Microsoft

Quick Tip: Restore individual files from a System Image in Windows 8

With Windows 8 you can restore individual files from a System Image backup quite easily using its built-in ability to mount ISO and VHD files.

A VHD is a virtual hard disk that is most notably used with a virtual PC programs like Windows 8's Client Hyper-V. You probably also know that one of the new features in Windows 8 is the ability to natively work with VHD and ISO files. More specifically, this means that you can mount VHD and ISO files simply by double clicking on them in File Explorer. When you do, the operating system creates a virtual drive from the file, assigns a drive letter, and makes the drive available in Computer.

Now, what you may not know is that a VHD is at the heart of a System Image of your hard disk. In other words, when you create a System Image, like I described in the Creating a System Image section of the article Restore Windows 8 with System Image Recovery, the operating system actually creates a VHD file and stores the contents of the hard disk in it.

You can create a System Image on a set of DVD discs, on an external hard disk, or on a network drive. As you can imagine, when you use a set of DVDs, the VHD file is broken up into pieces and stored on multiple discs. However, when you create a System Image on an external hard disk or on a network drive, you end up with a single VHD file.

Because a System Image on a set of DVD discs contains a VHD file that is broken up into pieces, the native VHD support is unable to mount the VHD because by itself, Windows 8 is unable to put the pieces together. However, because a System Image on an external hard disk or on a network drive is a single VHD file, you can mount it and easily access the files that it contains.

This means that in Windows 8, you can restore individual files from a System Image quite easily. Let's take a closer look.

Attach the VHD

The very first time that you access a VHD in a system image, you'll need to use Disk Management. From that point forward, the VHD will be recognized by the operating system and you can access it directly from File Explorer.

To begin, press [Windows]+X to bring up the WinX menu and select Disk Management. When the tool launches, pull down the Action menu and select the Attach VHD command. When you see the Attach Virtual Hard Disk dialog box, click Browse, and then use the Browse dialog box to locate the VHD file. As you can see in Figure A, the VHD, or more specifically VHDX, file on my external hard disk is located in F:\WindowsImageBackup\Oberon\Backup 2013-06-14010701 folder.

Figure A

The first time that you access a VHD in a system image, you'll need to use Disk Management.

There are actually two VHD files and you'll want to use the largest one. In my example, the largest VHD file is 118GB.

When you double click on the VHD file, it will appear in Disk Management with a blue icon but it will not be assigned a drive letter, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

When you attach a VHD from your System Image it will appear in Disk Management with a blue icon but it will not be assigned a drive letter.

Assign a drive letter

Once Disk Management has attached the VHD, you can assign it a drive letter. Right click inside the disk box, select the Change Drive Letter and Paths command, and click the Add button. When you see the Add Drive Letter or Path dialog box, the next available drive letter should be ready to go, so just click OK. This process is illustrated in Figure C.

Figure C

To be able to access the VHD, you'll need to assign it a drive letter.
Now that you have assigned a drive letter to the VHD, you can open Computer and access and restore any of the files in your System Image backup, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Once a drive letter has been assigned, you can easily access any of the files stored in your System Image backup.

When you are finished with the VHD, just right click on the drive letter and select the Eject command. If you want to access it again later, you can do so right from within File Explorer - just locate and double-click the VHD file and it will immediately be assigned a drive letter.

Also read:

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.

15 comments
B4ME
B4ME

I've restored images several times from a VHD created using Windows Backup (Create image).  This time I can't do it, when starting up Windows after restoring the image it goes into repair mode and can't fix the issues, sfc /scannow doesn't seem to fix either.  I am working if it might be because at some stage before I attempted to restore the image, I attached it using the method described here, in read/write mode.  I didn't change any files however in order to access some of the files in the virtual drive, it did need to change the permissions on the files.


When I open a command prompt (which I can do) and look at the restored drive, it looks intact to me, however the repair is complaining about a number of sys files in the \windows\system32\drivers folder being corrupt.


I've used the same method to create images in the past and restored them successfully so I am puzzled why this time I can't restore.  Any ideas?

adammondy
adammondy


VHD is a file format of virtual machine. I also have a .vhd file but due to some reasons the data of my VHD got corrupted and I needed to fix it. Unfortunately I also didn’t have a fresh backup of VHD. Then I found a superb Tool VHD Data Recovery software. After using its free demo I actually got all my data back along with deleted VHD file items. I followed this URL & get the excellent application.  http://www.vhd.recoverydeletedfiles.com/

joeray55
joeray55

Is it possible to save a Windows 8 system image using bluray discs instead of dvds. If so, will I have have problems restoring my computer using the bluray disc?

DanKearney
DanKearney

If the system image is just a VHD file, can I use it as a VM in Virtual PC or VirtualBox? Cheers

kliss
kliss

"If you want to access it again later, you can do so right from within File Explorer - just locate and double-click the VHD file and it will immediately be assigned a drive letter." Does this mean the same exact system image, any system image from the same PC (different date), or any system image created on any PC?

kliss
kliss

can i do the same thing in windows 8 with a system image originally created from windows 7, vista or xp?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Did you create a System Image of your Windows 8 PCs? Why not? Greg just showed you another way a System Image could be useful.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...creating a System Image on Bluray and don't know of anyone who has. Anyone out there tried to create a System Image on Bluray?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...at this point, but it is on my list of things to experiment with.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...the exact same system image VHD. If you later create a new system image VHD, you will have to start in Disk Management.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...access a with a System Image VHD created in Windows 7 and you [i]might[/i] be able to do so with a System Image created in Vista. I don't think that Windows XP's System Image used a VHD, so I doubt that this technique will work. I'll have to do some investigation to be sure.

BMcFree
BMcFree

Just tried this yesterday on a LG BD-R drive with newest firmware (april 2013). The program says, "insert blank media, label it date/time Disk 1." The first BD-R disk loads fine, requests to be formatted, then it fills up and you can monitor the progress as the "free space" on the disk slowly goes to 0. The progress bar gets about 40% full. Afterward, the blu-ray burner would speed up and stop, speed up and stop about 15 times, and the System Image program would say, "Insert blank media, label it date/time disk 1." (this is the same number as the last disk). Put in new disk, requests to be formatted, progress bar jumps instantly jumps to 60% and then immediately goes back to 0% and slowly fills as the disk burns. I've done this with 4 disks and System Image never told me to add a "Disk 2", only "Disk 1" after each burn, with progress bar resetting each time. I'm testing now on DVD to make sure it's not a burner problem, and plan to test bluray capability on another program.

hankcc
hankcc

@BMcFree I am doing this at this moment, also happen to have an LG BD drive. It is as you described, Win8 asks for additional discs but never seems to finish, each new disc being described as "disk 1". This is not reassuring at all. As it is, I am afraid I've just wasted THREE 25GB BD-R discs :(

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

I've recently received an email from a reader who said that the System Image program has problems formatting BD-R discs, just as you have described. However, the reader says that System Image will work with BD-RE discs. Have you tried BD-RE discs?

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