Date: Oct 23, 2009
In Part 2 of this two-part series on Windows 7’s backup utility, Windows expert Mark Soper shows how to restore files to a Windows 7 system, how to restore a system image to an empty hard disk, and how to use Windows 7 to restore backups made with Windows Vista and Windows XP's backup programs.
In Part 1 of this series, you learned how to use the new integrated file and image backup utility included as part of Windows 7. In Part 2, you will discover how to restore files to a Windows 7 system, how to restore a system image to an empty hard disk, and how to use Windows 7 to restore backups made with Windows Vista and Windows XP's backup programs.
However, the first topic to discuss is how to make sure you have a working backupbefore you need to use it.
Understanding Backup Messages
The first clues you have to the success of your backup are the messages displayed at the end of the backup. If there were no problems with the backup and you had clicked the View Progress button, you should see a Windows Backup has completed successfully message at the end of the backup
However, if there were problems during the backup, you might see one of the following messages in the main Backup and Restore dialog after the backup is complete.
"Check Your Backup Results"
This message indicates that some files were skipped. To see what was skipped, click Options (1), then the View Skipped Files link (2) in the popup dialog (Figure 1).
Figure 1 Preparing to view files skipped by the backup process.
Click through the UAC prompt if it appears, and you will see the error log for the backup open in Notepad. Select the Word Wrap option in the Format menu for Notepad to read the log without scrolling to the right. A typical error log when some files are skipped is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 Backup will not backup the backup target if it is specified in the backup (1), library locations on other systems (2), or files it cannot locate (3).
To make sure that library locations on other systems are being backed up, run backup routines on the systems hosting the library locations. You can use either the backup utility provided with the operating system or a third-party backup utility or service.
"Check Your Backup"
This message indicates the backup failed (Figure 3). When you click More Information (1), you will see more information about the error (2).
Figure 3 Before you run the backup again or change backup settings, open the system and application logs stored by Windows to learn more about the problem.
Some of the possible causes for a failed backup include not enough space on the target drive, disk corruption, disk controller error, and a loss of connection to the target drive or network location.
To learn more about backup errors, do the following:
- Right-click Computer and select Manage to open the Computer Management Console.
- Open System Tools > Event Viewer > Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > Backup > Operational. A backup process with an Event ID of 50 failed because the target location did not have enough space to store the backup (Figure 4).
Figure 4 The Operational log for Windows Backup tells us that the target drive ran out of space. The solution is to free up more space on the target drive or get a bigger backup drive.
Backup processes with an Event ID of 55 can have many different causes. You could also slog through System and Hardware Events logs for ideas, or you can make it easy on yourself. By using the Custom Filter option in the Computer Management Console, I was able to set up a filter that showed only Critical and Error events for the last 30 days in the System, Hardware Events, and Microsoft-Windows-Backup/Operational logs (Figure 5).
Figure 5 Creating a custom filter that brings together System, Hardware Events, and Windows Backup errors for the past 30 days.
With this filter, I was quickly able to see that a backup which had failed on 8/3/2009 at 5:24:27PM was caused by a corrupt file system on the target drive reported at the same time, as shown in Figure 6.
Figure 6 Problems with the backup target's file system (A) caused both the backup (B) and volume snapshot (shadow copy) service (C) to fail.
After solving the problem (by freeing up space on the target drive, repairing file system errors on the target drive, and so on), retry your backup.
Creating a System Repair Disc
Windows 7's System Image backup enables you to restore a working Windows installation to an empty hard disk that’s the same size (or larger) than the original drive. To do this, you must have a Windows 7 bootable disc.
While you can use your Windows 7 installation DVD to start the computer and restore a system image, what if you have a preinstalled version of Windows 7 and no installation DVD? While your system is working properly, you should create a System Repair disc. The System Repair disc also enables you to run other features of the Windows Recovery Environment, including startup repair, a full-featured command prompt, system restore, and memory diagnostic tests.
During the backup process, you are reminded to make a System Repair disc (Figure 7).
Figure 7 Before the system image and backup process is complete, you are reminded to make a System Repair disc.
To create the System Repair disc:
- Click the link shown in the in the left pane of the Backup and Restore dialog (Figure 8).
- Insert a blank CD or DVD into the drive listed.
- Click Create Disc (Figure 9).
Figure 8 Starting the process to create a repair disc.
Figure 9 Creating the repair disc.
The disc-creation process takes only a minute or two, and after it is completed, be sure to label the disc as prompted.
Restoring Files from Windows 7 Backup
Use the Restore Files option in Windows 7 Backup to restore files if they have become corrupted, deleted, and are no longer in the Recycle Bin, or have been replaced with other versions. You can also use the restore files option to test your backup.
To restore files:
- Open Backup and Restore (Figure 10).
- To restore only your files from the current backup location, click Restore My Files (A). To restore all users' files, click the Restore all users' files hyperlink (B). To restore files from another backup, click the Select Another Backup to Restore Files From link (C).
- After selecting the backup from which you want to restore files, choose the backup from the list of backups (Figure 11). If the backup is on a network location, click the Browse Network Location button. Click Next to continue.
- To restore all files, click Select All Files. In this example, we'll use the Browse for Folders button to restore a specific folder (Figure 12).
- Navigate through the backup to locate the files or folders to restore. Click Add Folder to add your selection (Figure 13).
- If you are restoring only selected files or folders, repeat Steps 4 and 5 until you have selected all of the files or folders to restore. Click Next to continue (Refer back to Figure 12.)
- Click Restore to restore your files or folders to their original locations (Figure 14).
- Click View restored files (arrow) to see your files in an Explorer window. Click Finish to close the restore process (Figure 15).
Figure 10 Preparing to restore files.
Figure 11 Selecting a backup from which to restore files.
Figure 12 Preparing to restore a specific folder.
Figure 13 Selecting a folder to restore.
Figure 14 Restoring files to their original locations.
Figure 15 Completing the file/folder restore process.
You don't need to wait for an actual file loss or corruption problem to test your backup. To perform a test restore of selected files or folders, follow the procedure given in the previous section, but in Step 7, select the option to restore your files to a specific location (Figure 16). Click Browse to navigate to a folder you have created as a target for the restoration, then click Restore. Your files will be restored to the folder you specify.
Figure 16 Testing the backup by restoring files to a test folder.
Restoring a Disk Image
In the event that Windows stops working properly and you are unable to solve the problem by using System Restore or other measures, you can restore your computer to operation by restoring the system image and then restoring data files that were backed up after the latest system image backup.
There are two ways to begin this process:
- From the Backup and Restore menu. This method is recommended if you have not made a file backup recently, as you are given the opportunity to run a file backup before restoring the system image.
- By booting with the Windows 7 DVD or System Recovery disc and using the System Image Recovery option. Use this method if your system cannot start even after using Startup Repair and repair functions available from the Command Prompt, or if your hard disk has crashed and must be reformatted or has been replaced with a new unit.
In this example, we'll look at the process of using the System Recovery disc to perform a system image recovery:
- Restart the system with the System Recovery disc.
- Press a key to boot from the CD or DVD when prompted.
- Verify or select the correct keyboard input method on the opening System Recovery Options dialog.
- Click Next to continue.
- Choose the System Image Recovery option.
- Click Next to restore the latest system image backup (Figure 18). Otherwise, you can choose an earlier one.
- Choose the Format and Repartition disks option (arrow) to prepare an empty or new hard disk.
- Click Next to continue (Figure 19).
- Review your settings, and click Finish to restore your computer (Figure 20).
If you are restoring the image to a drive that still contains your installation, you might also be given the option to repair startup files. If you are restoring the image to a formatted or new drive, you will see a dialog similar to the one in Figure 17.
Figure 17 Starting the system image recovery option from the System Recovery Options or Windows 7 DVD.
Figure 18 Selecting an image to restore.
Figure 19 Selecting an image to restore.
Figure 20 Restoring the selected image.
After the restore process completes, you will be prompted to restore files from the latest file backup.
Working with Vista and XP Backup Files
Windows 7 can also work with Windows Vista and Windows XP (NTBackup) files.
To restore files from a Windows Vista disk image backup, follow the procedures listed previously for restoring files from Windows 7.
Windows Vista stores file backups in ZIP archives. Consequently, we don't need to use Windows 7's Backup and Restore to access these files. Instead, open Windows Explorer and navigate to the folder containing the backups (the folder has the same name as the source computer). See Figure 21.
Figure 21 Preparing to open a Windows Vista file backup.
As you navigate deeper into the folder, click Continue when prompted by UAC to receive permission to access the folder's contents.
Eventually, you will see archive (.zip) folders. Double-click each folder and drill through the structure to find the file(s) you want to restore. You can drag the files from the folder to any location desired (Figure 22).
Figure 22 Selecting files from a Windows Vista file backup.
Windows 7 does not include the Removable Storage Service (RSS) used by NTBackup, the backup tool used in Windows 2000 and XP. However, if your backup is not residing on tape or removable media (for example, if you have backed up to an external hard disk), you can copy NTBackup files to your Windows 7 system and run NTBackup to restore files directly to Windows 7.
Windows 7 Backup and Restore's restore component enables you to restore files from a Windows 7 backup or Windows Vista image backup as well as system images. You can also restore files from a Windows Vista file backup by using Explorer. Although Windows XP backups might not be as easily restored, they can be restored in Windows 7 in some circumstances. However, if you need access to NTBackup files stored on tape or removable-media drives, you should keep a Windows XP installation with the appropriate hardware on hand so you can restore those files.