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HOWTO: Backup / restore System State

Summary: This tutorial explains how to use wbadmin (the command-line backup utility built into Windows Server 2008) to backup and restore your machine's system state.

Backing up the System State

There are two ways to backup the System State of a Windows Server 2008. One involves creating an Image backup of your primary system partition.This can be achieved using either the Server 2008 backup wizard, wbadmin or BackupAssist.

The other method involves backing up the system state separately. This can only be acheived using wbadmin.

Method 1 - backing up the System State as part of a complete image backup

  1. Launch a command prompt window on the server by going to Start > Run and then entering CMD.EXE into the 'run now' dialogue.
  2. From the command prompt window, execute one of the following commands,replacing the E: after -backupTarget with an appropriate drive letter to backup to.

    wbadmin start backup -include:c:,d:,e: -backupTarget:E: -quiet
    To make sure that the System State is backed up using this command you need to add all drive letters containing Windows system information after -include. The recommended method is to simply backup all drive letter partitions on your system.

    wbadmin start backup -allCritical -backupTarget:E: -quiet
    The -allCritical parameter will make sure that all critical volumes that contain the operating system's state are backed up (more information). Typically only the C: drive will be backed up, but this can vary depending on how your server has been setup.

Method 2 - backing up the System State separately

  1. Launch a command prompt window on the server by going to Start > Run and then entering CMD.EXE into the 'run now' dialogue.
  2. From the command prompt window, execute the following command:

    wbadmin start systemstatebackup

Restoring the System State

Recovering the system state of your server from a created by the Server 2008 backup wizard, wbadmin or BackupAssist image backup is a very simple process.

  1. To being the process you will need to launch a command prompt window on the server to be recovered. You can do this by going to Start > Run, and then entering CMD.EXE into the 'run now' dialogue.
    • (If you have UAC enabled on you will need to go to Start > All Programs > Accessories) then right click on the entry “Command prompt” and choose run as administrator to ensure the command prompt window has adequate privileges to perform the restore)
  2. From the command prompt window, execute the below command. This will provide you with a view of the image backup catalogue for your server:

    wbadmin get versions
    The catalogue list will be similar to the following:

    wbadmin image catalogue

    Each of these entries is a backup that has been made of your server. Under each entry you can see the time it was created and what type of restore you are able to perform. Backups of the system volume, created by the Server 2008 backup wizard, wbadmin or BackupAssist will list “System State” under Can Recover.
  3. From this list find the System State backup you wish to recover. Make a note of the Version identifier pertaining to this backup as you will need this for the next step.
  4. To start the restore process you will need to run the follow command:

    wbadmin start systemstaterecovery -version:[version identifier]
    For this example we chose to restore the latest backup with the version identifier 07/30/2009-00:16. So the command line we entered was:

    wbadmin start systemstaterecovery -version:07/30/2009-00:16
  5. After executing this command you will be prompted to continue. If you are happy to begin the restore process press “y”, followed by the enter key. The restore will then begin.

    wbadmin System State restore starting

  6. When the restore has completed you will see the message shown below. You will need to reboot your server to finalize the recovery.

    wbadmin System State restore finsihed

  7. Once you server has rebooted your server the System State restore will be complete.