Sunday, September 20, 2009

Acronis True Image Hanging

One of my clients uses Acronis True Image Home for their nightly back-up. I don't know the product well, but I like what I've seen so far - mostly. It seems pretty thorough. The backups run like clockwork every night. And I have successfully recovered a system which caught a nasty virus, such that a reformat was the only cost effective fix.

But the other day, the front end application, the management console, would not start. It just froze, with a flash screen reporting that it was checking disk D. Quite why it needs to check Disk D before opening is a mystery, especially because it is not included in the backup and it need never need be read from. On the machine in question D is the manufacturer's "recovery" sector. Quite frankly they are a waste of space, and the word recovery is a complete misnomer - "Factory Reset" sector would be more honest and appropriate. And given that nothing useful is ever written there, it mystifies me that Acronis should hang while trying to read that disk sector.

Be that as it may, it was hanging and I was in a quandary as to what to do. I tried going away and coming back a few hours later. It was stress reducing, but it didn't fix the problem. I tried searching on strings like "Acronis True Image Hanging", but all that told me was that Acronis seems to hang a lot, in a wide range of circumstances, and there doesn't seem to be any consensus on a fix.

So if there is something I would criticise about Acronis it is the heavy reliance on wizards. Perhaps there is a setting somewhere, which gives an "expert" view, and enables manual editing of tasks, but I certainly haven't found it.

My dilemma was increased by the fact that the nightly backup was working perfectly. All I wanted to do was change the backup folder, to initiate a new full backup and a new month long string of incremental backups. I didn't want to fiddle around uninstalling and reinstalling Acronis, because then I'd lose my working scheduled task. I was quite tempted to run away, and not tell the client that anything was wrong, and let the incremental backups just go on for years and years in the same folder. But I decided that would be irresponsible.

After much deliberation I decided that there had to be a script somewhere, controlling the scheduled tasks, so I set about looking for it. I had a look in the "program files" folder, but there was nothing very promising there. All the dates were way too old. So I changed the folder settings to show both hidden folders and protected operating system files, and went to hunt for application data in documents and settings (all of this is in XP pro by the way). I first looked in the user folder, but there was nothing for Acronis there.

Then I remembered the option in the standard Windows install which says "Do you want this program to be available to all users?" So I checked out All Users\Application Data and sure enough, there was a directory called "scripts". Bingo! The file had a very funny name, and I won't print it here in case some malicious bot is probing my blog, but sure enough it opened with notepad, and it was just an ordinary text file with a script in full English. I hope no one from Acronis reads this and encrypts the next edition, because it made me like the product more. The path to the backup file was easy to find, and I just had to modify two characters to change it to the new folder for the current month.

To my enormous surprise, the script ran perfectly that night, and left the new full backup in the new folder as I intended. Next month I'll just go straight into the script and not bother with the GUI.

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