Disaster Recovery

Back up your hard drive with Complete PC Backup imaging utility

Windows Vista also comes with a hard disk imaging utility, called Complete PC Backup, that can create an image file that contains the complete contents and structure of a hard disk.

As you know, all of the previous Windows operating systems come with a backup utility to allow you to back up all the files on your hard disk. So too does Windows Vista. However, in addition to its standard backup utility, Windows Vista also comes with a hard disk imaging utility, called Complete PC Backup. This utility can create an image file that contains the complete contents and structure of a hard disk. If you've ever used Norton Ghost or Acronis True Image, then you have a good idea of what Windows Vista's Complete PC Backup imaging utility is all about.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll take a closer look at the Complete PC Backup utility.

Caveats

Keep in mind that that the type of backup that Complete PC Backup creates can not be used to restore single files--it can only restore the entire hard disk. For that reason, Microsoft recommends that even though you use Complete PC Backup, you still use the standard backup utility on a regular basis. Another thing to keep in mind is that Complete PC Backup and Restore is not included with Windows Vista Home Basic or Windows Vista Home Premium.

Accessing Complete PC Backup

There are two ways you can access the Complete PC Backup operation. You can access it from the Backup and Restore Center by clicking Start | All Programs | Maintenance. You can also access it from the Backup Status and Configuration page by clicking Start | All Programs | Accessories | System tools. Both of these initial user interfaces are shown in Figures A and B.

Figure A

You can launch the Complete PC Backup utility from the Backup and Restore Center.

Figure B

You can also launch the Complete PC Backup utility from the Backup Status and Configuration page.

From either interface, launching the Complete PC Backup utility first brings up a User Account Control dialog box. You'll need to click Continue to actually start the Complete PC Backup utility.

Creating the backup image

Once Complete PC Backup launches, you'll see its opening screen, which first scans your system for available backup devices and then prompts you to select one. As you can see in Figure C, I'm going to back up to a DVD RW drive for this example, but I could have chosen a secondary internal or external hard disk.

Figure C

Complete PC Backup can save the image that it creates to either a hard disk or a DVD.

When you click Next, you'll see a confirmation page that provides an estimate of the number of disks the image will require. Once you click Start backup button, the Complete PC Backup utility will be begin its preparation operation.

You'll then be prompted to insert a DVD disk into the DVD RW drive, as shown in Figure D. Notice the progress bar in the background indicates the beginning of the preparation operation. The Complete PC Backup utility will then prompt you to format the disk. You'll then see the Format operation commence, as shown in Figure E.

Figure D

Once the Complete PC Backup utility performs it initial preparation, you'll be prompted to insert a disk into the drive.

Figure E

The actual format operation takes less than a minute to complete.

Once the DVD has been formatted, Complete PC Backup utility will begin imaging the disk. As the operation continues and the first disk is filled, you're prompted to insert and format subsequent disks. In my case it took three3 DVDs to backup my 26GB installation. The first two DVDs were filled at 4.37GB while the third required only 568MB, which comes out to about 9GB--not a bad compression ratio.

Restoring an image backup

To restore a hard disk using the image, you'll need to boot from the Windows Vista DVD. You'll then see two Install Windows screens and will select your language in the first and then select the Repair your computer option in the second. When you get to the Windows Recovery Environment screen, as shown in Figure F, you'll select the Complete PC Restore option and follow the prompts to restore your system.

Figure F

The Windows Recovery Environment allows you to choose from a host of recovery tools, including Complete PC Restore.

Conclusion

In addition to its standard file backup utility, Windows Vista's Complete PC Backup imaging utility is designed to allow you to create an image of an entire hard disk. If you have comments or information to share about Windows Vista's Complete PC Backup, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area and let us hear.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

31 comments
jorgie1983
jorgie1983

Does this program create a New Security ID (SID) or do I have to do something else to get a newsid (I have heard NewSID doesnt work too well in Vista)

paulseow.webmail
paulseow.webmail

Problem is once the very first Complete Backup is done, all subsequent backups are incremental only ie only new changes. I recently reformatted my external disk but the system will only let me do incrementals - without the original backup, those incrementals are going to be useless. Anyone know how to reset the Complete PC backup so that it starts all over again.

wallboston
wallboston

I've played with Vista's Complete Backup utility and cannot seem to select any of my network drives as the destination for a complete PC backup image. Am I missing something or is this by design? If it is by design, I guess I could understand the logic that if the PC went down, I would not have access to network drives from which to restore a complete PC backup image. Can anyone confirm whether you can use network drives to backup your PC? Thanks.

kamal kr
kamal kr

r we use above said backup utility in Winxp, like Remote desktop connectiion boss_kamal@indiatimes.com

rogjr
rogjr

Lets see. You can image an XP drive, but need a Vista DVD to restore. No thanks. I use the freeware package Drive Image XML to backup my stuff. You can restore the entire image using another OS (BartPE/WinPE)or restore individual files or folders. Just read the simple help files for details. http://www.snapfiles.com/get/DriveImageXML.html

iasous
iasous

Wonderful information!

kathy.kirby50
kathy.kirby50

i cant find the place on my new base which is vista windows cant find where the floppy discs goes if there is one ,on my old pc it was xp and i did have a place for my floppy discs to go in but here i have manuels just a sheet which tells me haldly anything,i have photos on my floppy disc and dont know what todo with them if i dont have a floppy disc on my base unit i bought as new please can u help me. kathy.kirby50@yahoo.co.uk

tommcarr
tommcarr

I guess it's alright when it works. I just installed Vista Ultimate and, after getting everything installed and working fine, tried to do the image backup. It halts two minutes into it. It can't find a file. Which file? I dunno, it doesn't say. So it just plain doesn't work AT ALL!!!

tim.mcgovern
tim.mcgovern

Wow. is all I can say about vista?s windows complete pc backup. I backed up my hardrive in an amazing 90 mins. - thats 185gigs and left an image folder that is 153gigs on my 2.0 usb hard drive. compaire that to my usual back up software, acronis true image backup 10. (also note true image does have some problems in vista with their drivers, I got the blue screen a couple of times and my pc froze last night trying to do a backup, hence the review) with the same setup acronis takes 8 hours or 480 minutes. that is 80% longer. Now I realize that I am putting my faith in vista to keep my files safe but with a 90 min back up I can do this every day after work and not have to let a program like acronis work overnight. My only quibble with Vista?s back up system is that you cannot verify the image-

sir_cheats_alot
sir_cheats_alot

this is a very amusing joke by MS...oh they were serious? They will have to do better then this... are they not intending on selling Vista home at all? must not be or this utility would be included with all version of Vista. this does not bode well for Microsoft...unless OEMs are all ultimate edition.

hmiller10
hmiller10

Is this utility included in all version of Windows Vista or just in the more expensive Home, Business, Enterprise etc.? It would seem that Vista Express may be missing something like this capability. Please enlighten the membership as to which versions have this tool. Thanks

robert_eckerlin
robert_eckerlin

Thank You for your interesting and excellent article. Since the article does not mentions anything on this subject, I assume that "Complete PC Backup" backups whole disk drives but does not backup individual partitions. Is my understanding correct?

jakesty
jakesty

So, if I have 100 computers I have to run around to all of them and administer on the desktop? The sarcasm is because this product is not available for the HOME/Premium user so their focus is on corporate. Livestate from Symantec is not perfect, but 10x better to implement and manage from a central point. Livestate can push the client to the desktop and once installed can backup to a local or network drive. Another thing it can do is perform incremental backups so that you're only backing up changed data. Single file recovery is also possible by browsing the image. Scheduling and groups are created to manage how and when backups take place. Sorry Vista, you still have nothing for me over XP or really W2K that the corporate world "Needs".

NOW LEFT TR
NOW LEFT TR

Can it be used to resotre a non bootable PC?

zuhaib_haroon
zuhaib_haroon

A very nice article explained in the most simplest of ways with diagramatic representations to make it so very easy.Keep'em comin

jdavis
jdavis

YOu can't access network drives

hgreen
hgreen

I have used most of the major backup utilities plus those supported by Microsoft on their OS. As the old saying goes you get what you pay for. But mostly you pay for what you want. The NTIBackup software from NewTech Infosystems, is very good and I've used it for years, however, it has a fatal flaw. It does not work with SATA CD or DVD Burners. It burns the data, but is unable to restore it. I talked to the company and they informed me I needed an upgrade, which I did and it still failed. After contacting support they said they would look into it and get back to me. So I tested a product called Paragon 8.51 Pro, this product did everything I wanted, however getting the sales department to contact you back has been difficult. Figure out what, how, and where you want to backup to, then what and how you want to restore. Once this is accomplished find the software that fits your budget and needs. Sometimes you have to trade off if you can't afford the product that does everything you want.

prideauxwv
prideauxwv

From what i've read, this is not a bootable image backup.???? Another words, if I use this software to backup my hard drive system disk to a stand alone usb hard drive, I can't boot from the usb hard drive. I would think, that if it was a true image backup, I would be able to boot from it. If it is not a bootable disk, where can I get software that will do a true imabe backup? Perhaps symantec???

Fyrewerx
Fyrewerx

Every time Microsoft "includes" something in their OS installation, some other company, or the almight Euro-Union, sue them for trying to monopolize the industry (which of course is true, but a discussion for another time). I always get a chuckle when the reviewers, amateur or pro, gig MS for NOT including something .... "they should have included this" ... "they should have included that"...etc. Tell it to the Lawyers!!!

BIOSphereopts
BIOSphereopts

Your right, they did the same with XP home. They should include certain things on the disk in case you want them. Of course most home users never see a "disk" unless its the restore image that came with the mail order PC. (Another pet peev of mine)

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

The Complete PC Backup and Restore tool is not included with Windows Vista Home Basic or Windows Vista Home Premium. As such, that means that the Complete PC Backup and Restore tool is only available with Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate. Since Windows Vista Starter is designed for a beginning PC user, the Complete PC Backup and Restore tool won't be available. Besides, Vista Starter will only be available in emerging markets.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Complete PC Backup is designed to create an image of the entire hard disk. You are not given the option to choose individual partitions.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

The image is an exact copy of the hard disk contents that can be used to restore in the event that the hard disk isn't bootable. To restore a hard disk using the image, you'll need to boot from the Windows Vista DVD. You'll then see two Install Windows screens and will select your language in the first and then select the Repair your computer option in the second. When you get to the Windows Recovery Environment screen, you'll select the Complete PC Restore option and follow the prompts to restore your system.

acecc
acecc

NTI "New Technologies sent me a fully functional copy of their Backup Utility. As a value added reseller of personal custom PCs, I offer an image to my customers. Also, images are created for repaired PCs. For less than $50 the program will pay back a hundred fold. Two ways to image: 1)Remove the drive and install as a USB, SATA, or IDE on the PC running NTI backup program. Launch the program and select source and destination, options for an entire drive or partions are supported. (Take note if an extended partition exist or if all partions are primarys) does make a difference! Remember: A Boot partition (Windows files and folders) is not always the system partition (I/O file location). (Dell and HP are the first two that come to mind. 2)Purcahse a copy and install it on the PC permately, then all backup options are available. NTI's latest version supports VISTA. http://www.ntius.com/backup_solutions.asp NTI Drive Backup! provides easy image backup and disaster recovery using our EasySteps? interface, allowing even novice PC users to protect operating systems, applications, and files from malicious viruses or other software/hardware disasters. It even allows users to create bootable recovery discs on CD, DVD, and internal/external drives.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Windows XP Home did indeed come with a backup utility...it just wasn't included in the default installation. However, it could be found on the Windows XP Home installation CD in the folder \VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACKUP. Yes, I know that including it on the disk, but not installing it was a cheap shot on Microsoft's part. An OEM Restore disk is exactly the type of image that Complete PC Backup creates and will perform a very similar type of restore operation when used to recreate the hard disk. As such, purchasing a Vista computer with an OEM installed version of Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium that comes with an OEM restore disk will get you the same level of protection as Vista Ultimate with Complete PC Backup. On the other hand, if you were to upgrade an XP system to Vista Home Basic or Vista Home Premium, then you could say that you're missing out on a great tool. To look at it another way... The suggested retail price for Vista Home Basic Upgrade is $99.95 and to purchase a competing disk imaging product, such as Acronis True Image 9.0, which is currently selling for $50 on Amazon, puts you at about $150. The suggested retail price for Vista Home Premium Upgrade is $159 plus $50 for Acronis True Image 9.0 puts you at about $210. The suggested retail price for Vista Ultimate Full/Upgrade with Complete PC Backup is $399/$259. It still would have been nice if Microsoft had decided to include Complete PC Backup in the Home editions, but as you can see, it won't cost too much more to add it via a third party product. A bit of a hassle, probably, but doable. What's your take?

Oktet
Oktet

"The Complete PC Backup and Restore tool is not included with Windows Vista Home Basic or Windows Vista Home Premium." It is a good thing I am a CIS major, and thank you MSDNAA for the business version of Vista; however, it sucks if you have to upgrade or buy one of the lessor Vista's and not be able to backup your data- I guess they figured the home user does not have any important data that might warrant backing up.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Merriam-Webster defines diagram as: "a graphic design that explains rather than represents" As such, I'd say that to someone whose native language isn't English, "diagrammatic" would be an accurate description. However, I've never much liked the term "screen dump" as it connotes something that was just spit out by the computer. A more appropriate term would be "screen capture" as it better describes the careful planning that goes into the production of such a piece of work. ;-)

Kengrush
Kengrush

1. If I'm not mistaken, all iterations of the OEM "restore disc" or the pre-installed EISA hidden restore partitions are good FOR ONLY ONE POINT IN TIME. As such, they revert your PC to "like new" but do not preserve all interim accumulated data. As such, they are not really an adequate replacement for the lost functionality of Is that correct? 2. ALSO, will the actual backup (next generation NTBackup) program in Vista be able to use DVD burners as a destination? In Windows XP Professional, SP2, only tape drives, NAS devices, or recognized (by Windows) hard drives are valid destinations. Of course you can always backup to file and then burn that to a DVD, but that adds work and makes it less likely that the backup will ever be moved off of the PC, as it should be for true data security. Let me know what you think about these questions.

sir_cheats_alot
sir_cheats_alot

well, rather then pay for acronis, just download Drive Image, which is free, and it does pretty much the same thing(as far as i can tell). while it would be nice if they did include Complete PC backup with the home editions however, i'd like more detail on the utility myself, as far as functions, and capability, first before rating its usefulness. like as stated in one post: does it allow backing up of just the whole hard drive, or individual partitions? if memory serves the article wasn't very specific about it, all that was mentioned was it makes a image and burns it to multiple CDs or a DVD. From what i have been seeing OEMs aren't sending restore CDs anymore. they just setup a seperate partition with image files on it and you have to burn your own restore CDs now. HP/Compaq, and Dell are both doing it. i imagine that most other makers will do so too, assuming they haven't started already. "Windows XP Home did indeed come with a backup utility...it just wasn't included in the default installation. However, it could be found on the Windows XP Home installation CD in the folder \VALUEADD\MSFT\NTBACKUP" really ..it's not on either of mine. how odd. i have two copies of XP home(upgrade, and one full). the "original" XP home edition(without any service packs), and one dell OEM CD with SP1a. the only thing on either of those is just a file migration tool. I personally think this just microsoft's way of making extra money. there really is no excuse for them to not to include this tool, for some of the more knowladgeable windows users; i'm begainning to think they are just being lazy about it. After all there is still over a month before the release right? They have Plenty of time to do this(even if they just stick it on the dvd).

Editor's Picks