Accessing System Image Backup and Recovery Functionality with Windows Backup
In Windows 7, the backup and recovery
story centered on a very useful tool called Windows Backup, which
offered two basic features: It could be used to back up certain
locations and their contained data to another hard disk, optical disc,
or network share, and it could make system image backups of the entire
PC, which could be used to recover Windows, its data and
customizations, and applications and application states.
Windows Backup seems like the full-meal deal, so
you may be surprised to discover that it’s been relegated to also-ran
status in Windows 8. Yes, it’s still there. But Microsoft went to great
pains to hide it. So naturally, we’re going to tell you how to find it.
First, though, a short discussion about why this
happened. If you’ve been reading this chapter, you know that Windows 8
includes amazing new tools related to storage, backup, and recovery.
And that these tools separately allow you to fully recover a PC, and,
optionally, all of your data, settings, and Metro-style apps in just
minutes (Push Button Reset). Further, they let you recover not just
backups of your most important documents and other data, but also an
extensive collection of data file revisions (File History). Both of
these tools separately answer different needs. But collectively, they
accomplish almost all of what most people used Windows Backup for, and
more important, they do so far more quickly.
This reasoning won’t matter very much to you if
you have a collection of Windows Backup-based backups from Windows 7
that you still want to access. Or perhaps you’re simply just familiar
with Windows Backup, like how it works, and wish to continue using this
You can. But, boy, does Microsoft make it difficult.
Try to find Windows Backup from Start Screen
Search, or by searching the classic Control Panel, and you’ll come up
blank. The term backup yields results for File History only, and a search for windows backup will actually come up empty. It’s almost like they don’t want you to find it.
But fear not, it’s there. Just search for recovery instead—from
the Start screen or Control Panel—and you’ll see a result called
Windows 7 File Recovery. This, as it turns out, is both the way to
access Windows Backup and a none-too-subtle reminder that Microsoft
really wants you to consider using something else.
But seriously, you should be using the new
tools in Windows 8, and not Windows Backup. The only real exception is
that you have to access a previously created backup for some reason.
That’s really why this tool is still in Windows 8.
Say the magic words correctly and you’ll see the Windows 7 File Recovery control panel shown in Figure 1. From this window, you can do everything you used to do in Windows Backup.
Just don’t tell Microsoft we told you about this one.
Figure 1: Windows Backup lives in Windows 8 as the Windows 7 File Recovery control panel.
What’s Missing: Cloud Backup
While Windows 8 offers a fairly
complete selection of backup and recovery tools, many of which are
discussed elsewhere in this chapter, there is one key piece of the
puzzle missing, and that’s cloud-based backup. That is, in addition to
backing up key data locally to another drive attached to your PC or,
better still, to a completely different PC or device on your home
network, you should consider having an off-site data recovery solution
in place. This will provide that final measure of safety should a
real-world disaster occur, such as a fire or theft.
To better understand the scope of this issue,
consider how Windows 8’s various backup and recovery tools work
together to keep your PC and its contained data safe. At the most basic
level, you can use the Push Button Reset functionality to quickly
recover the operating system and, optionally, your data, settings, and
Metro-style apps. So even in the worst-case scenario, software-wise,
all you’ll lose are your traditional Windows applications, which will
need to be reinstalled.
Of course, recovering the operating system is
only one layer of safety and this won’t help with your precious
data—documents, photos, and so on—if the PC’s hard drive fails. So
Windows 8 also offers a nice File History feature, which backs up not
just your data, but the various revisions of your data as well. And it
does so to secondary storage—another hard drive attached to your PC—or
to a network location, further enhancing resiliency with physical
You can enhance data storage in general, or File
History specifically, with Storage Spaces as well. This amazing feature
lets you mirror data across two or three disks, again providing
protection in the event of hardware failure.
Old-timers, or those who simply can’t let go of
the previous ways of doing things, can take advantage of Windows 7-era
backup and recovery features too, including various troubleshooting
tools, System Restore for repairing bad driver installs and other
issues, and even Windows Backup, for complete end-to-end PC image
But none of these solutions will help if your
home is destroyed, or the PC and its hard disks are stolen. What you
need to complete this end-to-end backup and recovery picture is
off-site storage. You need cloud backup.
Sadly, this is the one backup and recovery
solution that Microsoft doesn’t explicitly provide in Windows 8. You
could, of course, pay for SkyDrive additional storage, use the SkyDrive
application or a third-party solution to provide Explorer-based access
to Microsoft’s cloud service, and then back up data in that fashion. We
happen to like using SkyDrive for this purpose, since it keeps valuable
documents, photos, and other files synced between PCs and the cloud.
The SkyDrive app’s folder structure can be seen in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Using SkyDrive instead of regular folders to keep content synced with the cloud.
Or you could use a third-party service such as
CrashPlan—which we’re both using because of its low cost and excellent
performance—Carbonite, or similar.
While we wish that Windows 8 completed the
picture, there are certainly enough cloud backup services out there to
satisfy anyone’s needs. Just be sure to use one of these services, as
ultimately, the responsibility to protect your data is yours alone.