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Old August 25th, 2016, 10:28 AM   #1
robertmee
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Laptop Management - Recovery Scenarios

So, on my last startup, my Dell precision M4600 crashed. Wasn't a hard drive issue but a MOBO issue where I could get about 2 to 8 hours of use before it would just randomly blue screen. I was due for an upgrade anyway, so I just bought:

Dell Precision 7510 w/ 64GB Ram, TWO 512 GB NVME SSDs

I use VMWare Workstation 12

Laptop came with Win 10 so making that transition as well

I have a MyCloud 2TB Mirror NAS for backups while home, plus an old Buffalo Terastation NAS for personal stuff.

Before on my old Dell, I ran most of my Rockwell/Intouch stuff on the main win 7 host and all the older stuff on XP VMs. This time, I plan to do it right, which I'm thinking is keep the Main Win 10 host as clean as possible and put all development on Win 7 and XP VMs. I was able to copy the older XP VMs over and I've built a Win 7 VM and starting to install RS onto it.

Is this the right approach? I've read where some guys keep all their VMs backed up on a removable HDD they carry with them....I think I'll do that too. Plus I suppose I should keep the VM Install software and license on this HDD with them. That way at least on a catastrophic SDD issue, I can get my software back running to complete the job.

Another question, how should I manage the two SSD's? I could mirror them RAID 1, or keep the Win 10 OS on one, and all data on the other. I have Acronis, and I thought about doing an image backup of one to the other, but that seems a waste of a HD...maybe do that to an external also> My bag already weighs 40 lbs....carrying around external HDD's is going to be a pain!

Anyway, tips and tricks on quick recovery in the field would be appreciated.
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Old August 25th, 2016, 10:47 AM   #2
Paully's5.0
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You can play this 10 different ways, based on paranoia.

I like VMs, however I want my daily use programs accessible at the host level. Which means Office and Logix5000 on my host, as well as SQL Server.

VMs would be separated based on the SCADA/HMI packages I am using. As well as any versioning that might need to be separated. For SCADA/HMI VMs I do install the programming software as well.

I've also done job-specific VMs, that way my VMs are a bit more organized.

When commissioning long jobs where there is higher risk of a problem I just make sure I have 1 VM on a portable harddrive to get me out of a pinch if needed. I backup programs via a batch file that puts a time stamp on them each time I run it. Those go on the HD or server. Most of the time I'm working on larger systems so backing up to a server on the network is an option.

Pretty much every VM I make I backup to a NAS at home.

Keep in mind, you have to have Windows licensed on the VMs too. So that may limit options more than anything else.

Overall I've stopped worrying about the "what ifs" when it comes to my laptop. As long as I'm not out-of-the-country you have options. Most software is downloadable via vendors, and you can pickup a laptop just about anywhere last minute. It's really the project files and making sure you have those properly and consistently backed up.
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Old August 25th, 2016, 03:23 PM   #3
robertmee
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I went back and forth on putting the Logix under the host PC....However, rockwell is still felshing out compatibility with Win 10 and just before my PC died I went to the latest Factory Authorization bloatware with an SE install and I'm convinced that killed my PC
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Old August 25th, 2016, 05:21 PM   #4
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Like Paully's5.0 mentions, there are more than a few ways to do this. I personally fall under the category of keeping my Host as clean as possible. I have Office and some other tools on my host. But nothing I can't download and reinstall easily if need be or access from my phone. I used to be much more rigorous about using my VMs for everything even web browsing. Today though I don't bother for day-to-day basic stuff like email and web browsing.

I have VMs on my local hard drive and then I have them backed up to external USB drives as well. I try to do two. One I keep at home and one I keep with my laptop.

OG
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Old August 25th, 2016, 05:30 PM   #5
boneless
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Side-line..

I am currently configuring a similar machine. How are you liking it?
What screen option did you run with?
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Old August 25th, 2016, 05:45 PM   #6
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I have everything on VM's. Programming software, SCADA software, email, autocad, office, everything. The only software that my host runs is VMWare. I mean, I have no other choice because my host is a Mac, but I think I'd do the same either way.

A couple of months ago I had an incident where my laptop got filled with curry. Apparently this is not recommended.

I went to the apple store, got a new laptop, and had my office overnight ship my backup drive to me. When it arrived the next morning, I plugged it in, hit restore, and walked away for 8 hours. When I came back, everything was exactly like I left it - the VM's didn't know or care that a new host was running them, they just picked up right where they left off.

For that reason alone, I would keep absolutely everything on a VM, and implement a good backup schedule.
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Old August 25th, 2016, 06:51 PM   #7
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In my experience Windows 7 32 bit is a good choice for a guest. I haven't come across automation software requiring 64 bit, but have seen plenty that won't work on 64 bit (importing old versions of FT View MERs, 16 bit Windows 3.1 programs).

I've come across very few programs that need XP but won't run on Win7 32 bit. Usually "Windows 7 compatibility issues" are 64 bit compatibility issues, a rights thing (either set the shortcut to start as admin, modify folder or registry permissions, or disable UAC), or something that can be fixed with the "compatibility mode" tab on applications. You may want to re-evaluate how many VMs you really need as having several will chew up disk space in no time. Can software on your XP machines be installed on Windows 7 32 bit? Can you install them all on one XP VM?

For performance I recommend preallocating space. Probably between 45-60 GB. I know with VMWare you can increase the size later if required, so don't be afraid to run at 75-85% disk in use. By comparison I've seen "XP mode", which defaults to a 128GB "dynamic drive", grow to a full fragmented 128GB, even though the host is using less than 20GB.

At the same time you may want to make backups along the way, in case something doesn't work out, or to allow other permutations. Example:
Install Windows 7 32 bit. Install updates (which take a loooong time), and any common software (like Office), Microsoft KB917607 to open old .hlp files.

Shut down and take a backup. Now if you want to create another image "from scratch", a lot of the painful work is done.

Install Studio V28, RSL5000 V13-19, and Studio v 23-27, RSL5/500, CCW, FTView.

Duplicate this VM. On one install RSL5K 20.01/21.01, on the other 20.03/21.03.

I like to install the newest version of Studio 5000 first, even though we don't use it, because it will make sure the latest version of common software (like RSLinx) is installed, and makes sure all sorts of AOPs are installed which we do use in V20 (1734-AENTR, PF525).

When you have the VM setup how you want, take a backup. Now you can restore to "fresh out of the box, with all software installed" state any time you want (compared to the days it seems to take to install all Rockwell software). You may want to do this periodically to keep things clean.

Even if have your daily use automation software on the host, also having it as a VM backed up on an external hard drive means if you have your computer crash, you can be up and running on almost any other PC within an hour (a customer's machine, the first one you see at Best Buy, etc). If RSLogix starts misbehaving on the host (what function will Microsoft break on the next forced Windows 10 upgrade?), you can always pop over to the VM while you try to resolve that issue.

Licencing is a concern, especially for Windows. With Rockwell software ideally you have a separate concurrent licence server that's always accessible, otherwise host concurrent licences on your host (which you will lose if the machine crashes), or in one of your VMs (accessible to your other VMs).
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Old August 25th, 2016, 07:40 PM   #8
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You plan should work well. I do the same thing except my main machine came with Win8.1Pro 64bit. So I carry one jump drive to back it up, then a 2Tb USB3.0 drive to just backup all the VM's onto. I can backup EVERYTHING in about 45 minutes.

I also keep VM install and the license file on the USB drive so I can be up and running on a new PC in less then an hour.
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Old August 26th, 2016, 01:59 AM   #9
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So this conversation has sparked a question to ask:

How do you all prefer to load your VM Os's? Do you copy a host, and then reproduce it into a VM? Do you purchase a separate copy of an OS? Also, if purchasing a separate copy of let's say Windows 7 SP1 32-bit, what version do you recommend buying? I'm a little green to all of the editions Microshaft releases, I.E. System builder, OEM, etc.

Come November I plan on buying a new laptop - 64-bit OS, but I would like to create all of my VM's in 32-bit.

Last edited by JasonTheSparky; August 26th, 2016 at 02:01 AM.
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Old August 26th, 2016, 04:53 AM   #10
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I prefer to build the VM up from scratch, rather than mirroring the host. That way everything is fresh.

I think technically you need a retail licence, or active "Software assurance" on the host
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/Lice...l-machine.aspx

Last I checked, a Windows 7 machine with Software assurance would be licenced to run 4 VMs (which is what I do). Microsoft does not make it at all easy to figure out.
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Old August 26th, 2016, 06:28 AM   #11
robertmee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boneless View Post
Side-line..

I am currently configuring a similar machine. How are you liking it?
What screen option did you run with?
I've had it 3 days building the VM images and transferring all my stuff from backups and my old HDD which survived (the Mobo didnt). Fortunately with VM I was just able to copy all my old VMWS 8 builds right over to the Win 10 machine and WS 12.

So far as my first experience with SDD and 64GB of memory it's a screamer. Takes less than 15 seconds to boot and moving files around and installing apps it's seemingly 10x faster than my old spinner.

For the screen I went with the 7510 instead of 7710 which is a 15" , and it came with NVIDIA Quadro M2000M with 4GB GDDR5 and 5.6" UltraSharp FHD IPS (1920x1080) Wide View Anti-Glare LED-backlit. The screen is marginally bigger than my old M4600, but the laptop footprint is the same which is important as I bag carry more often than not.

For those that like Dell's I would encourage you to check into Merk America before ordering. I started with a retail purchase from Dell and was quoted $3100. I was also quoted 16 days for build and delivery even with 2 day shipping option. Merk America is a licensed Dell reseller of refurbs and I got the exact same laptop for $2400 and it was in my house 2 days after I ordered it. It comes with the same 3 year Dell warranty less one month as it was purchased in July by Merk, and Dell makes it easy online to transfer the warranty and register the laptop in your name.
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Old August 26th, 2016, 07:17 AM   #12
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We started using VMs exclusively for development. As integrators, we are constantly dealing with different versions of applications and most applications do not play nice when it comes to multiple versions of software. You can look at using Symantec Workspace Virtualization (believe it is now called Symantec Endpoint Virtualization Suite) for this and it will allow you to have, for example, different versions of Wonderware installed and run them as required. I have seen people with laptops that have 10+ versions of Rockwell software installed and they switch between them as required.

There is usually teams working on projects so I stepped it up a notch and bought VMware's vSphere ESXi Essentials. You do not need much of a machine to run it on and it is pretty inexpensive. It allows us to host central VMs to access and not require high power laptops. (Although we do put VMware Workstation on our laptops to copy the VMs off if needed during commissioning and such.)

We then purchase MSDN Platforms subscriptions through our licensing which are also pretty inexpensive. We can now create VMs as needed with whatever OS versions are required. We create base OS installs and use them as templates for new VMs for projects. The MSDN allows you Windows and SQL Server licenses as well so easy to setup Windows Servers if you want to setup things like Historian servers, asset control, and so on. Just remember that legally any person accessing those VMs has to have an MSDN Platforms subscription as well.

Last edited by JGWoods; August 26th, 2016 at 07:33 AM.
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Old August 26th, 2016, 07:30 AM   #13
Paully's5.0
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertmee View Post
For those that like Dell's I would encourage you to check into Merk America before ordering.
Thanks for that reference, there is a nicely configured XPS at a really great price! I've been holding out for whenever the next generation of Macbook Pro's comes out, but at $1739 the XPS is really appealing.
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Old August 26th, 2016, 07:35 AM   #14
Paully's5.0
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JGWoods View Post
There is usually teams working on projects so I stepped it up a notch and bought VMware's vSphere ESXi Essentials. You do not need much of a machine to run it on and it is pretty inexpensive. It allows us to host central VMs to access and not require high power laptops. (Although we do put VMware Workstation on our laptops to copy the VMs off if needed during commissioning and such.)
I set something similar up a few years ago, got the department to buy a low-end Dell server w/1TB SSD and 1 TB spinner. Put ESXi on there and loaded it with VMs to simulate a production environment. Also had many team members working on it remotely so had to create a central development environment. Worked really well, had something like 20 VMs running on it. Various servers and workstations. Could have doe it with less VMs but didn't want to get into RDS licensing...
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Old August 26th, 2016, 01:00 PM   #15
robertmee
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Most of you are probably still on Win 7, but for those of you that have migrated to Win 10, do you find the backup tools robust enough to forgo something like Acronis? I've used Acronis for 16 years, but a little ticked I just bought 2014 a few months ago for my win 7 machine, and now I'll have to upgrade again for win 10 as 2014 doesn't support Win 10. Researching online, between backup/restore, restore points, recovery discs, install discs, and cloud storage, is there a need to run Acronis anymore?

Also, I see mention often of saving restores on a thumb drive. What size thumb drive is needed for a typical restore of an OS drive? I have a 512GB SSD for the main OS, so should I get a 512GB ($$) thumb drive, or is the compression such I can use something much smaller?

Last edited by robertmee; August 26th, 2016 at 01:08 PM.
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