This document (as of July 2018, Retrospect Desktop 15.1) is intended to augment the information in the official Retrospect 15 User Guide. All errors are my responsibility. I do not guarantee that this applies to any other version of Retrospect; in fact, I don't guarantee anything about this at all! 😄 YMMV. Buyer Beware. Etc.
A few items highlighted below are not certain for me at this time. Insight welcome! Preparing for Disaster
A. Crucial Attributes To Record About Each Client/Host System
Several crucial attributes must be recorded about any client or host system that you wish to later restore with a DRD (Disaster Recovery Disk):
1) Disk Layout
Why: the DRD is currently unable to auto-create this info. It's up to you to do so. Get it wrong and Things Can Go Badly
Partition Table Type (MBR or GPT)
Number and sequence of partitions. (MOST important: is there a "System Reserved" partition,, is there a WinRE (Recovery) partition, which partition is Active, and what's the sequence?)
(Nice to have: the name of the 'C:' windows partition)
2) Boot method
Why: separate DRD's [may be?] needed for systems using UEFI vs BIOS boot. And, the DRD is not aware of this when regenerating a system
BIOS or UEFI?
(Possibly also need) Where is the boot BCD info? (typically either c:\boot\BCD or system reserved partition, ....\boot\BCD)
3) 64 bit drivers required
Why: Many environements do not require 64 bit drivers. Some do. If so, you'll need a 64 bit DRD rather than the default 32 bit.
I have one: unless extreme measures are taken (see below), access to our Catalog Files is on a RAID 1 internal drive pair, managed by IRST (Intel RAID Storage Tech) which uses 64 bit drivers on 64 bit Windows.
4) Custom drivers required
Why: If recovery requires access to devices that need nonstandard drivers, you'll need to prepare ahead. Example: my IRST setup
Typically, custom disk drivers that can be used at boot time are downloadable either in normal "installable" form, or in what is known as "F6 Floppy" form (refers to pre-boot interruptable driver-load... TMI )
The DRD creation instructions tell you to copy these drivers to a particular place on your Retrospect Desktop machine before creating the DRD. Do it.
(currently they go in <Retrospect Install Folder>/drsupp/drivers )
B. Crucial Things to Know About the Disaster Recovery Disk
This information is not documented elsewhere, AFAIK, other than the first line below
1) The DRD...
Why: These attributes determine how many DRD's you may want to create and maintain. AND, you'll want to update the DRD after significant system or Retrospect config changes.
Is either 32 or 64 bit, and recovers a certain range of OS versions (eg seven varieties of Win10, etc)
Assumes the boot style of the host system (not clear to me if a UEFI DRD can be used to recover a BIOS-only client?)
Contains all Retrospect configuration as of when it is created, including Devices, Clients, Backup Sets, Volumes, Selectors, Preferences, Licenses, and Automation Settings
Has built-in drivers for network, USB and many other devices
Why: These attributes are unknown to the DRD. You'll need to maintain this knowledge separately, available for use in case of disaster
Does not know how to auto-restore system Partition Table types, partition settings, have access to catalog files on other disks, or login info to access network shares
2) Where do you keep your Catalog File?
Why: Be sure you can get to the catalog file while recovering from a disaster!
It's easy to move the catalog file off of your boot drive. Do it. (Or, make a copy as part of your backup strategy)
In our case, to avoid other hassles, we host DRD recovery using a copy of the catalog files loaded into a USB stick. Easy-peasy.
C. Before Creating the DRD
Do you need custom drivers? Make sure they are in place already (see above)!
For Windows 10, you need to download and install the ADK as described in the DRD documentation. These items are not yet documented:
For Windows 7, a different kit is needed, the "AIK"
You don't need to install the whole kit. When running the ADK setup, uncheck everything other than "Windows Preinstallation Environment (Windows PE)"... which will auto-check "Deployment Tools"
Highly recommended: just before you create the DRD, do something to disable or pause all auto-run scripts! The DRD recovery environment is a "real" Retrospect environment, and will attempt to run any active scripts! (I introduced an N month delay in all scripts as a workaround, then removed it) Yes, it is possible to cancel all scripts once the DRD is running, but that can take quite a while as Retrospect goes through "preparing for open file backup" on the active scripts...)
D. Creating the DRD
The DRD tool wants you to locate a file, "copype.cmd" . The Retrospect team intends to auto-find this, but that's not yet implemented. The file is found in <Kit install dir>/Assessment and Deployment Kit/Windows Preinstallation Environment
Bare Metal Recovery
A. Preparing the System
Ensure the system is set up in a similar fashion to what will be restored. In particular:
The correct Partition Type and Partition Layout (The DRD can create partitions, but has no ability to set Partition Types, special partition formats, detail-level partition sizes, etc.)
The correct system boot type (BIOS vs UEFI)
(At first I reloaded Win10 on a system to be reloaded. The partitions were laid out very differently, and in particular a different count and sequence. Result: the recovery process wanted to wipe the contents of other data drives on the machine! Another time, the recovery immediately failed with strange VSS errors. Only when I correctly pre-set all of these elements did recovery go reasonably well.)
B. Doing the Restore
The recovery process involves several steps. Remember, I'm just giving additional notes and hints. The primary steps involve: pre-setup, run retrospect, post-restore
Pre-setup: if you've predefined the partitions, you'll mostly just want to erase and reformat the 'C:' windows partition. Give it the same name that it had before to make life simple.
Pre-setup: If you'll need network access to your backup sets, this is a good time to do a network-use of any needed shares. The DRD process will remember you're logged in from this point on
Pre-setup: if you have other disks (eg USB stick) to attach to the system, eg containing Catalog files, now's the time to plug them in.
In retrospect: check the needed catalog file(s) / backup sets. Can they be accessed (double click in 'Backup Sets'). If not, click "More..." then "Open..." to open the catalog file. Drag-and-drop of a catalog file does not work at this point to attach it.
In retrospect: to do the recovery, go through the "Restore" process. I find it helpful to click on "Switch to Advanced Mode", and go through the steps one by one to be sure everything is as desired.
In retrospect: before rebooting, be sure to remove the DRD disk! You don't want to just run the recovery again
Post-restore: (if using Dissimilar Hardware Restore, don't leave the DRD script after finishing with Retrospect!)
C. After Restore
When my main host restore was complete, after reboot I got "no operating system found"... a bit scary.
Solution for my situation: Load a Windows Recovery CD, get to a command prompt, and use these commands...
bcdedit (shows boot information setup, if any. My system had none!)
bootrec /rebuildbcd (finds windows and builds the correct boot environment)
If you get an error from bootrec /rebuildbcd, you're beyond the scope of this hints-doc. Lots of material is out there to assist you. All is NOT lost.
Building A DRD After The Fact
I didn't have a chance to build a DRD before the boot disk on our primary backup system died. Here's what worked to get around that not-so-little problem:
Downloaded a Windows 10 Pro installer from Microsoft (yes, it's free... controlled by license codes and activation keys)
Used a separate tool set to predefine the partition structure of the replacement drive, to match the old one. MBR disk with System, C:, WinRE in my case. Didn't put any data in the partitions.
Installed Win10 Pro into the 😄 partition. Told it "no license key" since it was already activated. It really did auto-activate when the time came.
Downloaded and installed Retrospect. used the c:\ProgramData\Retrospect\Config77.dat file from my almost-totally-dead drive. This gave me a very nice working environment
Installed the ADK as described above
Modified a few Retrospect scripts as described above
Installed the IRST drivers. Then (due to other problems I'll not discuss here) switched tactics and recovered the current catalog files from my RAID to a USB key
With the USB key catalogs in place, and all other drives disconnected, created the DRD
This all sounds so neat and tidy... I have done this writeup because my actual recovery process involved discovering the hard way that there are many undocumented aspects to the DRD process!
I suspect with these notes, a Retrospect Desktop system could be easily recovered in a matter of hours. Mine... well let's just say I began recovery Sunday evening and finished Wednesday morning... (One of those times when I wish I could get paid by vendors who benefit from my bug-sleuthing skills😄