Backup Complete Computer

How to Create a Complete Computer Backup and Restore Image in Vista
This will show you how to create a Complete Computer Backup and Restore Image. This is only for the Vista Enterprise, Ultimate, and Business versions.
How to Create a Complete Computer Backup and Restore Image in Vista

information   Information
Windows Complete PC Backup creates a backup image, which contains copies of your programs, system settings, and files. The backup image is then stored in a separate location from the original programs, settings, and files. You can use this backup image to restore the contents of your computer if your hard disk or entire computer ever stops working. For more information, see: Windows Help and How-to: Back up your programs, system settings, and files
Note   Note

A) If you want to delete or copy the entire WindowsImageBackup folder to save it to another location to keep a copy of it, you will need to open each subfolder in the WindowsImageBackup folder and grant access permission to them first by clicking Continue twice for eace folder. You will then be able to copy this folder like any other folder. You may want to do this because when a new Complete PC Backup is made it can overwrite the previous Complete PC Backup with the differences to create the new backup.
  • Backups are saved in a folder with this format: (backup drive letter)\WindowsImageBackup\(your computer name)\Backup (year-month-day) (time)
  • If the backup was done on Local Disk D: at 9/7/2007 1:00:50 PM (It uses 24 hour time), then the full backup file path would be:
  • D:\WindowsImageBackup\Computer\Backup 2007-09-07 130050
  • You would right click the folder Backup 2007-09-07 130050 and click Delete to delete that backup.
B) To delete all but the most recent Complete PC Backup, you can use Disk Cleanup. You will just need to select the drive that the complete PC backups are stored on and select the More Options tab.

C) To delete the Complete PC Backup completely, you just need to take ownership of the WindowsImageBackup folder and subfolders. Afterwards, you will be able to delete the folder.
warning   Warning

  • Windows Complete PC Backup is only available in the Vista Enterprise, Ultimate, and Business editions.
  • Vista cannot backup the partition or drive that you are saving the complete backup to.
  • If you dual boot with Windows XP, then everytime you start in XP the System Restore Points and all except the most recent Complete PC Backup files in Vista get deleted. For how, see: How to Stop System Restore Points from being Deleted in Vista when Dual Booting with XP
  • You cannot restore a 32 bit Vista version complete pc backup on a 64 bit Vista version, or the other way around.

Here's How:
1. Open Control Panel. (Classic View)​
2. Click on the Backup and Restore Center icon.​
3. Click on the Back up Computer button. (See screenshot below)​
4. Click on Continue in the UAC prompt.​

5. You will see this for a moment as Vista searches for backup devices. (See screenshot below)​

6. Dot the location to save the backup image to. (See screenshot below)​
WARNING: Vista cannot backup the partition or drive that you are saving the complete backup to.​
A) On a Hard Disk: For saving to a different hard drive or partition.​
NOTE: You cannot save the backup image on the same partition as Vista is installed on. It can only be saved on another partition, a separate hard drive, USB device (external hard drive), or on multiple DVDs. If you wish to create a new partition for backups, then see: How to Shrink and Create a Partition with Disk Management in Vista
B) On One or More DVDs: For saving to multiple DVDs that are bigger than 1 GB in size each.​
C) Click on Next.​

7. Click Start backup to confirm the backup settings and start the backup process. (See screenshots below)​
NOTE: This will tell you how much space will be used on the other hard drive, or how many DVDs it will take.
WARNING: If you have a previous complete PC backup in this location, this complete backup will only backup the differences between now and when the previous backup was made. (See the right screenshot below)​
Confirm_Backup.jpg Previous_Backup.jpg

8. You will now see this window. (See screenshot below)​

9. If you selected On One or More DVDs (step 6), then this window will pop-up asking for the first DVD. (See screenshot below)​
A) Insert a blank DVD into the DVD drive and click on OK.​
NOTE: It will continue to ask for DVDs until it is finished. See step 7 to see how many DVDs will be required.

10. When the backup is completed it will let you know. Click on Close.​
11. Close the Control Panel window.​
That's it,

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Shawn Brink


First off, do NOT accept my opinions on backups. I have been struggling with the simple concept of creating safe backups for years, and have YET to find one that I like, or works as it should.

Re your question: opinion only, but I think there is a file on the old computer with the ability to recognize that backup file. The new computer does not see it because that triggering file is not there.

Also, if you manage to open that backup, I believe its a complete backup, not specific files/folders.

my opinion only
HOw can it say this is a complete backup? Here is the help file from that backup menu:

The Back Up Files wizard backs up the most common file types. The following files are not included:
  • System files (the files that Windows needs to run)
After doing more research, I found out that if you do a complete backup you cannot do a selective restore using the backup/restore tool. I did find an obscure technet article that said it can be done with Virtual Server... I am currently trying to find out if this will work but I will report back on it.

As for a file being on the target computer that identifies it, that can't be right since the restore tool reformats the target hard drive previous to restoration. It could be sensitive to the computer name, but I don't think that should matter.

Here's the quote from Technet regarding selective/alternate restoring of a full backup:

"Restore a File from Complete PC Backup

I should mention, for thoroughness, that a Complete PC Backup can be used to restore individual files. While intended for restoration at the volume level, Complete PC Backup stores data in a .vhd format, and this means you can use the offline VHD mounting tool to access and restore individual files. (At the time of writing this article, the VHD mounting tool is only available as part of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1, which you can download from To mount the backup, open a command prompt with elevated privileges and navigate to Microsoft Virtual Server\Vhdmount. The command is:

Copy Code

vhdmount /m [path of the .vhd file] [drive letter to assign to the virtual hard drive]

When doing this for the first time, the system may not pick up the required driver since it is unsigned. This will cause an error message that says the device driver could not be loaded. To solve this problem, after plugging in the .vhd file using the command above, go to the Device Manager, right-click on the new device that shows up, and select Properties. From there, go to the Driver tab, select Update Driver, click Browse my computer for driver software, and select Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer. The correct driver file will be located at Microsoft Virtual Server\Vhdmount\vhdstor.inf. After installation, the new drive will appear and you'll be able to browse the latest Complete PC Backup and copy the files you want to an alternate location."

So I'll let you know how it goes.
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Hi Robertpri,

A complete PC backup is a clone of your hard drive. Everything is backed up. I can personally confirm this since I have done a restore from the complete PC backup.

The Back Up Files feature on the other hand, does not back up system files. That is what System Restore is for instead.

Hope this helps,
Hi Robertpri,

A complete PC backup is a clone of your hard drive. Everything is backed up. I can personally confirm this since I have done a restore from the complete PC backup.

The Back Up Files feature on the other hand, does not back up system files. That is what System Restore is for instead.

Hope this helps,
I am certainly not disagreeing with you, only copy/paste what it said.

Second interesting question? I just did the "complete" backup and it was sent to my external USB drive. Great, but I cannot find it! Have searched that drive, so began to do it again, just to make certain of the target. Sure enough, the ext drive.

Any ideas? Is it hidden or something?

what is the extension--I can search for it.

No problem Robertpri,

Strange, it should be at the same location as in the NOTE at the top of the tutorial for your external USB.

You should see a WindowsImageBackup folder first on the external drive. In that folder you should see this (backup drive letter)\WindowsImageBackup\(your computer name)\Backup (year-month-day) (time) folder.

You should see a WindowsImageBackup folder first on the external drive. In that folder you should see this (backup drive letter)\WindowsImageBackup\(your computer name)\Backup (year-month-day) (time) folder.
Heh, truly odd. On the ext drive, I can see the four *tib files for MyBackup and SystemBackup, but nothing else. I will run again. Every menu comes up just like the demo above, and at the finish, an spash icon appears in the LR toobar saying backup was successful.

I'll keep looking.
Well I said I would report back and so I shall.

If you made a complete backup with Vista and you want to do a selective restore, you can. It's a little complicated, but it can be done. :party:

Here are the basic steps:
  1. Download Virtual Server (trialware) from Microsoft
  2. Download Virtual PC (trialware) from Microsoft
  3. Install Server, then PC.
  4. Run Virtual PC.
    1. Create a virtual drive (dynamic) to install an operating system on. You only need as much space as is needed to install a basic operating system.
    2. Use the same O/S as the one you backed up with, if possible.
    3. In virtual PC settings, make sure the physical CD/DVD drive is checked to be used by the virtual machine.
    4. Browse to and select your backup.vhd (or whatever it's named) file and set it to mount as drive 2 (not drive 1!)
    5. Insert your licensed install CD or DVD into your CD/DVD drive and install just like you would on a "real" computer.
    6. Click on networking in the virtual settings and select your wireless adapter if you have it or wired if you're wired. This will allow you to network the virtual machine with the real machine.
    7. Install the "extras" for the operating system you installed. Don't worry, you will see how to do this in virtual machine.
    8. Share a folder on your real machine.
    9. Map the shared folder in your virtual machine.
  5. Go to "Computer" and open your mounted backup.vhd - it should be drive D: and your Mapped drive should be F: (the CD/DVD should be E:)
  6. Open your mapped drive.
  7. Now you should have two explorer windows that show your backup.vhd files and your "real" computer files inside your virtual PC.
  8. Copy/Paste or Drag/Drop to your heart's content.
I hope I didn't miss any steps, but it's a fairly intuitive process. Don't give up, you CAN do this. :geek:

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Brink, it has gone beyond strange. Twilight Zone? I began from sratch, used the menu to full complete backup, and did not select augment or whatever, but a fully new backup. It did note the ext G drive. It then went through the long progress bar and I watched the files and folders zip by. At the end, it said successful backup.

I cannot find it anyplace.

Worse, I returned to the meny to restore the backup I just made, it the folder is empty. Worse2: it will not show me the ext drive, only the C and D.

Bottom line, I sure hope acronis backup works, because it appears that all I have.
Re: Backup Complete Computer - stolen laptop

I have Vista Business and have made complete PC backups. But my concern is NOT what should happen if my laptop breaks, but if it gets stolen.

Should the worst happen and my laptop gets stolen, what can I do to restore a brand new laptop to my stolen laptop's settings?
Hell Dazp, and welcome to Seven Forums.

You could backup to an external USB hard drive, and keep that in safe place.

Hope this helps,
Thanks for the speedy reply! My concern is two-fold really:

Firstly, if I use the complete PC backup option in Vista Business it seems it is useless unless it is used on the same machine that made the backup (i.e. it can't be used on a new PC).

And second, all those settings that I have painstakingly got to just how I like them would be lost.

Is there any way around this - perhaps with 3rd party software?
Any full drive image backup can be installed on a different hard drive, but should only be installed on the same computer since all the installed drivers and motherboard chipset driver would be only good for that same computer anyway.

Other than some 3rd party backup program like , you could also use Windows Easy Transfer (same in Vista) to copy everything over to the new computer as well.
So if do a complete backup using Acronis True Image Home and if I restore my laptop using that same backup I won't loose a single file? I mean, I have lots and lots of files and installed programs and even bookmarks on my browser that I really really don't want to loose, but I have to do a restore anyway...Stupid laptop :mad:

And of course, thanks for the tutorials :D