Technician’s License: Reflect as a portable application

Posted at Aug 23, 07:55h in announcements Macrium Software, Marketing Categories: announcements, devteam, company

One of the long standing requests for Macrium Reflect is the ability to be able to image any system, regardless of whether Reflect is installed. Our Technician’s License offering previously gave you a key that would let you install on any number of PCs, but running installers is cumbersome, especially if you work with PCs that are not yours.

What you really need is something like this:

Screenshot of Technician's USB via Autoplay

There are some unique challenges running Reflect in a portable mode. But first, what does the Technician’s Application get you? What should it get you? As it stood, we could already create PE-based USB sticks which would boot and allow you to image any system; to this, we’ve added a copy of Reflect that can be used from a live system.

That means given one USB stick, you can either boot up the PE environment to rescue a system, or insert the stick and image/restore a live system. If you’ve purchased a technician’s license and are connected to the internet, you should see this option in your recovery screen:

Option to create technician's USB

How do you know you’re going to get this option? If you’ve purchased a technician’s license, this now shows up on your splash screen:

Splash screen showing technician's word

If you check this option, Reflect will be copied to the USB stick along with all the files it needs to run.

So, what are the challenges of running Reflect from a USB stick? Well, here’s some of our modifications to Reflect to make it work:

  • The portable version of Reflect acts in a similar manner to the PE version — it’s essentially a cut down version without features such as loading backup definitions, because these can’t be reliably found (this could be any computer, after all).
  • The portable version must not touch the local system. So, all logging is disabled and registry is read only — if you have settings, these will be loaded, but if you don’t, the usual defaults will apply.
  • Unlike the PE version, VSS must be used as the volumes are online.
  • Licensing. We added a variety of technician’s mode checks to the licensing. Internally, we had discussions about issuing specific technician’s mode keys, but we decided this was inconvenient for large numbers of our customers who already have a technician’s license — so we decided an easier method was to make this part of the activation process. You’ll need to run an online activation to enable the technician’s features and you’ll need to be online when creating a technician’s USB stick (but not any other type of rescue media) so we can validate the license. We decided this was not hugely inconvenient — once done, the stick can then be used offline for the duration of the license.
  • Standalone services — previously, internal components of the application required the presence of ReflectService to run. Clearly, we cannot assume ReflectService is there, so we adjusted some of our components to compensate.
  • Stick removal and executable memory mapping. This one’s a bit technical, but basically standard executables are not designed to be run from media that might then be removed — luckily, we can (and do) cope with this via some special magic.

That’s it. Now, you can take the USB stick, insert it into a PC and run Reflect with all the essential backup/restore features you need:

Reflect Technician's mode in operation

I left off one killer feature, though — because it’s a good one. If you’re used to using Reflect on systems that use, for example, RAID controllers, you’ll know you often need to add drivers to the rescue media in order to boot. With the Technician’s USB, we’ve enhanced that functionality — the copy of Reflect that runs on the live system can take drivers from the live system for unsupported devices and add them to the USB stick, making them available for the bootable environment that’s also on the stick!

Driver Injection Dialog

That’s it for the current iteration of the Technician’s USB stick — however, stay tuned, we’ve other developments in the pipeline. We’ll be rolling this functionality out shortly — keep an eye out for a new update.

When will it be ready?

Shortly. We’re just going through the final testing phase before releasing this gradually to customers with a Technician’s License.

Update 26/09/2012: This functionality is now live in the latest release for customers with a technician’s license.

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