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Windows 7 Backup and Restore, Part 2

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In Part 2 of this two-part series on Windows 7’s backup utility, Windows expert Mark Soper shows how to restore files to a Windows 7 system, how to restore a system image to an empty hard disk, and how to use Windows 7 to restore backups made with Windows Vista and Windows XP's backup programs.

In Part 1 of this series, you learned how to use the new integrated file and image backup utility included as part of Windows 7. In Part 2, you will discover how to restore files to a Windows 7 system, how to restore a system image to an empty hard disk, and how to use Windows 7 to restore backups made with Windows Vista and Windows XP's backup programs.

However, the first topic to discuss is how to make sure you have a working backup—before you need to use it.

Understanding Backup Messages

The first clues you have to the success of your backup are the messages displayed at the end of the backup. If there were no problems with the backup and you had clicked the View Progress button, you should see a Windows Backup has completed successfully message at the end of the backup

However, if there were problems during the backup, you might see one of the following messages in the main Backup and Restore dialog after the backup is complete.

"Check Your Backup Results"

This message indicates that some files were skipped. To see what was skipped, click Options (1), then the View Skipped Files link (2) in the popup dialog (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Preparing to view files skipped by the backup process.

Click through the UAC prompt if it appears, and you will see the error log for the backup open in Notepad. Select the Word Wrap option in the Format menu for Notepad to read the log without scrolling to the right. A typical error log when some files are skipped is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2 Backup will not backup the backup target if it is specified in the backup (1), library locations on other systems (2), or files it cannot locate (3).

To make sure that library locations on other systems are being backed up, run backup routines on the systems hosting the library locations. You can use either the backup utility provided with the operating system or a third-party backup utility or service.

"Check Your Backup"

This message indicates the backup failed (Figure 3). When you click More Information (1), you will see more information about the error (2).

Figure xx-xx

Figure 3 Before you run the backup again or change backup settings, open the system and application logs stored by Windows to learn more about the problem.

Some of the possible causes for a failed backup include not enough space on the target drive, disk corruption, disk controller error, and a loss of connection to the target drive or network location.

To learn more about backup errors, do the following:

  1. Right-click Computer and select Manage to open the Computer Management Console.
  2. Open System Tools > Event Viewer > Applications and Services Logs > Microsoft > Windows > Backup > Operational. A backup process with an Event ID of 50 failed because the target location did not have enough space to store the backup (Figure 4).

Figure 4 The Operational log for Windows Backup tells us that the target drive ran out of space. The solution is to free up more space on the target drive or get a bigger backup drive.

Backup processes with an Event ID of 55 can have many different causes. You could also slog through System and Hardware Events logs for ideas, or you can make it easy on yourself. By using the Custom Filter option in the Computer Management Console, I was able to set up a filter that showed only Critical and Error events for the last 30 days in the System, Hardware Events, and Microsoft-Windows-Backup/Operational logs (Figure 5).

Figure 5 Creating a custom filter that brings together System, Hardware Events, and Windows Backup errors for the past 30 days.

With this filter, I was quickly able to see that a backup which had failed on 8/3/2009 at 5:24:27PM was caused by a corrupt file system on the target drive reported at the same time, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6 Problems with the backup target's file system (A) caused both the backup (B) and volume snapshot (shadow copy) service (C) to fail.

After solving the problem (by freeing up space on the target drive, repairing file system errors on the target drive, and so on), retry your backup.

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