Saturday, August 29, 2009

Acronis 2010 - Step-by-Step

HowTo: Use Acronis True Image Home 2010  (for Windows 7, Windows 8 and XP) to make a full-system disk image. This article is a bit dated, with version 2010, but the steps are the same in newer versions of Acronis

For Acronis version 2009, see this article: Acronis 2009 step-by-step
Comparing Ghost vs Acronis, see this article: Acronis vs Ghost (review)

See also: Using Acronis to restore a single file
Keyliner Article: Windows 7 Speeding up USB Drives / Backup Speed Slow.

Acronis is my recommended program for Windows disk image backups and restores. This article will work well with any modern version of the software.

Update:  Acronis 2010 hung when running a backup against Windows 8.  Upgrade to version 2013 to resolve the problem.  These instructions work well with Windows 8 and the newer versions of Acronis.

There are two types of backups: File-by-file (click and drag backups) and Full Disk Image backups (often called an "image" or Ghost backups). A full-disk backup is what most people should use because they take less work to setup and have more recovery options.

In the event of a disaster, virus or other calamity, an Image backup can recover the entire PC, along with all of its operating systems, patches, installed software and data. Once restored, the PC is bootable and completely functional.

Types of Recovery:
  • Recover to a new hard disk (bare metal restore)
  • Recover from a Virus
  • Rebuild a corrupted hard disk
  • Recover individual files or folders
  • Possibly migrate to a new Computer (see notes below)
This type of backup acts as insurance and I recommend running it at least quarterly. If your business depends on this computer, run an image backup at least monthly - if not weekly. Business users should have other types of backup policies in place and this article does not address all of those needs. For most computers, a backup will take about 30 minutes (to a USB disk) and you do not have to be present while it runs.

General Recommendations:

Follow these steps for making a disk-image backup. As long-time readers know, these types of backups have saved my computers dozens of times over the years.
  • Use a portable USB laptop drive because they are inexpensive and do not need a powercord. You can use the same drive for multiple computers (Review).
  • Create an image backup at least quarterly
  • Do not carry the USB drive with a laptop (in case it is stolen)
  • Do not leave USB drives connected, except during a backup (viruses)
  • Periodically, create a permanent, offsite DVD backup

Preliminary Steps:
Do these preliminary (and optional) steps before each backup in order to save about 30 to 50% of your backup time and disk-usage. These steps delete Microsoft's System Restore and Shadow Copies.

A. Launch Windows Explorer
Select the C: Drive.
'Other-mouse-click' and choose "Properties"

B. In the [General] Tab
Click "Disk Cleanup"

For Windows 7:
Click the "Disk Cleanup" button
Click 'Clean up System Files'
Click top-tab "More Options"
Click "Clean up" button
Click OK, OK, and allow delete
Close Windows Explorer

For Vista:
Click the "Disk Cleanup" button
Select "Files from all users on this computer"
Click top tab "More Options"
Click button "Clean up"
On "are you sure you want to delete all but the most recent..."; Click OK, OK, and allow delete
Close Windows Explorer

Most of the time, you should see significantly more free-disk space -- and this means less to backup.

Acronis Backup Steps:

1. Connect the External USB drive

Using Windows Explorer, highlight the external disk's drive letter (typically, drive E:); other-mouse-click, choose "Properties". Confirm adequate free-disk space exists. Most people need about 30 to 50G free; see below for cleanup steps.

Because I use the same external USB disk for multiple computers, I like to make a backup directory for each device. Use Windows Explorer to create the directory on the E: drive. For example:


2. Launch Acronis True Image Home

On first-time launch, Acronis will offer a "One-Click Protection Tool," using a product they call Secure Zone. You may choose this or not; I do not recommend using this, except maybe on a traveling laptop. See Acronis Help to learn more about this feature.

3. From the Top menu, choose Tools & Utilities, Options

This is a one-time configuration change.
In 'Removable Media' (open the tree), turn off "Ask for first media...".
Click OK, OK to close.

4. From the Side Menu, choose "Backup"

In the center, choose "Disk and Partition Backup" (do not choose "File Backup")

Choosing "File Backup" allows you to pick and choose backup directories but this does not create a bootable image backup! Even if you choose the entire C: drive, the results will not allow you to recover from a failed hard-drive.

5. In Partitions to Backup

Choose Disk 1 (C:), click Next
Do not check the External USB disk at this stage.
Click Next

6. Target Backup Archive:

a. Click * Create a new backup Archive.

b. In the backup location, browse to either the external USB or your DVD drive-letter if backing up to DVDs.

c. If you are backing up to an external USB Hard Drive, I recommend changing the filename from "myBackup.TIB" to a name similar to this:


  • E:\AcronisBak\Computer1 is the folder created earlier
  • E: is your USB's Drive letter, which varies
  • Recommend typing 2009_08_ , with trailing underscores.
7. Click Next -- but wait before proceeding

Confirm [x] "Run task now" is selected

Click the "Options" button
- Set do not schedule
- Set Backup Method: Full
- Set Backup Options: Backup Priority = High
- Set Archive Splitting: Fixed 4.7gb

If backing up to a DVD:
In Media Components: Choose "Place Acronis True Image on Media"

In the Comments Section:
Name the task "2009_08 Computer 1" (or as other comments to remind you)

8. Click Proceed

From here, the backup runs more-or-less automatically. On DVD's, use a sharpie pen and write "Computer1 2009.08.28 Acronis Backup, Disk 1 of x." There is nothing worse than doing an emergency restore and finding unlabeled disks.

On my moderately old machine with nice SATA drives, I see this type of performance:
USB: 1.5G per minute.
DVD speeds are considerably slower due to formatting overhead.

Organization and Cleanup:

When using the non-scheduled backup method, described above, the USB drive will fill after a half-dozen backups. With the recommended naming scheme, it is easy to identify which backups you can delete. Plug in the USB drive and use Windows Explorer to tunnel to the backup directory, "E:\AcronisBak\Computer1"

Backups will span multiple files:
2009_08_01.tib (new backup starts here)
2009_09_01.tib (new backup starts here)

Use Windows Explorer, delete the older files before starting the next backup. Keep a reasonable number of older backups, in case they are needed. If you were to run the Acronis "Scheduled Backups", it can manage the number of versions automatically, however, I still prefer to run the backups manually.

Emergency Restore Disk
The Acronis program can restore a backup from a completely dead computer, but you will need to create a one-time "Emergency Recovery Disk" (which they call a Bootable Rescue Media). This is different than the software's installation CD. Making this disk takes about 30 seconds.
A. Insert a blank CD into your computer.
B. When Windows offers to format the disk, Cancel / close the dialog.
C. Launch Acronis and choose Tools and Utilities
D. Click "Create Bootable Rescue Media"
E. Label this disk "Acronis 2010 Rescue Media"

Store this disk in a safe place. If you don't build this disk, you can use another computer to download an ISO image from the Vendor's site.
Restore Comments:

This article does not describe how to recover files or the computer from this type of backup. But in general, for a full-system, 'bare-metal' restore, insert the Rescue Media and boot the computer. Follow the restore prompts.

If you need to recover a single or small group of files, they can be recovered individually from the Image, without having to restore the entire disk.
From Acronis, see the top "Operations" menu and select "Mount". From here, you can tunnel into the backup, selecting individual files for restore. This feature works best with an external USB backup. If you are using DVD's, expect to swap the disks dozens of times and this will be annoying. See this article for ways to improve the process: Restoring a single file with Acronis

Restoring to a New PC
Moving to a new PC

An Acronis Image backup is most useful for recovering from a hard disk failure or to recover individual files to the same computer. If the hard drive is completely destroyed or corrupted, you could simply buy another drive and restore.
If the computer itself was destroyed or stolen, you can restore an image to an identical computer (same motherboard, video card), and it will probably work.
However, if the hardware is considerably different, you will run into driver problems where the old software won't know how to talk to the new hardware. And there is a problem with Microsoft Windows licensing. Basically, if Windows detects a lot of hardware changes, Microsoft rightfully assumes you are trying to steal the operating system. You might consider throwing yourself at their mercy by calling this number: Microsoft Product Activation.

In reality, moving an image to completely different hardware is fraught with all kinds of problems. If you are moving to a new computer, use Acronis to make a file-backup (rather than an Image), and backup only data files, skipping programs and operating systems. On the new computer, re-install all of your software, including the Office Applications, browsers, Acronis, etc. Then, restore the data. This is admittedly a laborious process and requires some skill.

Acronis sells an add-on product called "Migrate Easy", which I have not yet tried.

Errors and Solutions:
As of 2011.02, it is at version 7160, plus there is a newer version for 2011. Click the Help pull-down menu, "About" to see your version. One nice thing about this company is if you register the software, you can re-download it from their site at any time. This is a nice feature if you are having a bad day with your computer. Acronis Download Page.
See also this article on how to dramatically improve external USB Disk IO speeds in Windows 7; this will make the Acronis backup run much faster. Keyliner Article: USB Drive Backup Speed Slow.
Acronis "File I/O Error"
If a DVD backup begins writing to the second platter and the job fails with an IO error, be sure you set the options in Step-3, above. Too bad this is not documented on Acronis's site.

DVD Tray Open and Close
If you are backing up to DVD, Acronis recommends letting the software open and close the DVD-tray. After inserting the disk, click "OK" and it will close the tray automatically. If you don't do this, the backup may fail, per Acronis tech support. Outside of Acronis, I have no qualms about closing the tray-door by hand.

Run Task Now / non-Scheduled Tasks
If a "Run Task Now" (do not schedule / non-scheduled) backup fails to launch properly, or you are otherwise having difficulties starting the actual backup, then you probably removed the 'Acronis Scheduler Helper' from your startup programs (see msconfig, startup). Even if you never intend to schedule a job, it looks like this routine must remain in the startup group or else tasks are difficult to launch. This appears to be a bug.

Hang/Freeze in Windows 7 or XP
Microsoft released updates that damaged older version of Acronis 2010. Details: Snapshot driver VolSnap /Snapman requires modifications; not all hardware configurations will see this problem. Click this Acronis link for details Acronis version 7046 (or go directly to their download page: Acronis Login).

Related articles:
Acronis 2009 Step-by-Step
Disk Cleanup Steps (detailed)
USB Drive Backup Speed Slow
Restoring a single file with Acronis

Acronis vs Ghost (review)
Maxtor External USB Drive (review)
Cleaning up after a Virus (why you need an image backup)
Other Frankenputer Comics

Keywords: ATI, Acronis Step by step image backup

Monday, August 24, 2009

Desktop Wallpaper Crops

Howto: Cropping photographs for desktop wallpapers, with the correct aspect ratio. Plus, you are welcome to have a copy of this image for your own wallpaper; instructions below.

I just came back from a delightful 3-day backpacking trip in Idaho's Sawtooth wilderness and was able to carry my Pentax K10 digital camera. This photograph was one of my favorites and I wanted it as my wallpaper. It took a few minutes to figure out how to crop the image properly. This article shows those instructions.

Downloading this image now:
You are welcome to download a full-sized version of this image for your own wallpaper.
This image has been cropped at 1440 x 900 and will scale with all wide-screen monitors. See below for instructions.

The Need for Cropping:

Standard photographs, when saved as a desktop wallpaper, become distorted because the aspect ratio for a photograph is different than a computer's monitor.  This is especially noticeable with people pictures. 

If the image is cropped properly, you will get a better fit on the screen.  Notice that Cropping is not the same as Resizing (see comments at the end of this article).

Although all photo-editors can crop, they are almost always limited to standard print sizes (4x6, 8x10, etc). Computer wallpapers, especially on the newer, wide-screen monitors, requires a different size.  It took me a few minutes to figure this out. 

Steps to Crop
(using Corel's PaintShop Pro; your editor may be different but the steps should be similar)

1. Find your monitor's screen resolution (Windows 7:  Control Panel, Personalization.  With XP: Control Panel, Display Settings). Note the size of the screen, in pixels.  In my case, the monitor is 1440 x 900.

2. Divide the two numbers to get the aspect ratio:
1440 / 900 = 1.600.

More modern computers have a movie-screen aspect ration.  For example, my laptop has a screen resolution of 1024 x 576, which is a 1.77 ratio, also known as 16:9.

My friend, Dutch, complained this was too much math. Here is a handy chart.

3. With Corel PaintShop Pro (or your photo editor), select the cropping tool. Click and drag.

In the lower-right corner, PaintShop Pro shows the highlighted size in pixels, but it is the next number that is of interest -- this shows the aspect ratio. With the cropping tool, click and drag across the image, dragging until the needed aspect is shown [in my case, 1.600]; this takes a steady hand.

It does not matter what size your original image was or how wide you drag the cropping tool; the only concern is the aspect ratio.

For example, the original image was 3872 x 2592 (or it could have been a postage stamp). Drag the cropping tool against the image until it is sized and positioned roughly where you would like it.  The only concern is the correct aspect ratio, which should match the monitor's ratio.Once the cropping window is sized, it can be moved and repositioned until it covers a composition that you like.

By definition, some parts of the picture will be cut (cropped). The final size could be at (1440 x 900) or (720 x 450), or any other fraction, as long as the aspect ratio is correct. Windows will re-size the image as needed when it is displayed.  With this said, better results (less pixelation, better colors) are found when sized the same or larger than the monitor's resolution, e.g., 1440 x 900.

4. Save the cropped image as a JPG file to your favorite photo directory. With Corel's product, click the "Crop as a new image button" on the cropping toolbar so you do not overwrite the original photograph.

Set the WallPaper:

5. Using Windows Explorer, locate the saved/cropped photo.
"Other-mouse-click" the photo and choose "Save as Desktop Background".

The image will now be on your wallpaper.

Download Instructions:

If you would like a copy of the example image for your own wallpaper, you are welcome to download it in one of two ways: 

1. Download from Keyliner's GDrive (recommended -- better image quality)
2. Download illustration from this page

To download from Keyliner's Public Gdrive:
GDrive Wallpaper link

or follow these steps:

A. Begin by clicking the photo to get to a larger size.
B. On the larger picture, "other-mouse-click" and select "Save Image As"
C. Choose a location/folder.
D. Use Windows Explorer to locate the file; 'other-mouse-click' and choose "Set as Desktop Wallpaper"

The photo stored by blogger is compressed.  Download from the GDrive site for a better quality picture.  .

Technical Details about the photograph:
Falls are approximately 3 miles north of Toxaway Lake, Sawtooth Wilderness, Idaho, USA

18mm APC lens; 10.2mpx Pentax K10
1/8 second, f/5.6 @ iso 100 with +.7 exposure compensation, adjusting for the white.
Handheld on a wet rock.
This is a straight, non-retouched photograph 
August 23, 2009, by Tim Wolf, Boise Idaho
An Aside:

Digital Cameras record a remarkable amount of information on each photograph. From Windows Explorer, Other-mouse-click the filename, choose Properties, then [Details].

Related articles:
Commentary: Cameras and FotoSizer
Howto: Using FotoSizer
See also

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Access 2007 Compact and Repair

HowTo: Access 2007 Compact and Repair Menu. Compacting removes deleted records, removes all prior (development) version of forms and reports and rebalances index files. Access databases will be more stable with periodic maintenance. If a database is active, I recommend running these steps monthly or quarterly. If you a actively developing VBA and Forms, do it more frequently.

Are you looking for the Microsoft Access 2007's Compact and Repair Menu?
Follow these steps:

A. No other users should be using the database; it is unsafe to compact while it is in use.
B. Recommend making a backup of the MDB (database) file prior to this step.

1. Open the Access Database
2. Click the File (Orb) menu
3. Choose Manage
4. Click "Compact and Repair Database"

In older versions, this was found in the Database Utilities Menu.
Especially if you are doing a lot of Form and VBA work, compact and repair the database frequently. Using Windows Explorer, compare the original file-size with the compacted size (press F5 to refresh the Explorer window); the amount of compacting is often surprising.

If you have a split database, where development happens in one MDB and the data is stored in another (which is highly recommended), Compact and Repair both, starting with the data first.

Related Content:
Excel Alternating Rows
Excel User Defined Functions