none
What is the best way to backup my System drive? RRS feed

  • Question

  • What is the recommended way to backup my system drive?  I know that you are supposed to just reinstall the OS but I run SageTV on my WHS box with a bunch of TV tuners connected.  It would be a pain in the butt to have to reinstall all of my drivers, etc. if my OS got screwed up for some reason or the hard drive died.  Can you use imaging software like Ghost or Acronis.

    And why doesn't WHS back itself up, unless that is a newer feature added recently?

    Thursday, August 20, 2009 4:19 PM

Answers

  • This question has been asked repeatedly. A quick search in the forums shows dozens of hits on appropriate keywords...

    Backing up the system partition: There is no method of backing up the system partition which doesn't have a strong possibility of causing severe issues with Windows Home Server. The longer you go between the backup and restore, the more likely you'll have problems.

    The server doesn't back it's system partition up because the entire system drive is, by design, effectively sacrificial. If that drive fails, you replace it and reinstall. Windows Home Server doesn't store anything on that drive unless forced to, so there is (in theory) nothing on that drive that you can't easily recreate.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, August 20, 2009 6:45 PM
    Moderator

All replies

  • This question has been asked repeatedly. A quick search in the forums shows dozens of hits on appropriate keywords...

    Backing up the system partition: There is no method of backing up the system partition which doesn't have a strong possibility of causing severe issues with Windows Home Server. The longer you go between the backup and restore, the more likely you'll have problems.

    The server doesn't back it's system partition up because the entire system drive is, by design, effectively sacrificial. If that drive fails, you replace it and reinstall. Windows Home Server doesn't store anything on that drive unless forced to, so there is (in theory) nothing on that drive that you can't easily recreate.

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Thursday, August 20, 2009 6:45 PM
    Moderator
  • OK, here is a program that falls into the 'totally' unsupported area. I have played a bit with it but haven't bit the bullet and restored. It will image to a hard drive both full and differential images. Schedule as you want depending on available disk space and various restore options. Plus it's not a bad price.
    Thursday, August 20, 2009 8:23 PM
  • OK, here is a program that falls into the 'totally' unsupported area. I have played a bit with it but haven't bit the bullet and restored.

    Then you really don't know if you have a reliable backup or not...

    It will image to a hard drive both full and differential images. Schedule as you want depending on available disk space and various restore options. Plus it's not a bad price.

    Thursday, August 20, 2009 11:39 PM
    Moderator
  • The server doesn't back it's system partition up because the entire system drive is, by design, effectively sacrificial. If that drive fails, you replace it and reinstall. Windows Home Server doesn't store anything on that drive unless forced to, so there is (in theory) nothing on that drive that you can't easily recreate.
    Sorry for the delay in responding but this is a wholly unsatisfactory answer for anyone that has lots of AddIns or runs other apps on their server.  WHS is the best OS for running SageTV - but the problem is that it would be a pain in the butt to have to restore the app and drivers.  Indications are that MS may be moving towards allowing WHS to be used as a server for Windows Media Center.  Having to reinstall everything from scratch is ridiculous, even if you don't run other apps as the raison d'etre for WHS is to act as a backup and not being able to backup your server is silly!
    Friday, September 4, 2009 11:42 PM
  • Wayne, add-ins have a mechanism built in to Windows Home Server which allows them to persist their data across a server reinstallation, if they so desire (some add-ins use it, some don't). Any software which requires installation or configuration from the server desktop is not an add-in, and (to be honest) Microsoft probably doesn't care a whole lot, other than in the "Oh, look! That's a cool way to use Windows Home Server!" sense. They do take note of those cool applications, and in some cases will probably include additional functionality in future updates to, or versions of, the product. Having to reinstall everything from scratch in the event of a server reinstallation is an expected consequence of using Windows Home Server in an unsupported fashion, no matter how painful it is to the end user. It's what you signed up for when you installed Sage (even if you didn't fully understand that at the time).

    So anyway, you asked for a way to back up the system partition. Today, Microsoft doesn't supply a way to do that, and the architecture of V1 of Windows Home Server is such that you are taking serious risks (e.g. disks disappearing form the storage pool, file conflicts, data loss) if you make the attempt using any standard desktop tool. In other words, for a backup tool to function properly it needs to integrate with Windows Home Server, and there are no such tools in the market.

    Now, if you are using Windows Home Server in a fully supported way, you have only "real" add-ins installed, and you haven't done any system tweaking/tuning from the server desktop. In that case, replacing the system drive and reinstalling will normally preserve all of the data in your shares (assuming you had duplication on for all shares; you accept the risk of data loss in a drive failure scenario if you don't do that), it will usually preserve your backup database (unless there are components of the database on the system drive, in which case Microsoft has decided for us that the database is sacrificial), and it should normally preserve add-in settings (assuming they use the mechanisms built into Windows Home Server). The most onerous part of reinstallation in this case is the long wait while Windows Home Server setup rebuilds the storage pool. That could be many hours, or even days, if you have a lot of data...

    I realize that this doesn't really address your desire, which is to be able to use Windows Home Server like Windows Server 2003 Lite. Unfortunately, it's the reality of the situation. If you want, you can certainly submit product suggestions on Connect, or (better) vote and verify existing suggestions. You  can also experiment with backing up and restoring the system partition on your own. If you decide to do so, don't use your production server, and make sure you examine thoroughly the results of changing the storage pool significantly between backup and restore. I'm pretty sure that you'll find a way to do it, and I'm also pretty sure you'll decide it's not worth the hassle.

    Regarding Media Center and Windows Home Server: I don't see Windows Home Server v.Next being able to replace the Media Center PC you have today. I see it having increased integration with Media Center, yes, but it will still be a two box solution. And even if it can replace your Media Center PC in your home theater, don't you think Microsoft would use the APIs they've created that will allow data to persist across server reinstallation for any critical (by Microsoft's definition) data?
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Saturday, September 5, 2009 1:43 PM
    Moderator
  •  

    I too have been concerned over WHS's lack of backup facility for the system disk {C:\SYS & D:\DATA (primary)} as I have 10 computers backed up to WHS (250GB in total) & would hate the idea of losing eveything.

    I've detailed below my attempts to resolve this weakness in WHS & hope it might help those fellow WHS users who have shown the same concern over this WHS problem.

    I had already tried the WHS BDBB add-in by Alex Kuretz to back up the main WHS database & although it seemed a good idea, I didn't like the idea of no incremental or differential backup with this software, necessitating a full backup each time.  With 250GB this takes some time!- approx 14 hours in my case!!

    I built another WHS machine to test viable backup/recovery methods.  This computer was only going to have 1 client computer attached.
    My first choice was to run the WHS sytem/data HDD under RAID 1 but since WHS doesn't support RAID I first had to install WHS to a single HDD, install the RAID drivers then mirror the main HDD before adding any additional HDD's to the pool & this worked well.
    I've had 1 successful RAID 1 rebuild; so now I had some level of redundancy.

    To deal with the WHS database backup problem I experimented with RichCopy 4 (free download from MS) an upmarket version of RoboCopy.
    I backed up one laptop computer to WHS. I then backed up the WHS database stored in D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} (TURNING OFF SERVICES & WHSBACKUP FIRST) to an external eSATA HDD not added to the pool, using RichCopy - I only use eSATA because transfers are faster than USB2.

    I then deleted the contents of the database folder D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} on the WHS computer & copied the backup made by RichCopy of the folder D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} from the external eSATA HDD back to the database folder D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4}.
    I then tested the WHS database by running the WHS recovery CD on the laptop computer I had backed up to WHS (I also had previously imaged this laptop computer with True Image, just in case the WHS recovery didn't work).

    The recovery went fine & restored my laptop computer to its original state.
    I then tested the ability of RichCopy to do 'incremental' backups of the main WHS database by adding a few simple notepad documents to my laptop computer.  I ran RichCopy again & it only backed up WHS database files in D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} that had changed, resulting in a much quicker & smaller backup.
    As a further test I ran RichCopy again having made no changes to the laptop computer & sure enough, RichCopy backed up nothing.

    Having completed these tests I turned to my main WHS computer & installed RichCopy.
    I backed up D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} to an external 1TB eSATA HDD (NOT added to the pool). This took about 14 hours (~250GB) & all seemed well.  Over the weeks I ran RichCopy & each successive backup took about 45 minutes; a vast improvement on the WHS BDBB add-in program's full backup.

    I had set up my main WHS computer some months ago, using RAID 1 for the system HDD, like my test machine above, but this computer had an additional 5 HDD's in the data pool (making 7 HDD's in total installed inside machine).
    The RAID 1 array had rebuilt itself twice in the past but a few days ago the PSU died & trashed my RAID 1 array so badly that a rebuild wasn't possible.
    I tried everyway to recover from this situation but I was only ever offered a "New Installation"!!!
    I was offered a "Server Reinstallation" once but only after I had disconnected all my 5 data HDD's!!

    All this was attempted without using RAID.  I have decided that software RAID is too vulnerable to be used if it is "killed" this easily.
    I then wondered if my main database backup of D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} on my eSATA HDD could be of use.
    I disconnected my 5 pool data HDD's & created a clean vanilla install of WHS on a single 160GB PATA HDD (no RAID).
    I added a 1TB HDD to the pool (saving my 5 original pool HDD's with all my backups on)
    I copied my backup of the WHS database (created by RichCopy) from my eSATA HDD to D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} - overwriting the only file originally in D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} after the clean install of WHS - commit.dat.
    I reinstalled the WHS Connector Software on each of my originally backed up computers & lo & behold, everything was back the way it was before the PSU failure.
    This I didn't expect, I thought that replacing 5 data pool HDD's with 1 large HDD would have caused a changed hardware issue under WHS but apparently not.
    I have checked the backups I restored to D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} & they all open OK & I can see the contents of each backup.

    I have created new WHS backups of all my computers since this "recovery" with no problems.

    I have successfully restored one of the computers backed up previously, chosen at random from the 10 available computers, to a point in time prior to the original PSU failure. I also repeated this restore from a backup made after the WHS computer was 'fixed'.

    Turning to dandy9's point about not wanting to reinstall lots of software to WHS after a clean install or server reinstall; my solution was this.

    I did a clean install of WHS, downloaded all updates, add-ins, programs I wanted to use etc, ie set up WHS the way I wanted it BEFORE adding any additional data HDD's to the pool.
    At this point I then imaged the WHS HDD containing C:\SYS & D:\Data with True Image.  Only after this imaging did I then add the additional storage needed.
    In the event of another catastrophic HDD failure I can restore the inage to a new WHS main HDD, then add additional data storge & then restore (copy) my database backup created by RichCopy to D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} & finally run WHS Connector software on each computer previously backed up.
    This method appeals to me more than other methods I read about, especially because it's so much quicker.

    Ken's comment about WHS system being sacraficial because a "server reinstall" would rebuild the main database was shown, in my case, to be of no value & I would suggest that relying an this strategy is at best extremely risky.

    This method also appeals to me when it comes to replacing/upgrading pool HDD's.
    The current methodology to replace full HDD's seems to be - add additional new storage to the pool, choose option to remove full HDD, WHS will copy all data from full HDD to pool, finally, remove full HDD.  All this takes considerable time; the bigger the full HDD the longer it takes.  Imagine how long it would have taken for me to remove 5 HDD's to replace with 1 large HDD?

    For me, RichCopy saved the day & is the method I shall use from now on.
    Software RAID is a BIG NO for me (I now understand why NAS software like Freenas & Naslite don't support software RAID only hardware RAID)
    All the above isn't as daunting as it seems now that I have a strategy that works rather than running WHS 'on a wing & a prayer'

    I originally wrote this document for my own use in case I needed to repeat this 'recovery' process some time in the future but then realised it might be of use to others who have the same concerns as me over this shortcoming of WHS

     

    Saturday, September 12, 2009 11:23 AM
  • I am going to quote one small section of dominator99's long and difficult to read post (please don't copy/paste from word processing applications because it messes up formatting in the forum software and makes your post look like, well, umm, dominator99's if not worse):
    I did a clean install of WHS, downloaded all updates, add-ins, programs I wanted to use etc, ie set up WHS the way I wanted it BEFORE adding any additional data HDD's to the pool.
    At this point I then imaged the WHS HDD containing C:\SYS & D:\Data with True Image. Only after this imaging did I then add the additional storage needed.
    In the event of another catastrophic HDD failure I can restore the inage to a new WHS main HDD, then add additional data storge & then restore (copy) my database backup created by RichCopy to D:\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4} & finally run WHS Connector software on each computer previously backed up.
    It seems pretty likely to me that he has not tried restoring the TrueImage backup of the system drive after putting additional drives, shares, files, etc. into the storage pool. I suggest he do so, as his restoration of only the backup database is an inadequate test of a server recovery. I further suggest that he back up his shares first, as I think that he will not like the results...

    A note: Backing up the backup database is documented here . There's no incremental/differential backup because it's a manual process, and because you can expect your backup database to change fairly significantly from week to week as Windows Home Server reorganizes it every Sunday morning (by default). A differential/incremental backup after that will get most of the database anyway, so why bother?

    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Saturday, September 12, 2009 1:26 PM
    Moderator
  • Ken, why would I want to restore my True Image  after restoring my pool?
    Personally, I don't use shares.  I use WHS to backup my 10 computers & have proven to my own satisfaction that my method works when server reinstallation was not an option, as discussed in my previous posting.
    The backing up of the backup database refered to by you is no different than using WHS BDBB by Alex Kuretz; a full backup is necessary each time I choose to back it up, taking in excess of 14 hours for 250GB (56 hours per TB!!).
    This MS backup of the database backup article refered to by you is, according to MS, "The backup database is stored entirely in the folder D:\folders\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4}."
    Am I being thick or am I missing something here;  I don't understand your last paragraph.  What's important to me is my backups of my 10 computers stored in the above folder.

    True Image backups on a working day-to-day WHS server is pointless; when would I choose to image? What size would these images be?  WHS is too dynamic to be suitable for imaging.
    What I needed was an efficient way of backing up the main WHS database & thereafter only backing up the changes to the database from the previous backup as an ongoing backup strategy, daily, weekly monthly, whatever I deemed suitable & then an effective way of restoring the database to WHS without relying on "server reinstallation", which in my case, wasn't an option.
    56 hours per 1TB of backup isn't an efficient solution in my opinion.

    Ken, why did you choose such a small section of my posting & then criticise its layout rather than the content, which I believe to be of benefit to those who have concerns over the shortcoming of WHS to backup its main database?
    Saturday, September 12, 2009 11:17 PM
  • I criticized the layout/formatting because it's nearly impossible to read, and surprisingly is harder in Internet Explorer 8 than Firefox (it usually goes the other way in the forum). I made do by copying out of my browser and pasting into Notepad...

    I selected the portion of your post that I did because it was the portion talking about backing up and restoring the system drive, an activity which has a pretty good (not 100%, but in the ballpark) chance of screwing a server up if restoring a couple of months later. You treated it as "Oh, this is simple, it will work for anyone." where the truth is that it probably won't work for you if you apply today's system drive backup in 6 months. I would rather you feel I'm being overbearing on the topic now rather than see you suffer data loss later.

    The rest is vaguely interesting but didn't seem to need comment; if you have a slightly different way of backing up your backup database that's fine, though I don't see the real benefit. Personally I'm confortable with the Microsoft design, which treats the backup database as pretty much sacrificial. In the event, I would just back up all my PCs again. But because I don't mess with my production server (it sits in a corner and "just works"), I've never had a problem with the backup database.

    Regarding backing up the backup database: I assume you've only been backing up your backup database that way for a couple of days? Let us know how big your differential/incremental (whichever you're actually doing) is tomorrow. This is because the reorganization of the database (pruning backups and clusters no longer needed, compressing/reorganizing the data files) happens during the Sunday backup window.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Sunday, September 13, 2009 1:35 AM
    Moderator
  • Hi Dominator,

    One of my concerns about WHS has always been the backup DB. It is good to see that you have successfully restored the Backup DB and been able to restore machines.

    Ken,
    I am not sure I agree with the MS idea that the BB DB is disposable. I would like the ability to get a file back from a backup several days, weeks or months ago. Should a disk be lost on the WHS then as I understand it, the backups stored on that server are quite possible screwed as the is no data replication for backup files by default. For this reason, I use a scheduled batch file that uses robocopy /mir  to do an incremental backup of D:\folders\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4}." daily to an external disk not part of my storage pool, stopping and starting the services as documented. Each day it takes about 10 minutes to run with a longer run times on Sundays, although I noticed that with PP2, something has changed and the amount of files that get touched each Sunday has decreased dramatically.

    just my .02c worth.

    Cheers

    Greg
    Tuesday, September 22, 2009 8:14 AM
  • Treating any data as sacrificial is completely unacceptable.  Even in the Home Market.

    WHS does a graceful job backing up PCs but needs to take it a step farther by providing a graceful method to backup the Backup Database to an external source.  Fires, earthquake, floods… one disaster and a family can loss everything in a matter of minutes.

    I wonder if there are any statistics available related to where WHS users keep their data. Would it be consolidated on a WHS Share or in the default Windows location on the PC?   If I were to guess, I would say in the answer is their default windows location and not the WHS. 

    Monday, September 28, 2009 2:56 AM
  • Hi All this is an update to my post in Sept 09 regarding backing up the WHS database stored in D:\folders\{00008089-0.........} to another backup HDD using RichCopy (upmarket RoboCopy from Microsoft). Ken's quote from that time was :- "Regarding backing up the backup database: I assume you've only been backing up your backup database that way for a couple of days? Let us know how big your differential/incremental (whichever you're actually doing) is tomorrow. This is because the reorganization of the database (pruning backups and clusters no longer needed, compressing/reorganizing the data files) happens during the Sunday backup window." Well, 49 days after backing up my laptop to WHS, I deleted the contents of the database folder D:\folders\{00008089-0.........}on my WHS computer. I copied the backup of that database from my backup HDD to D:\folders\{00008089-0.........}. Obviously, during the 49 day period, database cleanup has been performed many times by WHS on Sundays. Each Sunday, after the database cleanup, I would run RichCopy; this created an EXACT copy of the main database stored in D:\folders\{00008089-0.........} (including purging files from the backup that have been removed from the main database during the cleanup sessions)on my backup HDD I ran the Home Computer Restore CD on my laptop & restored the laptop to the latest backup stored in D:\folders\{00008089-0.........} on WHS. This restored my laptop perfectly - virus definition updates & Windows XP critical updates were the only items necessary to bring up to date. This for me, removed the one weakness of WHS ie no backup of the main database in D:\folders\{00008089-0.........}. Sacrificial database is a non starter in my opinion
    Thursday, November 26, 2009 11:56 AM