Some thoughts on copy-protected files vs backups and restore

In reply to a question about how publishers protect their software, and how that affects your backups:
How?
Well,  they keep that stuff close to the vest, but here are the general ways:
The MAC address of your machine;
The ethernet address of your machine;
The GUID of your hard drive;
The size of your hard drive partition;
The serial number of your machine;
invisible files (often inside other invisible directories);
invisible files kept at a specific block (track and sector) of a hard drive;
number of times you’ve authorized the software as kept on their servers (often in conjunction with one of the above);
other hardware conditions;
dongles;
phase of the moon…. (meaning all the other stuff I don’t know about, or stuff I forgot.)
More than one of the above.
So how do you back up a drive with that kind of software on it?
Does one use a block-copier, such as CopyCatX (CCX) or Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC), or does one use a file-cloner such as SuperDuper (SD)?
A block copier will make a “perfect” copy of one drive to the next. (Actually, while I do use CCX in many cases, I also have a hardware device that will let me plug in to bare drives, and it will block copy one to the other unattended.)
Now think about SuperDuper: it will make a clone of a drive’s files, hidden, invisible, symbolic links etc, but those files will be in different physical places on the destination drive, vis-a-vis their location on the source drive. (That’s why you can SD clone to a blank destination drive and it’s the same thing as defragmenting and optimizing.)
SO…. depending on the type of protection the software developer has used, a block copy (CopyCatX) may or may not be most suitable… or irrelevant.
If the protection is the GUID of the drive, nothing will help: if you forgot to (or couldn’t) deactivate first, you’re up a creek.
If you replaced the motherboard, you’re also SOL.
Change the partition size? Doomed.
My guesses: Windows checks partition size (among other things). I suspect Adobe uses the server/GUID/Serial number technique. Office uses the server authorization check and drive UID. MOTU uses invisible files. etc.
I use SuperDuper to make a rotating set of clones. Recently I had cause to use one because my little Raptor drive ended up with a serious problem. I was asked why I did not use CCC to block copy the info back from the clone and used a SD clone-back instead.
Why would one NOT use CCX to clone back for several reasons:
1) the destination drive is smaller than the source;
2) if the clone had the issue as well (due to when it was copied) I’d just be wasting my time, so the SD “sync” was a “cheap” test for a fix;
3) the source (the SD clone) has all its files in different physical places than the original, and I didn’t want to break anything that used that technique;
4) and I didn’t swap the drives because the GUID of the drive is (by definition) different;
5) phase of the moon.
(I would have swapped drives had the “sync” not solved the problem.)
Finally, and only FWIW, when I first ready a drive to be used as a SD clone destination, (and it’s the boot drive I’m cloning) I -do- use CopyCatX (or my dup machine) to make a block copy, just so that at least some of those protected apps will work (although, as seen above, some will still require jumping through hoops regardless.)

Buyer Beware! Micro$oft and Office 2011

The software is fine, BUT… don’t ever change hard drives; don’t ever have a hard drive go out on you. Don’t use a different ethernet card. Don’t add RAM. Don’t ever replace a motherboard, or buy a new graphics card…. because if you do, you’ll lose your license to use the software, and your only option will be to buy it again.


Think I’m exaggerating? Check it out (direct quote from MS:)

“You receive the [activation] error message if one of the following conditions is true:
(snip)You made significant changes to your computer’s hardware, such as installing a new RAM card, a video card, or other hardware [or] you reformatted the hard disk.”


Read the whole thing here: <http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2390723>


Since at least one of those things happening is virtually inevitable, you’re really paying Microsoft a rental fee, not even a license. Pay for it, and use it as long as you can… but be prepared to lose every dime you paid… even the next day if your machine changes. (Yes: I made the mistake of buying a larger hard drive for $70…which really cost $220, since Office refuses to run now.)


That’s it. I’m done with Micro$oft. If they want to treat me like a thief, I’ll deal with companies that treat me like a customer, instead.