Backup/Restore, Partition Management, and Multiboot Programs

Doing system backups is very important. A lot can go wrong with a PC causing loss of data; you need to be able to recover as much as possible as easily as possible. Below are some key programs I currently use to manage my systems. I describe some of my initial testing to ensure they could do what I needed. I also describe a Windows program I had used previously. Information on other PC topics can be found in PC and Internet Information.

TeraByte Unlimited Products

I do my PC storage backups to USB or eSATA external hard drives. TeraByte Unlimited provides programs for backing up, restoring, and copying disk partitions, as well as managing partitions (create, delete, copy, move, resize, format, etc.), and selecting which partition to boot (multiboot). On my newest PCs, which have UEFI for BIOS, I now use the BootIt UEFI (BIU) product. On my older PCs, which have only legacy BIOS, I use BootIT Bare Metal (BIBM). I like to have more than four primary partitions on a drive, e.g., to test multiple operating systems on a single PC. BIBM provides this as a special feature to get around the legacy BIOS and MBR disk restriction of no more than four primary partitions on a drive. In contrast, UEFI GPT drives do not have the four-primaries restriction.

I did all my initial BootIt UEFI work on a test laptop, which had a 250GB GPT SSD drive. First I created an image (backup) of the whole drive, which on that PC consisted of the following partitions:

I then did a restore of that complete-drive backup image back to the test PC's drive and made sure everything still worked. That success meant I could experiment with that drive and be able to recover if some problem developed.

Next I did some partition work. First, I renamed the OS partition to WIN10 under both Windows and BIU. Also, I had BIU display "WIN10" instead of "OS" in the boot menu item. I then used the BIU Resize tool to shrink the WIN10 partition to half its original size and used the BIU Slide tool to move the WINRETOOLS partition so that it again immediately followed the WIN10 partition. I used the BIU Copy tool (from Partition Work) to copy WIN10 into the free space that the above procedure had created. The end result of all this was the same layout as listed above, but now with WIN10 (the former OS) shrunk by half and a new TEST partition (a copy of WIN10) immediately after WINRETOOLs. It was followed by the tiny amount of free space listed above.

When you specify the "Add to Boot Menu" option, the Copy tool in BIU Partition Work creates a Boot Menu item for the new partition and puts the appropriate boot information in the ESP partition. In that Boot Menu item, I specified "TEST" as the text to be displayed for that item. I also hid WIN10 when TEST was to be the active partition. Similarly, in the WIN10 Boot Menu item, I hid the TEST partition when WIN10 was to be the active partition. I then tried booting both WIN10 and TEST to be sure all worked properly. I also made sure that Windows Recovery worked when invoked from WIN10 and from TEST.

Finally, I tested backing up and restoring individual partitions vs. the whole drive. I did this for both the WIN10 and TEST partitions. I booted each after its restore and also tested that Windows Recovery still worked for each.

Some of my Dell PCs have some additional partitions at the end of the drive, beyond the WINRETOOLS partition. There is an Image partition which contains a factory image of the system. After it there is a DELLSUPPORT partition which has the code to restore the factory image on the PC if nothing else works. I think DELLSUPPORT also contains some other Dell tools. The factory image isn't of much use after a while. e.g., Windows keeps being updated, but the factory image is frozen at the point the PC was assembled. However because I frequently create backup images via BIU, they are much more up-to-date than the factory image. The Image partition could be deleted if space becomes tight. I don't know how safe it would be to delete DELLSUPPORT. Currently I just leave in place the Image and DELLSUPPORT partitions.

Built-in Windows Tool for Backups/Restores

For reference, before starting to use BIU on the UEFI PCs, I had used an old facility built into Win10: Control Panel > "Backup and Restore (Windows 7)" > "Create a system image". This creates a backup set of data packed into a directory named WindowsImageBackup. This backup procedure seemed to work well. Recovery is harder.

To do recovery, you must have previously created a Recovery Drive for this system. Enter "recovery" in Windows Start to see how to create one; it takes a while to copy all the system files. This is NOT the "system repair disc" mentioned in the "Backup and Restore (Windows 7)" window. Alternatively, you can boot into the Recovery Environment while running under Windows: Press Windows key > click Power icon > hold down Shift key while clicking Restart. (I didn't try this "running under Windows" recovery procedure; I just tested using a Recovery Drive as described below. I assume the procedure should more or less be the same.)

In the following, two drives are attached to the PC: a USB flash drive that you have formatted as a Recovery Drive and a USB external hard drive containing the system image backup to be restored. The backup image must be named WindowsImageBackup and must be in the drive's root directory.

I had some problems depending on which external hard drive was used to hold the image to be restored. The restore process could find the image on a 1TB MyPassport drive, but could not find it on a 4TB Fantom drive. I assume the recovery process did not have the right drivers to handle the larger GPT drive vs. the smaller MBR drive. In both cases the image was properly named WindowsImageBackup and was in the root directory of the external hard drive. The "Backup and Restore (Windows 7)" process running under Windows had no problems creating the image on the Fantom drive, but then the restore process running under Windows Recovery could not find it. Not good. Fortunately I also had the smaller MyPassport drive to test with. Even more fortunately, I can now use BootIt BIU to do my normal backup/recovery and no longer have to depend on the old, somewhat questionable, Windows program.

Archived Files

I have not bothered to update the BIBM documents below to say "Windows 10" in the many places where they now say "Windows 7". Since I am now moving to BIU where possible, all these documents are now "historical".

BootIt Bare Metal

Properly Positioning Boot Files

BootIt Next Generation