle is only $10 extra) => this will let you create/update your clone from within Windows ... so the only time you'll ever need to reboot is if you want to boot to the clone for testing.    This package will make it VERY easy to both maintain your clone and to boot to the 2nd drive when you want to test new software.
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Author Closing Comment

by:gallandjc
ID: 41792520
So installed a new SSD and transfered my VM file to it; the virtual machine now boots in less than 2 minutes! Thanks!
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by:garycase
ID: 41792719
Glad to hear all's well.   Your i7-2600 is faster than the i5-2500 in the system I use for my VM's, so it's nice to see it performing appropriately.    It may be a bit faster yet if you do the "defrag/compact/defrag" bit I suggested earlier (unless that's already been done).
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