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Introduction

Rescue media are live discs or USB sticks from which computers can boot directly into the Macrium recovery environment. This is a lightweight version of Windows (the Windows Preinstallation Environment or Windows PE) customized to include Macrium Reflect so users can manually recover computers that cannot boot Windows normally. Such computers are unable to run the Site Manager Agent; consequently, they can not be restored remotely.

Site Manager can create rescue media which can be downloaded through the Site Manager interface; giving users easy access to a centralized source of rescue media to recover failed agents.

Site Manager can create generic rescue media or rescue media which is targeted for a managed computer. Generic rescue media only contain the Macrium recovery environment and will be compatible with most machines with dynamic network settings. Agent rescue media includes driver and network information from the agent; it should be used for computers with static network settings or hardware not supported by Windows PE.

For advanced needs, use a copy of Reflect on a managed computer or the Site Manager server to create rescue media manually. See Restoring an Image Through Macrium Reflect for further information.


Rescue Media Types

Agent Rescue Media

Site Manager can create rescue media that is custom-built for a particular agent to minimize the manual configuration required to restore it. Agent rescue media will be based on the right version of Windows PE for the target agent and contain copies of hardware drivers for devices which the agent detects as being unsupported by Windows PE. These devices can then be used in the rescue environment even if they are not supported in Windows PE by default. An up-to-date set of agent drivers is stored in a database on the Site Manager server so that agent rescue media can be created for failed agents at the time of need.

Agent network configurations are also stored in the rescue media so that the backup repository can be easily accessed through the rescue environment. Note that network settings must be configured manually within the rescue environment if the agent is restored to different hardware as network configurations are associated with a MAC address.

Generic Rescue Media

Site Manager can also create generic rescue media which does not target any single agent. These media will not include any extra drivers but users can manually specify drivers to be included in rescue media for a given Windows PE configuration (see below). Such rescue media will be appropriate for use on agents with common hardware configurations.

Network settings for all agents are stored in generic rescue media. Appropriate network settings are selected when an agent boot the rescue environment from the rescue media. Note that network configuration selection is determined by MAC address so network settings may not be configured automatically if agent hardware has changed. 

Universal Rescue Media

Universal rescue media contain all versions of generic rescue media on a single bootable disk. This can be used to restore groups of computers which run different versions of Windows without creating the necessary generic rescue media individually. Drivers for generic rescue media will also be included in universal rescue media and will be loaded with the corresponding version of Windows PE.

Windows PE

Site Manager rescue media are based on one of four Windows PE configurations. Windows PE 10 is suitable for use on computers running Windows 8 and later and Windows PE 3.1 should be used for Windows 7, Vista, and XP. There is also support for 32-bit and 64-bit processors for each Windows PE version.

Windows PE files are downloaded when creating rescue media or performing agent restores and are stored for future use in the rescue media working directory (see below). This requires an active internet connection to download Windows PE from Microsoft.

Creating Rescue Media Offline

Rescue Media and restore operations can continue in networks without internet access if the Windows PE files were previously downloaded using the Macrium Reflect Download Agent as seen above. Click 'Options' to select the version of Windows PE to download (Site Manager only supports Windows PE 10 and Windows PE 3).

These files should then be placed into \pefiles\ subfolder within the rescue media working directory without changing the name of the zip; it may be necessary to create the pefiles folder manually.


Managing Rescue Media

Rescue Media Working Directory

The rescue media working directory will contain the rescue media images, Windows PE files downloaded from Microsoft, and device drivers extracted from the driver database. Rescue media are a few hundred MB so this folder can grow large if several media are created (this is one reason why it is advised to create Rescue Media only at the time of need).

Consequently, users may want this directory to be on a drive with spare space and this can be set in the rescue media settings. Before saving the settings, Site Manager will test the suitability of the folder by creating a small file which is deleted immediately; the save will fail if an error occurs during this process. There is no automatic cleanup of the previous working directory to avoid erasing custom driver files.

Note that the tools used to build rescue media require the working directory to be on an NTFS formatted drive, local to the Site Manager server.

Drivers

Drivers for agent hardware that is not already compatible with Windows PE will be copied to the Site Manager server and stored in a database ('drivers.db' in the Site Manager programdata directory). Site Manager automatically requests new drivers from agents if a hardware change is detected and drivers of removed computers will be deleted from the database.

Agent Rescue Media copy drivers required by the target agent. These drivers are displayed in the Rescue Media Build Wizard (above). 


Users can choose to extract the drivers from the database using the table on the Rescue Media settings page or extract drivers from all agents at once. Driver export destinations depend on the name of the agent; drivers from, say, AGENT will be copied into the drivers\exports\AGENT subfolder in the Rescue Media working directory (this folder will be created automatically). Alternatively, the exported drivers can be grouped by the Windows PE configuration suitable for the respective agent, this is controlled by the checkbox. For example, if AGENT was a Windows 10 machine then drivers would be exported to drivers\exports\PE10x64\AGENT. This may help users prepare Generic Rescue Media for use on groups of similar agents.

Management of Exported Drivers

Site Manager does not clear the contents of the export folder between exports - this may lead to old and new drivers existing in the same folder. We recommend users move drivers out of the export folder after export and clear the folder between exports.


Drivers which should be included in all Rescue Media for a given Windows PE configuration should be placed in a subfolder named after the configuration (e.g. drivers\PE10x64). These drivers will be included in both generic and agent Rescue Media which are based on the corresponding Windows PE configuration.

Creating Rescue Media

Rescue Media are created through a wizard on the Rescue Media page, accessed by clicking on the “New” button above the table. 

A choice between building generic and agent Rescue Media is immediately presented. Generic Rescue Media should be created for restoring non-agent computers or computers without specialized hardware or network needs. Agent Rescue Media will be configured for the target computer.

The generic Rescue Media build pathway continues with a selection of Windows PE versions which the medium will be based on. The tools which Reflect relies upon varies between Windows PE versions so it is important to choose the right version for the operating systems the media may target. Use the following table as a reference:

Windows version of the target computerArchitecture of the target computerRescue Media configuration
Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8x64PE10x64
x86PE10x86
Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7x64PE3x64
x86PE3x86


Agent Rescue Media creation begins by selecting the target computer from the computer table shown above.

Device and driver information for the selected computer is displayed on the final page of the sequence. The hardware is categorized as either supported in Windows PE by default, supported by drivers from the agent, or not supported at all (in this uncommon case a driver will need to be supplied manually). Expanding a device will list the driver files (if any) to be included in the rescue medium.

Builds in progress will be listed in the Rescue Media table with the status of 'Building'. Details on the progress of the build and any errors can be displayed by expanding the row. The build can be cancelled but this may not have an immediate effect as some stages of the build process can not be interrupted or there may be terminal steps to stop the build cleanly.

Built rescue media can be rebuilt by clicking on the 'Rebuild' button which appears when the row is expanded. This is useful for updating rescue media when there have been changes in agent hardware. Further details of the build and a deletion option are also shown in the expanded view.

Using Rescue Media

Rescue media are stored as ISO image files in the rescue media working directory on the Site Manager server and can be downloaded by users logged into Site Manager.  The image can be burned onto a disc or used to create a bootable USB stick which can be inserted into the target computer to load the rescue environment.

It is not necessary to create agent rescue media before it is needed. Agent drivers and network configurations are transferred to the Site Manager server during normal agent communications so the server can generate rescue media for an agent even if that computer is offline. Storing rescue media for all agents ahead of time may be a significant storage burden.

Rescue Media for the Site Manager server should be created ahead of time and stored on another system so that Rescue Media capabilities can be retained in disaster scenarios.

Rescue USB Tool

Rescue media can be loaded onto USB flash drives to create rescue USB sticks. Drivers can be copied onto rescue USB media after it has been created as the root of the USB is included in the driver load process. USB rescue media may then be the best choice when recovering from hardware failure or restoring older operating systems where the drivers may not have been added automatically because drivers on these media can be continually updated to support recovery needs.

This flexibility means that rescue USB sticks are particularly suited for loading universal rescue media; drivers can be added as needed to support the set of computers the medium is intended for.

However, some third-party flashing tools are incompatible with Macrium rescue images. Therefore, Macrium has developed a tool to create rescue USB sticks from rescue media images created by Site Manager 8.

This tool has a command line or GUI interface. The command line interface supports the following commands:

CommandShortcutDescription
--help-h

Prints help and copyright information

--list-devices-l

Lists USB devices suitable for use as rescue sticks

--create-c

Creates the rescue USB stick. Takes the path to the iso file (-i) and a device number (-d) as mandatory arguments. -f and -q are optional arguments to suppress the confirmation prompt and progress output respectively.

USB rescue stick creation begins by listing compatible USB devices with the --list-devices command. The tool will search for suitable devices and print their details in the console. This will display device numbers which are used to specify which device this tool should target.

The rescue USB stick will be created with the --create command. The path to the iso file containing the rescue media image and the target device number can respectively be used as the --iso and --device arguments to --create. A confirmation prompt may appear to confirm the selection because this process overwrites data already on the USB stick.

The optional parameters --force and --quiet are intended for use in non-interactive environments and are implied if the tool output is redirected into a file.

Alternatively, the 'Rescue USB Builder' can be launched with a GUI by double-clicking on the 'RescueUsbBuilder_x64.exe' file:

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