Backing up your PC or Physical to Virtual

Joao Botto, a Premier Field Engineer from the United States, writes about different backup and recovery options available in Windows 8: File History, Physical2Virtual and Refresh/Reset.

File History

If you have just deployed Windows 8 and want to keep your files backed up, you may already know that it’s time to configure File History.

File History is an application that regularly scans your folders for file changes and backs up those changes for you. It is completely transparent - meaning that once you enable File History the backups will automatically happen behind the scenes – but still very powerful since you can configure the backup interval and location (even mass storage and network locations) that suits you.

But since Steven Sinofsky has explained this Windows Feature in detail in his blog post , this blog focus on alternative backup solutions.

Physical to Virtual

Let’s imagine a situation where you have been using Windows 8 in your PC and have just received your new machine – and it has touch screen! But how long will it take you to copy all your data, install your desktop applications and be confident that you won’t ever need anything that is on your old machine?

There is a solution that will typically take less than an hour. As long as you have Hyper-V enabled on your first PC, you can now create a VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) that contains the contents of a physical disk. Here is how you can do it!

First, open Hyper-V Manager and select New > Hard Disk:

Create new VHD

Follow the wizard to choose your disk type and location.

Next, select the option to copy the Physical Drive contents. Note: If the machine is protected with Bitlocker you should suspend it or you will be prompted for the recovery key when trying to use the Virtual Hard Disk.

Convert physical disk to VHD

Once you have your Virtual Hard Disk copied from the physical drive, you can mount it directly in Windows Explorer:Mount the VHD directly

Or, you can run a Hyper-V virtual machine that is an exact copy of your PC – This can be especially useful if you want to virtualize your machine to access from a Windows RT or another low power device

Or finally, you can boot from that VHD (for dual boot or on bare metal). Booting from VHD is supported since Windows 7 and is documented in this article.

Define the initial state of your machine

In Windows 8 users are now able to Reset or Refresh their devices.

Refresh / Reset options

Reset will bring the device to its original factory setting, but Refresh will keep all Windows 8 Apps from the Store and files on your system. Refresh will not keep any applications or drivers that you have installed on the Desktop, since those are the usual suspects when your system becomes unstable.

But if you have some line of business desktop applications or essential drivers that you have tested thoroughly and want to be available after a Refresh there is a way to keep them:

  1. Install Windows 8
  2. Install only the drivers and desktop applications that should be present after a Refresh
  3. Open a command line as administrator
  4. Create a new folder where the Refresh/recovery image will be kept. Example: mkdir C:\RefreshImage
  5. Create and set your Refresh/recovery image to that folder. Example: recimg –CreateImage C:\RefreshImage

You can read more about Refresh / Reset here and here.

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