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Matt McSpirit on Virtualisation, Management and Core Infrastructure


Windows Vista CompletePC Backup

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Something that I have recently been made aware of, and it links in pretty nicely with virtualisation, is the CompletePC Backup feature that is found in Windows Vista (Business, Enterprise, and Ultimate Editions).

CompletePC Backup produces a block-level image of the whole machine while it's running, through the use of Volume Shadow Service (VSS).  This image can then be restored from bare metal, thanks to the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE), even on different hardware!  The focus of CompletePC Backup is to make Backing up of data, easy to perform, simple and suitable, thus ensuring more people are performing backup's, safeguarding their data.  CompletePC Backup provides the right features for the right people.

Vista CompletePC Backup is a great disaster recovery solution for both consumers and small businesses.  The backup can be stored on an external hard disk, internal disk partition, or a set of DVDs and it is very easy to restore via Windows Recovery Environment (Windows RE).  One point to note is that only the administrator can perform the backup.

The use of a block-level backup means that the process is very fast and efficient and CompletePC Backup also has a very clever way to do incremental backups: each backup is “full” but deltas are small - hence speed and efficiency are kept high.  Another interesting point to note is that the backup file is VHD format.  Those of you familiar with Virtual PC, or Virtual Server will know that this is the Virtual Hard Disk format.  This should mean, even if Microsoft haven't stated it clearly yet, that anyone will be able to backup a running Vista and restore it inside a virtual machine. Which is also a way to do physical to virtual (P2V) migration!

If you are interested, head over to, where there is a great forum post taking you through the CompletePC backup steps (including images).  One particular quote of interest to me reads "A complete restoration of a clean install of Vista business took approximately 6 minutes, although the time will vary depending upon your hardware, type of installation, and number of files and programs."  6 minutes for a complete restore is pretty quick!

The information I have provided in this post has been gathered from various sources, but the majority has been taken from a great PowerPoint presentation delivered at WinHEC 2006, entitled "Backup And Restore In Windows Vista And Windows Server Longhorn".  Other areas covered in the presentation include more information on the backup functionality, incremental image backup's, Windows RE, Windows Server Backup and Hardware Opportunities.  I hope you find it useful.

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