Some preventative advice (thanks Acronis)

Acronis sweet

Acronis sweet (Photo credit: Luigi Rosa)

I’m killing time. Right now I’m waiting for updates and downloads to complete on my office work computer, a machine that I went to great trouble to make bulletproof. For example, I run a top-end Intel SSD and have a disk image backup.

Today, my machine gave me a BSOD after uninstalling a troublesome program. Acronis Enterprise Server. So, just to help people who might have issues or are considering using this program, I though I’d write about it while I wait for the updates to complete, since Acronis forced me to install a fresh copy of Windows 7 Professional.

This is one of this cases where a program started out great, then as corporate weaslism takes hold due to the success, the program becomes more bloated, fragmented, dependent on more libraries, license tiered, and overall more difficult to manage and less rewarding in actual use.

At my office we used to love this program, because it had a great feature that allowed you to image your disk to a state where windows didn’t have anything except the generic/basic boot drivers installed, allowing you to image to another mobo/processor combination. This days are long gone and we’ve relegated Acronis to the scrap heap because it has become an enterprise level mess in more ways than one.

I still had Acronis on my main work machine, but this morning the background program for it started doing weird stuff, utilizing a lot of CPU space. My usual checks for malware/virus came up zero, and I had no explanation for why the Acronis background server program was using a lot of CPU cycles. So, I decided to uninstall it.

Big mistake, HUGE mistake.

After uninstalling Acronis, I found I was in a boot loop, and right after the Win7 animated logo, I’d get a BSOD. Safe mode – same thing,  and attempts at OS repair (using Windows tools and third-party tools) came up with no success at all. I also thought it might be related to a recent bungled Microsoft patch which causes a BSOD boot loop after Windows update installs it and the user reboots for the first time, and downloaded the removal tool as a bootable ISO to burn to CD. No joy there either.

I’ve never had the de-installation of a program hose the operating system. Never. 

It makes me wonder what sort of “tentacles” Acronis attached to the OS without telling me. So, needless to say, Acronis is now permanently off my list, especially since I had used it as a backup program to keep a disk image. My backup image included the Acronis program, so since trying to remove it caused the problem in the first place I was in a no choice situation – a fresh install of Windows 7 Pro was the only way forward.

I spent the entire morning on the mess Acronis created, and I’ve not got a single thing done today other than deal with that mess.

After a  fresh install of Windows 7, which gets me back to the desktop, but of course I have a lot of work ahead putting programs and files back into place, along with 147 Windows updates, and likely more after that.

I know many of you will throw out the standard gloating snippets like:

  • Get a Mac
  • Run (pick your distro) Linux
  • Run FreeBSD or CentOS or some other OS

etc…

…with tales of fantastic other-worldly levels of reliability, so let me just say in advance that until this incident, I have had wonderful reliability with Windows 7 and I have far too much invested in programs and systems to move. So, those aren’t options for me.

Thanks for killing time with me while I wait for the updates to download and install.

I have to reboot now to finish. See you in a few hours.

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BQ

I’ve used Acronis for some time. However I have relied exclusively on their CD version to replicate hard drives and never left the installed version running on my machine. Of course, there are some tasks you can’t do from the CD but for the sake of imaging HDDs it works well.

Ouch.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I installed Trumpet’s Winsock program. It was shareware and when the time expired the software took other pieces of the OS with it. As it turned out this was a designed feature, not a bug. (Yes, that’s what the tech dude said.)
I had Acronis once, but lost it in some re-install. I don’t think I’ll grab a copy now. Thanks. 🙂

Actually I have had lots of programs hose up Windows – on both installation and removal. Avast is one that I never install on Vista as I have had it hose 2 installations.
But given what you said about its earlier capabilities, it has to have tentacles in the HAL in order to give you a fresh image to clone. And I suspect that you applied an SP to it, and when you uninstalled Acronis, it dutifully recopied the old HAL file back (which was outdated due to the SP).
About the only thing you can do is re-install Windows. And write a blog warning other people about it! 🙂

I used to recommend Debian when people had windows problems. These days I recommend whisky. Talisker for preference.

Gary Hladik

I feel your pain, Anthony, though my own OS problems over the years are dwarfed by yours.
What replaced Acronis?

Robert

I’ve been using acronis for 7 years to image my servers before upgrading. Best product i’ve found

sleepless4slc

I use acronis to disk clone MS servers to refresh my hard disks every 3 years, the old disks become target practice

Tregonsee

I largely agree about the program going from great to not-so-great. I use the home edition, and it has bailed me out over the years on several occasions. The most recent yesterday. I back up daily, so I simply booted to the recovery CD and reinstalled the entire drive. Took about 30 minutes total, and I was back to the previous evening.
If you are careful not to use some of the more exotic features which do things to the MBR, etc, it works very well. Not much of a recommendation, but it still seems better than the alternatives.

sleepless4slc

I heave the old version for xp, 2000, win2003server. I have a second hard disk with the new version for win7, win8 win2008 and windows2012 server. I only image hard drives to new hard drives and I store the old disks in the fire safe as a hot backup for a couple of years until the next image then the become target practice.

As someone who installed slackware linux before Win95 was released, I’ve got to say windows has come along way, but any time your installing or unistalling programs that do low-level stuff like virus detection, disk imaging, some custom networking stuff your heading into “there be dragons here” territory. Another one that borks your machine on uninstall is AT&T’s DSL/WiFi software.

Sean

“My backup image included the Acronis program, so since trying to remove it caused the problem in the first place I was in a no choice situation – a fresh install of Windows 7 Pro was the only way forward.”
Do you have system restore turned off? Turn it on and next time try restore to an earlier state, and pick a time before the offending software was installed.
Had a similar issue withe installing the latest version of explorer – which I rarely use except, but occasionally need for an app that is not chrome compatible. Uninstalling it gave me major problems, and using the microsoft’s automated repair feature for the new problem just make something else break, so went back and used system restore, and bazinga! It usually solves most of the uninstall glitches.

” … along with 147 Windows updates … ”
What’s an “update”? (I think I turned off updates on all but one computer here. Running the latest Service Packs, but that is all.)
PS. Longtime WIntel PC user here, back as far as Win 3.0 (because PCs would run MathCad and other eng s/w at the time!)
.

DirkH

Over the years platforms (hardware and OS) have become more interchangeable. Due to emulation, virtual machines and cross language compilers.
I found a toolchain that allows it to compile a C++ program into Javascript and run it with up to 50% of native compiled C++ code.
Have yet to try it out myself. The chain is basically
C++ – Clang – LLVM – Emscripten – Javascript – ASM.JS – run stuff in browser
More here:
http://badassjs.com/post/47031840270/link-excellent-article-clarifying-mozillas-asm-js
Many language- and platform-transgressing possibilities there. Will explore this further. Of course, performance hinges on availability of a Just in time Javascript compiler in the Browser / Javascript engine; but that is available on Windows and Linux in the form of Mozilla / Firefox.

J Martin

I use Acronis as a full image cloning /system backup / system recovery tool a lot, but I use the boot disc version and never the installed version. It has served me well for several years for both Windows servers and PCs.
Symantec do an installable image recovery software called Symantec System Restore. I don’t know what range of features it provides.
For Linux I have started using Mondo backup after years of using command line cpio. Haven’t had to use Mondo in anger yet, but that’s only a matter of time.

gareth

If you want to clone your drive try Clonezilla. Runs stand-alone from a CD or bootable USB stick (see Pendrive Linux) so not dependent on the OS on the drive and produces a clone image that you can load into another drive or back into the existing.

R2D2

Big fan of Acronis

Jim Walsh

I think I would have restored the PC to a back-up with Acronis boot media before going through the level of hassle you outlined. Actually, I think first I would have poked around the Acronis support forums to see if there weren’t a simpler explanation like,,,,,off the top of my head…one of your drives failing causing an Acronis operation to take longer than expected. Anyway. Good luck. I don’t think Acronis is perfect, but their backup products have saved my bacon a few times. A complete reinstall would be the very last on a long list of things I would do.

Steve C

I don’t know about Windows 7, but I’ve just had to do a ‘Repair Install’ on my workshop machine’s XP. It had broken its registry, and wouldn’t start at all, safe mode included – not from uninstalling some unfriendly bloatware, just a seriously aging HD (!). The beauty of a Repair Install is that at least it leaves all your installed software installed, and it doesn’t wipe the drive before installing. Naturally, as a competent computer user, you’ll have all your data safely backed up, like we all do …
I’ll quote the process for XP, but it might be as well to search for “Windows 7 repair install” as it may be different a few generations on. It could also be worth learning how to make a slipstreamed install disc with as many as possible of the updates on it to save time (or at least to keep the ones you’ve already downloaded in a safe place) if this process is still there in 7.
For XP, then, the process is:
– Boot from the install CD;
– DO NOT run the Recovery Console when invited, but continue ‘installing’;
– A bit further down the line, ‘Setup’ finds the old installation and offers to try and repair it: this time you accept (in XP, press R);
– Keep going through the install process (you will need the CD key);
– After the usual reboots you should have the original installation back in running order.
Nothing quite cures the rage and impotent frustration one feels at these things going down, though it helps quite a bit if you don’t have to find installers and reinstall / set up everything you use as well. My (not-quite-) trusty old box is ticking over happily again, although whether I get round to finding it a new drive depends on how long it lasts this time 😉
As for Acronis, I’m with BQ. Some things just work so much better from a CD.

We have all been advised to rotate backup media. One active, One offsite, One ready for refresh.
But maybe we should also rotate backup software. It might be easier to learn and manage one backup software, but should that software be our one point of failure?

Windows 8 / Metro IMO will be the final straw which switches you to Mac 😉

William McClenney

Gave up on Ghost when migrating to System 7. Tried a few backup programs recommended by my IT gurus at work, and settled on Acronis Home. Worked great for me for almost 2 years before my sister moved to System 7, so I recommended it to her. She used it for many months and then got a virus that hosed her system. After booting from the Acronis-made boot CD, she found it could not restore from her backups. None of them.
Even though it seems to work flawlessly on my system, I now know of 2 incidents where it went completely off the rails, yours, Anthony, is the second case. Beginning to think it might be time to change to something more reliable. Any suggestions anyone?

KPO

Seagate still has the free application called Disc Wizard. It is built on/around/is the Acronis True
Image program, but trimmed down some due to it being a free version.I have used it to create a system image backup of the OS drive, but you can create an image of any partition/drive. Restored the OS partition successfully every time. I think at least one of your HDD’s must be a Seagate though. Runs on my Win7 64bit no problem.

“I’ve never had the de-installation of a program hose the operating system. Never. ”
That’s a real bummer !!
===============================================================
Eric Worrall says:
May 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm
Windows 8 / Metro IMO will be the final straw which switches you to Mac 😉
===============================================================
I’ll never go MAC, they’ll have to pry my XP out of my cold ,dead hands:
http://bacontime.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/windows-8/
Long live XP !!!

thisisnotgoodtogo

With my windows 7 I get “no boot manager” messages if a hard drive is on while the SSD contains the WIndows and also is the first boot or only boot device I list. That’s even if I put every other thing listed as “disabled.”
I think it’s an SSD thing.

Matt in Houston

Are you certain some of the other windows updates aren’t adding to the fouling of your system? I have spent about 12 hours (6 last Wednesday and about 6 today, weekend in Atlanta in between) attempting to get my laptop to update properly- nothing gives so far and managed to wreck my system 3 times today and finally had to restore to an earlier image after the last run wouldn’t let me even get into a bootable config. I have run registry cleaners, chkdsks, memory tests, malware scans, yada yada yada, no joy. And I still can’t run the latest updates, even after running the ms update tool that supposedly resolves such update issues. My desktop doesn’t have any of these issues though and running a very similar load on it. I am now preparing an excellent volume of Rebecca Creek Batch#2 for easing my pain, I highly recommend it =). Best of luck…

_Jim says:
May 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm
What’s an “update”? (I think I turned off updates on all but one computer here. Running the latest Service Packs, but that is all.)
======================================================
I have several XP machines that I haven’t updated in 5 years !!!
Works just fine.

I un-installed acronis on a Win 7 machine about a year ago. Can’t remember why now, though I seem to recall it was causing crashes. I’ve moved to Norton Ghost. Windows backup doesn’t run on my machine anymore. Self snipped a paragraph on problems with other operating systems. I’ve seen how those threads turn out and it isn’t pretty!

George

@Sean, system restore usually will not work in this scenario.
@Anthony, while never been a real fan before, there are some seriously good uses for VMware and Hypervisor. You can build an image from your revitalized machine, or from Windows 7/8, Server, etc., then install that in the VM. You can make copies of the VM in stable form and store it. And, you can then map removable media as a network drive through the VM system for your data. I got my Surface Pro running images of a USB 3.0 Toshiba 1.5TB drive and storing data on it. I was impressed enough that I will get a full copy of VMware 9 when things slow down. I was able to build a firewall and a management server and run it on a Surface (for config testing), and a Windows client. And just turn it off when I am done with no effect on my computer. Kind of nice. And Acronis can BSOD the VM session all it wants…

Not nice! Good luck with it all – I hate headaches like that one!
I agree with you, they get a great product and can’t stop fiddling about or adding to it until it is totally ruined. You’d think someone Up High would realize that and stick with what works. All trying to outdo each other, or last year’s whatever-was-best. They want people to keep buying new stuff, or old stuff with more bells and whistles, then force them to by removing the old stuff!
Sympathies, mate.

All fascinating stuff, not only from Anthony, which was very interesting, but also from the commentators. Thanks, lads (guys and gals)! Me, I gave up on Acronis a long time ago, but only because the back-up was so slow.

Dodgy Geezer

…I know many of you will throw out the standard gloating snippets like: Get a Mac/ Linux/BSD/ CentOS/etc…with tales of fantastic other-worldly levels of reliability, so let me just say in advance that until this incident, I have had wonderful reliability with Windows 7 and I have far too much invested in programs and systems to move. So, those aren’t options for me…”
Not said with gloating, and acknowledging that handling a problem and a forced rebuild is not a time you should be thinking about changing your O/S as well, but the belief that you have too much invested in ANYTHING to consider changing it is a dangerous state of mind to be in. For example, Mann, Hansen and Phil Jones all have too much invested in Global Warming to consider that it might not be right.
All O/Ss can get into situations where they fail. So I wouldn’t take an occasional failure as a necessary reason to change. But If I found the price/performance of my chosen system to be heading downward compared to the alternatives, I’d like to think that I was able to consider them dispassionately, and maybe make a plan for moving over at some time of my own choosing, rather than bite the bullet of a steadily worsening service because I simply could not consider an alternative…

Ian W

Unfortunately, I think all these ‘disk manager’ programs will at some stage walk on something from the OS. I had McAfee do it, Norton Ghost did it (and kept on reappearing after complete re-installs like a ghost 😉 ) So far I have had no problem with Acronis (yet) but then I am not being at all inventive with its use. Its the old thing though keep backups of backups, keep data on separate disks to the OS. Have a spare mirrored machine with same software and NAS disk copy. I also keep a soft copy of the installation software and license keys on a ‘Software’ folder – that has saved me several times.
But with all computer systems and raid drives – it is a case of WHEN they fail not IF. It is not paranoia it is reality

Patrick

Big user of Acronis Disk Director here, and I like it, it does all I want especially with my virtual machines.
But, regardless, a massive failure like this is a serious PITA!

John Mason

I had exactly the same issue with a client computer last week. There are tons of articles you’ll fine about their upper filters drivers not being gone after an uninstall and if you do remove the files they point to – viola – you get your bsod on a reboot. And same observations – used to love it, recommend it but it’s become bloatware trying to push their cloud backup. They have a published uninstall tool, but they warn that it might not work either. WUWT?
I can empathise
Typically, these days, I just do backup with Microsoft’s own little disk2vhd program. This gives you a nice vhd file which you can mount and restore as you will, or in a pinch can be mounted as a whole pc with a program like virtualbox or Microsoft’s own hyper-v (which now comes with Win8 Pro).
Also, the built in Microsoft server backup tools in 2008 and 2012 server work fine. Not so much call to buy 3rd party backup programs anymore unless you are looking for a specific feature.
I use ‘Reflect’ to clone/move/upgrade people to SSD drives from Mechanical Drives because it’s one of the few ‘Acronis’ like programs, that, unlike Acronis, will align the partitions as needed for best speed with an SSD drive.

clipe

I have an older free version of Acronis on an old XP machine suffering BSODs.
In my case, I’m blaming bad drivers or a bad memory stick or a malware infection.
Some of the error messages encountered…
0x0000008e
coxc0000005
0x80611c3c
0xa9317c00
0x00000000
And the biggy?
win32k,sys 0x00000050
http://www.aumha.org/a/stop.htm
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/894278

Duster

There’s no such thing as as a perfect operating system. As far as my experienced is concerned with various OS, the principle differences are all acquired through habits. Windows captured the world market by MS arranging for the OS and previously DOS to be installed on every machine sold. There nothing wrong with either. Personally, I use Linux at home, releases varies. I have XP on an under the desk system and Windows 7 on a laptop. The biggest handicap Linux has had is the absence of user-level documentation – it all used to be in what I called the language of “man,” – as in “% man ls” – which is designed for grumpy sophonts whose keyboards are full of beard dandruff. Windows and Apple were always – or used to be -superior in documentation, bu the rise of pdfs and cds has put a serious crimp in that. There’s nothing dumber than “help” that requires a connection to the internet, when your problem is getting a computer to boot.

markopanama

No, I’m not going to suggest that you get a Mac. But reading through these comments, it sure reminds me how happy I am to have bitten the bullet and switched years ago. However much pain was involved in the switchover, it was finite – compared with the unrelenting agony of Windows.
Life is too short for Windows.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Backups?

Jere Krischel

You can have your cake and eat it too Anthony. Buy a mac, and run Windows 7 in a VMware Fusion virtual machine. Take snapshots all you like to preserve state, and restore back to a known config if things go south.
Virtualization is your friend 🙂

jdn2

Acronis, just like Hotel California: you can check out any time you want but you can never leave

rsandor

Hi Anthony,
You just might want to be a bit suspicious of your boot drive, or wherever you are storing your system. I had an SSD problem last week along similar lines. Removing Acronis and having your system BSOD might have been a symptom rather than the cause.
Corrupting disk files on the system disk can cause things going wrong that cause a system repair or other such utilities to find the issue.
For me, I locally backup to Windows Home Server 2011, and it has a bare metal restore function. Really saves the day.
SSD’s as boot/system drives for me are incredible time savers. But, I do find the early ones fail a bit more than hard drives, so use a bit of caution. Now that you had one failure, you might want to have a backup facility that would allow a bare metal rebuild quickly. Worst thing would be to go through the pain of a total rebuild, only to be hit by the same problem.

markopanama says:
May 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm
No, I’m not going to suggest that you get a Mac. But reading through these comments, it sure reminds me how happy I am to have bitten the bullet and switched years ago. However much pain was involved in the switchover, it was finite – compared with the unrelenting agony of Windows.
Life is too short for Windows.

The Apple Tax: A dollar a day
The Apple Pax: Priceless.
Some things are priceless.
For everything else, there’s Windows.
(A dolor a day.)
Incidentally, One can continue to run Windows on a Mac, and gradually migrate over to using the Mac more often.

Robert M

I do a lot of development in a VM workstation environment. I really like it, Get a solid machine, set up the VM, which is simply a file on the host. Problems? Grab a backup of the file and you are golden…

sl149q

Ditto the comments on Acronis, the Home version booted from CD or USB key works well enough, but it doesn’t support “server” versions of Windows. I’ve never been happy with the installed version. And I have never found the option to make an image bootable on any system usable. When moving images I just let Windows boot using whatever default drivers it needs and then find and install whatever is needed. That usually works well.
Clonezilla appears to work well too. But the user interface is less than friendly. If you know Linux and have been doing Linux admin for years its mostly recognizable and usable.

peterhodges

ditto on the Clonezilla
and ditto on the VM, predicated on your having very current multi-core cpu and lots of ram
And couldn’t you just have restored with your backup, and then just turned off and ignored the Acronis, rather than uninstalling?

Mark in Chico

I’ve hung on to my Ghost 7.5 version which was about when they got NTFS support right. Coworkers recommend Clonezilla, but I haven’t taken the plunge yet.
One tool I can’t do without is GRC’s Spinrite, which has rescued many hard drives when they’ve gotten flakey. (Even SSD, on level 2 scan.)
I’m even local! Chico is my adopted home town.

kadaka says:
“Backups?”
LOL!
Me, too. On a wing and a prayer! [well, I do have a basic Time Machine].
[ I would advise Anthony to upgrade to a Mac… but I don’t want to get on his sh*t list. ☺]

I run all my Windows instances within VMware ESXi Server (free). I make incremental copies of each vm. I run the vm’s on Macs, but one could run it on anything.

OldWeirdHarold

I’ve never had a linux distro that I couldn’t hose. All OSes are junk. Things sure were better back in the TRS-80 days.

Mike Smith

Acronis? Yuk!
Try Macrium Reflect!
Simpler, faster, and way more reliable.