A First Look at Windows 7 Backup (Part 2)

by [Published on 4 June 2009 / Last Updated on 4 June 2009]

Outlining more improvements in the Windows 7 Backup and Restore Center.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to A First Look at Windows 7 Backup (Part 1).

Introduction

The Windows 7 Backup and Restore Center offers tremendous improvements over the Windows Backup application that is found in Vista. In this article I will conclude the series by showing you some more of these improvements.

Last month, I spoke about some of the more frustrating shortcomings found in the Windows Vista version of Windows Backup. I also spoke about how those issues are being addressed in Windows 7. In this article, I want to wrap up the series by talking about some more of the improvements found in the Windows 7 backup application.

Creating a Backup

The overall process of creating a backup is similar to what was involved in backing up Windows Vista. When you open the Backup and Restore Center, you are given the chance to either schedule a backup or to create an image backup.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find the wording of these two options to be a bit misleading. It sounds as though you would use the Create an Image Backup option to create a onetime backup, and use the Schedule a Backup option to backup the system on a regular basis.

In a way, this really is what these options do, but there is an important distinction between the two options. If you create an image backup, you can not use it to restore individual files. It is used only for the purpose of restoring the entire machine to its previous state. On the other hand, a scheduled backup does allow you to restore individual files and folders should the need arise.

If you do decide to create an image backup, the Backup and Restore Center gives you the option of creating a system recovery disk when the backup process completes. A system recovery disk is a bootable CD or DVD that contains various Windows recovery tools that you can use to help you to recover from a serious error. The system recovery disk can also be used to restore an image backup. You can see Windows 7’s description of what the system recovery disk does in Figure A. You will notice in the screen capture below that the system recovery disk is referred to as a system repair disk. Keep in mind that Windows 7 is still in beta testing, and some of the features have changed names over the course of the beta testing period. When features have changed names, not all of the dialog boxes have been updated to reflect the feature’s new names.


Figure A: The System Recovery disk is a bootable CD or DVD that can be used to recover from serious system errors

If you want to create a onetime backup that you can restore individual files and folders from, you will initially have to set up a scheduled backup. Once the backup completes you will see a screen that is similar to the one that is shown in Figure B.


Figure B: This is the screen that Windows 7 displays after a scheduled backup completes

The first thing that I want to point out about this screen is that once you have performed an initial backup you have the option of manually performing subsequent backups any time that you want by clicking the Back Up Now button.

Another thing that I wanted to point out about this screen capture is that there is a Change Settings link located at the bottom of the backup section. You can use this link to change the drives, files, or folders that are included in the backup, the backup destination, or even the schedule. In fact, if you initially told Windows to create a scheduled backup, you have the option of completely disabling the schedule so that the backup only runs when you manually initiate it.

Restoring Your Files

Aside from not allowing you to restore files and folders from an image backup, Windows 7 makes it fairly easy to restore files and folders. If you look at Figure B, you will notice that the Restore section contains a Restore My Files button, and a link that you can use to Restore All User’s Files. Both of these options will allow you to restore individual files and folders, but there are some major restrictions that you need to be aware of.

Firstly, using these options only restores data from the most recent backup. If you need to restore data from an older backup, you will have to use a different option. I will show you how to do that later on.

Another restriction that you need to be aware of is that both of these options are designed so that they will only restore data that is located in the user profile directories. If you need to restore data that was originally located in a folder outside of a user’s profile then you will have to use a different restoration option. You do however have the option of restoring profile data to an alternate location.

If you go back to Figure B, you will notice that there is an option to Select the Backup to Restore Files From. If you select this option, then you will be taken to a screen that asks you which backup you want to restore, as shown in Figure C.


Figure C: You can revert to an older backup

If you look at the figure above, you will notice that only one backup is listed. I am honestly not sure if this is a bug or if the Backup and Restore Center was designed this way intentionally, but multiple backups that were made on the same day are not listed. If you select a backup and click Next, you will be taken to a screen that contains a link labeled Choose a Different Version. Clicking this link shows you all of the backups that exist, as shown in Figure D.


Figure D: Clicking the Choose a Different Version link shows you which backups are actually available

One Last Thing

Before I wrap up this article, there is one last thing that I want to show you. As you may recall, Windows Vista gave you the option of writing backups to a hard drive, but you had to dedicate the entire drive to the backups. Windows 7 still allows you to backup data to a hard drive, but the hard drive is no longer required to be dedicated to the backup process.

If you open the drive containing your backups, you will find that you can even manage your backups by double clicking on the backup file. When you do, Windows will open the dialog box that is shown in Figure E. This provides you with a quick and easy way of performing a restoration.


Figure E: Double clicking on a backup file causes Windows to open this dialog box

One cool thing about this feature is that it gives you an option to manage the disk space that is used by the backup. Clicking on this option allows you to see how much space the backup is actually using, and it allows you to purge older versions on the backup, as shown in Figure F.


Figure F: Windows 7 allows you to manage the space consumed by your backups.

Conclusion

As you can see, the Windows 7 Backup and Restore Center is far more flexible than the Windows Backup application that comes with Vista is. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft ends up making any more changes to the backup application between now and the time that Windows 7 is released.

If you would like to be notified of when Brien Posey releases the next part in this article series please sign up to our WindowsNetworking.com Real-Time Article Update newsletter.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to A First Look at Windows 7 Backup (Part 1).

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