Buyer Beware for Acronis True Image & Backup and Restore

First, let me say that Acronis True Image has gotten me and my customers out of a jam more than once.  I have used TrueImage since Vr. 6 in 2003.  I’ve owned every version of their backup and restore products since that time.

At the time of this writing they are selling TrueImage Home 2012 and Acronis Backup & Restore Vr. 11 for servers.  The problem they have had for as far back as I can remember is that I have never been able to get their bootable media to recognize user supplied external disk drivers (not using drivers built into TrueImage or Backup & Restore).  The reason this is important to me and my customers is that for 5 years or more I have not delivered a single workstation or server that does not include a RAID array. A RAID array is a first line of defense against data loss due to hardware failure.

The RAID product that has served us well in the past and still does is HighPoint Technologies RocketRAID product line.  We have spent hours on the phone with Acronis customer support department.  The most recent experience and the reason for this post is our experience with Acronis Backup & Restore Vr. 10 for Windows Servers.

The Acronis Backup & Restore Vr. 11 is supposed to allow you to create a bootable media (i.e. CD) that can be used to boot the system either using Linux or  Windows PE.  This works perfectly fine if you are using a standard drive attached to a SATA or IDE port.  However, if you have a RAID array the bootable media cannot recognize this RAID array without loading externally supplied drivers.

Supposedly the software has a mechanism that allows you to specify where the external drivers are located during the build process and the boot media should then load these drivers during the boot process.

Like I said, we have tried this numerous times, with different RAID cards from HighPoint and using both the Linux boot loader and the Windows PE loader.  By the way, we have tried this on Windows 7 (64 Bit) and Windows 2008 R2 Server.  Both with no success.  One of Acronis’ suggestions is to use the BART PE.  This product hasn’t been updated since 2006 and does not support 64 bit OS’s.

The most frustrating thing is the amount of time one has to spend trying to find out “how” to build this boot disk.  It takes no less than 3 of their support documents to get all the information you need to try and complete the process.  Then, if you want to use the Windows PE method you must download one of three Windows PE installations kits depending on the host OS, install it and cross your fingers.

Needless to say, after having spend over two days total time, several calls to support and a dozen traded e-mails with support I ultimately had to yell uncle and ask for a refund.  It’s a shame that a product that does such an admiral job at what it is supposed to do can’t figure out how to get this right.

However, in case you want to use their product or are using their product and have never tried to use the bootable media to initiate a restore to a RAID array I do have a possible workaround for you.  Like I said, I have been using Acronis products for years and this is NOT a new problem.  In the past I have just accepted their inability to get this right and have used the workaround described below.

The workaround requires that you have a single IDE/SATA drive available that you can connect up to one of the IDE/SATA ports on the motherboard.  This drive must be large enough to store the data that was on the boot drive.  It doesn’t have to be the same size as the RAID array.

i.e. If you have a 2TB RAID array but the amount of data on the array is only 400G then you could use a 500G drive as the temporary drive.

Boot up on the removable media (CD drive) and then restore to the temporary drive.  Once the restore has taken place, boot up on the restored drive.  Once you have booted on the temporarily restored drive Windows will now be able to recognize the RAID array.  Now you can either CLONE the OS Drive (usually C:) or you can simply do another restore from the same source that you used for the temporary drive to the RAID array.  Once the second restore has completed you can take the temporary drive out and boot on the RAID array as normal.  The penalty for using this approach is that you will need to have a drive large enough for the temporary restore available and it will take at least twice as long since you will have to do the restore twice.

I hope this helps and I look forward to your comments and to hear if anyone else has been successful at getting the Acronis Bootable Media to recognize a RAID array by using user supplied drivers (not drivers built into the Acronis’ products).