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What is the Client Imaging Capability of WHS Backup?


bigbridge
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I am evaluating WHS as a better backup/restore tool for my client PC's, than my current method. I have tried to read all the documentation I can find at MS and HP, but do not know if the ability to restore a client partition is based on WHS doing images of partitions on some schedule, or if it is done by restoring individual files and/or folders it has acquired from daily file backups. Or maybe WHS uses another method to restore a partition. Can anyone point me to a simple explanation of how WHS does this? I really want the file/folder auto backup capability, but for the price I want to have total partition restore capability also, which file/folder backups do not provide.

Thanks for any help you can give.

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When WHS does the backups, it backs up your entire system on the file level. This means that you can restore the entire system in the event of a catastrophic failure. However, because it is not a bit-level backup, you can also open any backup and extract files/folders from that backup. This gives you the best of both worlds.
Also, when the backup is done each night, it only does an incremental backup, that is only backs up the files that have been added or changed since the last backup. This saves time when doing backups.

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Thanks - I understand. I am concerned, however, that a file by file backup will not result in a restored partition, at least not the boot partition. True imaging has been a selling point of imaging programs 'for ever', saying one cannot get a complete boot partiiton restore by copying files, since some are in use and cannot be copied, etc. For this reason I have done both types of backups until now. Does WHS have some means of not imaging, but still getting ALL files of the OS's partition when it backs up - sounds like that must be the case - maybe the recovery disk one has to make (I am going on memory here - believe WHS makes one burn some sort of recovery disk when it is first installed on a client), combined with the daily backups, will result in a complete boot partition restore. Would appreciate your comments.

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The recovery disk that is made is not specific to the PC and can be used for any computer needing restored, so it is very generic. I cannot answer the other part of your question.

From experience, I have done both full partition restores -and- pulled individual files out of a back up without a hitch. Before WHS, I could never get that to work properly with any other back up software.

My two cents...

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I understand your hesitation. If you ever want to, you can create a Virtual image on your computer and mount the .iso for the restore CD, and then restore a backup to that image. It should work fine. I've done this myself without any trouble. In fact, I did something really curious:
I had an OEM PC that I wanted to use as a DIY WHS. I created an image of it onto the frankenbuild I was using as my WHS. I then installed WHS on the OEM PC. I then created a Virtual Image on a 3rd computer, restored the image of the OEM to that virtual machine. I then blew away the frankenbuild WHS and installed a regular copy of Vista on there. I then backedup up the virtual machine to the OEM WHS and deleted the VM. Finally, I bought an EX470. I created another image on the 3rd PC and restore the backup to that. I then backed up that virtual machine to the EX470 and blew away the WHS on the OEM pc. Lastly, I restored the original image of the OEM PC back to the OEM PC, and presto, it worked great. The fact that it worked, completely blew me away.

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From Microsoft technical papers on back-up:

http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/windowshomeserver/support.mspx

The home computer backup solution in Windows Home Server has a single-instance store at the cluster level. Clusters are typically collections of data stored on the hard drive, 4 kilobytes (KB) in size. Every backup is a full backup, but the home server only stores each unique cluster once. This creates the restore-time convenience of full backups (you do not have to repeat history) with the backup time performance of incremental backups.

So WHS does not strickly do a file system backup. It actually allows the best of both worlds ...a complete Drive partition image can be restored ..ie restore the boot system drive/partiton of a now non-operating PC or you can restore on a file by file or folder by folder basis ..ie you can "mount" a backup as another virtual drive and pick files to restore.
Note: I think it only backs up NTFS partitions...so FAT/FAT 32 is no go.

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Thanks for that link. Gives some good technical information. I was mistaken on how I understood the backing up process. Thanks for the correction and further info.

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Manphil, you found what I could not - now the whole backup/image thing is crystal and I can forget about using another imaging program to be sure I can do a complete restore of a partition, at least in its latest state - might still want to do 3rd party imaging at certain stages of life, e.g. when first get a new PC up and ready to go and after a service pack installation, etc. I did see referencing in the materials I read from Microsoft, about the WHS backup being an "Automated Image-based Backup ..." and that is what was frustrating me when all the details talked about the files and folders that were backed up. Thanks for the help.

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...might still want to do 3rd party imaging at certain stages of life, e.g. when first get a new PC up and ready to go and after a service pack installation, etc.

Actually, in that case, after you do the install, right click the connector icon and run a manual backup. Then run the WHS Console, go to the backup you created, and just tell it to never delete. When you go to restore a computer, you get to choose to restore from any backup that is available, not just the most recent one.
For example, alot of people did a backup of Vista before upgrading to Win7. That way they can always revert back in about 45 minutes if 7 never works right, or they don't like it.
Dig through the settings in the console for backups and configure the number that you want to keep on hand. On mind, I have it keep a weeks worth of days and a month's worth of weeks, etc.
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