Roll back servers using Winternals Recovery Manager

Windows Me/XP's System Restore is one of the more exciting operating system features Microsoft has released in recent years. Now, Winternals has extended that functionality to include Windows NT/2000 servers with Winternals Recovery Manager.

It happens to even the best administrators: A Windows system under your command fails to boot, and the only fix is to reapply the corporate image to the machine. Then, the user admits that he has saved extremely important files locally rather than to a file server where they belong. Losing those files results in the loss of thousands of hours of work. What other options did you have?

After providing the user with a copy of the data storage policy indicating where files are to be saved, it’s time to set yourself to the task of getting the system operational. Although newer operating systems like Windows Me and Windows XP include excellent recovery features, they don’t always do the trick, especially when it comes to recovering data. And not every company is running the latest versions of Windows. Enter Winternals Recovery Manager.

WinternalsRecovery Manager is self-described as being similar to Windows XP’s System Restore, but that is where the similarities end. Recovery Manager goes further by providing support for Windows NT and Windows 2000 in addition to XP. It also provides recovery for unbootable systems and puts the control of the recovery process in the hands of an administrator rather than an end user. All in all, Recovery Manager makes it possible for administrators to extend these excellent recovery features from desktop systems (running WinMe or WinXP) to servers (running WinNT and Win2K).

Recovery Manager has the following installation requirements:
  • For Windows NT, Service Pack 6a is required, as is the Microsoft Task Scheduler, which is included in the offline browsing package for Internet Explorer 5. Windows NT systems also require the Active Directory Client Extension, which is available for download from Microsoft.
  • For Windows NT, 2000, and XP, Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC) 2.5 or later is required, and all protected systems must have file and printer sharing enabled.

Help is on the way
Although the help desk is traditionally responsible for helping to support desktop machines after they are up and running, the administrators are responsible for keeping the servers running and dealing with server problems and malfunctions. Along those lines, have you ever had that sinking feeling when you see the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) on a Windows server, or when you attempt to reboot a server, only to get an error message indicating that NTLDR could not be found (and there was not a floppy disk in the drive)? Or have you ever wished you could go back in time after applying a patch or service pack that caused serious problems? Think back. Do you remember some of the consequences associated with Windows NT SP4 or SP6? Fixing boot problems and rolling back systems are both challenges that can be met using Recovery Manager to protect the servers.

Using Recovery Manager’s Recovery Points, you can restore critical Windows system files and the Windows registry to the point before they failed after you applied a flawed patch or after your boot sector became corrupted. Recovery Manager can also roll back multiple systems simultaneously, helping you to recover from viruses or from patches that were automatically applied to multiple servers.

Although a general Recovery Point restoration is a great way to immediately solve many problems, it won't fix every issue. You'll need to turn to the Recovery Manager Console (Figure A) to handle other specific tasks, such as modifying the registry of a down system, modifying the device drivers, or performing a partial rollback to a Recovery Point.

Figure A
The Recovery Manager Console

Here are some other Recovery Manager features that many administrators will find useful:
  • You can use the Recovery Manager Boot Client to create bootable images that can be used to access systems that are unbootable or have been locked out.
  • You can modify local passwords (even locked-out admin passwords) on a system.
  • You can view and modify driver and service settings on remote systems.
  • You can edit the registry of remote systems.

System recovery shouldn’t be limited to the desktop. In fact, quick recovery from problems at the server level can have a much more pronounced effect on the overall performance of the network environment. Winternals Recovery Manager has taken the excellent rollback functionality that Microsoft integrated into Windows Me/XP with the System Restore feature and extended it to provide a superb system recovery solution for Windows NT/2000. Admins who have experienced this technology with WinMe/XP desktops will love what it can do for Windows servers.


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