Advice creating Macrium Boot/Rescue Disk (USB)


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DatabaseMX
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Hi ...

Back Story
I had been using Acronis Backup and Recovery (successfully) for many years, but earlier this year I just got burned out on the complexity and other issues.
So I started looking around and discovered Macrium Reflect.  What a pleasant surprise !

Quick Facts
Paid version of Macrium Reflect v7.2.5107
Various DELL laptops (M4700 x4, E7250) with 1TB Samsung SSDs 
Windows 10 Enterprise 1909 on each laptop.

Purpose for using Macrium Reflect
Create Full System Backups (not incremental)  onto Samsung 2TB SSDs to use in the event one of the laptop Samsung SSDs fails, and I need to install a new (un-formatted) Samsung 1TB SSD (or larger)and restore a full system backup, and be back up and running 100% 1:1
OR ...
Essentially 'clone' another DELL M4700 (I have 4) or E7250 ... by installing a brand new (un-formatted) Samsung 1TB drive (or larger) and restoring a full system backup from another DELL M4700/E7250

The Rescue/Boot disk media is a 500GB Samsung USB SSD (yes size overkill).
The Full System Backup media are 3 Samsung 2TB SSDs that I rotate for a given backup session (about every 2-3 weeks). In case on of those SSD fails or the backup is not good, I still have a recent full system backup on another SSD to use.
I can easily get 4-5 full system backups (of the different laptops) onto the 2TB SSDs (history of sorts)

The good news 
I actually did this successfully earlier this about 3 months ago. 
I created the Rescue/Boot USB disc using the above mentioned Samsung 500GB USB SSD (yes lots of free space left)
I created a Full System Backup onto one of my Samsung 2TB SSDs.

I then I installed a brand new, un-formatted Samsung 1TB SSD into a used M4700 I had just received from eBay.
I plugged the Rescue USB SSD and booted up into the Rescue SSD
I then plugged in the 2TB SSD with the Macrium backup, pointed to the backup file and successfully restored that backup (again from an identical DELL M4700) onto the 'new' M4700.

After that, I removed the Rescue and backup SSDs, and booted up the 'new' M4700 and it was 100% identical to the other M4700 (minus a couple of very minor nuances) ... Plug And Play.
Very Cool.  
Same concept would apply IF an SSD failed in one of the laptops and I needed to install a new SSD and recover

The slightly less than good news (lol) ...
About 3 weeks ago, I *accidentally* .. reformatted the Boot Rescue USB SSD, of course wiping out the Rescue disk (don't ask).
So now I'm (re)creating the Rescue disk. BUT ... I cannot remember exactly what I DID regarding the various options of PE vs RE, and the advanced options (on each tab).
My Bad. I will take screen shots this time !

The Actual Question (finally!)
So in the context of how I'm using Macrium Reflect as described above ... What exactly do I need to do, in terms of the various options in the 'Other Tasks >> Create Rescue Media..."?
I want to be absolutely SURE (and of course I will test) that in the event the SSD in one of my laptop fails, I will be able to restore a Full System Backup .. using the Rescue USB media.

BTW ...  In most of the KBs I have read, the context seems to be ... being able to recover in case of a non-bootable OS and so on.
Whereas that could be handy of course, that's not really my intended use of Macrium Reflect, as described above.

====
Related Side Question
I'm getting the impression that ... I could, say on a 2TB SSD ... have the MBR Rescue Partition, and use the remaining storage (a LOT) to actually store my backups ... sort of an all-in-one scenario, instead of having a separate Rescue USB SSD and additional 'baclup' SSDs. ?  And I would probably have three sets of these USB SSDs (like I do now) ... and use in rotation like I do now.

Joe




jphughan
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In general, the default WinRE base WIM option is fine, as are the other default options (although if you use BitLocker and do NOT want auto-unlock keys embedded into your Rescue Media for security reasons, disable that option).  The way to know for sure whether your base WIM and other settings are appropriate is to test boot your system from the Rescue Media and confirm that your system loads it properly and that Reflect Rescue can see all of the hardware you'd need it to see if you needed to perform a clone or restore.  And frankly, that's a good thing to do ANY time you update your Rescue Media since there have been Reflect updates that introduced bugs, so the fact that you find a working set of Rescue Media Builder settings doesn't necessarily mean that every Rescue Media build you create using those settings will always be good.  There have also been cases where WinRE updates triggered by updates to Windows itself introduced bugs (thanks Microsoft), which is one of the reasons I personally use WinPE 10 as my base WIM, since as of this writing, that causes Reflect to always use WinPE 10 1709, regardless of what version of Windows you're running -- so you get a consistent, Macrium-tested foundation that way rather than whatever WinRE kernel matches the version of Windows you're running, which can be a bit risky especially if you're an early adopter on Windows 10 feature releases.  But WinPE 10 1709 means downloading and caching a 1GB WinPE file if that matters to you, and if you want WiFi support in Rescue, you have to use WinRE.

Yes, you can create a small FAT32 partition on a device to use for Rescue Media and then use the remaining capacity for one or more other general purpose partitions.  Note however a few things to consider if you're contemplating that:
  • Rescue Media Builder currently does not support building to storage devices initialized as GPT.  You can manually create Rescue Media on a GPT-initialized device and it will boot just fine on UEFI-based systems, but right now Rescue Media Builder only supports building in ways that the resulting build will support Legacy BIOS boot compatibility (even if it also supports UEFI), which means no GPT support within the wizard itself since Legacy BIOS systems can't boot from GPT.  So this might be an issue if you wanted to stash a Rescue Media partition on a 4TB+ disk, or even if you wanted to use GPT even on smaller disks where it wasn't required but where you might prefer it over MBR.
  • In terms of building Rescue Media on an SSD or even a spinning hard drive, those are considered "fixed disk class" devices, as opposed to the vast majority of flash drives that are considered "removable storage class" devices.  The reason this distinction matters is that I've found that some PCs will only boot from USB from removable storage class devices, and will NOT boot from fixed disk class devices attached via USB even if the device is properly prepped.  This is another situation where testing your Rescue Media builds is important.  If you find that all of your systems will boot from a USB-attached SSD, then no worries, but just be aware of this.
  • Even if this is an "in addition to" rather than an "instead of", consider having a Rescue Media build on a device that you keep offline most of the time.  While the idea of having a Rescue Media partition on the same device you're using for storing backups is appealing, the risk to that setup is that in many cases, the device storing backups is connected most of the time, which therefore makes it more vulnerable to malware or even user error like your accidental formatting.  The point of Rescue Media is to have something that will be able to rescue you from major incidents, so if your only Rescue Media is on a device that was online and therefore might have been impacted by some incident, then you might not have it when you need it.  This is why having Rescue Media on a separate, mostly-offline flash drive isn't a bad idea.  Or at a bare minimum, generate an ISO file of a known good Rescue Media build and store that somewhere that you would be able to access after a major incident on your PC and that wouldn't be compromised by a PC incident.


DatabaseMX
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Thank you for the FAST and through reply !
A couple of quick clarifications ..
>>The 3 SSDs (2TB) with several backups of 2-3 different laptops) would *always* be offline for sure, so no worries there.
(I have different folders for the 3 different DELL models (M4700, E7250, M11X)

>>Yes ... I would definitely test .

>> Not using Bit Locker (thanks for pointing that out)

>> No concern about WiFi (I do however a full blown Ubiquiti UniFi system in my ... 1600 SqFt house (lol) with 5 Ghz both inside and outside! I HIGHLY recommend Ubiquite UniFi)

>> Yes, I had no issue booting from the "fixed disk class" Samsung 500GB USB drive.

>> When I created the first Rescue disk about 3 months ago, I'm pretty sure I used WinPE (and it did down add that 1GB file))
This time (a couple of days ago), when replacing the original disk (that I accidentally reformatted), I used WinRE (not sure why).
But today ... I suddenly got to thinking ... did I do the right thing?  Hence this post.
WAIT ... . in looking just now at the actual SSD I created couple of days ago, It appears I DID opt for WinPE ??
See first screen shot below.
Either way, since YOU are using PE (for reasons mentioned) I will use WIN PE!

A couple of questions ...
1. RE:
"But WinPE 10 1709 means downloading and caching a 1GB WinPE file if that matters to you, and if you want WiFi support in Rescue, you have to use WinRE?
Where is this 1GB WinPE file stored? I suppose on the C: Drive?  Then it is used from there to create the Rescue Disk ?

2. (refer to second screen shot)
What does Rescue Media Volume refer to and why is it pointing to the C Drive?
And shouldn't my Rescue SSD - which I currently have plugged in .. be showing?
This is a little confusing ... and almost seems to imply the Rescue Disk would be created on the C drive ?

3. RE:
"So this might be an issue if you wanted to stash a Rescue Media partition on a 4TB+ disk, or even if you wanted to use GPT even on smaller disks where it wasn't required but where you might prefer it over MBR."
The largest Samsung SSD I would be using w/b a 2TB which I have 3 of at the moment.
So would the GPT thing not be an issue in this case?

4.  So per your extensive knowledge (I've read several other of your posts), would you go with my current strategy of a separate Rescue Disk and separate (2TB) backup SSDs, OR ... combine the Rescue Disk and Backups, wherein I would have (at least) 3 of those?
Thank you again for your time ?

==== =====
=== ====================
Current Rescue SSD - appears it IS Win PE ??



Rescue Media Volume 


Edited 16 August 2020 11:21 PM by DatabaseMX
jphughan
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Happy to help, and glad you've found my posts useful.

(Sidebar: As it happens, I too have a roughly 1600 sq-ft house with a UniFi system, which at the moment consists of just a Dream Machine and a Beacon, the latter of which has turned out not to be necessary at all as clients still tend to connect straight to the UDM anyway.  But I got it mostly as a learning and tinkering platform since I'll be supporting a few other clients who are or will be running UniFi setups in other environments.  It's a nice option if you understand enough about networking to know what you're doing, otherwise it's overkill and could easily become a liability rather than a benefit.  However, my own experience with UniFi has been a bit bumpy, possibly since I got into it with the release of the UDM and therefore encountered quite a few bugs, some of which still persist today and in my opinion have no business existing in an ecosystem that bills itself as "enterprise lite".  Then there's the whole issue I've discovered of features being promised and only delivered years later, or sometimes not at all.  Right now that only includes L3 switching for a client of mine, since that requires a controller rev that is newer than the version included with the latest available UDM firmware -- and the glacial pace with which that device is getting firmware updates is another gripe unto itself.  And that's without even getting into the UniFi Protect story.  But then again, I wanted something more capable than typical consumer gear without springing for Cisco/Meraki hardware, and UniFi seems to have that niche all to itself, so it's not as if I can point to some other company that offers a similar level of functionality and convenience with fewer bugs and a better feature delivery track record.  Here as with most things in life, there are trade-offs to be made.)

Back to Reflect.  It's not typical for somebody to keep their destination disk offline most of the time, but if you'll be doing infrequent and/or exclusively manual backups and will be connecting and disconnecting the destination just before and just after each backup job, then fair enough.

You can always check the WinPE/RE environment within Rescue itself by booting into it and looking at the title bar that will appear along the very top of the Rescue interface after it fully loads.

The files for various WinPE environments you may have downloaded are stored under "C:\ProgramData\Macrium\Reflect\Windows Kits".

The Rescue Media Volume refers to where Reflect stored its cache of "compiled" Rescue Media builds as well as any additional drivers that need to get copied into those builds to support hardware on your PC that might not be natively supported by your chosen WinPE/RE environment, and/or any additional drivers you might want to add even to support other PCs if you're trying to build "universal" Rescue Media for all of your PCs.  WinPE/RE is just the foundation from which Reflect builds its Rescue Media.  But the built Rescue Media as well as those additional drivers that would be incorporated into such builds get cached somewhere, by default under "C:\boot\Macrium\", where you'll see various subfolders.  The reason for caching Rescue Media builds is so that if the "cached" build is current (more on that in a moment), then building Rescue Media to a given device becomes a simple matter of having to copy the cached files to the specified target, rather than "compiling" it from scratch every time.  The other reason is to enable the recovery boot menu option which can give you a way to boot into Rescue using those files cached on your C drive (or wherever you may have chosen to store them instead).  That isn't a substitute for "external" Rescue Media since there are of course scenarios where those cached files won't be available, and therefore you still want proper external Rescue Media to cover such cases, but for people who perform frequent restores, e.g. due to performing application testing or something, the ability to access Rescue without having to connect and boot from an external device every time can come in handy.

In terms of the comment about the cached build being "current", when Rescue Media Builder launches, it checks the cached Rescue build based on whatever WinPE/RE version you've currently got selected.  If it's current, then a Rescue Media creation is a file copy.  But that may not be the case.  For example, if you've updated Reflect since you last created Rescue Media, then Reflect would want to update that cached build to incorporate that new Reflect version.  If you have new/updated drivers that need to be copied, then that too would cause the cached build not to be current.  Changing certain settings in the Advanced section would trigger the same result.  In that case, choosing to build Rescue Media would involve a full "WIM rebuild", which will take longer.  You can determine whether this will happen by checking the Status line near the top of Rescue Media Builder.  If it says OK, then the cached build is current.  If not, it will identify what is out of date and inform you that a rebuild will be performed next time you choose to build Rescue Media.

In terms of MBR vs. GPT, if you'll be using 2TB SSDs, you have the option of going with MBR.  So if you choose to do that, then you'd be able to build Rescue Media to those disks within Rescue Media Builder.  If you alternatively choose to go with GPT even though you could have gone with MBR, then you wouldn't be able to do so within Rescue Media Builder; you'd have to build/update any Rescue partition on such disks manually.

Based on what you're doing, having a Rescue partition on the disks where you'll be storing backups is fine.  Having a separate flash drive dedicated to Rescue would also be fine.  But either way, I'd recommend keeping an ISO of a known good Rescue build somewhere as well.  That way if you ever update to a Reflect release that has a Rescue-breaking bug, you would be able to use that ISO to regain working Rescue Media without having to either wait for Macrium to release another Reflect update or roll back your entire system to an image backup that was captured prior to updating Reflect.  I keep an ISO of at least one known good Rescue Media build until I validate that an updated build is good, and then I'll generate and keep an ISO of that.

DatabaseMX
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Again thank you for the detailed information.
I think I pretty much get it now.
re "but if you'll be doing infrequent and/or exclusively manual backups and will be connecting and disconnecting the destination just before and just after each backup job, then fair enough."
Yes that is the case. Manual backups always.  Frequency is determined by how much has changed no a given system, and how important those changes are.
For example, about a week ago I installed TDAmeritrade's desktop version of ThinkOrSwim  in order to do Options trading. So now that I have it all set up, time for a backup on 'this' system.  btw ... TOS is absolutely mind boggling. I've been writing for over 45 years ... and I can tell TOS is completely Off The Chart (pun?) in every respect. It's causing my brain to implode just thinking about the code behind this fantastic program.

Question
So based on everything I have said, since I have only done one actual backup (and did restore onto an identical Dell M4700), is there anything I should be aware of that might not be obvious when doing a backup?
I hope I remember what I did previously, although it seemed to be pretty straight forward.

Meanwhile ... what are the chances you have a UniFi system,. l?
re "But I got it mostly as a learning and tinkering platform"
Exactly the reason I did also. And what I have (see screen shots below) is no doubt uber overkill. 
But it's certainly a HUGE improvement over my ASUS RT68U WiFi, which has now been replaced by the UniFi USG (Security Gateway (aka Router) ). Thus I am 100% UniFi
The ASUS router portion was great, but the WiFi sucks.,
I also have the Cloud Key Gen 2 Plus running as the UniFi Controller. Consequently, I can access the Controller from any laptop in my network  I was initially running the Java/browser based Controller.

Speaking of bugs ...The MAP and Client List definitely have some ... see the screenshots!
I have a AC-M-PRO Mesh on my roof. Again, total overkill but does help with the outdoor 5Hgz signal.
AND ... when you look at Insights and select Neighboring Access Points, it's picking up more than 100 WiFi signals from who know how far away.  In fact, my other to APs are also picking up 20-30 neighboring WiFi signals.
Overall I LOVE the fact that *everything* in my network and WiFi orbit shows up in one place .. .the UniFi Controller.
I'm going to look into some optimizations soon.
btw I have a Spectrum 400 Mbs internet connection, which is never less that 485 Mbs at any point in the day !!!
Joe








Edited 17 August 2020 4:07 AM by DatabaseMX
jphughan
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If you've made a backup that Reflect said was successful and validated that your Rescue Media boots properly and can see all of the needed hardware (internal drives, external drives, network if needed, etc.) then you're good to go.  The only additional comment I'll make is that if you're backing up your OS, make sure you back up ALL partitions on the disk containing the OS, not just the Windows partition (C drive), since on most systems today, that alone isn't enough to get a bootable system again.

I'm surprised you didn't think the WiFi was good on the ASUS RT-AC68U.  I've recommended or set up more than a few of those for people because even today long after its release, it's still consistently considered a very solid 802.11ac router in terms of WiFi range, throughput, and overall stability.  It was amazing compared to what was out when it first entered the scene.  I myself had the slightly newer AC88U before I got the UDM.  I dragged my feet switching to UniFi before the UDM existed mainly because I didn't want to have to get a separate USG, AP, and switch all to replace my existing router -- and then ALSO have to either get a Cloud Key or run the controller software on one of my systems.  That would have been a bit too much additional clutter, "wall wart bloat", etc. just to tinker given my actual needs.  But then the UDM arrived, which integrated all of those things into a single device, so I jumped on it.

And yes, being able to tag devices on the network with descriptive names and even choose icons is a nice perk. Smile


Edited 17 August 2020 5:07 AM by jphughan
DatabaseMX
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Well ... maybe I was too hard on ASUS WiFi, lol.
It just seemed to be always dropping signal (especially 5Ghz), *especially' compared to UniFi .. huge difference.
Half of  my house has a second story - where my office is.  I tried the ASUS in various places in the house ... and it just was not reliable .. not even the 2.4 Ghz
With UniFi I have rock solid 5Ghz inside/outside the house now.  Funny though, the only devices I  use WiFi on are .. my Motorola Z4 phone and my Samsung Chromebook ... in the bedroom, or sometimes in the garage. But hey .... I've got FAST 5Ghz LOL.
I really didn't pay attention to UDM until ... after I was setup with UniFi.  Probably would be sufficient.  And that is what I would recommend to any friend wanting to upgrade home WiFi.

Just thought of one other thing.  Whereas I'm mainly doing backups for failed SSD (never had one yet, but ) recovery, of course I would be handy to recover from some sort of corruption such that the OS will not boot up (as opposed to an SSD failure).  So ... somewhere I noticed 'Add to boot menu', but can't seem to find that now.  What is that about and how does that work?
How would you use the recovery SSD for this scenario ?

=== 

jphughan
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The "Add to boot menu" option is accessed by opening Rescue Media Builder and choosing "Windows Boot Menu" as the build target, rather than a flash drive or ISO file.  Then you'll see the option to add/update a boot menu item, or remove it if it's already there.  From there, you customize the menu itself by opening the System Configuration app (aka MSConfig) and going to the Boot menu.  I've set my boot menu timeout to just 3 seconds, which gives me enough time to select Rescue if I want it, but doesn't unduly extend my boot time for the overwhelming majority of cases where I'll just want my system to boot normally.

If you actually USE this scenario, you'd just be booting into Rescue using locally cached files, but of course you'd still need access to the device that contains your backups in order to restore anything.  (Incidentally, Rescue can also be used to perform BACKUPS, which can be handy if for example Windows is suddenly unbootable but you haven't backed up in a while, since that way you'll be able to capture the latest version of all of your personal data before you roll your whole drive back to some earlier backup.)  In your case if you plan to have a bootable Rescue environment on every device that contains backups, and your PCs will boot from a USB-attached HDD/SSD, then the boot menu option doesn't buy you a whole lot since you'll essentially have "external" Rescue Media connected whenever the device containing your backups is connected.  But that isn't the case for most people.  I for example have backups on an external drive where I don't have a separate Rescue partition, and even if I did, I have some PCs that won't boot from USB HDDs/SSDs, so the boot menu option gives me a way to access Rescue without having to go get my separate Rescue Media flash drive.

DatabaseMX
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Well then ... I guess I am Good To Go !
I will probably have a separate Rescue SSD for each laptop model, which is really only two M4700 and E7250 to avoid any issues with the WinPE files .. and the 3 SSDs for rotating backups.
It would be cool if ... you could have TWO Rescue partitions on the same Rescue disk, with a boot menu askin which to boot into !

I can tell you that the DELL Precision M4700 is absolutely the best DELL laptop ever.  Started mfg circa 2013-2014. You can get them on eBay for $300-$400 ... a total steal!  Still mostly state of the art. Extremely easy to work on and very reliable.

I truly appreciate your excellent help in getting me back up to speed !.
Thank you again ...

PS ... if you every need help with Microsoft Access ... I've been working with that product since Oct 28 1992 !  I was a Microsoft MVP for 10 years (until July 2019). Which is why I have Win 10 Enterprise on all my systems ... like why not, all Microsoft  software was free to MVPs ... but of course not for resale !  I also attended the year MVP Global Summit in Redmond WA.  I've shaken hands with Bill Gates. Steve Balmer, Satya Nadella and many others :-)
jphughan
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Happy to help! Smile

You could create multiple Rescue partitions and put a boot manager on one of them if you wanted to go to the trouble of selecting a boot manager and then maintaining the options to boot from each of the partitions.  But most boot managers don't support UEFI Secure Boot, so having to disable that every time you wanted to boot that way could be annoying.  And honestly when dealing with typical desktops and laptops, the variations between the Rescue Media builds they create are pretty small and typically only a matter of convenience, e.g. BitLocker auto-unlock keys, the Folders to Search list being pre-populated, network credentials being baked in, drive letters more likely to match real Windows, etc.  But in a pinch, chances are that any PC's Rescue Media build will work on any other PC.

I had a Precision M6300 a while back and loved it, back when it somehow seemed sensible to lug around a 17" laptop that thick and heavy.  My favorite feature was probably the keyboard that had more rows than you ever see today, which allows it to have the document navigation keys (Home/End, Ins/Del, PgUp/Dn) in their standard desktop-style 3x2 arrangement, not crammed in somewhere or mapped exclusively as a Fn key combination.  But time marches on....

I'm not sure I could call the M4700 state of the art today, though.  A high number of USB 2.0 ports, no NVMe support, mPCIe rather than M.2/NGFF for WiFi, and no USB-C/Thunderbolt 3.  But of course not all of those things are important to everyone.  And I would have to agree that it would still be a lot of PC for what they cost today, as long as you can deal with a PC that large.

As for MS Access, I've never used it myself, but my dad is a rare book collector and uses a custom developed Access database to track his collection.  I was fortunate to sit about 3 feet in front of Bill Gates when he gave a fascinating talk at a private organization on various manifestations and ramifications of innovation around the world over the last few decades -- this was when he was well into the mission of the Gates Foundation -- and then talk to him afterward.  He's quite a person.

GO

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