Speaking of Recovery Tools – Windows Vista Backup Center

I just wrote a post about the improved Recovery Tools coming to Vista in the future. Now you can start using the enhanced file and system protection tools built into Windows Vista’s Backup and Restore Center today. If you are a licensed user of Windows Vista Ultimate, Enterprise or Business, you can take advantage of the ability to backup your entire system, yep, everything and restore it back just in case anything should go wrong. I was nearly in such a dilemma the other day, but thankfully I was able to resolve my issue using the Diagnostics mode built into Windows which I will discuss in a future post. So, lets take a look at Backup and Restore Center and how easy it is use.

You can easily access the Backup and Restore center through the Control Panel or type its name in the Search field on the Vista Start Menu and press Enter.

Here you see the Backup and Restore Center explorer which list various task and options for protecting your files and computer. Our aim with this tip is to backup the entire computer. Go ahead and click the "Back up computer" button under "Back up files or your entire computer". A User Account Protection (UAC) dialog will launch, click continue.

Next the Windows Complete PC Backup wizard will begin and start looking for an attached External hard disk if you have one. If it does not find one, the option will be grayed out and the Optical Disk option will be chosen instead. The first step is to choose where you want to store your backup. My recommendation is on an External drive, in my case, the External drive has already been selected, you can also backup to optical media such as DVD’s, but that’s not recommended if you have large amounts of data, for instance, my backup will require 43 GB’s of space.


Click Next, here we are presented with the Confirmation page which gives us some handy information such as the amount of space required and the disk/s that will be backed up. Please note, that if you have Windows Vista installed on a logical partition dual booting with another copy of Windows, the system partition must also be backed up. Click "Start backup" button to begin the backup process.

Depending on the size of the backup, the time it will need to accomplish the process will vary, other factors include Disk I/O and memory. My Backup completed within 40 to 45 min’s. During the backup process you can choose to stop if you want.

After the backup process completes successfully you can close the wizard and be happy that your system is safely backed up and can be restored just in case of an emergency such as system failure, inability to boot or device failure. I recommend doing regular backups if you are constantly creating information on your computer, at least once a week. For Windows Vista Home Basic and Home Premium users, you can take advantage of the new Backup Files and Folders feature. I recommend backing up to an external drive because of the extra safety advantages such as the ability to keep off site.

Doing the Restoration

If you need to do the restoration, here is how you go about it. Start you computer, insert your Windows Vista operating system Disc, and boot from it (Make sure your boot drive is set to the optical drive). You will then be booted into the Windows Recovery Environment.

  1. Choose your language settings, and then click Next.
  2. Click Repair your computer link on the setup page.
  3. Select the operating system you want to repair, and the click Next.
  4. On the System Recovery Options menu, click Windows Complete PC Restore and then follow the instructions.

Things to remember

  • If you are backing up a laptop, make sure its AC adapter is plugged or you will receive an error message preventing you from backing your computer.
  • When you restore your computer from a Windows Complete PC Backup image, it is a complete restoration. You can’t choose individual items to restore, and all your current programs, system settings, and files are replaced.
  • Before starting, make sure that the removable media on which your backup is stored is available.
  • Backups to DVD more than 4.7 GBs will spanned across disk




Filed under Vista Tips & Tricks

9 responses to “Speaking of Recovery Tools – Windows Vista Backup Center

  1. That’s extremely helpful. any idea how to get to Windows Recovery Environment when the machine came with no Windows vista disc? I have a nice backup ready on an external drive but the basic Backup and Recovery tool refuses to see it. Rather desperate at this point. Much thanks for any ideas

    • If you do a download of Windows Vista SP2 .ISO image from Microsoft downloads and burn it to a blank DVD as a disk image, you can then boot from the DVD and restore your Windows Vista backup. If its a normal Backup, then you need to boot into Windows Vista and restore your files using Back and Restore Center.

  2. Al Duncan

    I am using vista 64 premium with the current set of updates. I scheduled periodic back ups of all my datafiles, including Outlook 2007 files to an external hard drive.

    I needed to restore my operating system to the ‘new as delivered’ condition, which I did and have done a number of times before over the years. I now tried to restore from within the backup and restore facility in vista, but it says that it can’t find the files although I can see a very large number of files for each backup date. Fortunately, I made my own individual folder backups and have something to work with, but I need the backup files to locate contact and calender files so these can be recovered in some way.

    A disappointment to see how hard to know how, if any way, the windows backup files can be restored. I would think someone could be assured this would not be an issure.

    Any help would be appreciated!

    • New computers that come preinstalled with Windows often have what is called a recovery partition. This is used to reinstall the operating system in the event of a system crash. To access it, you will need to boot into when you start your computer by pressing a function key. This can be either F1, F2, F9, F10, F11, F12 or even DEL or Tab key. Consult the owners manual that came with your PC for instructions about how to reinstall Windows.

      If your recovery partition is not available or damaged, you should contact the manufacturer of your computer and request a recovery disc set you can use to reinstall Windows 7. They might charge a small shipping and handling fee.

  3. Yes I have the same problem as Al above. Have fully re-formatted my computer but now wont see the back-up files on my external hard drive, thoght they are there through My Computer – the back-up and restore centre in Vista sees the drive, and the file sbut says they are not available. Nightmare. Any help appreciated. Yes, i deleted the old partitions when re-formatting and have re-installed the OS on the one partition c drive. Thanks!

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