Recover the Operating System or Full Server

Applies To: Windows Server 2008 R2

You can recover your server operating system or full server by using Windows Recovery Environment and a backup that you created earlier with Windows Server Backup.

You can access the recovery and troubleshooting tools in Windows Recovery Environment through the System Recovery Options dialog box in the Install Windows Wizard. In Windows Server 2008 R2, to launch this wizard, use the Windows Setup disc or start/restart the computer, press F8, and then select Repair Your Computer from the list of startup options.

To recover your operating system, you need to perform a bare metal recovery and choose the options so that only the data on critical volumes (volumes that contain operating system files) are restored.

When you perform a recovery of the operating system or full server, you will need to specify the following:

  • What backup you will use

  • Whether you will perform an operating system–only or full server recovery

  • Whether you will reformat and repartition your disks


In a full server recovery, if you choose to reformat and repartition all disks, the existing data will be deleted. This includes any volumes that are currently used by the server but were not included in the backup. This option is not available if you access Windows Recovery Environment by pressing F8 instead of by using a Windows Setup disc.

To recover the operating system or a full server, you should first do the following:

  • If you are recovering to a new hard disk, make sure the disk is at least as big as the disk that contained the volumes that were backed up, regardless of the size of those volumes. For example, if there was only one volume that was 100 GB on a 1-TB disk during backup, you should use a disk that is at least 1 TB when restoring.

  • If you are recovering just the operating system, make sure that you have a backup available that contains at least the critical volumes of the server. If you are recovering the full server, make sure that you have a backup available that contains all volumes of the server. To perform a bare metal recovery, make sure you have a backup enabled for bare metal recovery (or full server recovery). For instructions to create backups, see Performing a Manual Backup and Configuring Automatic Backups.


If you are using BitLocker Drive Encryption on the location that you are storing backups, make sure that it is unlocked. However, you do not need to unlock the location that you are recovering to for a volume-level recovery such as the recovery described in this procedure. For instructions, see the Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption Step-by-Step Guide (

To recover your operating system or full server using a backup created earlier and Windows Setup disc

  1. Insert the Windows Setup disc that has the same architecture of the system that you are trying to recover into the CD or DVD drive and start or restart the computer. If needed, press the required key to boot from the disc. The Install Windows Wizard should appear.

  2. In Install Windows, specify language settings, and then click Next.

  3. Click Repair your computer.

  4. Setup searches the hard disk drives for an existing Windows installation and then displays the results in System Recovery Options. If you are recovering the operating system onto separate hardware, the list should be empty (there should be no operating system on the computer). Click Next.

  5. On the System Recovery Options page, click System Image Recovery. This opens the Re-image your computer page.

  6. Do one of the following, and then click Next:

    • Click Use the latest available system image (recommended).

    • Click Restore a different backup, and then do one of the following:

      • On the Select the location of the system image page, click the computer that contains the backup that you want to use, and then click Next.


If the storage location contains backups of multiple computers, make sure that you click the row for the backups for the computer that you want to use.

        Then, on the **Select the system image to restore** page, click the backup that you want to use, and then click **Next**.  
      - Click **Advanced** to browse for a backup in a remote shared folder on the network and provide the Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path to the backup, or if your backup is on a device, to install a device driver. (To install a drive, the driver needs to be present in local system. You cannot install a driver from the network and, instead, need to provide a local path to the .inf file to install a driver.) Click **Next**.  


If you use a domain in your environment, and if the backup storage location is on a computer that is a member of that domain, then computer containing the storage location should be on the IPsec boundary to be accessible by non-domain computers. When a computer boots into Windows Recovery Environment, it becomes a non-domain computer and cannot access the usual network shares. Only those computers that allow non-domain computers to access the share can be used as a backup storage location in this way.
You can also address this issue by adding the computer that is your backup storage location to a workgroup and placing the backup in a shared folder. A computer running Windows Recovery Environment behaves as if it is in a workgroup, enabling you to access the shared folder with the backup.

  1. On the Choose additional restore options page, do the following optional tasks, and then click Next:

    • Select the Format and repartition disks check box to delete existing partitions and reformat the destination disks to be the same as the backup. This enables the Exclude disks button. Click this button and then select the check boxes associated with any disks that you want to exclude from being formatted and partitioned. The disk that contains the backup that you are using is automatically excluded.


  • Unless a disk is excluded, data on it can be lost—regardless of whether it was part of the backup or whether it has volumes that are being restored.

  • You should not exclude the boot disk—the first disk in the BIOS boot order. (This disk is usually referred to as Disk 0, but in some conditions, Diskmgmt.msc and Diskpart.exe may label it as something else, for example, Disk 1/2.) If the boot disk (Disk 0) is excluded then Windows will try to do recovery on BIOS Disk 1. But after the recovery, the system will not start and it may fail with an error that Bootmgr is missing. The BIOS will always use the first disk in the boot order to search for this file and if it is missing the computer will not start.

  • In Exclude disks, if you do not see all the disks that are attached to the computer, you might need to install the associated drivers for the storage device.

  •   - Select the **Only restore system drives** check box to perform an operating system–only recovery.  
      - Click **Install drivers** to install device drivers for the hardware that you are recovering to.  
      - Click **Advanced** to specify whether the computer is automatically restarted and the disks are checked for errors immediately after the recovery.  
    1. Confirm the details for the restoration, and then click Finish. The recovery will succeed as long as all the critical volumes (volumes containing operating system components) are recovered. If any data volume cannot be recovered then Windows will show a prompt with unrecovered volumes at the end of the recovery operation (for example, volumes on virtual hard disks and Internet SCSI (iSCSI) disks).

    Later, you can disable or enable Windows Recovery Environment by doing the following:

    To disable Windows Recovery Environment

    1. To open a command prompt with elevated privileges, click Start, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as administrator.

    2. At the prompt type: <systemdrive>:\Windows\System32\REAgentC.exe /disable


    This procedure prevents Windows Recovery Environment from being launched manually by pressing F8.

    To re-enable Windows Recovery Environment

    1. To open a command prompt with elevated privileges, click Start, right-click Command Prompt, and then click Run as administrator.

    2. At the prompt type: <systemdrive>:\Windows\System32\REAgentC.exe /enable

    You can also configure your servers to fail over to the Windows Recovery Environment if they fail to boot. (For instructions, see

    Additional considerations

    • To create a backup using Windows Server Backup, you must be a member of the Backup Operators or Administrators group, or you must have been delegated the appropriate authority. The recovery of the operating system is performed by the Windows Recovery Environment using the LocalSystem user account.

    • The boot drivers will be enabled or installed into the recovered operating system so that the system can boot. However individual applications that rely on certain hardware (such as network adapters) may experience issues after the system is recovered.

    • Windows Recovery Environment is available in all editions of Windows Server 2008. However, the processor architecture for a given instance of Windows Recovery Environment and the computer whose system you are trying to restore must match. For example, Windows Recovery Environment for an x64-based version of the operating system only works on an x64-based computer. In addition, for Windows Server 2008, your hardware manufacturer may have installed Windows Recovery Environment on a partition on your server—if not, you will need a Setup disc to access this tool.

      For Windows Server 2008 R2, the Windows Recovery Environment is installed by default, except for the Server Core installation option.

    • You can also perform this procedure using the Wbadmin start sysrecovery command. For instructions and syntax, see the Command Reference (

    • If you are using BitLocker Drive Encryption to protect your server and you need to perform a system recovery, make sure to reapply BitLocker Drive Encryption. This will not happen automatically—it must be enabled explicitly. For instructions, see the Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption Step-by-Step Guide (

    Additional references