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Windows Image Backup

Posted on 2014-10-21
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Last Modified: 2016-11-23
Hi Guys,

I have to make a backup of a critical server using built-in Windows Image Backup.

Is this backup method reliable?  Upon restore, does it restore the entire installation of Windows, drivers, and data?

Can one restore Windows image-backup to any other hard drive / system?
For example:  Gigabyte system can be restored to Dell system?

... an effort to be fully prepared, in the event of an emergency recovery.
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Question by:Rupert Eghardt
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20 Comments
 
LVL 28

Accepted Solution

by:
Dan McFadden earned 350 total points
ID: 40393782
Using Windows Backup is reliable.  You can use it to do a bare metal restore, aka restore to other hardware.  But doing a restore to different hardware most likely can and will cause driver issues.  Main reason, Gigabyte is not Dell... firmware, BIOS, etc... won't match up.

Windows backup has options to do a System restore, BMR (Bare Metal Restore), Data backup.

Reference links:
- http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc527493(v=ws.10).aspx
- http://windows.microsoft.com/en-za/windows/back-up-files#1TC=windows-7

If you restore to a similar machine, you should have no major issues.  When using Windows Backup to manage backups, I would make every reasonable effort to be prepared for a restoration.

For example:
1. recently backup image available and portable (external HDD, USB stick, etc)
2. OS installation media available
3. new hardware prepped with latest firmware, BIOS, manufacturer recommended hardware drivers
4. post OS restoration process (eg: Active Directory recovery, SQL server dbs, user file share data, etc.)

Dan
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LVL 47

Assisted Solution

by:noxcho
noxcho earned 150 total points
ID: 40393853
Windows Server Backup is reliable but not as convenient as the third party backup tools.
You can store only one backup set on a selected storage. Means that you cannot store different versions of full backup on the same HDD. Like Week1 Week2 etc. WSB creates automatically Full+Incremental set.  The retention is not straightforward. If in third party backup tools you can specify how many images to store, in WSB you do not have this option.
Restore to the same machine is ok. Even restore to a dissimilar machine with minimal differences is ok.
But if you restore backup from one RAID controller to a RAID of different model - most probably you will get a problem like BSOD at start.
And here the third party tools lead. Like Paragon with its P2P Adjust OS, StorageCraft with its Hardware Independent Restore, Universal Restore from Acronis etc.
If you have a budget for backup then I would recommend getting a third party backup tool. WBS is recommended to use when you have no budget for some decent backup solution and for simple scenarios.
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Author Comment

by:Rupert Eghardt
ID: 40394192
Thanks Guys, this is very helpful!
Is there a way to schedule the system image backups to run monthly on a specified date?
Perhaps via task scheduler?
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LVL 28

Expert Comment

by:Dan McFadden
ID: 40394252
Here's the MS documentation on using WBAdmin:

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc742130.aspx

Dan

PS: you can get around the "only one" full backup on a HDD by scripting the process. Write the backup to a date named directory and drop the backup there.  I currently do this for a pair of Virtual DC for DR and BMR.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 40396267
while restoring to other hardware does work for most systems - you'll be violating the licence imo if you transfer this image to another machine
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 40396340
And if his server is exploded? And he needs to still run the Windows on replacement hardware - is this still violation? Or if he replaces motherboard with a RAID controller. I don't think so. Violation would be if he uses the same Server license on two machines simultaneously. But this is not his intension as far as I understand it.
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LVL 28

Expert Comment

by:Dan McFadden
ID: 40396351
Restoring a server from backup does not violate the EULA.

If this were true, then every admin that has ever restored a server from backup, due to a catastrophic hardware failure, has violated a licensing agreement.

Backing up and restoring a Microsoft OS (client or server) does not violate the EULA associated with an installation of Windows OS.  This goes with the reasonable assumption that the action being taken is because the device where the OS was originally installed is not functional.  The transfer of software and the installation on another computer for your use is allowed explicitly in the EULA.  The computer where the software is now installed becomes the licensed computer... what is not allowed is sharing of a license.

Link:  http://download.microsoft.com/Documents/UseTerms/Windows%20Server_2012%20Standard_English_e9290a42-353a-4709-84cb-321c172f29b9.pdf

If you have concerns about your DR Plan violating a software's EULA, I suggest that you contact your company's legal consul and have them review it and if necessary contact MS.

Dan

<Legal-Disclaimer>
I am not a legal expert (but I play one on TV) and make no claims as such.  My statements are presented as is, and carry no valid legal weight or advice.  Please, contact a real lawyer.
</Legal-Disclaimer>
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LVL 28

Expert Comment

by:Dan McFadden
ID: 40396376
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LVL 47

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by:noxcho
ID: 40396385
Yes Dan, this is what I meant exactly.
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LVL 92

Expert Comment

by:nobus
ID: 40396635
>>  Can one restore Windows image-backup to any other hard drive / system?  << this was what i was referring to
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Author Comment

by:Rupert Eghardt
ID: 40396794
Thanks Guys for all the help!!

Just for confirmation:  The original question was for "Disaster Recovery Procedure".
Thus the software will only be installed on secondary machine, if primary machine is inaccessible.

One last question;

I used the build-in schedule option in Windows Backup ...
I scheduled a daily backup for 04:00 AM ("daily" seems to be the only available option)
Does the image backup run incremental (daily), or will the complete backup be rewritten every day.

The drive will only be plugged into the server for 2 days a month, the rest of the time the drive will stored in a safe.

1.  I assume the backup schedule will fail if the drive is not available, but will resume as soon as the drive is plugged back in?

2.  If the drive is removed while backing up, will the last backup be spoiled?  (a non-technical user will remove / reinsert the drive monthly)
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Expert Comment

by:Dan McFadden
ID: 40396868
The job will create whatever backup you chose during the task setup.  Mostly likely you took the defaults so a full will be run every time.

1. Yes, you will get an error that a drive/volume can not be found
2. Absolutely yes!  Do not remove the storage device until the backup job is finished.

What services does this server provide?  DC, Web server, file server?  Makes a big difference.

Dan
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Author Comment

by:Rupert Eghardt
ID: 40396886
The server is a DC, and is running a third party mail server program.
The server also managed the antivirus and workstation backups via Symantec DLO.
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Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 40396894
If the drive has a full backup already then the WSB will take incremental backup by default. If it does not have any backup then full backup will be created.
1) Resume - it will take backup at next scheduled time. Means if you schedule it for 9:00AM and take there is no drive at this moment - then the backup will try to run at 9:00AM next day.

2) Unfortunately yes. So be careful.
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Author Comment

by:Rupert Eghardt
ID: 40396913
Thanks Guys,

I assume if I set the schedule to say 1:00 every morning, and the server runs incremental backups by default (daily), the backup should be complete by 08:00 that morning.

Thus when the user removes the drive, the chance of it still running will be very slim.

Plugging the drive back in a couple of days later, the backup should automatically resume ...

I think / hope this solves our problem :-)
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LVL 28

Expert Comment

by:Dan McFadden
ID: 40396917
You need to backup this server up more than twice a month!

Since this is a multi function server, you run the risk of losing a ton of data with only 2 backups a month.  The risks are:

1. significant loss of active directory data
2. significant amount of email data being lost
3. loss of workstation backup data depending on the frequency of those backups

My guess is you would be doing a backup every 14 days.  IMO, the frequency of your backup plan is not sufficient to protect the server and its data.  I would be surprised if you said your end-users would be happy with losing as much as 14 days of emails.

Just saying...
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by:noxcho
ID: 40396950
I would also take the backup regularly. Especially when it is a mail server and AD.
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Author Comment

by:Rupert Eghardt
ID: 40396978
We have other backups running for the mail config, archives etc.
The purpose of this discussion is the image, complete server backup.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:noxcho
ID: 40397151
Then it is ok. I suspected you are using app level backup tools.
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LVL 28

Expert Comment

by:Dan McFadden
ID: 40397177
As long as you're confident and comfortable with the backup and recovery procedures you are using, then I suspect you have all the angles covered.

Dan
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