Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Disk juggling with GParted and Clonezilla

It all started ...
When I desired to get better performance out of our Synology NAS (Network Attached Storage) disk server.  The unit in question is a 1812+ machine, now several years old.

I've been looking at moving to 10Gbe Ethernet using the newer Synology DS2015xs  but as I'll report separately making this happen is both tricky and uneconomically expensive in April 2015.

Instead I made some initial and un-satisfactory other tests since now you can add SSD (Solid State Disks)  into regular disk bay slots and have the Synology Disk Station Manager (DSM) operating system use these for read and write caching.

I'll report on it when I get something working.  Just to say for now:

- 1 disk gives you a write only SSD cache
- 2 disks enables read and write SSD caches  (I think!)

So all in all I'm hunting for some spare SSD disks ...

Using Physical Disks
Ideally when you test out new Operating Systems on your PC or to use specific OS features I'd always advise using a Virtualised Environment

- Use a Base Linux x64 or Windows 2012 Server x64 base
- On top add VMware   (I'd prefer this to ESX)
- Add your OS development e.g. SAP Hana, Ubuntu, IBM OS/2,  Cromemco Z80 emulator, etcetera.

But sometimes you can't use a Virtualised Environment:

- I've found some issues with Base OS  (eg. Windows 2012 x64 server vs Windows XP x32) handling of legacy devices
- Handling of USB devices for Android debugging

So all in all my recommendations are:

a) Use Virtualisation wherever possible. For exceptions:
b) Have a removable bootable disk caddy
c) Have separate bootable disks for Specific Operating systems that have Virtualisation issues

A question of Economy
So back to the plot. I'm going to show how to combine two OS onto a single disk when the are initially located on 2 separate disks

1. Windows 2012 x64 Server
2. Windows 8.1 x64 Professional

After the integration, they will be on one disk and they will both still be 'Windows' activated .

Integration Procedure

  • Used LiLi to create 2 bootable USB keys of Clonezilla and GParted.

  • Copied the First Partition which is 2012, Windows Server using Linux Clonezilla from source disk 1 to target disk.

  • Copied the Second Partition, Windows 8.1 64bit version using GParted from source disk 2 to target disk.

  • Configure Dual Boot menu.  Download EasyBCD and make sure in the Ascii boot menu that both Windows 2012 server and Windows 81x64 will be displayed

  • Ensure that the boot disk which is SSD is not write cached.

  • Once the dual boot config is proven to worked I put back the other hard disks into the machine  (For paranoia these were removed during the reconfiguration process).

  • Retest the backups!    I mean, really retest them.   In my configuration windows 2012 server does a scheduled full OS backup to another hard disk once per day  (assuming the OS is booted of course).   The full procedure also involved recovering the OS onto a new fresh disk, not shown.

    I also tested the Windows 8.1 image backup, which is present, if you know where

A note on Boot Speeds

The boot disk is currenly a 256GB Crucial M550.

Post BIOS display:

Windows 2012 server boots in 12 seconds
Windows 8.1 x64 boots in 10 seconds

To Marcus, given that this is a 6 year old Intel i7 powered Deskside [backup server] PC, these speeds are simply incredible!  They are not making it easy for me to justify a new /faster, modern/ PC!

In this instance I've economised by placing 2, Microsoft Operating Systems onto a single SSD boot disk.

In general though I don't recommend this.

First, try for a Virtualised Environment, under the control of OS you trust, that is backed up, and can recover from.

For a Physical environment ideally keep a separate removable hard disk for each OS boot purposes, and make sure it is backed up. If however you are economising like Marcus then consider combining multiple OS on a single SSD. 

With that said GParted and Clonezilla, Linux based tools worked well to enable me to make the copies without error.


Linux Live USB Creator
Windows 8.1 System Image Backup
Companies stop Hardware Upgrading