Free Disk-Imaging Tool for Windows 8

hard-drive-300x192.jpgMicrosoft has introduced a shiny new Resilient File System, or ReFS, in Windows 8 Server Beta. Being the successor of NTFS, ReFS has a new storage engine that promises to protect against storage failures, resist data corruptions, support ultra-large file and volume size, and grant much higher performance. It looks like Microsoft intends to make ReFS the primary file system for storing data, so it’s no surprise that everybody displays a keen interest in trying this innovative file system.

Paragon Image Backup for Windows 8 is a disk-imaging tool for Windows 8 and Server 2012. It employs Microsoft VSS and Paragon’s patent-pending technologies for consistent point-in-time copies of the whole disk system or separate volumes. For recovery purposes it includes a powerful Linux/DOS environment. But its power is its support of the innovative ReFS. This makes Image Backup for Windows 8 the only stand-alone freeware backup and recovery tool for Windows 8 and Server 2012 that supports Resilient File System!
Key Benefits:

  • Support of the latest Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012
  • Support of the brand-new ReFS (Resilient File System) for backup, restore, and browsing under Windows and Linux
  • Live Windows backup. Create an image-based copy of the whole disk system, or separate volumes and place it locally, to CD/DVD/BD, or on the net. The use of the disk-imaging mechanism and Microsoft VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service) tackles the problem of backing up running applications and system locked files
  • Flexible recovery. Restore the whole backup image, or only particular files under Windows or from the Linux/DOS recovery environment
  • Additional maintenance functions. The Linux/DOS recovery environment includes basic functions for initializing, partitioning and formatting hard disks
  • Download Image Backup for Windows 8 for FREE

3TB Hard Disk Utilities

Support for Disk Drives Beyond 2.2 TeraBytes (TB) and 4K Advanced Format Sectors (Seagate Knowledge Base, ©2010 Seagate Technology LLC)

“Most legacy systems built before 2011 have a traditional PC BIOS. This type of BIOS uses a Master Boot Record (MBR). The MBR Partitions can define a disk drive capacity up to 2.2TB. Windows operating systems that boot from an MBR are therefore limited to 2.2TB per MBR. A 3TB disk drive in a legacy BIOS and Window system will need a DiscWizard device driver to access the full capacity of a 3TB disk drive. Two partitions will be necessary because of the MBR limitation. The device driver mounts the capacity above 2.2TB with another MBR which looks to the system as a second virtual “physical” device.

PCWorld: The problem with deploying 3TB drives relates to older PCs (those more than a few months old, in most cases), and stems from the formula 2^32*512=2,199,023,255,552, or 2.2TB – a hard-drive addressing scheme found in legacy BIOSs and operating systems. In that formula, 2 indicates binary, 32 is the number of bits allowed in a legacy disk address, and 512 is the number of bytes in a legacy hard-drive data block. If the BIOS, drivers, I/O card, or operating system in your PC still plays by rules that involve this formula, you’ll have issues installing and using a 3TB drive.

This situation could have been avoided if the entire computer industry had future-proofed after enduring the 137GB (28-bit) limit problems that cropped up around the turn of the millennium. In truth, most vendors did, with the notable exception of Microsoft. The company chose not to implement support for anything larger than 2.2TB drives in any of its 32-bit consumer operating systems – including Windows 7.

Installing a 3TB Drive: Note that NTFS is limited to 2^32 clusters, also known as groups of sectors. That means you must format the drive with at least 1024-byte clusters, or you’ll fall prey to the formula I talked about earlier. The default is 4096, which allows up to 16TB; however, converting FAT partitions to NTFS often results in 512-byte clusters. If you’re trying to move a FAT partition to your new drive–don’t. You’re better off creating a new partition, reinstalling the OS, and restoring the files you backed up (it’s always wise to back up before doing any partitioning operations). This is because the FAT partition will in all likelihood be misaligned with the Advanced Format of your new drive.
Tip: With drivers or programs that don’t allow a full 3TB partition, you can use Windows dynamic volumes to combine two partitions into a single drive letter.

Windows Vista and Windows 7 introduced a new partition-table scheme, dubbed GPT (for GUID Partition Table). The GPT blasted past the previous limitations by supporting up to 8 zettabytes.(2^64 sectors, which, when using 512 bytes per sector, equates to 8 zettabytes). For perspective, consider that 1024 terabytes equal 1 petabyte, 1024 petabytes equal 1 exabyte, and 1024 exabytes equal 1 zettabyte.

Though not strictly a 3TB issue, all of the shipping 3TB hard drives also use Advanced Format, a low-level storage scheme employed on newer drives. AF uses larger 4KB data sectors, an approach that improves performance and diminishes the number of addresses required for any given amount of data. If you transfer legacy partitions via image backups to an AF drive, or if you format an AF drive with XP, the older 512-byte sectors might not align correctly with the new scheme.

UEFI BIOS desktop systems are new since 2011. Windows 7 64-bit and Vista 64-bit operating systems support booting from UEFI and GPT without the need of a non-Microsoft device driver. This is the Windows native solution for booting a 3TB drive to a single partition.

Quick facts about Windows and 3TB drives:

  • Windows 7 and Vista support GPT 3TB single partitions.
  • Windows 7 and Vista can only boot GPT on systems with UEFI BIOS.
  • Windows 7 and Vista can mount a GPT non-booting data drive.
  • Intel RST device drivers before v10.1 do not support 3TB disk drives.
  • Windows systems with Legacy BIOS and MBR boot drives are limited to 2.2TB partitions.
  • Windows XP x32 does not support GPT. Windows XP x64 edition can use GPT disks for data only. Only Windows XP for Itanium-based systems can boot from GPT partitions.
  • While 32-bit Windows XP systems can’t handle GPT natively, there is a solution: Paragon Software Group’s Paragon GPT Loader, that allows you to to utilize all 3TB in a single data partition.
  • DiscWizard software (Acronis®) can install a device driver which opens the full capacity of a 3TB. You can use it to create a second partition for the capacity above 2.2TB.
    DiscWizard v13 with support for 3TB drives is now available.

DiscWizard v11 for Windows is available today for all lower capacities. Click here to access DiscWizard v11.”

Overview for the best free disk imaging programs (Gizmo):

  1. Acronis for Seagate/Maxtor HDDs http://www.seagate.com/www/en-us/support/downloads/discwizard
  2. Acronis for Western Digital HDDs http://support.wdc.com/product/downloaddetail.asp?swid=119
  3. 1-Click Restore Free http://www.keriver.com/oneclick_free.html
  4. Comodo Backup http://backup.comodo.com/
  5. Drive Image XML http://www.runtime.org/driveimage-xml.htm
  6. PING http://ping.windowsdream.com/
  7. Clonezilla http://clonezilla.org/
  8. Paragon Backup and Recovery 2010 http://www.paragon-software.com/home/br-free/
  9. O&O DiskImage 4 Express Edition http://www.oo-software.com/home/en/products/oodiskimageexpress/
  10. Macrium http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.asp
  11. EASEUS http://www.todo-backup.com/business/free-backup.htm

AS SSD Benchmark

Benchmark Reviews (© 2010):

“Solid State Drives have traveled a long winding course to finally get where they are today. Up to this point in technology, there have been several key differences separating Solid State Drives from magnetic rotational Hard Disk Drives. While the DRAM-based buffer size on desktop HDDs has recently reached 32 MB and is ever-increasing, there is still a hefty delay in the initial response time. This is one key area in which flash-based Solid State Drives continually dominates because they lack moving parts to “get up to speed”. However the benefits inherent to SSDs have traditionally fallen off once the throughput begins, even though data reads or writes are executed at a high constant rate whereas the HDD tapers off in performance. This makes the average transaction speed of a SSD comparable to the data burst rate mentioned in HDD tests, albeit usually lower than the HDD’s speed. Comparing a Solid State Disk to a standard Hard Disk Drives is always relative; even if you’re comparing the fastest rotational spindle speeds. One is going to be many times faster in response (SSDs), while the other is usually going to have higher throughput bandwidth (HDDs).”

Patriot Inferno SSD Kit PI100GS25SSDR (24 May 2010)

“The biggest mistake PC hardware enthusiast make with SSDs is grading them by their speed. File transfer speed is important, but only so long as the operational IOPS performance can sustain that bandwidth under load. Benchmark Reviews tests the 100GB Patriot Inferno SSD, model PI100GS25SSDR, against some of the most popular storage devices available and demonstrates that 4K IOPS performance is more important than speed. For decades, the slowest component in any computer system was the hard drive. Most modern processors operate within approximately 1 ns (nanosecond = one billionth of one second) response time, while system memory responds between 30-90 ns. Traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD) technology utilizes magnetic spinning media, and even the fastest spinning desktop storage products exhibit a 9,000,000 ns – or 9 ms (millisecond = one thousandth of one second) initial response time. In more relevant terms, The processor receives the command and waits for system memory to fetch related data from the storage drive. The difference a SSD makes to operational reaction times and program speeds is dramatic, and takes the storage drive from a slow ‘walking’ speed to a much faster ‘driving’ speed. Solid State Drive technology improves initial response times by more than 450x (45,000%) for applications and Operating System software, when compared to their HDD counterparts. Alex Schepeljanski of Alex Intelligent Software develops the free AS SSD Benchmark utility for testing storage devices. The AS SSD Benchmark tests sequential read and write speeds, input/output operational performance, and response times. Because this software receives frequent updates, Benchmark Reviews recommends that you compare results only within the same version family. Beginning with sequential read and write performance, the Patriot Inferno Solid State Drive produced 207.95 MB/s read speed, and 130.60 MB/s write performance. The sequential file transfer speeds have traditionally been low with this benchmark tool, especially for SandForce controllers, which is why we will concentrate on the operational IOPS performance for this section. Single-threaded 4K IOPS performance delivers 21.54 MB/s read and 61.18 MB/s write, which is among the highest results we’ve recorded. Similarly, the 64-thread 4K reads recorded 124.05 MB/s while write performance was 94.46… both earning the Patriot Inferno SSD a spot at the very top of our charts.”

Chatwin’s opinion: The Patriot Inferno (on the left) has excellent random R/W values, thanks to the SandForce controller, which uses complex algorithms to compress small user-data into 4K flash pages. The manufacturer also implements some kind of data redundancy, to ensure data integrity. All of this increases the IOPS and efficiency of the SSD and reduces the need for high quality (SLC) NAND flash or large DRAM buffers. The Indilinx controller of the Vertex Turbo (on the right) has a straight forward page level mapping (with 64 MB memory cache to combine write requests). In combination with a logical/physical 1:1 mapping (LBA/SSD), the Vertex (RAID 0, specifications: “The Force“) outperforms every other MLC SSD I’ve seen so far in access time (except the Intel X25-M G2 Postville, with a narrowed write bandwidth of 95 MB/s and 32K clustering on-the-fly, these SSD’s are simply unbeatable…). The sequential read/write speed is quite impressive. The two OCZ Vertex Turbo’s score lower IOPS values than the Patriot, but the bandwidth is much higher, even for RAID configurations.

Besides an exceptional response time, the result is better write coalescing when using my workstation for day-to-day stuff: email checking, editing office documents, internet browsing (caching redirected to hard disk of course). An average of 30 MB/hour at the most (zero to 3 when left for idle). I use Diskeeper HyperFast for maintenance, but so far it never initiated an automatic (free space) defragmentation. Even after several months of installing software and restoring system backups.

Note: AS SSD Benchmark was run in 2 sessions (first: Seq./Acc. Time, then 4K (-64) Thrd). No tricks or manipulations involved…
as-ssd-bench_Patriot-Inferno-AHCIas-ssd-bench Vertex0 18-6-2010

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