Full Hard Disk Backup under Vista

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Finally, something that actually works fairly nicely under Vista

Microsoft includes a tool with Vista (I have Vista Ultimate, I’m not sure if this is included on all versions of Vista or not), that can backup your entire harddisk (usually one at a time, but for most people these days, drive C IS their harddrive) all at once, WITHOUT resorting to funky dos boot disks and the like.

It’s called Backup Your Entire Computer (catchy, eh?), and it’s located in the Backup and Restore Center on the Control Panel.


Basically, grab yourself a USB drive big enough to hold your entire C drive, open this window and click the Back up Computer” button.

It could take a while, so USB 2.0 is best, esp if you have several hundred gig to back up.

But, there’s an even handier way to work with it!

The command line utility wbadmin (Windows Backup Administrator) allows you to perform a complete computer backup directly via command line (or, more conveniently, via a batch file).

You run it like this:

wbadmin start backup -backuptarget:k: -allcritical -quiet -vssFull

where k: is the drive letter of the USB drive that you want to backup onto.

Couple that with the Task Scheduler to run this batch file automatically every night and you have a nice, simple way to guarantee that your drive is completely backed up.

And finally, Windows Backup creates a VHD file from your harddrive as the backup. Anyone familiar with Virtual PC might recognize VHD files as Virtual HardDisks.

And that might also mean you could open that vhd file without actually having to restore the entire thing. And you’d be right! Very cool. The details on doing so are fairly involved, but mainly it requires that you install the free Microsoft Virtual Server, if only for the Mount Virtual Hard Disk tool, which comes with Virtual Server.

Once you have that tool installed, you can mount a VHD back up file and it will appear to be just another harddrive on your computer. You can actually copy files from it or to it at will.

It’s not as easy as it should be, but it’s not too tough. Bart DeSmet has a really good description of doing exactly this on his site.

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