Windows 7 data recovery from backup in a snap

Brad Bird outlines the steps he took when restoring data to his new Windows 7 system via a VHD image file.

Brad Bird outlines the steps he took when restoring data to his new Windows 7 system via a VHD image file.


Recently, I loaded Windows 7 RTM on my laptop. I ran into an unexpected issue with BootMgr while installing, which reinforced the need for proper backups. Like all good IT soldiers, I did a complete system backup using the Windows 7 Create an Image Backup feature. I performed the backup to an external USB2 hard drive. The backup image gets created in .VHD format.

Windows 7 has several methods you can use to back up and restore data, including the Easy Transfer Wizard. If there are many customizations to retain, for example, the Easy Transfer Wizard may be your best option. In my opinion, browsing a backup image and just copying your files back is much quicker -- at least for my purpose. I'll show you how I did this in the steps below.

After loading Windows 7 on my laptop, I simply connected the external USB drive and browsed to the location of my VHD backup, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Then, I selected the larger of the two volumes in which my data was stored (Figure B).

Figure B

To access the backup data from the new system, you must take ownership of the object (Figure C). Here's how to do it.

Right-click on the target file, select Properties, then the Security tab, and click Advanced.

Figure C

Click the Owner tab and then the Edit button (Figure D).

Figure D

Select the new Owner account and click OK (Figure E).

Figure E

Click OK in the resulting dialog box. Click OK until you see the operation completing (Figure F).

Figure F

Now, go to Start | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Computer Management and open Disk Management (Figure G).

Figure G

From the Action menu, select Attach VHD. Browse to the image file and it will mount as if it were a local disk! Once your restores are complete, select Detach VHD from the Action menu.

It is a good idea to hold on to the image for a while in case you later realize you need access to data from the old image file.

Do you have preferences for restoring your data to a new system in Windows 7? Have you tried the Easy Transfer Wizard? Let us know what you've discovered in the comments below.

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