Creating Windows Backup Sets


Topic Last Modified: 2005-04-26

Create Windows backup sets when you want to restore your System State data from a backup, but plan to reinstall all your applications, including Exchange 2003.

To completely back up the operating system of a server that is running Windows Server 2003, you must back up both the System State data and the operating system files. Operating system files include the boot partition and the system partition. A backup of Windows Server 2003, including both the System State data and the operating system files, is referred to as a Windows backup set. Because Windows backup sets are typically created with the expectation that you will reinstall applications such as Exchange, you do not have to back up your applications when you create a Windows backup set. You must include the following data in a Windows backup set, and you must include all this data in one backup:

  • The System State data.

  • The boot partition. (The disk partition from which your computer starts. This partition contains hidden files such as NTLDR and BOOT.ini in the root directory.)

  • The system partition. (The disk partition where your Windows Server 2003 operating system is installed.)

If you installed your Windows Server 2003 operating system to the hard disk partition that is used to start your computer, your boot partition and system partition are the same.

In the backup utility (Backup) in Windows Server 2003, select the System State data option to back up your System State data along with these partitions. Because of the dependencies among System State components, you cannot use Backup to back up or restore individual components of System State data. Files restored from System State data will always overwrite the originals.

You can customize the backup set to speed up both the backup and restore processes. To customize the backup set, omit unnecessary files from it. Only omit files that you are certain are not part of your Windows Server 2003 operating system. Do not omit anything that was installed during Windows Server 2003 setup, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer. For example, large media files such as training videos are likely candidates for omission.

If you are not sure about a file, back it up. It is also best to test your backup sets in a test environment.

Create Windows backup sets frequently—weekly, if you can—and whenever a change is made to your Windows Server 2003 operating system. Changes to your Windows Server 2003 operating system might include the installation of a service pack or other update, or any process that makes a lot of registry changes. By keeping your Windows backups up-to-date, you can avoid problems and delays when you restore data.

Windows backup sets are valid for a limited time only—60 days, by default. This time limit exists because of the value of the tombstoneLifetime attribute of the organization. Windows backups that are older than the tombstoneLifetime attribute might reintroduce deleted Active Directory® directory service objects. Therefore, problems might arise if you try to introduce a member server, whose System State data is older than the tombstoneLifetime attribute, to your organization. Assume that any backup older than the tombstoneLifetime attribute is not valid. For related information, see Microsoft Knowledge Base article 216993, "Backup of the Active Directory Has 60-Day Useful Life."

For detailed instructions, see How to Create a Windows Backup Set.