PCs

Use Virtual PC 2007 to access a Complete PC Backup image in Vista

Updating and expanding on an idea expressed in a previous Windows Vista Report, Greg Shultz shows you how to use Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 to access and restore singles files from an image created with Complete PC Backup and Restore.

Windows Vista Business, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions come with two types of backup utilities. The first is Automatic Backup, which is designed to backup just your data files, and second is Complete PC Backup and Restore, which is an image-based backup tool designed to backup your entire computer, including the operating system and applications as well as your data files.

Together these two systems allow you to fully protect your computer in that using the restore portion of Automatic Backup will allow you to recover individual files in the event of file loss or data corruption while the restore portion of Complete PC Backup and Restore will allow you to recover your entire system in the event of a complete hard drive failure.

You can learn more about using Complete PC Backup and Restore in a previous edition of the Windows Vista Report: Back up your hard drive with Complete PC Backup imaging utility. From that article, you'll remember that in a section titled Caveats, I included the following warning:

Keep in mind that that the type of backup that Complete PC Backup creates cannot 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.

However, I recently discovered that the first sentence in this warning isn't exactly true. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how to use Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 to access and restore singles files from an image created with Complete PC Backup and Restore.

The discovery

In the Back up your hard drive with Complete PC Backup imaging utility article, I showed you how to use Complete PC Backup and Restore to create an image of your hard drive on a set of optical disks using a DVD burner. At that time I didn't pay much attention to the actual files that were on that set of DVDs.

However, I recently built a couple of external hard drives and began experimenting with using one of them as the target for Complete PC Backup and Restore. Not only is the procedure much quicker, but it also made it much easier to take a closer look at the set of files that actually made up the resulting image. In the case of my particular backup, there were ten files -- nine XML files and one file with the VHD extension, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

In addition to the nine XML files, the Complete PC Backup included one VHD file

Since I regularly use Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 to work with older Windows operating systems, I recognized the VHD extension as one of the two file extensions that make up a Virtual Machine -- the VMC file, which is the Virtual Machine Settings File, and the VHD file, which is the Virtual Machine Hard drive Image.

I then disconnected the external hard drive from my Windows Vista system and connected it to a Windows XP system on which I have Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 installed. When I accessed the folder containing the Complete PC Backup and Restore image, the operating system also recognized it as a Virtual Machine Hard drive Image.

I then decided to attempt to mount Complete PC Backup and Restore's VHD file as a secondary hard disk on an existing Virtual Machine. It worked! I could now access any file on the Complete PC Backup and Restore image. Let' take a closer look at how you go about this.

Caveats

I'm going to assume that you are already familiar with Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, which is a free download from Microsoft's Web site. As such, I'm not going to cover installing Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 or how to install an operating system in a virtual environment as these topics are beyond the scope of this blog post.

Mounting secondary hard disk

When you have an operating system installed in Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, you can easily mount the Complete PC Backup and Restore image file as a secondary hard disk. On my example Windows XP system, I have multiple operating systems installed in the Virtual PC Console and selected a virtual installation of Windows 2000 Professional, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

I decided to use a virtual installation of Windows 2000 Professional
To mount the image as a secondary hard disk, you access the Settings dialog box for a non running virtual machine, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C

The Settings dialog box allows you to configure the system's virtual hardware
You then select the Hard Disk 2 setting in the left pane and then select the Virtual hard disk file option in the right pane, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

You can add a second virtual hard disk to a virtual system
You then click the Browse button and then use the Select Virtual Hard disk to navigate to the Complete PC Backup and Restore VHD image file, as shown in Figure E. Then, click Open. When you return to the Settings page, just click OK. As soon as you do, the image is mounted as the secondary hard disk in your particular virtual operation system.

Figure E

You then navigate to the folder containing the Complete PC Backup and Restore VHD image file

Accessing the files on the Complete PC Backup and Restore image

Once the image is mounted as the secondary hard disk in your particular virtual operation system, you can click the Start button in the Virtual PC Console to boot it up. Once the operating system is up and running, you can simply launch My Computer, double click the drive letter, drill down to your Documents folder, and access any file that you need to restore, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Once the Complete PC Backup and Restore VHD image file is configured as a virtual hard drive

To copy the file out of the virtual machine, you'll need to be using either the Folder Sharing feature of the Virtual Machine Additions or a virtual network connection. Again, I'm going to assume that you're familiar with both of these topics as further detail is beyond the scope of this blog post.

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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.

10 comments
CORDFrank
CORDFrank

I received a swamp of "Invalid MS-DOS function" errors when attempting to copy files from the VHD set up as Hard Drive 2 to a shared folder per this article. All files that threw the error were pdf or office 97-2003 formats, but were NOT all the files of those type. Clever hints?

alon.ronen
alon.ronen

There is one problem with that solution - Virtual PC (Microsoft or tne new Windows for Win7) can load only images of up to 120 and somthing GB. when your backup is bigger (and many times it is) - it will not work. I would love to know if there is a solution for that.

kris
kris

I have followed the exact steps as listed above, but when i double click on that drive letter that is the .vhd file, it comes back with an error that says "The Disk (drive letter) is not formatted. Do you want to format it now?" Has anyone had this problem or is there a know work around? Many Thanks in advance.

337
337

Hmmm even now thats a curious thing i noticed similar i think in my travels and had wondered if that would work thankyou for showing it in action. One wonders how it will go time trial wise backup vs's a well setup unatended install certainly makes life easier can be happy. I'm not a fan of ghost and images in general but i can see how for places needing fast turnaround and minimal downtime at workstations all this is very handy. And now with the current server offerings woosh now were talkin :)

perezjonestsisah
perezjonestsisah

That is interesting to know. It could be termed virtual restore.

acctid.rpl
acctid.rpl

Unless I am missing something it sound a lot like you are going around your elbow to get to your thumb. I agree with frankerowell why not just give them a simple restore utility?

frankierowell
frankierowell

Neat.. but I think the average user would be better served with a simple file backup utility like Genie Backup Manager Pro.. Frank Tucson, AZ

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

For me to be on the Internet every day I have to erase my striped drives,re-stripe then I restore with the Windows restore DVD and floppy that I made with the Windows Advanved System Recovery section.In Restore I have to copy/paste the restore DVD file to the Desktop folder then I click My Computer and Desktop and I'm off.Otherwise my computer sticks,runs slow and I get a System 32 page at boot up.I found that the backup/restore will not work without the floppy.Nero has a very nice backup section that does not work with striped drives.Who is uploading to YouTube?I would crash if I tried.

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