Thursday, March 9, 2017

Samsung created a bare metal restore miracle and apparently nobody noticed

It's been a maxim in the backup industry for years that you can't image a live system.

You always, always, always have to shut it down, boot from alternative media, and image that way.  Having spent more hours than I'd like on this, I can state this has always been true.

Until now, apparently.  The Samsung Data Migration utility just imaged my live Windows 7 system, in all its glory, from a smaller M4 SSD to a larger 850 Pro SSD.  It took about 30 minutes.  It even kept the hidden system partition.

Does nobody else realize what a godsend this is?  It's a working bare-metal restore solution for a live system.

OK, yes, the Samsung utility only writes to Samsung SSDs.  (That's touted as a safety feature, as you're unlikely to have two Samsung SSDs in the same system, but we all know why that really is.)

But, still - backup of a full image of my SSD on a live system?  Anytime I want to?  Really?  It's a god-damned miracle.

In case you haven't groked it yet, I do keep backup images of my boot drive.  Rare, I know.

Further, I actually keep a second SSD, fully imaged and bootable, on my shelf.  If my regular SSD fails, I can slot in the spare and be back up in minutes - not hours.  Ever rarer.

However, if you work for yourself or are in any situation where you just don't have the time to recover a crashed PC, having a spare worth a couple of hundred bucks is damn great insurance.  I can't imagine I'm the only one out there with this particular problem.

Developing a working imaging system was a pill.  I tried all the software that claimed to do live backups - all failed.  I know because I did the image, a bare metal restore, and physically plugged in the "new" drive in place of the "old" drive.  All failed to launch, DOA.

Eventually I settled on using Bart PE on a rescue CD, coupled with Image for Windows.  Reboot using Bart PE to keep the SSD from being "in use", and Image could copy it.  Restore the image later to any compatible device, plug it in and we have liftoff.

Of course, downing the machine, booting with a Bart CD and doing the image was rather slow and inconvenient.  It was worth it, but not something I liked doing, as it required me to go offline.

And then here is the Samsung Migration Utility.  Hassle-free, fast disk imaging anytime at the push of a button.  Keeping a spare SSD handy has never been so handy.

Maybe this is old hat.  My Bart/IFW solution was developed 5 years ago, perhaps everyone has moved on somehow.  But this is my first experience with a one-click live-system bare metal restore that works.

And yes, I will have to go out any buy a second Samsung SSD for my spare. I will do so quite cheerfully since never has a company deserved it more.

(Being practical, however I'll probably get the less-expensive 850 EVO model for the backup; no point in wasting money.)

Update:  Turns out I had purchased an identically-sized 850 EVO as my cold spare drive sometime in late 2015.  I had imaged it with my tried-and-true Bart PE solution and shelved it.

Of course, the EVO also came with the migration utility, but as I routinely ignore OEM software for straightforward items such as SSDs as bloatware, I never even looked at it.  Migration is not mentioned on the box or any of the visible packaging.  If I had not spotted the byline on the vendor website that mentioned the Migration Utility for the 850 Pro, I never would have known it existed.

Imaging my 256 Gb 850 Pro to my 250 Gb 850 EVO (yes, 250 Gb) was equally painless and again took about half an hour.  Live backups ahoy!

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