Win7 image restore

2014/04/26 by Lassi A. Liikkanen

How Windows 7 image recovery really works

Since Windows 7, this Microsoft OS includes hard drive image backup and system recovery (through separate environment). However, the tool sucks big time because of undocumented features. This has caused numerous people on Internet to report failures with the re-image tool when trying to restore or move system to a different hard disk (see for good discussion)

How it works

When you create the backup image, you can select which partitions of the Windows system you want to include in the backup. E.g. I have a C: drive for OS and software, D: for documents (triple in size). You can create the image on an external hard drive which has to have as much as space available as used on the partitions you wish to include. This implies that you should not need any bigger target to restore the image.

But no. This is where the reasonable behavior ends.

I have found that in order to restore the image, the target of restoration must be able to hold partitions you had in the original installation, never mind is any data included in the backup or not, the target cannot be bigger than the original system.

Example: I had 256GB SSD with 64GB C: drive holding my apps and OS. The rest of the disk for D: and two tiny emergency Linux partitions, which I did not include in the external image (had no space at the time). Tried to restore this image to 128GB SSD. Not gonna happen. I got the notorious No disk that can be used for recovering the system disk can be found error. After experimenting with a 320GB replacement HDD I also run into a number of issues (including parameter incorrect 0x80070057), which where eventually settled by diskpart clean operation and a reboot. After this Windows recovered both C+D partitions (and two unused Linux partitions), the former with no data naturally.

I have no idea what will happen if you have multiple disks in one installation. You would expect that only one device must be recovered but given this stupid behavior, I wouldn't be to sure of that.

System Image Not Found on External USB HDD

I was bewildered by another error as well. I was trying to use both Windows Recovery partition and a rescue disc to to re-image a computer after a failed System restore. However, it did not work. The cause: external USB3 hard drive.

I learned that Windows 7 could not properly access my external disk partitions when connected to a USB 3 bus. Switching to a regular (high power) USB 2 connector helped. The images were created through USB3, but apparently Windows recovery environment would need some additional drivers that depend on your hardware to properly access the drive. Because USB is backwards compatible you can bypass this and restore (with slower speed). If your machine does not have any old USB ports, you'll be in for more trouble...

Virtual hard drive

Windows creates the system image into a file called virtual hard drive, a VHD file. If this file (See the link below) is accessible, you can still use third party tools to help you recover your system. This may indeed be advisable given the multiple short comings of Windows recovery environment.

Read more: Sevenforums guide to using Macrium image

Read more:

Keywords: [computers] , [windows] Document's status: Ok (Document dates explained)

This document created: 2014/03/28
Modified: 2014/04/26
Published: 2014/04/26

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