Back up Windows system state to Azure

This article explains how to back up your Windows Server system state to Azure. It's intended to walk you through the basics.

If you want to know more about Azure Backup, read this overview.

If you don't have an Azure subscription, create a free account that lets you access any Azure service.

Create a Recovery Services vault

A Recovery Services vault is a management entity that stores recovery points created over time and provides an interface to perform backup-related operations. These operations include taking on-demand backups, performing restores, and creating backup policies.

To create a Recovery Services vault:

  1. Sign in to your subscription in the Azure portal.

  2. Search for Backup center in the Azure portal, and go to the Backup Center dashboard.

    Screenshot that shows searching for and selecting Backup Center.

  3. Select +Vault from the Overview tab.

    Screenshot of the button for creating a vault.

  4. Select Recovery Services vault > Continue.

    Screenshot that shows choosing Recovery Services as the vault type.

  5. The Recovery Services vault dialog opens. Provide the following values:

    • Subscription: Choose the subscription to use. If you're a member of only one subscription, you'll see that name. If you're not sure which subscription to use, use the default (suggested) subscription. There are multiple choices only if your work or school account is associated with more than one Azure subscription.

    • Resource group: Use an existing resource group or create a new one. To see the list of available resource groups in your subscription, select Use existing, and then select a resource from the dropdown list. To create a new resource group, select Create new and enter the name. For more information about resource groups, see Azure Resource Manager overview.

    • Vault name: Enter a friendly name to identify the vault. The name must be unique to the Azure subscription. Specify a name that has at least 2 but not more than 50 characters. The name must start with a letter and consist only of letters, numbers, and hyphens.

    • Region: Select the geographic region for the vault. For you to create a vault to help protect any data source, the vault must be in the same region as the data source.


      If you're not sure of the location of your data source, close the dialog. Go to the list of your resources in the portal. If you have data sources in multiple regions, create a Recovery Services vault for each region. Create the vault in the first location before you create the vault for another location. There's no need to specify storage accounts to store the backup data. The Recovery Services vault and Azure Backup handle that automatically.

    Screenshot that shows boxes for configuring a Recovery Services vault.

  6. After you provide the values, select Review + create.

    Screenshot that shows the Review + create button in the process for creating a Recovery Services vault.

  7. When you're ready to create the Recovery Services vault, select Create.

    Screenshot that shows the final Create button for creating the Recovery Services vault.

  8. It can take a while to create the Recovery Services vault. Monitor the status notifications in the Notifications area at the upper-right corner of the portal. After your vault is created, it's visible in the list of Recovery Services vaults. If you don't see your vault, select Refresh.

    Screenshot that shows the button for refreshing the list of backup vaults.

Set storage redundancy for the vault

When you create a Recovery Services vault, make sure storage redundancy is configured the way you want.

  1. From the Recovery Services vaults pane, select the new vault.

    Select the new vault from the list of Recovery Services vault

    When you select the vault, the Recovery Services vault pane narrows, and the Settings pane (which has the name of the vault at the top) and the vault details pane open.

    View the storage configuration for new vault

  2. In the new vault's Settings pane, use the vertical slide to scroll down to the Manage section, and select Backup Infrastructure. The Backup Infrastructure pane opens.

  3. In the Backup Infrastructure pane, select Backup Configuration to open the Backup Configuration pane.

    Set the storage configuration for new vault

  4. Choose the appropriate storage replication option for your vault.

    Storage configuration choices

    By default, your vault has geo-redundant storage. If you use Azure as a primary backup storage endpoint, continue to use Geo-redundant. If you don't use Azure as a primary backup storage endpoint, then choose Locally-redundant, which reduces the Azure storage costs. Read more about geo-redundant, locally redundant and zone-redundant storage options in this Storage redundancy overview.

Now that you've created a vault, configure it for backing up Windows System State.

Configure the vault

  1. On the Recovery Services vault pane (for the vault you just created), in the Getting Started section, select Backup, then on the Getting Started with Backup pane, select Backup goal.

    Open backup settings

    The Backup Goal pane opens.

    Open backup goal pane

  2. From the Where is your workload running? drop-down menu, select On-premises.

    You choose On-premises because your Windows Server or Windows computer is a physical machine that isn't in Azure.

  3. From the What do you want to back up? menu, select System State, and select OK.

    Configuring files and folders

    After selecting OK, a checkmark appears next to Backup goal, and the Prepare infrastructure pane opens.

    Backup goal configured, next prepare infrastructure

  4. On the Prepare infrastructure pane, select Download Agent for Windows Server or Windows Client.

    Prepare infrastructure

    If you're using Windows Server Essential, then choose to download the agent for Windows Server Essential. A pop-up menu prompts you to run or save MARSAgentInstaller.exe.

    MARSAgentInstaller dialog

  5. In the download pop-up menu, select Save.

    By default, the MARSagentinstaller.exe file is saved to your Downloads folder. When the installer completes, you'll see a pop-up asking if you want to run the installer, or open the folder.

    MARS installer is complete

    You don't need to install the agent yet. You can install the agent after you've downloaded the vault credentials.

  6. On the Prepare infrastructure pane, select Download.

    download vault credentials

    The vault credentials download to your Downloads folder. After the vault credentials finish downloading, you'll see a pop-up asking if you want to open or save the credentials. Select Save. If you accidentally select Open, let the dialog that attempts to open the vault credentials, fail. You won't be able to open the vault credentials. Continue to the next step. The vault credentials are in the Downloads folder.

    vault credentials finished downloading


    The vault credentials must be saved only to a location that's local to the Windows Server on which you intend to use the agent.

Upgrade the MARS Agent

Versions of the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) Agent below 2.0.9083.0 have a dependency on the Azure Access Control service. The MARS Agent is also referred to as the Azure Backup Agent.

In 2018, Microsoft deprecated the Azure Access Control service. Beginning March 19, 2018, all versions of the MARS Agent below 2.0.9083.0 will experience backup failures. To avoid or resolve backup failures, upgrade your MARS Agent to the latest version. To identify servers that require a MARS Agent upgrade, follow the steps in Upgrade the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services (MARS) agent.

The MARS Agent is used to back up files and folders and system state data to Azure. System Center DPM and Azure Backup Server use the MARS Agent to back up data to Azure.

Install and register the agent


Enabling backup through the Azure portal isn't available. Use the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Agent to back up Windows Server System State.

  1. Locate and double-click the MARSagentinstaller.exe from the Downloads folder (or other saved location).

    The installer provides a series of messages as it extracts, installs, and registers the Recovery Services agent.

    run Recovery Services agent installer credentials

  2. Complete the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services Agent Setup Wizard. To complete the wizard, you need to:

    • Choose a location for the installation and cache folder.

    • Provide your proxy server info if you use a proxy server to connect to the internet.

    • Provide your user name and password details if you use an authenticated proxy.

    • Provide the downloaded vault credentials

    • Save the encryption passphrase in a secure location.


      If you lose or forget the passphrase, Microsoft can't help recover the backup data. Save the file in a secure location. It's required to restore a backup.

The agent is now installed and your machine is registered to the vault. You're ready to configure and schedule your backup.

Back up Windows Server System State

The initial backup includes two tasks:

  • Schedule the backup
  • Back up System State for the first time

To complete the initial backup, use the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services agent.


You can back up System State on Windows Server 2008 R2 through Windows Server 2016. System State back up isn't supported on client SKUs. System State isn't shown as an option for Windows clients, or Windows Server 2008 SP2 machines.

To schedule the backup job

  1. Open the Microsoft Azure Recovery Services agent. You can find it by searching your machine for Microsoft Azure Backup.

    Launch the Azure Recovery Services agent

  2. In the Recovery Services agent, select Schedule Backup.

    Schedule a Windows Server backup

  3. On the Getting started page of the Schedule Backup Wizard, select Next.

  4. On the Select Items to Backup page, select Add Items.

  5. Select System State and then select OK.

  6. Select Next.

  7. Select the required Backup frequency and the retention policy for your System State backups in the subsequent pages.

  8. On the Confirmation page, review the information, and then select Finish.

  9. After the wizard finishes creating the backup schedule, select Close.

To back up Windows Server System State for the first time

  1. Make sure there are no pending updates for Windows Server that require a reboot.

  2. In the Recovery Services agent, select Back Up Now to complete the initial seeding over the network.

    Windows Server back-up now

  3. Select System State on the Select Backup Item screen that appears and select Next.

  4. On the Confirmation page, review the settings that the Back Up Now Wizard will use to back up the machine. Then select Back Up.

  5. Select Close to close the wizard. If you close the wizard before the backup process finishes, the wizard continues to run in the background.


    The MARS Agent triggers SFC /verifyonly as part of the prechecks before every system state backup. This is to ensure that files backed up as part of System State have the correct versions corresponding to the Windows version. Learn more about System File Checker (SFC) in this article.

After the initial backup is completed, the Job completed status appears in the Backup console.

IR complete


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Next steps