Overview of Windows Server Backup

Applies To: Windows Server 2008 R2

Windows Server Backup consists of a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in, command-line tools, and Windows PowerShell cmdlets that provide a complete solution for your day-to-day backup and recovery needs. You can use Windows Server Backup to back up a full server (all volumes), selected volumes, the system state, or specific files or folders—and to create a backup that you can use for bare metal recovery. You can recover volumes, folders, files, certain applications, and the system state. And, in case of disasters like hard disk failures, you can perform a bare metal recovery. (To do this, you will need a backup of the full server or just the volumes that contain operating system files, and the Windows Recovery Environment—this will restore your complete system onto your old system or a new hard disk.)

You can use Windows Server Backup to create and manage backups for the local computer or a remote computer. And, you can schedule backups to run automatically.

Windows Server Backup is intended for use by everyone who needs a basic backup solution—from small business to large enterprises—but is even suited for smaller organizations or individuals who are not IT professionals.


  • You must be a member of the Administrators group or Backup Operators group to use Windows Server Backup.

  • Certain backup or recovery tasks must be performed with two computers running the same version of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2, while others may be performed with computers running either version. For more information about compatibility, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=143709.

  • To perform a system state or full system recovery, you must use backups from the same version of Windows that you are recovering. For example, you cannot use a backup from Windows Server 2008 to recover the system state of a computer running Windows Server 2008 R2.

  • The firewall may be enabled. If you are managing the backups of another computer using the Windows Server Backup snap-in, your connectivity to the remote computer may be affected and can be resolved by changes in the firewall rules. While working on the local computer, you are not affected.

  • Windows Server Backup does not support backing up of data from or storing backups on Clustered Shared Volumes (CSVs). (You can, however, back up virtual machines using Windows Server Backup from within the virtual machine.) For more information about managing failover clusters, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=92360. For more information about managing Hyper-V, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=93752. And for more information about Hyper-V and Cluster Shared Volumes, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=139667.

  • If you are using a virtual hard disk to store backups, if the virtual hard disk is on a physical disk that contains system volumes or critical volumes, there may be limitations to what you can recover. In addition, virtual volume files will be excluded from the backup if the virtual volumes are online. For more information about working with virtual hard disks, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=143712.

  • If you are a current user of the previous backup feature (Ntbackup.exe), and plan to switch to the new Windows Server Backup, you might be affected by the following issues and changes:

    • Settings for creating backups will not be upgraded when you upgrade to Windows Server 2008. You will need to reconfigure settings.

    • You cannot use Windows Server Backup to back up file and folders on volumes that require more than 2040 GB (or 2 TB). However, as long as the data size is less than 2 TB, you can perform a file or folder backup. For example, you can back up 1.5 TB of data from a 3-TB volume. But, a full server or volume recovery using the backup will recreate a 2-TB volume instead of a 3-TB volume.

    • Only NTFS-formatted volumes on a locally attached disk can be backed up. (For instructions to convert a FAT partition to a NTFS partition, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=70318.)

    • You cannot store backups on tape. (However, support of tape storage drivers is still included in Windows Server 2008). Windows Server Backup supports backing up to external and internal disks, optical and removable media such as DVDs, and remote shared folders.

    • You cannot recover backups that you created with Ntbackup.exe by using Windows Server Backup. However, a version of Ntbackup.exe is available as a download to Windows Server 2008 for users who want to recover data from backups created using Ntbackup.exe. The downloadable version of Ntbackup.exe is only for recovering backups for older versions of Windows and cannot be used to create new backups in Windows Server 2008. To download Ntbackup.exe, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=82917.

New functionality

Windows Server Backup in Windows Server 2008 R2 includes the following improvements:

  • More flexibility in what you can back up. Windows Server Backup enables you to back up selected files instead of full volumes. You can also exclude files based on file type and path.

  • Automatic management of full and incremental backups. You no longer need to manage full and incremental backups. Instead, Windows Server Backup will, by default, create an incremental backup that behaves like a full backup. You can recover any item from a single backup, but the backup will only occupy space needed for an incremental backup. In addition, Windows Server Backup does not require user intervention to periodically delete older backups to free up disk space for newer backups—older backups are deleted automatically.

  • Expanded options for backup storage. You can now store backups created using a scheduled backup on a remote shared folder or volume. (If you store backups on a remote shared folder, only one version of your backup will be maintained.) You can also store backups on virtual hard disks.

  • Improved options for system state backups and recoveries. You can now use the Windows Server Backup snap-in user interface to create backups that you can use to perform system state recoveries. In addition, you can now use a single backup to back up both the system state and other data on your server. These system state backups are now faster and require less space for multiple versions because they use shadow copies for versioning, similar to volume based backups, and not individual folders for each version. For more information about how system state backups are stored on Windows Server 2008 R2, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=143713.

  • Expanded command-line and Windows PowerShell support. The Wbadmin command and documentation enable you to perform the same tasks at the command line that you can perform by using the snap-in. For more information, see the Command Reference (https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=140216). You can also automate backup activities through scripting.

    Changes to this command are the same as the changes for the Windows Server Backup snap-in.

    In addition, Windows Server 2008 R2 contains an updated collection of Windows PowerShell cmdlets for Windows Server Backup that you can use to write Windows PowerShell scripts to perform backups. For more information, see https://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=140217.

Supported operating systems

Windows Server Backup is available in all editions of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2. However, like other snap-ins, the Windows Server Backup snap-in is not available for the Server Core installation option of Windows Server 2008 R2. To run backups for computers with a Server Core installation, you need to use the Wbadmin command, Windows PowerShell cmdlets for Windows Server Backup, or manage backups remotely from another computer.

Additional resources