Windows 8 : Accessing System Image Backup and Recovery Functionality with Windows Backup, Cloud Backup

12/25/2014 8:27:39 PM
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 solution.

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 separation.

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 backups.

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.

  •  Windows 8 : Using the Windows 8 Recovery Tools (part 2) - Push Button Reset
  •  Windows 8 : Using the Windows 8 Recovery Tools (part 1) - Creating a System Recovery Disc, Booting to the Windows Recovery Environment
  •  Windows 8 : File History (part 2) - Recovering Documents and Other Data Files with File History
  •  Windows 8 : File History (part 1) - Enabling and Configuring File History
  •  Windows 8 : Storage Spaces (part 4) - Advanced Storage Spaces: Three-Disk Configurations
  •  Windows 8 : Storage Spaces (part 3) - A More Resilient Space: Two Disks, Two-Way Mirroring
  •  Windows 8 : Storage Spaces (part 2) - The Most Basic Storage Spaces Configuration of All: One Disk, One Space, No Resiliency
  •  Windows 8 : Storage Spaces (part 1) - Getting Ready for Storage Spaces
  •  Windows Server 2012 : Managing and Troubleshooting Hardware (part 11) - Resolving resource conflicts
  •  Windows Server 2012 : Managing and Troubleshooting Hardware (part 10) - Troubleshooting hardware
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