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Best way to do Full Backups and Rotate Hard Drives

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I am new to Acronis. I was using Cobian for years, but that's now an abandoned project and I am searching for something new. I am on the Acronis True Image 2017 trial period right now.

I would like to do 3 full backups (early mornings on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday). I then want to swap the external drive—the destination—once per week. I will be using 2 drives, rotating them each week.

I currently have Acronis True Image 2017 setup to backup 2 user folders with the following settings:

  • Backup Scheme: Custom Scheme
  • Backup Method: Full
  • Store no more than 3 recent versions

This brings me to my first question.

Question 1. Am I correct in my understanding that this setup will automatically remove the 1st full backup when it does the 4th full backup, and then remove the 2nd full backup when it does the 5th full backup, etc?

That first question may be only academic because of the destination drive swap. I swap the drives every Monday and both drives will have the same drive letter. So, once I get into this, I'll have the following on the 2 external drives (or at least this is what I envision right now):

Drive 1 Full Backup 1 Full Backup 2 Full Backup 3
Drive 2 Full Backup 4 Full Backup 5 Full Backup 6

So, if I'm right in my thinking, when I reconnect Drive 1, Acronis will do the next full backup (Full Backup 7) and delete the earliest one (Full Backup 1) since there are 3 backups on the drive. Then, when I connect Drive 2 the following week, Acronis will do the next full backup (Full Backup 10) and delete the earliest one (Full Backup 4) since there are 3 backups on that drive.

Question 2. Is this a reasonable expectation of how this will work?

Question 3. Will Acronis have any problem with the drive swap? Will it throw an error when it doesn't see the particular backups it was expecting to see on the drive?

Question 4. If my thinking is off here, what is the best way to accomplish what I'm trying to do (i.e. have 3 full backups on each external hard drive, swapping the drives out each week)?

Thanks for any help!

Jono

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#1

Jono, welcome to these User Forums.

Unfortunately your plan will not work with ATIH 2017 (or other versions) as it does not support doing the drive swaps in the way you are intending to do.

When you create a backup task and point it at a destination drive, then the unique drive identifier (UUID) as well as the drive letter are both stored in the Acronis metadata database for that task.  If you swap the destination drive for a different drive, even if this is identical in make, capacity, drive letter etc, the UUID of the new drive will not match the value held for the task and an error will occur.

If you want to use two different backup drives, then you need to create two different backup tasks, one for each unique drive, then change these on the days they are needed to be used for their backup task.

Acronis automatic cleanup, i.e. Store no more than 3 recent versions, works on the principle that the 4th backup version must be created successfully before the oldest (1st) version is deleted, so your backup drive must have the capacity to store at least 4 versions (3 + 1 full backups).

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#2

Jono, here is my suggestion for how to accomplish this:

As Steve said, create two identical backup tasks that are scheduled to run weekly on Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Each backup task is for a different disk.

Next, create a Pre-command that will run before the backup task. The command only needs to determine which disk is in so you could just put an identifier file on the backup disk. If the right disk is in, the command works and the backup runs. If the wrong disk is in, it should fail and the backup does not run. (Make sure to check the two boxes on the pre-command. Also, turn off the Error handling repeats so the job does not keep trying.)

As an example, on destination disk 1, but a file called disk1.bat that does nothing. On disk 2, call the file disk2.bat. The pre-command would execute the appropriate bat file but error if the right file (disk) is not there.

In reply to by Steve Smith

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#3

Thanks, Steve, for the explanation and for the UUID information; I didn't know it did that. I also have discovered the 3 + 1 concept when my 4th backup failed this morning due to drive space issues. I suspected that might happen. I have 2 new drives on the way to me now.

In reply to by BrunoC

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#4

BrunoC, that's brilliant! So, just to make sure I'm understanding you correctly...

If I create a disk1.bat file on the root of the first disk, and then disk2.bat on the root of the second disk, set as pre-commands for their respective jobs, then I don't need to worry about enabling and disabling the jobs each week. They will both run their pre-commands and the one that is successful will continue with the backup job while the one that fails will not.

Is that correct?

(I did notice that the batch file fails if it's empty, but all it needs is one line of code, so I added @echo off and it worked fine.)

This is a big relief. If my original plan wasn't going to work, like Steve explained, at least there's a way to not have to change jobs each week. The goal is to be able to simply swap out the drives, nothing more.

Thanks again!

Jono

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#5

You are correct, Jono. You just need to swap the disks and you're good to go. And if you forget to swap a disk, no problem.

I should advise that the backup task that fails will show up in the UI as an error, but as long as you expect it don't worry. I wish there was an option on the pre-command to abort the backup while not considering it an error.

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#6

Excellent! Thank you.

In reply to by BrunoC

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#7

BrunoC ... thank you for the post ... a million points to you !

I have been struggling with a solution for this for a couple of years across multiple True Image versions, trawling guides, FAQs and posts and your suggestion is not only easy to implement but has resolved my regular swap / rotated USB backup solution.

Thanks again

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#8

I believe there is another way to do this within True Image which won't generate an error message.  I'm not positive this works, because I haven't tried it...but it should work.

For this to work, you must permanently assign different drive letters to each of the USB drives.  I would recommend upper drive letters, such as "R" & "T".

Then attach one of the USB drives and create the desired backup task.  On the "Schedule" tab, under "Advanced" options check the box "Run when current destination device is attached".

Run_with_USB_Attached_1.png

Then, on the "Backup Scheme" tab, turn on "Automatic Cleanup"  then select the number of versions to keep.  You should not delete based on the "age" of the backup.

Run_with_USB_Attached_2.png

After the first backup is complete, you can disconnect the USB drive, attach the other USB drive and set up the task for it.

Then, as you swap out the drives, ATI should know which drive is attached and perform that task on schedule.  

As Steve noted earlier, you would need to create a separate backup task for each USB drive.

As I stated earlier, I have not tried this, but it should work.  I am hopeful that error messages won't be generated.

Regards,

FtrPilot

 

In reply to by FtrPilot

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#9

FtrPilot - I just tried to implement as you suggested and the task is being queued when the schedule is triggered and the drive is not connected. I expected the task to not run and issue no messages. I'm running TI 2018 on Win10. I want to utilize rotating drives which have the drive letters Y & Z and I did connect the drive, identified the drive as the destination, ran a BU (it did the backup on the correct drive). I then disconnected the drive and set the schedule to kick off in a couple minutes, the schedule was triggered and the profile attempted to run and queued the task.

Any suggestions? 

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#10

John,

At this point, I don't have any suggestions.  I will set up a trial run and see if I get the same results, and will report back.

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#11

John, if you are scheduling a backup task when the target drive is not connected, then you need to include a Pre-Command to test for that drive and exit the task if not found.

The Pre-Command can be very simple like the small batch program below which checks for a text file in the root folder of the target drive.

echo off
if not exist e:\BackupDrive.txt 
{
msg * Please connect the Acronis backup drive
}
exit

You would need to create an empty BackupDrive.txt file on your target drive and adjust the drive letter in the script to match the actual letter being used, but this would alert you to the fact that the drive was not connected and abort the scheduled task.  If using this approach with two different drives, then adjust the script for each task to reflect the different drive letters.

You could include a 'pause' statement after the msg line if you want the script to wait for you to connect the drive but you may want to change the text of the msg to reflect which drive to use.

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#12

John,  I set up a file/folder backup to run every hour...full followed by 5 incrementals...to a usb drive.  After the full backup completed, i disconnected the usb target drive.  The sequence started at 8:06 AM.  After the full backup completed, ATI showed that the next backup was scheduled for 9:06.  At 9:06, with the usb disconnected, the next backup time was changed to queued.

queued.jpg

I left the usb drive unattached until another scheduled backup (10:30 AM) ran successfully.  At approximately 10:45, after the other backup completed, I attached the usb drive, and the backup to the usb drive started immediately and ran successfully.  At the completion, ATI showed the next backup would be 11:06.

Note...at 9:06, when ATI showed the task as queued, ATI did not attempt to start the backup.  ATI did not generate a 'demon' log file.  It just displayed the 'queued' message to show that a scheduled backup was missed and that as soon as the usb drive is connected, the backup task will run.

My conclusion is that ATI will do what you want it to do, however, when you attach a usb drive, the task associated with the drive will launch immediately, and not necessarily at the scheduled time.

Hope this helps.

Regards,

FtrPilot

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#13

FtrPilot - you got the same results as I did.

Steve, your suggestion might be a great solution but dummy me cannot get it to work.

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#14

John, sorry there is a minor correction to the simple script that is needed.

echo off
if not exist e:\BackupDrive.txt {
msg * Please connect the Acronis backup drive
}

The curly left brace needs to be on the end of the if not exist line else will generate a syntax error from Windows.

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#15

Steve, I think I have success, the following is what I did.

Created two small bat files, one for the ODD week and one for the Even weeks, e.g. ATI-EvenBU.bat and ATI-OddBU.bat

Contents of the files are

     echo off
     if not exist Z:\Z-Even-BU-Drive.txt {
     exit
     }

and

    echo off
    if not exist Y:\Y-Odd-BU-Drive.txt {
    exit
    }

I DO NOT want the backup to run if the drive is NOT attached. Thus each drive respectively has the drive letters Y and Z. 

On the respective removable two drives, I created an empty text file named

  • Z-Even-BU-Drive.txt
  • Y-Odd-BU-Drive.txt

Created two TI profiles one for the EVEN weeks and one for the ODD weeks. My plan is to rotate the drives each week on the same drive but most likely I will not always rotate on the same day.

I selected "R:\Libraries\Documents\Receipts & Confirmations" as the source because it is only 608 MB, thus the BU should be fast.

In each profile, I clicked on the Advanced tab (change the following for the appropriate profile.

  1. Clicked on Pre/Post commands
  2. In the Pre-command area, I clicked on the Edit button and selected the bat file, TI automatically inserted C:\ATI-EvenBU.bat

I then clicked on "Error handling" and removed the checkmark for "Repeat attempt if a backup fails". For me, if the execution of the bat file failed then I do NOT want to run the profile.

I then detached both drives and attempted to run each profile. Both profiles, as expected failed to run and nothing was queued in TI.

I then attached the Even drive and executed Even BU profile. TI stated that the BU was running but after 15 minutes it had not finished. At this time I have no idea why the profile did not run. I had selected to  Encrypt the BU and now I don't know how to remove that option without creating another profile.

I created a new test profile but did NOT select to encrypt the BU, this time the new profile ran will success per TI.

I retired the profile that encrypted the BU, again it failed to run but TI stated it was backing up and calculating time remaining.

I created another profile that encrypted the BU, this time it was a success. At this time I feel that I have success and will just delete the profile that failed. BTW I picked the most secure option for encryption. 

Questions:

  1. The PC that I'm backing up has some VERY sensitive data on it thus the reason I picked the option to encrypt the BU. Could I achieve the same security level or better by using Bitlocker? 
  2. If I need to restore (I will use a bootable USB Thumb Drive) is there anything special that I need to do?
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#16

John, dealing with your questions.

You can approach the sensitive data protection in a slightly different way to achieve a better level of protection.

Setup BitLocker on your external backup drive so that the whole backup drive is encrypted and set BitLocker to automatically unlock the drive when connected to your computer where it is to be used.

2018-03-26 10_47_17 BitLocker drive.png

Now set your backup task to be encrypted by ATI and stored on the BitLocker backup drive, so the data has this double-level of protection.

Note: ensure you make a backup of your BitLocker recovery key and a safe note of the key you have used to set this up!

The next step / question 2. is best served by using the MVP Custom ATIPE Builder script as you will need to include BitLocker support on your Rescue Media USB drive in order to recover the ATI backup image you are storing there, plus you will need to store the Recovery Key text file and a small batch command file to unlock the encrypted drive from the PE media.

2018-03-26 10_54_28 WinPE Rescue Media.png

The BitLockerUnlock.bat file contains just the following lines:

rem Unlock BitLocker protected drive from WinPE
manage-bde -unlock d: -rk BitLockerRecoveryKey.txt

Note: you will need to ensure that the drive letter to be unlocked is shown correctly for your own computer, i.e. d: for me.

You will need to install the Windows 10 ADK for PE support for using the MVP PE builder tool unless you are able to create this using the Windows Recovery Environment on your computer. I wasn't able to do this as my computer is dual-boot which confuses things!

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#17

FYI last night I implemented the rotating BU drives as described above. At this time I'm not using Bitlocker along with encrypting via ATI. The only goof on my part was using the wrong PW for the encryption (I wanted to use a more secure PW). To change the PW it is necessary to delete the existing profiles and create new profiles. This is a bit of a pain in that ATI no longer supports making the TIB filename more friendly. It is necessary to modify the script file after the first BU runs. Example,

  • default BU filename > Kat-Dell-LT_inc_b2_s3_v1.tib
  • Enhanced BU filename > Kat-Dell-LT_KMT-DELL_SYSTEM_BU12_D2018-02-28_T2308_.TIB_inc_b2_s5_v1.tib

I'm a bit redundant in the enhanced name and will clean it up next time.

Much thanks to Steve and FtrPilot for their help and advice.

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#18

Update on my progress.

I have used Bitlocker to encrypt the drives, this seems to be working. As expected when the drives are swapped or the laptop is reconnected to the dock you are prompted to enter a password.

I do have an empty text file on each drive which is used to determine if the Even/Odd drive is connected

  • Z-Even-BU-Drive.txt
  • Z-Odd-BU-Drive.txt

I'm testing on my desktop with an external USB drive that has Bitlocker encryption. On my "F" drive I have the bat file that will be executed as part of the TI File backup options > Advanced > Pre/Post commands.

For testing, I created a BAT file on my "F" drive. Question Where should I put this BAT file? Should it be on the BU drive or on the C drive? Or does it make a difference as long as the TI Pre points to the correct location?

echo off
Title BAT file to test presence for ODD or EVEN BU drive
if not exist Z:\Z-Even-BU-Drive.txt (
REM The IF test did succeed thus the drive is NOT connected

exit
)

 

Currently, I'm executing the BAT file on my "F" drive. In the test, I've selected "R:\Libraries\Documents\Receipts & Confirmations\" to be backed up just because it is a small 600 MB folder thus it will quickly run.

Every time I execute the backup I'm getting prompted for the system boot password. In the BU profile I did enter the PW and just to ensure I did it correctly I attempted to modify it. When I do I see that it is grayed out and when I mouse over it I see a pop-up stating "This option can be modified for a new backup only" WHAT THE XXXX IMHO this is stupid but I've been told that at times I do something stupid. I'd create a new profile but most likely I'd miss some of the options I've set. Question Why am I being prompted for the PW?

Back on the main Backup TI screen, I click on "Back up now" (the drive is connected), I'm prompted for a PW, I enter the PW click to proceed, on the TI screen I see "backing up.... Calculating time remaining...." and notice that the progress bar shows a very small amount of progress. After five minutes the TI screen has not changed. I clicked on the "Stop" button, confirm that I want to stop, TI reports "The last backup has been stopped by user."

I disconnected the USB drive, in TI I click the "Back up now" button, I'm prompted for the PW, I enter it and click the "OK button. At the bottom of the TI screen I see that the task is "Queued", it should have gracefully failed.

I don't know what the heck I've done wrong and I'm open for suggestions 

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#19

Steve Ref "Setup BitLocker on your external backup drive so that the whole backup drive is encrypted and set BitLocker to automatically unlock the drive when connected to your computer where it is to be used"

I did encrypt the entire drive.

Ref "Now set your backup task to be encrypted by ATI and stored on the BitLocker backup drive, so the data has this double-level of protection." 

How do I store the backup task on the Bitlocker backup drive? I'm assuming just by changing the location of the ATI script files, but I don't see where to do this.

Ref "The next step / question 2. is best served by using the MVP Custom ATIPE Builder script as you will need to include BitLocker support on your Rescue Media USB drive in order to recover the ATI backup image you are storing there, plus you will need to store the Recovery Key text file and a small batch command file to unlock the encrypted drive from the PE media."  

I've downloaded MVP_ATIPEBuilder_v182, now I need to look at it and get my brain wrapped around it.

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#20

John asked:

Question Where should I put this BAT file? Should it be on the BU drive or on the C drive? Or does it make a difference as long as the TI Pre points to the correct location?

It doesn't really matter provided TI is pointed to the correct location for the Pre Command.

Every time I execute the backup I'm getting prompted for the system boot password. In the BU profile I did enter the PW and just to ensure I did it correctly I attempted to modify it. When I do I see that it is grayed out and when I mouse over it I see a pop-up stating "This option can be modified for a new backup only" WHAT THE XXXX IMHO this is stupid but I've been told that at times I do something stupid. I'd create a new profile but most likely I'd miss some of the options I've set. Question Why am I being prompted for the PW?

The only time that you may be prompted for the system boot password (Windows password) would be if you are running the backup from a non-Administrator account. 

The response to attempting to change an ATI backup password is correct - this is only possible on a new backup task that has not yet been run.  I have never been prompted for such a password when running a password protected / encrypted task from the Windows ATI GUI.

Calculating time remaining.... should be expected to show for a while depending on the size of source data, type of backup being performed, target drive connection speed etc.  The task has to check for changes to the source data as compared to that held in the target backup archive with any overheads needed for decrypting data.

I suspect the Queued status comes from the fact that you had previously started then stopped the backup task.  The task should fail to start if the backup drive is not connected by virtue of your batch file not finding the required text file on the disconnected drive.

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#21

John wrote:

Ref "Now set your backup task to be encrypted by ATI and stored on the BitLocker backup drive, so the data has this double-level of protection." 

How do I store the backup task on the Bitlocker backup drive? I'm assuming just by changing the location of the ATI script files, but I don't see where to do this.

Sorry the point was to use password protection for your backup task but in reality if your target drive is encrypted by BitLocker, then this is probably overkill.  You cannot store your backup task anywhere else but using the ATI GUI.

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#22

I think I now have success and I'm not 100% sure that my memory will be correct for the following description.

  • I have NOT modified the BAT files described above.
  • I did create a NEW ATI task. I was attempting to ensure that I did NOT goof on something (like the PW for the encrypted drive - this was my main concern). I created screen images of each setting and used the images to help me create the new task.
  • Clicking on the "Back up now" button seemed to produce some different results that resulted in failure. 
  • To test the ATI task I kept changing the scheduled time so it would execute in two minutes or less, e.g. if the current time was 2210 hours I set the schedule for 2212 hours. This allowed ample time to exit the script and let it be controlled by the schedule setting.
  • I also set up email notification.
  • I tested the ATI script with the USB attached and detached. 
  • I think the PW I was being prompted for was the encryption PW, not the PC login PW. For my test I used the PW of my PC login. 

Now I just need to login to my son's PC and reset the backup correctly. I know something is wrong and at this time I'm assuming I made some dumb mistake.

Once I get the backups running correctly I will test a recovery.

Steve - BIG thanks for the help.

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#23

Today I created a new task on my desktop to test backing up to an encrypted USB 80GB drive simulating swapping the drive with another BU drive. I did this because I did not want to impact my son and access his computer. I was testing two conditions (1) the drive connected (2) the drive disconnected (see the bat file in the previous post that will test and verify if the drive is attached or not). Because of the previous issues with ATI when I clicked on the "Back up now" button I changed the schedule to 2 minutes more than the current time. I then exited the OPTIONS and let ATI set with the main window displayed. On my PC, because I just testing I backing up a 600 KB folder.

In the "2018 0815 ATI Test on S4 Failures" image Note that two subjects are "waiting for user interaction", I think this resulted from a space check that I had ATI perform. On my son's PC he will be using two 4TB drives and I only have a 80GB test drive and ATI was checking to ensure that 100GB of free space was available. I open the ATI task and changed to test for 10 GB of free space.

Also note in the image that there is a message stating that the BU was successful. I think this is a BUG! and there are two issue.

  1. The task should not have run because it was pending user interaction
  2. The destination folder where the BU was created was wrong. See the image "2018 0815 ATI Test on S4 BU in wrong folder" . Note in the image the destination is "Z:\BU\Acronis" but the run resulted in the backup being at the root of the Z drive.

Again I added two minutes to the current time and waited for the schedule to run (1650 hours). This time it ran with success and put the BU file in the correct folder.

Again I added two minutes to the current time and updated the schedule and let ATI sit with the main backup screen displayed. Before the schedule run kicked off I removed the drive. Because I run the BAT file as a PRE command for ATI I expected ATI to fail gracefully (because the drive is not connected) but there are a total of six messages stating that the execution failed. Following is the contents of the BAT file.

echo off
Title BAT file to test presence for ODD or EVEN BU drive
if not exist Z:\Z-Even-BU-Drive.txt (

REM The IF test did succeed thus the drive is NOT connected

exit
)
 

NOTE: I put the BAT file on one of my internal drives in my desktop.

Suggestions?? Have I done something wrong???

 

 

Anhang Größe
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#24

John, one other change that I would recommend you making for your backup task is for the Error handling settings on the Advanced Options page - this should be disabled as shown below.

2018-08-15 18_37_09 Error handling.png

If you don't do this, then the task will be rescheduled to retry the failing action when you want it to fail because the Pre Command bat file already failed to find the correct backup drive connected.

As to why the backup file ended up in the root of the drive and not the correct folder has to be a bug!

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#25

Steve, On my desktop which I'm using for testing I removed the check for the error handling as you suggested. But I'm not sure that this should be necessary. If the drive is not present then the BAT file should just exit and this should not be an error condition and trigger a rerun (IMHO).

BTW going back to the question as to where to place the BAT file. IMO it should NOT be on the destination drive. If it is and the drive is not present then ATI would NOT be able to execute it. 

In my earlier test, I put ECHO statements and pause commands in each path to ensure that the BAT file was detecting the presence/absence of the external drive and confirmed that it was working correctly. Possibly I'm outside of what ATI will support or there are other design issues (bugs).

I agree that the TIB file being placed at the root level is a bug. 

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#26

John, I have to say that I dislike the way that ATI does error handling and can get itself into a spam loop when email notifications is active, so my default settings always disable such error handling - I would much rather have the task fail once permanently than have it keep retrying over & over and filling my mail inbox with failure notices!

Agreed that the .bat file should be on the computer rather than on the storage drive, then at least the commands can run and perform the tests being set for the task, rather than fail due to the command file not being found.

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#27

Steve, I called support and spent a reasonable amount of time with the tech. We did NOT get a solution and he has escalated the issue. He is aware of this thread. Possibly with your close ties you can get involved. I don't know if TI 2019 offers a better solution. I doubt that it does only because this is a path that very few have gone down. I think that I will put 2019 on a new (new to me) laptop and test with it. I will not be able to work on it until late tonight. I'll keep you in the loop. If you want to take this off-line let me know.