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Using Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore (part 2) - Performing a Complete PC Restore

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Performing a Complete PC Restore

In the event of hard disk corruption or significant data loss due to hardware failure, the best method of getting up and running might be to restore the complete operating system as well as all user programs and data files. Consider this approach when other resolution methods have failed. Assuming that a valid backup is available, the Complete PC restore process enables users to perform a relatively pain-free recovery of the operating system. At the end of the process, applications, settings, data files, and all other contents of the system hard disk should be recovered to the point in time of the backup. Users also have the option of including nonsystem volumes in the backup.

Unlike the restore process for standard file-based backups, performing a Complete PC restore requires you to reboot the computer into the special recovery environment. This is necessary because operating system files, application settings, and other data cannot be restored while the operating system is running. It is also helpful because the actual reason for performing the restore might be that Windows Vista is unable to boot properly.

Starting the Restore Process

When you click Restore Computer in the Backup and Restore Center, you see a message box that provides details about how to proceed (see Figure 4). It is important to note that the entire system is effectively rolled back to the point in time of the backup, and there are no options for choosing which files are restored. If the system is still accessible and you have files that were created or modified since the last Complete PC backup, it is a good idea to create a new backup of those files before proceeding.

Figure 4. Viewing instructions and a warning related to the Complete PC restore process

Note: Combining Complete PC backups and file backups

File-based backups provide several advantages for protecting data: they’re quicker to perform, and they use less disk space. This means that users can back up files fairly often. Complete PC backups take a large amount of disk space and are designed to be run less frequently. Fortunately, you can use both methods together. A complete recovery process might begin with restoring from a Complete PC backup and then performing a file-level restore to recover any files that were added or modified since the complete backup.


You can launch the Complete PC Restore process in two different ways. The first is to boot the computer, using the Windows Vista installation disc. The Windows Complete PC Restore option displays in the list of available options when you choose the Repair option (see Figure 5). The other method is to press the F8 key during the boot process to access the Advanced Boot Options menu. Of course, this option is available only if the computer is able to boot to this point. Clicking Repair Your Computer allows you to start the restore process.

Figure 5. Selecting the Windows Complete PC Restore option from the Windows Recovery environment


Selecting Restore Options

When you click Windows Complete PC Restore, the recovery environment automatically attempts to locate an available backup. If the backup is available on another hard disk connected to the computer, Windows Vista should be able to find it automatically. It then populates the display with the relevant information (see Figure 6).

Figure 6. Selecting a backup set, using Complete PC restore

If multiple backups are available, you have the option to choose a specific backup by selecting Restore A Different Backup. Figure 7 shows the information that is available for the Complete PC backups.

Figure 7. Choosing a Complete PC backup set manually

After you have chosen the appropriate backup set, you see details and options related to what you want the restore process to do. Figure 8 shows an example of the screen. The available information includes the following:

  • Location The source location for the Complete PC backup files.

  • Date And Time The date and time at which the backup was created. It’s important to note that the time is displayed in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), so adjustments might be required if the computer is in a different time zone.

  • Computer The name of the computer running Windows Vista.

  • Disks To Restore This is a listing of which hard disks were included in the backup. If multiple logical or physical volumes were selected, they appear here.

Figure 8. Choosing restore options

The Format And Repartition Disks check box enables you to specify whether you want the restore process to repartition local hard disks automatically to match the configuration of the backup. This is a useful option when you are attempting to restore to a completely new hard disk on the computer. If you leave the check box cleared, the recovery process keeps the existing partitions intact.

Completing the Restore Process

To begin the restore process, click Finish. You receive one final confirmation warning. When you click OK, the restore operation begins (see Figure 9). Depending on the size of the hard disk and the data you restore, the process might take a long time to complete.

Figure 9. Performing a Complete PC restore


After the restore operation completes, the computer automatically reboots, and Windows Vista should appear just as it did at the time when the Complete PC backup was created.

Note: Restoring system settings

The System Restore feature in Windows Vista enables you to restore system settings without affecting data or requiring a reinstallation of the entire operating system. This is often useful when troubleshooting startup problems, device driver issues, or the installation of unwanted software.

Other -----------------
- Using the Backup and Restore Center (part 4) - Using Previous Versions of Files
- Using the Backup and Restore Center (part 3) - Restoring Files from a Backup
- Using the Backup and Restore Center (part 2) - Performing File Backups
- Using the Backup and Restore Center (part 1) - Planning for Backups
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