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Archive for June, 2017

Backup running Windows 10 installation using c’t WImage

June 15, 2017 2 comments

Backup a running Windows installation to retrieve or reset it later

Backup up my current windows installation is a good way for me, to make sure, that i can continue working after a hardware failure asap.

Otherwise i’d have to start with manual installation of the Windows 10 base OS, then Office, all my tools and then the development environment, which in my case is mainly Visual Studio 2017.

Doing this manually and starting with the Windows 10 base OS usually takes 2 or more days until the environment is in a similiar state, as it was before the crash.

I’ve had this bad events happen several times in the last few years and most of the time a harddisk / SSD defect was the reason.

Although all my data was protected by an hourly update to the Azure cloud using Cloudberry Desktop Backup, my Windows installation and all the settings were not.

My previous solutions: Acronis True Image and DriveSnapshot

My first approach some years ago was to use image based backup software, like Acronis TrueImage and DriveSnapshot

Acronis does have much more features, but i came back to the very simple and small DriveSnapshot solution, which doesn’t need any installation.

Just download and run a small 400kb Exe-File to start backup or restore.
For private users, it’s even free.

DriveSnapshot creates images based on complete partitions and the images can be mounted to access individual files using the same Exe.

Its able to save a running Windows installation using either builtin or its own snapshot mechanism.

To restore data, you can either mount the image on another machine or boot from a Windows installation USB stick, then press F10 in the first dialog to come to a cmd-line and then start the DriveImage exe, which you have to copy before to the USB stick.

Some month ago i wanted to move my running Windows installation from a Lenovo W530 to a Microsoft Surface Book, which i wasn’t able to do using Drivesnapshot.

The reason is, that the Lenovo installation was done using Bios-Mode, while Surface Book only operates in UEFI mode.

This was the time, when i remembered the article about c’t WImage.

The german computer magazine c’t is one of the oldest IT magazines in germany.

The name ct comes from “Computer & Technology” and they are still the #1 in the german computer magazine market for IT professionals and programmers.

So all the honor for the following description goes to Axel Vahldiek and his colleagues in the heise medien team. They provide the article and some more infos on this topic here in german language: http://ct.de/y6ev

I only used all their information to compress them into a single list to that i’m able to repeat them, when i need it.

Using c’t WImage Qucklist:

Use c’t WImage with USB Stick to save current Windows installation as Image, which can be restored using the regular Windows Setup program

More infos: http://ct.de/y6ev
Note:
My description is based on the current Windows Version, named
Windows 10 Creators Update (1703), which includes a few things, which are relevant for the list below. Altough, the ct WImage solution was already available for previous Windows versions, i’d recommend to use 1703 or later.
The main feature was the corrected handling of multiple partitions on USB-sticks.

Previous versions were not able to display more than the first partition on a USB stick and the solution was therefore not usable with a USB stick, but only with a USB harddrive.

Now here is the list of things you have to do for creating a backup for your curently running Windows 10 Installation:

  1. Download Media Creation Tool from:
    https://www.microsoft.com/de-de/software-download/windows10
  2. Run Tool and select “Download media for other computer”
  3. Select Windows Version & Architecture (in my case Windows 10, X64)
  4. Then select “Download as ISO” and save .ISO file to disk ….

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  5. Skip the step “burn to DVD”…, just click “Finish”

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  6. Start “Create a recovery drive”

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  7. Unselect “Back up system files…”

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  8. Select the USB drive, where the boot files should be copied to

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  9. Understand the warning, that the USB drive will be DELETED,
    then click “Create”

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  10. If Explorer dialog comes up and asks for “formatting..” Select “NO”!!!
  11. The recovery drive is ready

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  12. The USB drive should now have 2 partitions on it.
    The first should be 32 GB in size, which is to big, so we will shrink it!

    – Because Windows is unable to shrink it, we need to:
    A) Copy the files to a temp dir (300 MB) (exclude System volume information)
    B) Delete the volume

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    C) Create a new volume with size=1000 MB of type=FAT32

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Name it “USB-Boot” and after formatting using FAT32, make sure to activate the partition!

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  1. Copy the temporarily saved files back to this new partition
  2. Create another volume using all remaining space, format it with type=NTFS and name it “USB-DATA”
  3. Double click the previously downloaded Windows Installation-ISO and it will be mounted as a new drive letter

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  4. Select all files and copy them to the root dir of the “USB-DATA” partition
  5. Open the directory sources on the USB-data parttion and
    delete the file “install.wim” or “Install.esd”,
    Note, that only one of them will be there!
  6. Unzip all files from the Zip-Archiv “ctwimage64.zip” into the root of the USB-Data partition

    Prepare the backup process on the USB-drive with the ct files

  7. Open Admin-cmd and cd to USB-Data partition drive letter
  8. run ctwimage2-bootmaker64.bat from there
  9. The script will now ask, for correctness of USB-Boot and USB-data drive letters

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  10. Type “Y” and it will finish with “Fertig”

    Check whether your machine does boot from this USB media

  1. Now reboot and check, whether its possible to boot from the USB drive.
    Windows Setup should come up and then complain, that there are no Windows Installation media files, which is correct. (We deleted Install.WIM / or .ESD)

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  1. Reboot back to Windows to start the Backup

    Start the backup process

  1. Run “ctwimage2-64.bat” from Admin Cmd from USB-Data partition
  2. Wait until 100% success message appears.
    Note, that this can take a few hours, be patient!

Possible problems & solutions to it

Problems which occurred in my case:

This might be, because i’m using a managed Enterprise edition installation, which was customized from our internal IT.

The problem was, that running the script ctwimage2-bootmaker64.bat  returned this error messages in red:

set operation=*** Windows RE auf Windows-Partition verschieben ***

reagentc /disable >nul 2>nul

FAILED: Error message: already disabled…

  • Commented out this statetement, then started again…
  • Now the Backup process run to 100%,
    but at the end failed again with this messages, which i ignored, because of the same reason in the step before

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Testing the backup on another machine or even better on the same machine is highly recommended as you should do with every backup solution.

Only then you can savely assume, that the restore will work, when you really need it.

And of course you should do the Backup steps from time to time, so that you are able to restore a kind of current installation and not have to apply a lot of updates after your restore.

I create a new backup after each domain password update, otherwise you’ll get into the “trusted relationship” problem, where your domain controller does not accept your machine, if it’s to old…..

But that applies only, if your installation is domain joined, which i plan to stop using in the near future….. but that’s stuff for an

A nice detail about multiple backups of the same or other machines on this USB-device is, that it will use the WIM-based feature of deduplicating files based on thewir hash.
This means, that it will not store the same file twise or more, but only increase a reference count.
This will keep the amount of space needed for multiple backups of one or many machines down to a minimum.

During restore, you can use the machine name and the date/time stamp to select a backup for restore…

other blogpost….

Comments are very welcome!,

Categories: Administration, Windows 10