Cloning-ntfs

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Contents

Overview

FSArchiver has experimental support for NTFS partitions, so it can be used to clone partitions where Windows is installed or where Windows data are saved. It can be used to make a backup of your Windows installation, or it can be used to clone a Windows installation to another computer. FSArchiver will preserve all the files and their attributes with the limitations listed below. FSArchiver is able to do flexible backups. It means you will be able to restore the ntfs filesystem to a partition with is bigger or smaller than the original one, as long as it's big enough to store all the data. It's very different from partimage which is doing a static copy at the block level, and then partimage is not able to restore a filesystem to a smaller partition. Tests have been made with Windows XP, 2003, Vista, and fsarchiver has been able to save and restore the ntfs filesystem. After the restoration Windows was still bootable even if the partition is smaller or bigger. You must be aware that Windows 2000/XP/2003 may not be able to boot if you clone it to a computer which has a different hardware (motherboard), but you may try. It should work when you clone Vista on a different hardware. Also this feature has not been tested on Windows 7/8. This is still experimental, use at your own risk.

Requirements

To clone NTFS partitions, you need ntfs-3g-2009.11.14 or more recent, and a recent fsarchiver release. It's recommended to use the latest version of these two programs. The most convenient way to use it is to run a recent fsarchiver version from SystemRescueCd-4.0.0. It's a livecd that comes with fsarchiver and all the filesystems tools.

Current status

The ntfs support for fsarchiver is not stable, hence you must be careful: use at your own risk. There is a risk that data are not preserved or that you don't get what you expect when you restore your partition. Fortunately there is no risk to damage your original partition when you just save its ntfs filesystem to an archive. The partitions are mounted read-only during the backup, so you can save an NTFS partition to an archive, and try to restore it somewhere else.

The ntfs support in fsarchiver is still experimental and incomplete so you must be careful and you should not use it on production systems. If you use it on a very standard Windows XP and you restore to the same partition it will probably work, but there can be problems when you try to restore it on a partition located somewhere else (eg: disk number 1 --> disk number 2, or partition number 1 --> partition number 2).

Limitations

  • FSArchiver is unable to save Alternate-Data-Streams larger than 64k which are associated with files. Streams are additional contents which are associated with files. In general it's used to store extra info about a file: for instance you can set comments on files from the explorer, these comments will be stored in Streams, and the normal contents of the file won't be altered. An error message like that one will be displayed if large streams are seen:
create.c#265,createar_item_xattr(): file [/Temp/file-with-large-stream.txt] has an xattr [user.mystream] with data too big (size=71157, maxsize=64k)
  • FSArchiver will recreate the compressed files as uncompressed files: you will have to recompress files by hand from the explorer. It only affects the files which are transparently compressed by the NTFS filesystem. All the files which are compressed by an application will not be affected (zip, rar, jpg, ...). There is no data loss, so it's not a critical limitation.

Bootable partitions

If you are trying to save and restore partitions where Windows is installed, you must be sure that the partition will still be active and that the boot.ini will be consistent after you restore the ntfs partition. Also, the Windows filesystem must be restored on a primary partition: it won't boot if it's installed on a logical partition (inside an extended partition). The MBR has up to four primary partition. Only one may be active. The MBR can only boot Windows if the partition is marked as active. You can change this using tools such as Parted or GParted.

If you have more than one partition on the hard disk, you have to check the number of each partition. In general the partition number 1 is the first one on the disk, but the situation may be different. The numbers associated with the partition may not be in the expected order. You have to check that the number of the partition where you restored the Windows filesystem match the number which is written in boot.ini (boot.ini only exists in Windows 2000, 2003, XP). To check it's correct and to edit boot.ini, you have to mount the ntfs partition which has been restored. You have to used ntfs-3g to do that, and then use an editor such as nano or vim to modify boot.ini.

In the following example, the partition where Windows is installed is partition number 1 (/dev/sda1).

# fsarchiver probe simple
[=====DEVICE=====] [==FILESYS==] [=====LABEL=====] [====SIZE====] [MAJ] [MIN]
[/dev/sda1       ] [ntfs       ] [winxp32        ] [    16.00 GB] [  8] [  1]
[/dev/sda2       ] [ext3       ] [boot           ] [   976.55 MB] [  8] [  2]
[/dev/sda3       ] [reiserfs   ] [gentoo         ] [    16.00 GB] [  8] [  3]
[/dev/sda4       ] [lvm2pv     ] [<unknown>      ] [   898.56 GB] [  8] [  4]

We can mount this partition from SystemRescueCd using ntfs-3g:

# ntfs-3g /dev/sda1 /mnt/windows

And then we check that the boot partition is set to partition 1 in boot.ini:

# cat /mnt/windows/boot.ini
[boot loader]
timeout=1
default=multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\windows
[operating systems]
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\windows="Microsoft Windows XP" /noexecute=optin /fastdetect

If we want to edit this file, we can use and editor such as nano or vim:

# nano /mnt/windows/boot.ini

After these changes, we have to unmount the partition:

# umount /mnt/windows
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