Windows Vista Complete PC backup…hey it works!

Amazing and true! My kids have been using a fairly crappy machine to do their homework on - by todays standards anyway. Its an older AMD 3000+ proc with 1.5GB RAM and wait for it....two tiny PATA harddrives of 20GB and 40GB. Recently these drives have been making a fair amount of noise plus the obvious disk space issues and it even got to the point that the wife started complaining about it and suggesting it needed fixing....well who am I to argue right?? 🙂

I ordered (shopping over the internet is fun isnt it?) a shiny new Seagate SATAII 500GB drive with a 32MB cache on it to replace both of them.

So rather than the usual wipe and load that Id normally do, I thought Id try the Complete PC backup that Vista has. I attached an external drive I have to it that had plenty of free space and backup imagestarted by selecting the Backup Computer option, selecting the disk you want to save it to and backing it up. This creates the Complete PC backup image. It actually completed fairly quickly on mine as you would expect on such small drives. Larger drives obviously require larger backup targets though it will warn you if the target is not large enough for the backup.

Once its done you're ready to switch out your hard drives. I unplugged the old drives and popped in the shiny new one. Much quieter already - even with the case open! In this backup image 2machine's case it had difficulty supporting the SATA drive as a bootable option. Switching off all the SATA RAID stuff in the BIOS soon fixed that and I was ready to begin.

Simply put in your Windows Vista DVD into the drive and when it prompts to "Install Now", instead select the tiny little link down the bottom left to "repair your computer".

The options pop up for a Complete PC restore. At this time connect up your external drive and click the link. You get the option to restore from several Complete PC backups. I chose the most recent.

It then creates the partitions, formats the disk and restores the image onto it. Note that it will wipe anything currently on the new drive so be careful. It warns you for a reason! In my case as the original partitions were only 20GB in size, it created a 20GB partition. This isn't a problem though as Vista supports extending (and shrinking) the partition sizes now. Restoring was also fairly predictably fast given the media we were restoring from. Ready for the reboot next!

With the first boot Vista needed to update the disk configuration now that we were on SATA instead of PATA drives. I let it do that and do a quick reboot.

Next step was to adjust the drive size from 20GB to 500GB. Quickly jump into the Disk Configuration area of Computer Management, select the partition you want to extend and just extend it! Simple as that! Note that in my case I also had an extra step to consolidate the two partitions down to one before I could complete the drive extension...

The whole process took about an hour or two but certainly saved me time and effort in getting the PC back to the way it was originally.

Comments (4)

  1. Phil – I see DR as a prime fit for this. Its great to be able to restore so quickly and easily.

    Stephen – if you have two small partitions side by side with only one of them that you want, you can move the data out of that partition, collapse it into free space and then extend to the rest of the disk. Thats what I have done.

  2. Phil Persson says:

    I think this new functionality is one of the best things that Microsoft has come out with. I had to use the Complete PC Backup on my laptop only a few months after I purchased it (bad hard disk).

    The whole restore process (including installing the new 120GB hard disk) took about 45 minutes and I was up and running as if nothing had ever happened (the latest backup I had was from the night before).

    If I had to re-install everything manually it would have taken around 6 hours, so it’s a massive time saver.

    I’m really excited to see that this technology is also included in Windows Server 2008 too – It will really make a difference to backup and restores as well as DR recoveries.



  3. Stephen Price says:

    I’ve used this in the past myself to do a hard disk replacement. I didn’t know about the extend and shrinking of Vista though!! Dang, and to think I once rebuilt my machine to get rid of the Dell 10Gb partition. Can it extend in any direction or are there limitations? (ie if you delete a small partition on either side, it can actually extend any free space?)

    awesome thanks!


  4. Orin Thomas says:

    Mounting backed up images in Hyper-V is also fun 😉

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