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Backup \windows\system32\ntbackup.exe

Backup (copy) files from your hard drive to a tape drive, second hard drive, or other removable storage device for the purpose of safeguarding or archiving your data. Note: the Backup utility comes with XP Home and XP Pro, but is only installed by default in XP Pro.

To install it on an XP Home system, pop your Windows XP Home installation disc into your CD drive. Open Windows Explorer and navigate to \valueadd\msft\ntbackup. Double-click the Ntbackup.msi file—this runs the installer. When installation is complete, a new Backup entry will be added to the Start menu. To run Backup, select Start All Programs Accessories System Tools. Note: You can’t back up to CD, despite Windows built-in support for CD-RW drives. To get around this odd quirk, in Backup, select File from the “Backup destination” drop-down menu, save the backup to your hard drive, then burn that backup to CD or DVD.

To Open

Start Programs Accessories System Tools Backup

Command Prompt ntbackup


Microsoft Backup works by creating a backup set—a collection of selected files to be backed up to a removable storage device. This backup set, along with all the selected options available in Backup (e.g., data compression, password protection, error report listing, etc.) are known collectively as a backup “job.”

To begin creating a backup job, choose the Backup tab and use the familiar Explorer-like two-pane view to navigate through your folders. Click on the checkbox next to a file to select it for backup; click the checkbox next to a folder to select it and all of its contents for backup (see Figure 4-10). A blue checkmark appears next to each folder or file to be backed up; a gray checkmark appears next to each folder name with only some of its contents selected.

Figure 4-10. Choose the drives, folders, and files you wish to back up by placing checkmarks next to them in the Backup Utility

When you’re done selecting files, choose Job Save Selections to save your selections into a .bks file.

Next, choose a Backup destination from the list below the folder tree. If you have more than one backup device, choose the desired drive here. If you have no dedicated backup hardware, the only option will be “File,” which is used to back up to your hard disk. If you choose File, the “Backup media or filename” field is used to specify the name of the single file in which to store the backed up data (usually a .bkf file).

Finally, select Options from the Tools menu, and then choose the Backup Type tab to choose how files are backed up. The different backup types are as follows:


Backs up all the selected files. The archive attribute (see “Attrib”, earlier in this chapter) is automatically turned off for each file that is backed up.


The same as normal, above, except that the archive attribute is left alone.


Backs up only the files with a Last Modified date that is more recent than the last backup performed with the Backup application. This backup type affords a quicker backup, but since it relies on previous backups, it may not be the best choice when backing up important data.


Backs up only those files with the archive attribute turned on. This option really only makes sense when used after a “Normal” backup, described above, as it relies heavily on the archive attribute. Like the differential backup, it is quicker than the Normal backup, but since it relies on previous backups, it may not be the best choice when backing up important data.


Backs up only those files with a Last Modified date the same as today’s date. This option is useful only if you run backup every single day, or are only concerned with backing up files modified in the last few hours.

Note that the .bks file only saves the file selections; the other options are saved as defaults in the Backup program and must be changed manually every time if you need different options for different backup jobs.

When you’re ready, click the Start Backup button to begin the backup process. If you’ve turned on the “Compute selection information” option (Tools Options General tab), Backup will count up the sizes of all the selected files so that it can provide an accurate estimate of the time to completion. If you’ve chosen to “Verify data after the backup completes,” Backup will compare the backed-up files against the originals on your hard disk; this will double the time taken for the backup job, but you’ll be more certain that the backup contains a valid, complete copy of your data

Choose the Restore tab to restore some or all of the files you’ve previously backed up. Backup keeps a catalog of all backed-up files, so you don’t have to wait for Backup to read your tape or other media before you see a list of files you can restore. The catalogs are displayed in the left pane of the Restore window, arranged first by backup media, then by backup job, then by original location (see Figure 4-11). For example, if you’ve backed up a folder called My Stuff to a tape last Monday, you would open the tape drive branch and then open the branch dated last Monday. You would see the familiar folder hierarchy with the backed up files and folders. Simply place a checkmark next to those files and folders you wish to restore (like when you backed up originally) and click Start Restore when you’re ready (see Figure 4-12).

Figure 4-11. Once files have been backed up, they are listed in the Restore and Manage Media tab for easy retrieval

Figure 4-12. Place checkmarks next to the items you wish to restore using an interface very similar to Explorer


  • Files with the .bks extension are not associated with the Backup application by default. This means that you cannot double-click a .bks file to start the backup without first configuring your File Types. Go to Explorer Tools Folder Options File Types tab. Click New, type BKS, and click OK. Then click Advanced and type Backup Set for the name of the file type. Click New, type Backup in the Action field, and type something like:

    ntbackup.exe backup "@%1" /f "c:\mybackup.bkf"

    which will open Backup and begin backing up the files specified in the .bks file (represented here by %1). In this example, the target is a backup file (c:\mybackup.bkf). Type ntbackup /? at the command prompt to see a list of the available command-line parameters and some examples of how they’re used so you can form a command line appropriate to your needs and hardware.

  • In addition to the drives shown in the folder tree, you’ll see an additional item called "System State.” Place a checkmark next to the System State entry to back up the Registry, Boot files, special System files that are under Windows File Protection, and several other databases. Although you could back up the Registry by backing up the hives (see Chapter 8), for example, backing up the System State is a more graceful solution, especially since it makes restoration much easier. If you’re backing up the drive on which Windows is installed, you should also back up the System State.

  • Go to Tools Options Restore to choose whether the restored file will overwrite an existing file, overwrite an existing file only if it’s older than the backed up file, or prompt you before overwriting.

  • Tools Options Exclude Files lets you exclude specific files or groups of files from the backup. By default, Backup is set to exclude nearly twenty different files or file types, such as the swap file (pagefile.sys) and the file responsible for the Internet Explorer cache (index.dat).

  • The Wizards available under the Welcome tab provide step-by-step walkthroughs of the backup and restore processes, but don’t offer any special options or features.

  • The Automated System Recovery Wizard helps create a special boot disk, allowing you to more easily restore your system if there’s a disk crash or some other serious problem that requires the drive to be reformatted.

  • Before you become complacent about your backups, make sure you’ve worked through the steps required to restore all the data you’ve gone to so much trouble to back up.

  • There are wizards for performing a backup and restore: Tools Backup Wizard and Tools Restore Wizard, respectively.

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