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Using a USB or FireWire Drive for Disaster Recovery.

Part 1 of 6

AISBackup may be used to set-up a ready to go copy of the Windows Operating system on an external USB or FireWire connected hard drive that may then be used to replace the current system drive in the event of a disk failure or a crippling virus / Adware attack.

This procedure may also be used to copy any disk to internal IDE, SATA or SCSI or externally connected disk as an alternative to using ghost style partition copying programs.

This procedure works on Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, 2000, Server 2002 and Server 2003, Vista, NT4. However, Windows 95 and NT4 do not support the USB or FireWire external disk interfaces.

These instructions have been tested with backups from both IDE and SATA drives to an USB connected IDE drive. If the current version of Windows is on a SATA drive it can be copied to an IDE drive, however, a copy of Windows XP from an IDE drive cannot be copied and loaded from a SATA drive because a SATA driver may have to be present in the operating system. If your existing drive is SATA then you may like to purchase a SATA drive and SATA to USB or FireWire caddy instead.

Many motherboard manufacturers enable booting from a USB drive, in our experience this does not work too well, well actually, it does not work at all with Windows XP. The work-around is to remove the drive from the caddy and physically replace the existing Windows disk.

Which USB / FireWire Drive?

There are a couple of considerations to be made before deciding on which external hard drive to use:

  • A ready-made USB / FireWire drive from a well-known manufacturer?

    We Suggest: The disaster recovery process requires that the disk is removed from the caddy, this will invalidate the guarantee, so if the drive breaks down within the warranty period, tough luck! If instead you purchase a separate disk and USB caddy, each will have a guarantee; so can be used for this disaster recovery procedure while preserving the warranty. We do suggest, however, that you do not unplug and plug the disk into the caddy more than a few times, just enough to confirm the disaster recovery procedure works.

    Try and purchase a disk that does not run hot, some external caddies do not have internal fans. Some caddies that do have internal fans can be quite loud; this may be a consideration if the disk is to be left switched on. This is obvious, but do not buy an SATA drive for an IDE caddy or an IDE drive for a SATA caddy.

    Purchasing from online stores is generally cheaper than purchasing from high street stores; at least it is here in the UK.
     
  • FireWire or USB?

    We Suggest: This does not matter, but if you have an older USB 1.1 computer you may want to install a USB 2 card, as USB 1.1 is very slow.


Connecting an IDE drive to a caddy

Preparing the drive.

As we have already stated, it is not possible to boot Windows XP from a USB/FireWire drive, at least it isn't on any of our PC's. The USB drive must be set-up so that it is suitable for booting when it is used to physically replace the existing hard drive. Here are a few prerequisites:

  • The operating system can only be started from what is known as a boot drive. The boot drive contains boot programs, these boot programs start the Windows Operating system, occasionally via a menu from which you choose which operating system to boot.
     

  • The disk that is used for booting does not have to be the same disk, or partition, that Windows runs from; this is particularly true on dual (or multi) boot systems. A dual boot system is one where more than one operating system may co-exist on the PC, for example Windows 98, Windows XP, Linux. For details on how to set-up a dual (or multi-) boot system click here.
     

  • The PC can only be booted from what is known as a Primary Partition, which must reside within the first 1024 cylinders of a disk, this partition must also be marked as Active. We describe how to set-up the disk, with examples, in this tutorial.
     

  • Windows requires certain files in order to boot, these files reside in the root of the boot drive, AISBackup will copy these files for you.
     

  • The boot drive is always the C: drive on Windows 95, 98 and ME. To complicate things slightly, on Windows NT4, 2000 & XP the boot drive is nearly always the C: drive, but need not be. We will show you how to identify the boot drive in this tutorial.

If you have a brand new disk and have installed it into the caddy, plugged it in, and it is recognised by Windows skip to here for instructions on how to format the drive.

Preparing a pre-used USB drive.

If you want to preserve data that is already installed on a USB drive then you will have to make room at the front of the drive for the Active, Primary Partition. You may have to use a third party disk-partitioning tool, for example Partition Magic. Make a space not less than the size of the existing Windows partition, as this disaster recovery procedure is designed to create a replacement for the present Windows partition.

Formatting the USB drive.

The chances are that the new drive is larger than the Windows drive. There is no need to create a partition larger than the existing Windows partition as this will waste space which could be used for something else, for example your regular backups, video editing, several gigabytes of the latest game blockbuster.

For instructions on how to format a drive for Windows NT4, 2000 or XP click here.

For instructions on how to format a drive for Windows 95, 98 or ME click here.

What Next?

After formatting the drive the operating system drive is copied to the USB drive, click here for instructions.

More Links:

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Back to AISBackup User Guide Contents.

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