Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

Windows Vista Complete PC Backup and Recovery screencast

Windows Vista Complete PC Backup and Recovery screencast

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Surely by now you've heard of Windows Vista Complete PC backup and recovery.  No?  Well, if you've ever managed to lose a hard drive, then you know how much fun it is to reinstall operating systems and applications.  Not to mention potentially losing ALL of your pictures, music, documents, and other business and personal data.

Just yesterday, one of the managers in my group had the hard drive go belly up on her tablet pc.  If she was running Windows Vista, and if she had performed a Complete PC backup, she could have recovered from that catastrophic event in roughly 30-60 minutes (I'm guessing based on the average amount of data most people have).  This is only one isolated instance of bad stuff that can happen.  If you don't think it can happen to you, think again.

Many of you have likely used some form of backup and recovery.  If not, you are in for a surprise the first time you boot Windows Vista.  We'll politely ask you to create a backup.  I would heed that advice and do it.  Right then.  After you've installed your favorite applications and copied personal data, do another backup.  Right then.  In fact, use Complete PC to do the backup to DVD and you'll now have a personal image of your shiney new Windows Vista installation complete with your personal touch.

So how does Complete PC work?

If you look closely, you'll see Complete PC borrows some ideas from the virtual machine world.  We do a physical to virtual state and data capture then write the results to the backup target media or drive in the form of a virtual hard drive.  Huh?  Yes, we write a bunch of information directly into a virtual hard disk file.  It has the .vhd extension and everything. 

Can I mount the .vhd with Virtual PC or Virtual Server?

I'm told you can.  I haven't tried it yet but may mess around with it a bit this weekend or next week.  I owe the Complete PC feature team some testing results so I can add this to the stuff I have planned.  Why would we allow this?  The only reason I can think of is to allow access to the data through another tool in case you manage to delete part of the backup set, but don't delete the .vhd file.  For instance, if you look in the directory that is created by the backup, you'll see a number of catalogs and XML files.  What if you manage to screw one of those up so Complete PC can't restore?  Well, as a last measure you could mount the .vhd in a VM and gain access.  You cannot boot the .vhd with our virtual machine products.

So checkout the screencast demo below and see what you think.  If you are used to other imaging products, you'll be very happy with the simplicity of Windows Vista Complete PC.  For more information on this and some of the other backup technologies, see http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/features/foreveryone/backup.mspx and http://www.microsoft.com/windowsvista/experiences/backup.mspx.

Screencast Demo

You can watch my Windows Vista Complete PC screencast directly from our streaming media server or download and watch the video later on your laptop or podcatcher.  The attachment below is a RSS enclosure for you podsters.  If you want to keep the demos for offline viewing, right mouse click the attachment below and copy it local.  Subscribe to my screencast RSS feed at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/rss.aspx?CategoryID=11416.

"See you" again soon.

Errata

I was just listening to the recorded media file and noticed the following silly things I said, and one thing that was technically not possible:

  1. I said at the end of the backup that it was the end of a webcast.  Silly me.
  2. I said the .vhd file was 5.8 meg instead of 5.8 gig.  Dork.
  3. I said during the beginning of the restore discussion that hopefully you'll have the Windows Vista Recovery Environment (RE) on a partition so that you can run Complete PC.  Uh, hello?  If you lose the drive, you lose the RE partition.  This is where the Windows Vista DVD comes in handy.
Attachment: http://keithcombs.members.winisp.net/screencast/completepc.wmv
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  • You mention about OEM's including a restore partition with the restore tool included.  If you lost your drive (bearings went out or whatever) you lose your restore tool too..  Will Vista allow you to burn a restore DVD with the tool on it in addition to your restore image?

  • Good question.  I need to check to see what the logo requirements will be, but if the drive is toast, it's toast.  Most OEM implementations of Windows I've seen will do a factory install.

    Presumably, the OEM Windows Vista factory install will also recreate the RE and BitLocker partitions and allow you to run Complete PC or Backup to recover all data.

    Keep in mind the BitLocker recovery keys are going to be in either the TPM chip, USB stick, or Active Directory (assuming AD was extended to support it).

    I'll check and report back...

  • Yeah, just file that under "would be sweet".  9 times out of 10 you probably have the Vista install cd handy, but it would be nice to have a standalone DVD/blueray/somehugestoreagemediathingy around with a 1 step restore.  Some pretty fierce encryption of the data would be nice too, so someone can't just swipe your vhd and browse your files at leasure.  That's a problem with any backup.

  • Thanks for all your help. :-) Your advice on blogging and resources is awesome. I have put your blog on my blogroll and wrote up a little posting at http://www.mikeysgblog.com/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=236
    Thanks Again!!

  • Hi Keith, nice demo!

    Will it be possible to backup custom files with this application?

    I really can see myself using it to backup specific directories, and I especially like the fact that it creates a zip file with the backed-up data.

    Thanks!

  • CompletePC is designed to do an entire drive.  If you want selective backup/restore, the other features of the Backup and Recovery center will do that for you.

  • One thing I can can't seem to find the answer on is how you're suppose to backup EFS files... The vista backup just seems to skip them without warning. Do you know anything about this?