Tag Archives: Backup

Windows Home Server tile

Windows Home Server 2011 OS Restore

Windows Home Server tileAs I mentioned in my last Trail Log, the latch on the drive bay holding my OS mirror broke, and a drive popped out. The mirror worked as expected and things kept running.

I was able to replace the cage and rebuild the mirror. But this brought up the question of what if it was the controller that failed or the OS became corrupt? I’ve yet to test a server restore. It’s a long weekend and now’s as good as anytime to test. If I need to reinstall and manually recreate users and shares I have the time. Recreating shares and users would never be fun, but at least it would be a time of my choosing.

No sense tempting fate and I did check to make sure that the resent backups worked without error which is a luxury an unexpected failure won’t allow. To simulate the failure I’d delete the mirror and  recreate it from scratch including an initialization. While the same hardware, it would be as bad as starting with a new controller.

This is how I have the server backup configured (double click for bigger picture):


The backup goes to an external USB drive and runs at noon and 11PM. The backup has been running reliably and not reporting any errors. So I was ready to check the reliability of those reports.

The restore wasn’t straight-forward but it wasn’t too complicated and it did work. After the restore I had a working server with all my shares and users.

Some tips from my experience:

  • I needed to recreate my install configuration. When I installed I only had the system drive connected. When I tried doing the restore with all drives connected (excluding all but the system mirror as a restore location) the restore process stopped by saying there were no suitable drives for the restore. Removing power from all but the OS drives solved the problem. I suspect this is because with all the drives connected the OS mirror wasn’t seen as the primary drive (just like during an install with all the drives connected).
  • The repair process didn’t always find the system backup on the external drive on the first scan. Sometimes I had to force a rescan then it was found. If the scan was quick I knew it hadn’t looked hard enough and told it to look again. Annoying but it just took persistence.
  • I still needed to load the drivers for the OS Raid Controller before it could be found. So any drivers needed for the original install will be needed for the restore. Although once the restore is done whatever drivers were installed on the server will be used.
  • The restore itself was quick, taking less than 15 minutes once the drives disconnected.
  • The first reboot after the restore failed with a bootmgr not found error. But it’s been fine since then.
  • The times displayed for the image backups (indicating the time the backup would be made) were GMT –8 hours, which is not the same as my server (GMT –5) so the times appeared a bit off until I read the offset and realized why. (Redmond centric I guess)
  • The restore is back to when the backup was made, so any data that changed since then (such as for add-ins) will be lost and have to be recreated.

So, for that last bullet point: Cloudberry saves its information to the C: drive so after the restore I did a repository sync to make sure it was all up to date. But the restore itself worked fine. All my backup plans and repositories were still configured.


I don’t have any other add-ins but if there were any they maintain data on drive C: it would need to be refreshed.

The bottom line – I’m happy to know the server backup actually works. Not that I doubted Microsoft (no, really) but nice to know it works with my hardware with my configuration.

Picture of a reservoir

The OS Quest Trail Log #50: Spring is Here Edition

Picture of a reservoirDespite some roller coaster temperatures recently today turned out to be great New England spring day. Mother nature must have forgotten it’s the weekend because tomorrow is supposed to more of the same with no rain forecast until Monday. But the days leading up to this weekend did bring some activity on the Quest.

The website remodeling is moving along. Still a work in progress since I’m making the changes live to see how they look. But I took down the “under destruction” messages. Those can be a crutch for only so long and a week is pushing it. I figured the category reorganization would take me awhile but once I found the trick it moved right along. The second feature I wanted was to be able to limit a post list to a certain category.

Among other changes were the elimination of the topic specific category feeds. If the stats are right no one was using them so their deletion will go unnoticed. If the stats are wrong and you used them, hit me up in the comments and add them to my list of things to do. It just didn’t seem worth the effort to maintain them with the other changes.

I Love It When Backups Work

My iPad fiasco threw a scare into me but it’s always nice when backups work as expected. Especially a backup process that hasn’t been touched or verified in months. I almost didn’t was to dedicate the space to a Time Machine backup, but it’s now secured its place in my backup strategy.


I purchased the new Transmit FTP software and have started looking at it again. With my Mac problems last year I had moved a lot of my computer routine to my Windows 7 machine. Mac or Windows? I tend to use what works or what’s working at the time. Once I was on Windows it was the path of least resistance to stay there. Software like Transmit it making it worth going back.

I’m deep into testing KeepVault as my new offsite backup solution. I’ve backed up over 261,000 files totaling over 74 GB. There’s a lot to like, an some things I less than happy with. I’ll write it up once I’ve had some more time with it (especially restores) but it looks promising.

May on the Quest

The month of May is usually brings a challenge to find the time to work on the PC. And this May is no different. Due to Mothers Day and other family events this is the only weekend in the Month where at least one day isn’t booked solid. So things may slow down a bit for the next few weeks. Hopefully the day job won’t beat me up so much that I won’t want to do anything at night.

Domains For Sale

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’ve been dabbling in domains and have offered some for sale. I have some computer & tech related domains up for sale at Snapnames. Check them out of your interested. If you want to buy them you’ll need to set up a Snapnames account (the account itself is free). You’ll also need a free account at Moniker. The domains will be transferred to your Moniker account by Snapnames once they receive payment. No waiting for me to do anything.

BackupUtils.com is a domain I bought with the intent to develop a site with resources and information related to PC backups. Since I haven’t gotten around to it I’ve decided to offer it for sale with a buy it now price of $79. This domain is registered until December 2011.

DiagnoseComputerProblems.com and DiagnosingComputerProblems.com are both up for auctions which end May 11, 2010. DiagnoseComputerProblems.com has a minimum bid of $15 while DiagnosingComputerProblems.com has a minimum bid of $19. Both these domains were just renewed and expire in July 2011.

PCSecurityQuest.com is another domain I intended to develop and just haven’t gotten to it. It’s listed with a buy it now price of $49. There’s almost a year left with the domain registration which expires in April 2011.

I also have the following domains registered at Dynadot and available in their marketplace. You’ll need a Dynadot account (free) to buy them. To find the domains go to Dynadot and click the “Marketplace” link then search for the domain name. Dynadot will automatically transfer the domain once they collect the funds. Everything is listed with a buy it now price. The “<.>” between the name is simply to avoid having the names followed/indexed by search engines. The brackets are not part of the name.

SecureInternetGateway<.>com – $99 (registration expires March 2011)

SecureMacQuest<.>com – $29 (registration expires April 2011)

SecurePCQuest<.>com – $29 (registration expires April 2011)

WinmacHome<.<com – $49 (registration expires Jan 2011)

Apple iPad Image

My iPad Has iPhone Envy – I Have a Headache

A comic style crashing fistSo, I plug my iPad into my Mac Mini this morning, like most mornings, so that it gets the latest podcast downloads and tells iTunes what I’ve already listed too. It’s usually a quick process. But this morning it was taking awhile. So I take a look at iTunes and the status window is listing a bunch of application as it removes them. This is not normal. This is not good. I look down at the iPad Summary screen to find that my iPad has now switched itself to an iPhone. Those apps being removed are iPad only apps.

I’ve never owned an iPhone. Still, I haven’t had my coffee yet so I look over to verify I still have that big honking iPad. The iPhone fairy didn’t swap it over night while I slept. On the plus side I now have a shiny new ringtones tab in iTunes. Unfortunately I’ve got nothing that will ring, especially since it’s not even a 3G iPad. So, doesn’t seem like a fair trade. I don’t like my iPad’s new iPhone personality.

Next I take a look at the backups. The one from today is labeled “iPad” and it’s the one done with the sync that turned it to an iPhone. Restoring to it will probably be a waste of time. I have two other recent backups labeled “iPhone” so I won’t be using those. (I’ve never owned an iPhone so assume those were created by the iPad on the 28th and 29th as it began to lose its mind.) Then I have one labeled iPod Touch which is probably a legit backup of my sane iPod Touch.

Now a back story here is that two days ago (the 28th, coinciding with that iPhone backup that went unnoticed) I had a problem where the iPad wouldn’t sync, it said a file couldn’t be found. At that time I rebooted the iPad and synced. This time it wanted to do a restore or set up a new iPad. The restore didn’t work (literally, nothing happened when clicked) so I set up a new iPad which was relatively painless. No settings lost, no apps lost, no data lost. All seemed fine. I used a different iPad name to avoid potential issues (so I thought).

So this time around I decided to flatten it and rebuild. I deleted all the backups and told iTunes to do a factory reset on my “iPhone”. Which it did, and as a factory reset is supposed to do, all settings were lost.

From a data standpoint it wasn’t a big deal, I didn’t lose anything. But I hadn’t realized how many settings and customizations I made in the little time I had the iPad. It was turning out to be a real pain settings things up again. Plus I lost one small in-app purchase. But the worst thing ones I lost all my Plants vs. Zombies history and was starting the game over.

Mr Fix it type cartoon characterAt this point I decided to look into finding my older iPad backups and seeing if I can restore one of those. Worst case is another reset and the tedious process of customization. I got lucky in that I was backing up the backups due to my paranoia and abundance of extra disk. So once I found the backups in Time Machine I decided to go back to the 27th, which was before the first sync failure.

I start iTunes and let my iPad connect and sync, and do a backup if it wants. Then I locate the backup files which are in a cryptically named subdirectory under ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/ where ~ is my home directory.

There were over 3,500 files of various dates in that directory so I deleted them all to be sure I had a nice clean restore from a point in the past. Then I went into time machine and restored all the files in that directory from the 27th. I go into iTunes and make sure it sees the backup of that date. (Backups are listed under iTunes –> Preferences one the Devices tab. At least they are in the Mac version of iTunes.).  Then I do a restore by right-clicking on the iPad in the device list and picking “Restore From Backup” from the menu. From this point on the restore was straight-forward and finished with a device reboot.

After this everything was good. I had my in-app purchase back and had only lost a little Plants vs. Zombies history.

An interesting thing – the backup I did the restore from is now listed as a second backup for the device (with the full date).

Lessons Learned

Apple iPad ImageI got lucky due to my paranoia in that I had no idea only one backup was kept. I hadn’t thought about iTunes thinking all was well and overwriting that backup with bad data. I had no idea where the backups were kept. I had no idea money could be lost with a factory reset (see next lesson) if the last backup was also bad. I had time machine backing up my library folder. This is the first time I can remember that time machine was truly needed. It was only running because I had the disk, the space on it, and I’m paranoid about losing data. My other backups simply take the current snapshot.

I had one in app purchase. It was an app upgrade and the factory restored iPad didn’t see it. It was less than $5, but it still would have annoyed me to have to re-buy the app or figure out who to contact and how to restore it. From now on when I do an in-app purchase I’ll be sure to do a backup on the next sync, even if it’s already done that days backup, and make sure Time Machine gets a backup of the backup before I sync again. Even better, I’ll avoid in-app purchases if there’s a choice or if I’m not willing to lose the purchase down the road.

The backup directory is cryptically named and I had two, one for each device. I deleted my iPod Touch back in iTunes so that I’d only have one backup directory and know which one it was (after copying both to a temp location). I now have a record of that directory and will keep a record for each new device.

There’s only one backup per device in iTunes and iTunes will do a new backup on the first sync every day. Doing my restore with iTunes off simply caused it to be overwritten when I connected the iPad and it did it’s first sync. As an alternative to doing the file restore with iTunes running I probably could have turned off the automatic sync in iTunes preferences.

The iTunes 9.1.1 update was recent but I had successful syncs after that upgrade so I can’t really blame that. But there’s nothing else that even comes close to being a potential cause.

Anyone else have iPads that think they’re iPhones (or visa-versa)?

Cartoon of Mr Fix It

The OS Quest Trail Log #49: It’s Gonna Get Messy Edition

Cartoon of Mr Fix ItThere’s been a lot going on around the OS Quest household, but mostly in small bits and pieces. One of the more involved things (at least based on the amount of my time it will take) is a change to the website design & structure. I’ve been using the Thesis theme since last October, and while I’ve liked it overall it hasn’t been as easy to make design changes as I would like. The recent upgrades, and the types of features added, also indicated to me that it was moving away from what I wanted.

So after looking and making changes via Thesis I’ve pretty much decided to go another route. I’ll leave the details for another post (or posts). Suffice it to say it’s going to be messy for awhile. While my day job requires thorough testing and analysis before moving something into production that regimen doesn’t translate well to this website. I’d rather jump right in and make the changes on the live site to see how they look. So as long as I can back stuff out quickly the changes will be in pieces. So on Saturday I put on my cowboy hat and started making the changes so if your a regular site visitor you’ll start seeing the changes. There’s no drastic change to the look of the site so far, but I’ve started to change the plumbing so it can accommodate some features I want.

My biggest problem is that the changes will go beyond just the look of the website. I’ll be restructuring the categories and will probably have to redo some of the posts. Having to redo the posts gets to another of my complaints about Thesis – several of the features I used are Thesis specific and will be lost with this change. I’ll be trying to stay as close to core WordPress features as I can.

So depending upon when you visit the site over the next week or so things may or may not be working.

Home Network Rebuild

Continuing along the messy theme of this issue, on Friday I redid the OS Quest home network which included a complete rebuild of the home wireless network. In this case I removed a mess consisting of two router/WAPs, a couple Powerline network adapters, a switch, and a bunch of cables. They got replaced them with one Netgear Router/WAP. So far performance has been good (better than expected in some cases). Much to my surprise I didn’t have any wireless connection issues. I was so sure I’d have problems that I used new network names and configs so I could just fire the old stuff back up. Historically I’ve had issues with signal strength and interference. But there was none of that so far (fingers crossed/knock wood/waving rubber chicken).

My initial goal was to just update my existing network. I’m looking to do some additions in the future. Mainly the addition of a wireless bridge to my work table. Right now I run a cable across the floor when I’m working at the table. I’m looking for the wireless bridge to eliminate that messy and slightly dangerous cable along with letting me connect multiple PCs.

Backup Changes Being Evaluated

I’ve been using Jungle Disk as my offsite backup solution. It backs up to either Amazon S3 or Rackspace Cloud Files. There’s no bandwidth related charges with Rackspace Cloud Files so I’ve been using that since it is slightly cheaper and has been reliable. While Amazon S3 or Rackspace are cheap in the beginning the costs do grow over time as what’s being backed up grows. Naturally my bill has been trending upwards and the March bill was just over $11 for just over 70GB of storage. Since this is only going to grow I’ve been looking for alternatives. I have one non-negotiable requirements (besides reliability) in that the files must be encrypted before they leave my PC and I must be the only one that knows the encryption key. This goes along with the “trust no one” philosophy although I admit I need to trust the vendor to be telling the truth if they say they meet the requirements.

So this weekend I started evaluating KeepVault. The main thing that drew me to KeepVault was it’s Windows Home Server Add-In. The KeepVault PC Connector for WHS is a nice addition to. Still too early to tell what I think of it, but with my current backup volume it was save me about $50 a year.  I already use Windows Home Server to store almost all my files. Even though I ran Jungle Disk from my desktop it was mainly backup the files from the server.

A New Printer

MP560 I’ve been cleaning up closets and file cabinets, shredding old papers and stacking papers that I want to scan before shredding. I do have a flatbed scanner but it’s use had been so infrequent it lost its space and has been thrown in a corner. I’ve been putting off setting up the scanner because I didn’t have a good place to set it up.

As luck would have it my existing printer started acting up, or more precisely, stopped acting (aka working) with increasing frequency. This happened to be at a time when I didn’t have any extra ink cartridges. So since new printers barely cost more than the ink that comes with them I decided to go for an all-in-one printer with a wireless connection. I ended up picking the Canon PIXMA MP560 inkjet all-in-one printer. I don’t do a lot of printing and this had a good mix of features and price. I’ve yet to scan on it but setting up the wireless printing on my Windows and Mac PCs was a breeze. I still need to use it more before I can really judge it.

This brings another Trail Log to an end. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going through the week and get some articles posted along with the website changes.

image of people cleaning a hard drive

School of Hard (Drive) Knocks – Part 2

image of people cleaning a hard driveAt the beginning of the month I wrote about my Windows Home Server hard drive problems and at the time I was waiting for WHS to finish removing the bad drive from its storage pool. When I posted the article I was letting Windows Home Server run through the drive removal process while I slept. I had pulled the plug on the bad drive since it brought the server to its knees and was now trying to remove the traces of it from the pool.

When I woke up in the morning the console had crashed and wouldn’t start up. Not Good, but after a quick reboot the console started. The bad drive was still there and part of the pool. There were still some file conflicts reported but with the missing drive that was to be expected. I started up the drive removal wizard again and went off to work.

The console had again gone away by the time I got home. This time it started and the drive was still there. I decided to reboot the server and give the removal wizard one more try since I didn’t have time to do much else. This time when I got back to it the drive had been successfully removed and there weren’t any remaining file conflicts. I gave the WHS once final reboot just to be sure all was well. And it was.

The truth is, I wouldn’t have had the patience to run the wizard three times except for the fact the it was either that or do nothing while I slept and worked. Timing is everything, although in the future I’ll be sure to show some patience.

A few days later one of my 2TB drives finished its pass through a Spinrite level 5 check so I brought the server down again and replaced the drive. Since it was a drive in the internal cage the server needed to be pulled apart to get to it. While a bit tedious pulling apart the server to get the drive it went without a hitch and the server was happy with the new drive.

As it turns out that was one of three Western Digital TB drives manufactured in October of 2009 that  went bad on me. There was the previously mentioned one that arrived DOA. At the time of my previous post that DOA’s replacement had just arrived. While it did spin up it failed to pass Western Digital’s own testing after being a bit flaky in my test PC, so back it went. When I pulled out this bad drive I saw it was manufactured the same month. I have a second drive purchased at the same time that I’ll be pulling to see when it was manufactured and running through a Spinrite test. While it only showed 4 pending bad sectors (compared to hundreds on its mate) I already removed it from the storage pool.

Unfortunately it didn’t hit me that the bad drive was a recent purchase and my delay in pulling it meant I missed the window for a hassle free return to Amazon. So when I get a chance I’ll run Western Digital’s diagnostics on it and if it fails I’ll RMA it, otherwise it will get the Spinrite treatment.

As for the server, I decided I only wanted to make one more trip into that internal drive cage, so it means replacing two 2TB drives at once. I didn’t have the free space to remove both drives from the storage pool so I turned off file duplication on my video files to free up the space. Once that was done I removed both drives from the storage pool. Once of those is one that’s probably manufactured in the same batch as my three bad drives. I’ve got two 2TB drives going through Spinrite level 5 checks now and if the time estimate is correct I should be able to replace the drives on Saturday and turn file duplication back on.

I have five more drives showing a couple bad or pending bad sectors. A couple isn’t necessarily bad if the number doesn’t increase, but I still plan to work my way through them all with a Spinrite level 5 check. Unfortunately level 5 is very time consuming. If I use my test PC (which is slow) it takes about 10 days to do a 2TB drive.

By this weekend my Windows Home Server should be back to full strength and I can use a spare drive to cycle through the testing of the remaining drives. It’ll take awhile, but since the drive testing doesn’t require me to do anything more than swap a disk and bang a few keys every few days it shouldn’t be too bad. What’s the saying? “An ounce of prevention…”