A brief guide to using web admin, a utility integrated into Windows for backing up the operating system, the entire machine, single volumes or files, folders and applications. How to restore backup images to machines with dissimilar hardware. Effective backup policies represent the best solution to protect yourself from data loss and quickly return to operation following an IT incident ( disaster recovery ).
We have often talked about tools for centralized backup of company data quoting, for example, the complete and versatile Active Backup for Business: What is Synology Active Backup for Business, and how does it work? In the article Backup, the best strategies to protect your data, we have presented multiple alternative approaches on World Backup Day.
However, there is a really good utility called web admin, which works from the command line (it can therefore be used to create periodic backups of the system configuration and data) and allows subsequent recovery on systems with identical hardware configurations or different.
The Program, developed by Microsoft, is integrated into the operating system and is available on Windows 7, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2016, Windows Server 2019, and Windows 10 machines, as well as on previous platforms (some of them no longer supported) such as Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista.
Those who use the various backup solutions know very well how often, when trying to restore an image created on a system (client or server) equipped with a different hardware configuration, one runs into blocking errors such as the appearance of blue screens (BSOD) with references to the hall.sys file.
HAL ( Hardware Abstraction Layer ) is the abstraction layer used by Windows, which considers the technical particularities of the physical devices installed. In this way, the operating system and applications can use a single platform to communicate with the underlying hardware without knowing the details about their identity and nature.
The problem is that the presence of different drivers connected to the old system causes HAL to fail, which can no longer communicate correctly with the underlying hardware. Hence the appearance of the blue screen when restoring the backup image.
Third-party backup solutions can restore images created on systems with completely different hardware configurations to a new PC or server. The good news, however, is that with web admin, it is possible to perform the same operation (therefore restoring backups even on different hardware) from Windows without installing additional components.
Backup With The Web Admin Utility Built Into The Operating System
Windows includes a special utility called web admin based on the command line, which backs up and restores the entire system, volumes, folders, files and applications. To use web admin, open the command prompt with administrator rights (type cmd in the search box of the Start menu and press the key combination CTRL+SHIFT+ENTER.
To initiate a full machine backup, type the following:
- web admin start backup -backup target:D: -include:C: -all critical -quiet
- In this case, the web admin will not only create an integral backup of the contents of volume C, containing the installation of Windows but will create a backup copy of all those elements (partitions included) which are functional for the correct loading of the operating system ( option -critical).
- The -backup target option allows you to indicate the volume that will host the backup files.
- You can eventually replace -backup target with -backupTarget:\\shared folder\folder name -user: username -password:userPassword to request backup and backup storage in a shared folder on the local network (obviously specify the correct access credentials).
- It is also possible to use, for example, the syntax -include C: E: F: to insert in the backup archive not only the contents of the C: drive but also that of other volumes (specifying the corresponding drive letter identification).
- The backup image will be saved in the WindowsImageBackup folder in the drive indicated in the -backup target option. As a destination for storing the backup, a unit involved in creating a backup copy of the data stored on it cannot be specified (option -include ).
How To Restore A Full Backup Created With Web Admin
To restore a system backup previously arranged with web admin, type Reset the PC in the case of Windows 10, then click on the Restart now button next to Advanced startup. After restarting the machine, when the Choose an option screen appears, you will have to choose the item Troubleshoot, Advanced options, and finally click on System image recovery.
The machine will restart again, and you will be asked to choose an account: choose the one with administrative rights already used to generate the backup copy. The most recent backup image will automatically be chosen, but it is, of course, possible to choose to restore a previously generated archive.
Alternatively, on any operating system, you can insert the Windows installation media, restart the machine by booting from this media, choose language and keyboard layout, click on Repair your computer and then opt for recovery from an image previously created.
By selecting the option in the figure, in the case of Windows 7, you can choose the backup image to restore. By clicking on Select a system image, you will eventually be able to recover backup copies from network drives (click on Advanced, Search system image on the network ).
We have verified that automatic backups created with web admin can be restored without problems, even on machines with different hardware.
Schedule System Backup With Web Admin
Although wbAdmin offers the prompt possibility to schedule a periodic backup (option -schedule ), the advice is to use the scheduler utility. By typing Scheduler in the Start menu, click on Create a basic task in the right column indicating web admin in the Program or script field while starting backup -backup target :D: -include C: -all critical -quiet in the Add arguments field .
In the properties window of the newly created task, you will have to choose the Run regardless of user connection option, then tick the Run with highest privileges and Hidden boxes. In the Activation tab, you can specify how often the system backup should be created with web admin.
Clicking OK and choosing an account with administrator privileges while entering the corresponding (correct) password will get the error message ” Error related to the activity. Error message: the specified account name is not valid “. It is an inexplicable error since it is Windows that proposes the accounts on the machine.
ALSO READ: How To Become A Video Maker