AOMEI Backupper Professional sector-by-sector cloning of a failing SSD

Posted by Paul Braren on Aug 12 2015 (updated on Mar 22 2016) in
  • Backup
  • Windows
  • Storage
  • Get AOMEI Backupper Professional Edition

    A few months back, I may have made a mistake by trying out Samsung RAPID Mode in an attempt to speed up my Windows 8.1 SSD noticeably. I have found it makes the biggest difference when an older system is hampered by SATA2 speeds, such as is the case with my ThinkPad W520 tZilla's mSATA slot. I've used RAPID Mode on other older systems with good success, but on this system, it might have been a bad idea to combine that Samsung Magician feature with a new mSATA enclosure I was testing out that quickly led to some BSODs upon wake-up from sleep mode:

    Yeah, I fixed that BSOD fast. But what happened in the following weeks is where things got interesting. I will likely never really know the root cause of my months of troubles that started that day. First, I couldn't get an applications to work right, even though it was working just fine before. Then, my VMware Workstation's large Windows 7 VM that I use on a daily basis complained it couldn't start any Microsoft Office 2013 applications. So I had to do an Office repair. Both the troublesome application, and the VM, were running during those BSODs. Hmmm.


    More importantly, I then noticed that my daily backups had begun to fail, including Veeam Endpoint Backup. So I went back to using Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, it failed too. So did AOMIE Backupper in normal backup mode. Not good.

    I was traveling a bit at the time, so Weeks went by before the realty sunk in that I had some real trouble here, and my last good backup was getting stale real fast. Planned to do a fresh install of Windows 10 soon anyway, and my crucial data (Documents) were on a spinning D: drive. So fixing this wasn't actually my highest priority, hoping to merely buy some time until Windows 10 GA'd.

    AOMEI Backupper failure

    Over time, I realized the problem wasn't getting worse, and it would seem that >99% of my data is good. Also important to note that it's quite possible my particular Samsung 840 EVO 1TB mSATA drive is simply defective. My extended family has had great success with several Samsung SSDs these past 3 years. If it's just my particular drive that's failing, then much or all of the above story is a red herring.

    Even though felow Samsung 840 EVO owners have experienced well documented dormant-file-read-speed issues with this drive, that firmware EXT0DB6Q fixes, that wasn't my primary concern. Note that mSATA form factor owners like me weren't able to use that firmware upgrade anyway.


    I worked with Veeam's excellent free VEB support for weeks, running various chkdsk flags diagnostic software, to look for and possibly fix the reason nothing likes to back up my SSD. Despite heroic effort, in the end, the finger of blame was pointing at a bad drive.

    See also:

    AOMEI Backupper Make and Exact Backup

    During these of on-again off-again troubleshooting sessions, I also figured out that sector-by-sector backup from AOMEI Backupper worked. A full backup, even if some of that data backed up was bad. This is good.

    AOMEI Backupper Make and Exact Backup Success

    In addition to some evidence of corruption that chkdsk wouldn't fix, another concern began to develop. Over time, I noticed my write speeds were also degrading. Similar to known performance issues that I had thought I fixed last fall. Odd. Given no backup program that I had tried would successfully complete a backup, I felt I didn't have much to lose by taking good old Spinrite out for a spin. Yeah, I listen to Steve Gibson on Security Now, and used to use Spinrite on failing spinning drives pretty regularly. Despite hearing his insistence it can help with SSDs, I was very skeptical. I also didn't seem to have my license key recorded. Turns out the Gibson Research license recovery process was quick and easy.

    So I fired up Rufus Portable to make myself a bootable DOS USB key, plunked the tiny spinrite.exe right on there, and booted it up on my ThinkPad W520 with the suspect SSD. I ran it at defaults (Level 2 scan), and let it run over night. It took about 3 hours. Wow, what a difference, my write speed was back! Amazing that such an ancient tool still has so much value. This got most of my productivity back, since I use big VMs and do a lot of video, the differences were immediately noticeable to me in everyday use.

    SpinRite before and after L2
    Samsung 840 EVO 1TB mSATA SSD ATTO Disk Benchmark results from July 14 2015. Before Spinrite L2 was run is seen at left, and after seen at right. Uh, wow!

    Armed with the information that my drive has a big slowdown in write speeds that doesn't fit the profile of any known firmware issues, this was not something a Samsung Magician firmware update could fix. Thankfully, Samsung Warranty service had mercy on me, and kindly offered me a cross-ship RMA. Phew! Time to fax over my payment information, in case I "forgot" to ship them the failing drive. Yep, it was either fax or email my credit card info to Samsung. Fax, thank you.

    So this last week, now that the refurb. replacement 1TB mSATA drive had arrived, the problem became

    how do I evacuate my mostly good data from this failing drive that I must return soon?

    That's when I though to use AOMEI Backupper, remembering it has a sector-by-sector cloning mode. I had first discovered AOMEI last year when I was also playing with similar tools like Macrium Reflect Free or EaseUS Todo Backup.

    Why not just use Windows Home Server R2 Essentials or Veeam Endpoint Backups to handle all my recovery needs? Well, it turns out those products don't do well with restoring to smaller drives. Yes, last week, VEB announced version 1.1's new abilities to handle smaller drives (and Windows 10), but remember, I can't do a new backup to be able to restore to my newer SSD from. At least not a recent backup.

    So tonight, I began my AOMEI sector-by-sector cloning, which is running overnight. I'm using the USB 3.0 port on my ThinkPad W520, to clone from the internal mSATA 1TB SSD that's failing (C: drive) to the replacement mSATA 1TB SSD that's temporarily in an Inateck UASP 2.5" enclosure. Assuming the overnight clone succeeds, I should be able to:

    AOMEI sharing
    Try the sector-by-sector cloning before you buy, you just need to share. Click the above image 2x to see view it clearly.
    1. replace the failing SSD with the identical-data newer SSD
    2. secure erase (Samsung Magician or Parted Magic) the failing SSD back to Samsung RMA
    3. continue to build my new Windows 10 Pro SuperServer/Workstation from scratch on a fresh Samsung 850 EVO 2TB SSD
    4. migrate data that I care about from that newer SSD (network share copy SSD to SSD over gigabit)

    So AOMEI hopefully will buy me some more time to get the data off that new (well, refurb.) SSD.
    If it works, I'll gladly show my thanks for my successful trial (made free by sharing) by happily putting down my $50 to upgrade from AOMEI Backupper Standard to AOMEI Backupper Professional.

    You'll need to tune in again tomorrow to see if this story has a good outcome.

    AOMEI Backupper Standard starting a sector-by-sector clone
    Choose "System Clone".
    If "Sector by sector clone" is turned on, you can't use the "Align partition to optimize for SSD" option.
    AOMEI Backupper Standard doing a sector-by-sector clone

    Get AOMEI Backupper Professional Edition

    Aug 13 2015 Update

    The overnight operation that took something longer than 3 hours (exact time not shown) was a success. Now comes the drive-swapping part to see if this drive actually boots, stand by...

    AOMEI Backupper overnight sector-by-sector clone success

    Well, noticed it didn't actually clone all the data, but nothing important was missing for my needs. This did highlight that clearly this product did not behave like CloneZilla or Ghost or the like, which are capable of sector-by-sector identical cloned images. For some reason, this test fell short of that mark. It's likely it just doesn't like to touch files that other backup programs also avoid, such as Outlook PST files, so I'm not worried about this. But certainly worth noting.

    ATTO on refurb 1TB Samsung EVO mSATA SSD

    Upon first boot of the newer SSD, Samsung Magician said that the OS was seeing this as a HDD not an SSD. Another reboot cleared that up, and the newer SSD is performing roughly 90% as fast as I would expect it to. Not sure why the slight decrease, I'll probably Secure Erase it, retest it, then repurpose it as a VMFS datastore in my VMware ESXi 6.0 home lab.

    Also worth noting that all my crucial data was on my D: drive (not the failing SSD), so I'm now able to Secure Erase it and mail it back to Samsung RMAs today. Mission accomplished.

    If there's interest, I may be able to eventually collect my videos I took of most of this cloning procedure and upload a video. Drop a comment below if you'd find that valuable to you.

    By the way, to avoid some of the annoyance with Outlook 2013, I just closed Outlook, copied over my full backup of that folder from the drive I cloned from, and to get address auto-complete to work again, I also followed this simple tip, which worked nicely:
    The Auto-Complete list doesn’t remember names or email addresses

    Mar 22 2016 Update

    Veeam Endpoint Backup 1.5 is out!

    See also what Veeam can now do for just such failing SSD scenarios:


    See also at TinkerTry

    See also