Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

Windows Vista Complete PC screencast

Windows Vista Complete PC screencast

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It’s been a while since I brought up a great feature in Windows Vista (not present in Windows XP) called Complete PC (CPC). Available in Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions, Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore is a image-based backup tool that will help you out of a tight spot if you need to recover your entire system.

While file restore is useful in cases of file loss and data corruption, Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore is most useful for disaster recovery when your PC malfunctions. This feature helps you create complete PC backups, and then in the event of a serious system issue or data loss, Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore can restore your entire PC environment, including the operating system, installed programs, user settings, and data files.

You can restore your PC back to its original state or onto another PC. Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore can be initiated from within Windows Vista or from the Windows Vista installation CD, if the PC is not able to start up normally from the hard disk.  This feature is also now integrated into Windows Server 2008 and part of the backup and recovery toolset on that platform.

Here’s a screencast on Complete PC.  Don’t forget you can view this full screen by double clicking the video during playback or using the button on the far left of the player toolbar.

Checkout the FAQ from the team that developed the feature.  It’ll answer some questions about security, network backups, etc.  If you really must have a Powerpoint slide deck on the subject, check this out.

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  • Can you really restore to another PC?  I bought a new hard drive for my notebook near the end of last year and read that if the HDD size is different that Complete PC wouldn't work, so I went out and bought Acronis.  Would be interested to know for future reference.

  • Yes, you can restore to a completely different PC.  I just did it for fun.  I backed up my Dell Latitude D820 with Complete PC and restored it to a HP 6910p.  Completely different machines, chipsets, CPUs, video chips (ATI and NVIDIA), etc.

    You can always restore to a drive that is of equal size or larger.  Restore will fail to a smaller drive.  If you restore to a larger drive, the restore will create a partition the size of the source backup.  You can easily expand that after restore to fill the drive with one partition.

    Keep in mind you can't restore a x64 backup to a machine incapable of running x64.  For different machines, you might hit other issues you'll have to resolve manually.  In my case, I would need to install the ATI Catalyst video drivers.

    Acronis TruImage and Symantec Ghost are also great tools that are widely used.  I actually prefer Ghost.

  • When restoring to a totally different PC using Ghost or TruImage will it still detect the proper HAL/chipset/etc ??

    So this must be an inherent trait of the vista boot process rather than the CPC piece?

  • Yes, it primarily a result of Windows Vista's ability to handle the redetection needed.

    I have not tested Windows Server 2008 and what differences it may have.

  • Ooooh.  Don't get me started on Complete PC backup.  :-)

    I had no problems doing the backup, it was the restore later on that caused me many hours of headaches.

    - Backed up Vista Business x64 (OEM install with SP1 applied later on).

    - Installed Server 2008 x64 from MSDN 32/64bit combo 2008 media

    - Needed to roll back to Vista so I could go back to work on Monday, so inserted MSDN 32/64 combo VistaSP1 media.  Nope.  Can't repair this install (Server2008) with this media.

    - Ok.  Try to run repair from Server media.  Same error message.

    - Try Vista OEM media.  Same error

    - Format drive.

    - Try combo Vista media since I wasn't sure if a non SP1 media could restore a SP1 install.  Whoops, can't recover a 64bit image with a 32bit environment (the installer on the combo disc is obviously 32bit)

    - Try OEM media.  Yay!  I can recover my partition.

    It's a really cool idea, but not being able to get to the Restore PC without going through "Repair" is a little annoying (and confusing).

  • Is can I use WinPE for the restore of this VHD image?  Or can I at least script this somehow?

  • Can I use WinPE for the restore of this VHD image?  Or can I at least script this somehow?