How To's & GuidesBacking up Windows Home Server on a Friday night

Backing up Windows Home Server on a Friday night

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Equipment Needed:

External Hard Drive

WHS BDBB Add-In available at http://www.mediasmartserver.net/add-ins/#WHSBDBB

Advanced Admin Console Add-In or remote desktop connection

2 Beers (optional)

Home Server Show Podcast #37 playing on iTunes (you can also substitute any episode of Jericho Season One)

Background

So I love the automated backup function of WHS. We all do. In addition to the regular backup of my networked computers, I run the folder backup of the WHS server to my external USB drive. We all do. I take an additional step to secure my data. On the weekends, usually every Saturday morning while I browse the discount tech sites and the wife is still sleeping, I copy the backup database to another hard drive that I take off-site. The backup database contains all of the files WHS would use if I needed to restore any PC backed up from the network.

I do this backup each weekend for three reasons:

  1. If the server ever goes tits up I have everything I need to do a complete and easy restore
  2. I enjoy saying that I have “off-site backup” protocols
  3. Saying “off-site” is cool.

The Process

Let me start by saying that you might have a different order of doing this same process. The important thing is that you follow some sort of plan on a regular basis. Seriously. How much easier can MS make it? Keeping your data safe is the whole reason we do this, right?

Since I run the regular backup every few days all I need to do is copy the remaining backup database files to the same external hard disk. My typical WHS folder backup look likes this:

Pic0

The WHS backup database is not duplicated by this standard WHS folder backup process. For this reason, according to MS, “you may want to periodically copy the entire backup database from your home server to an external hard disk that you attach to your home server. The external hard disk should not be added to the Server Storage on your Windows Home Server.” I found this information at:

Home Computer Backup and Restore

I followed the MS directions and start by accessing the Command Prompt from within Advance Admin Console and using the directions listed in the link above.

Pic1

Mental Note: Disable the Remote Notification (if you have it installed) before you stop the backup service to avoid the extra SMS messages.

 

Once you have stopped the pdl and backup service, access your external hard drive from the Advanced Admin Console and create a folder on the external hard drive in which to copy the backup database as shown below:

Pic2

Give your folder a name that makes sense to you (preferably with the date) and is easy to recognize.

Pic3

The WHS backup database is stored entirely in the folder D:\folders\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4}. We are just going to copy it. Use the Advanced Admin Console and navigate to that folder. Once you are in the folder, select all, and then copy those files to the new folder you created.

Pic4

This is the point where Jericho and the beers come in to play. You now have some free time. I have Netflix on the second monitor and the wife is watching her shows in the living room. I wonder if I could EMP-proof my server? A ruggedized Windows Home Server? Could I successfully build a Faraday cage in the server closet? Faraday is also the guy on Lost. Maybe he is the great great great great great grandson of Michael Faraday who developed the electromagnetic field concept in physics and the cage. I love Wiki. I love Lost. I love WHS. Seriously.

Pic5

My files took 56 minutes to copy during the manual process. There are some massive files sizes so be patient. You mileage will vary depending on the speed of your external hard drive. I keep a special USB drive in a small fire-proof safe. My safe was $100 on sale at a local retailer and the drive is a little 320GB Seagate for about $80. This ends up being cheaper than some of the dedicated fire-proof drives and lets me expand and change drives easily. An additional added benefit is that it is USB powered and does not constantly run off of AC power. Find the right combination that suits your needs and budget.

Pic8

Installation of the WHSBDBB Add-In – An Easier Way to Backup

There is an easier way to backup the backup database. I found a file during my adventures that automates this process for you. I had probably looked at this Add-In before but since the name was WHSBDBB I just kept going. It was only until I read a related article on accident that I gave it a second look.

http://www.mediasmartserver.net/downloads/WHSBDBB.zip

Once you download the file install the WHS BDBB Add-In by copying the WHSBDBB.msi file to the Software\Addins folder of your Windows Home Server. Start the Windows Home Server Console, click on Settings, then select Add-Ins. Choose WHS BDBB from the Available tab, and click “Install”. The Add-In installation is a standard install although I had to reboot twice to get the Add-In to work.

Automated Backup

Ready? Open the Add-In click on Backup and choose your drive.

Pic7

I actually perform this backup twice; once to a hard drive in my little safe and once to the off-site hard drive that I switch out. Switch out? Yeah, when I drop off the hard drive I backed up today I pick up the hard drive from last week. I rotate two drives that I got from the Western Digital outlet. Can you ever backup too much? Well maybe…

Pic6

The manual copy of 73GB took 56 minutes total while the WHS BDBB took 60 minutes. I am not sure why there was a delta (I used the same drive) but the simplicity of the Add-In offsets any extra time.

For more information about Windows Home Server Home Computer Backup and Restore, and why you should look into it, go to the Community Forums at the Microsoft Web site ( http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=100263).

We are all done and backed up. Nice.

See you next Friday night.

Timothy Daleohttp://usingwindowshomeserver.com
Timothy Daleo is a Project Resource Analyst and Oracle Applications Trainer in Pasadena, California. In addition to financial analysis, Tim has been developing training materials since 2003 and supporting direct projects through various auxiliary databases since 2005.

55 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Timothy,

    Thanks for the review of BDBB and especially for the comparison with the manual process, I found this very interesting as I had not performed timing benchmarks. My only thought on why it would take longer is due to the overhead of .NET instead of raw Explorer/filesystem IO, but I'm glad to see the delta was relatively small.

    Thanks,
    Alex

  2. I will run another test next Saturday when I back up and verify those times. My times did not take into consideration stopping the back up service, creating a folder, etc.

  3. I just downloaded the add-in, bought a 320 gig personal drive, ran the add-in, looked at the files on the drive, didn't understand what a DAT file was, so copied my photos manually and was able to view them. Moving the drive off-site today. It would have been a shame to loose all my photos.

    In the past, I extracted a hard drive from the server to evacuate for hurricanes, but was exposed to fire.

    thks

    bob

  4. Once you have backed up you should have at leasts three icons viewable on your drive. One is "2009-06-17-2142" which is when WHS backed up by time. The second is "BDBB" which is the folder the Add-In created. THe third is the "WHSArchiveConfig.dat" file which is a data file WHS uses to keep track of the actual backups from the Computers and Backup utility. If you were to open the dated folders and drill down through the "shares" you would eventually see your photots etc. WHS keeps the files in this format so WHS can restore easily and it is not meant for you to try and view the files directy from an off-site location.

  5. Nope. There are 4 Folders:

    BDBB (inside it is 2009_06_23) inside that lots of DAT stuff that I cannot drill into, I get a message: what program do you want to use to open this file);

    Photos (I manually moved it there to insure I was safe);

    PMD (HP's personal media drive software); and finally

    System Volume Information.

    Another question. If the server is destroyed, can I use the backup disk to restore the server (that's why I am trying to do this)

    bob

  6. No. Currently WHS Add-ins and "Computers and backup" will not help you if you lose your main partition or your WHS OS gets corrupted. If you do lose your primary disk you would have to replace it and reinstall WHS from the DVD. After installation you would neeed to resinstall all over your Add-Ins, settings and user data.

    Hopefully in the future Microsoft will have another option.

  7. let me try this again.

    If my server is destroyed in a hurricane, AND

    I buy another server to replace it, AND

    reload it with WHS software, add-ins, and settings,

    is there a button I push to that uses the backed-up data to restore my data.

    If not, tell me the value of backing up my server with the current add-in versus simply copying my personal data to an external disk.

    I am not trying to be difficult, just precise so that I understand what I am or am not doing.

    bob

  8. Your city starts voluntary evacuations for a hurricane, so on the safe side you decide to pack up your valuables and head off to a friends house inland for a few days. Since your Home Server is connected, a pain to move and rather large you decide to leave it at home but perform one final back and use the BDBB to back up the two laptop backups that WHS updates nightly. You take the WHS external drive (now with two different backup types) and your two laptops out the front door. As you stumble to find your keys to lock the door your drop one of your laptops. No biggie, at least you have it, right?

    When you get to your friends house you try and boot up the dropped laptop but it fails. Crap. The spindle is ruined and the hard drive needs to be replaced. At least you are safe from the hurricane.

    You return after the hurricane has passed and your house, while intact, had the window next to the Home Server break and it is ruined. Now what? You get another server the next day and bring it home. You plug it in, turn it on and it is ready to restore the backup you took with you. Forget the other add-ins for now. Lets just get data back. Use the restore option for data backup. An hour later you are good to go the data from the external drive is on your new WHS and you did not have to do anything other than click a few buttons.

    What about that laptop? Once you reinstall the BDBB add-in you can now access the laptops last backup. When you got your new server you also got a new laptop hard drive. Instead of putting in the new laptop drive, installing the OS, copying pictures, settings, preferences etc you can use BDBB to copy everything as it was just before you dropped it to the drive.

    Hope this scenario made it more clear why your should use WHS, the backup options and BDBB.

    Tim

  9. It's getting much clearer

    I am not computer literate, but I have gotten my 3 computers, 1 printer, HDTV, and server to all work. It's the software that baffles me.

    Here's how I am set up. WHS backs up all the computers everynight. All our photos, music, and critical documents are stored on the WHS and NOT on our computers. My thinking in doing this was to make sure all computers are looking at the same stuff and not slowly getting out of kilter.

    When I have evacuated, or left on vacation in the past, I have always taken 1 drive of the WHS to a safety deposit box in the bank. I thought that that would cover me if something happened. What I was not covered for was fire where everything was lost.

    Not that I have started to use BDBB what I can't tell is what is being backed up. From what you said, my computer backups are there (I trust you) but are the photos, music, and documents (that are only stored on WHS) there.

    I promise I will stop bothering you if I can get this answered.

    bob

  10. The BDBB Add-In only protects the hard drive image for the PCs that are backed up each night. The actual server backup protects your WHS files (photos, videos, etc.) but does not back up the PC backups. This single reason is why BDBB is so important. If you server blows up you restore the files, videos etc with the standard WHS backup option and restore the PCs backups with the BDBB. The BDBB backup only becomes an issue if you need to restore a hard drive on one of the PCs that are backed up every night.

  11. I must have hit the wrong key, so let me try this again.

    WOOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!

    I have just learn how to back up my WHS. I have only had it since Nov 2007.

    I now fully understand what you were saying in your last response.

    I have now ADDED "POCKET DRIVE FOR SERVER BACKUP" and will run the backup when I sign off here. That will protect my files on WHS.

    I also will run BDBB which will enable me to recover a PC is the WHS and a PC are destroyed.

    did I get it?

    bob

  12. Sounds like you have it covered. When you are done you should have at least three files on your external drive. One is a DAT file for WHS, one is a BDBB folder named after the name you used when you ran the Add-In and the other folder is the WHS dated folder for all of your WHS shared files.

    You can never have enough back up. Seriously.

    Viva WHS!

    Tim

  13. well things are now all backed up.

    Tim, I can't thank you enough for all your help. It all makes sense to me now. Ignorance wasn't bliss.

    I now know that with off-site storage of the WHS backup and the BDBB backup, I am covered for fire. It is also much easier to carry the little pocket drive then a drive out of the server.

    All the folders you mentioned are now on the pocket drive.

    Once again, thanks for all the help

    bob

  14. Bob,

    I got a waterproof/fireproof safe from Costco online for $100 and put a USB powered drive in it. I rotate this drive with my regular external drive so I always have one drive protected against disaster and the other protable against theft.

    Glad you are backed up.

    Timothy Daleo

    Tim

  15. Tim,

    Do you ACTUALLY take your external drive off-site? 'Cause it sounds like your idea of "off-site" is really on-site in a fireproof safe. Am I correct?

  16. I have three USB drives that I rotate out. I keep one connected in the little safe, I keep one not connected in another part of the house and I keep one at my parent

  17. Wow!!!!!! I was surfing the internet for some help on backing up my new WHS setup this morning. After seeing and reading your WEB site information I am impressed with what I learned and need. I have WHS running in an old desktop that I had, added the software, installed two 500GB drives and added a1TB external drive. I know that is lots of disk space, but I decided to build it large at beginning as I have several thousand photos that need storing and I want to add all of the music cd's we have, may use the video share capabilities that home media can do. Plus I backup two laptops and two desktops daily.

    Now I need to re-read the information and get started, thanks.

    Norman

  18. Make sure you have some sort of off-site plan. I just finished my weekly weekend backup to a 500GB USB drive and will take the BDBB and folder backups to my parents house this evening. Once there I will pick up the one I left there last time and put it back in rotation here.

    Tim

  19. So right. I have two portable 500GB drives that I intend to do that process with. Will have to wait a month or so for the third one, but then I will have what I feel is a good strong work flow.

    Norman

  20. Hi guys,

    I've read all your posts, but still have a question.

    My WHS doens't backup any of my PC's, instead i put all my files on it using shared folders.

    The server contains a little over 11TB with 400GB free space…

    How the hell am i gonna backup all off this in case my primary drive fails?

    Sander

    • If you have 11TB of data you must have at least seven or eight drives plus a SYS drive. If you are using Duplication then a single drive failure is not an issue. You would just replace the bad drive and let WHS rebalance. If your SYS drive fails then you typically would just insert a new one and do a server recovery.

      My concern would not be the primary drive. My worry would be loss of the actual unit itself such as a fire or theft. Could backup is going to cost you quite a bit!

      Tim

      • If all 11TB are actual file size (and not because of duplication) then you could go and get yourself 6 of the 2TB USB drives and back up a portion of your 11TB to each drive. For example, your Recorded TV folder might be 1.8 TB while your Pictures might only be 1.2 TB. You could use the WHS backup to backup each main folder to a different drive. Your issue would be to consider what folders of yours exceed the current external drive size limitations.

        Are you really storing 11TB? Do you need backups of all of that data? I do not back up my Recorded TV folder since it is something I could replace. Also, depending on cost you could build an external box (like a NAS) and have the drives set up as one parition. You really need to backup 11TB?

        Tim

  21. My Pictues and Documents are duplicated, but they are aroud 500GB, so 1TB with duplication.

    The rest contains software programs, videos, music and ghost backups. The WHS is setup as a NAS in my network with NFS support for *nix.

    It's a custom build server with 10 drives (not a HP media..thing).

    The reason i'm coucerned is that my primary drive is the olderst of all, a 320GB Seagate drive, the rest is already been replaced over time, and i don't have a server recovery cd since i have the OEM for system builders (or i just lost it)

    Sander

    • Since you have a home build you might be better planning for a replacement drive process than waiting for it to die. I would choose a place in time and then mirror the drive out with a new one.

      Tim

  22. Thnx i'll give it a try..

    But is it possible to clone the existing one or do i have to reinstall?

    Sander

  23. Hi Tim,

    thanks for the guide.

    Is there anyway to perform a database backup to the seconddrive automatically. I know that BDBB does not do this, but it would be great to have a solution. I am not interested in having old backups, so it could over-write. As I use this for a small business, I am required to have a weekly backup procedure in place. Doing this manually is a bother. If this could run over the weekend it would be fantastic. Do you have any ideas? Many thanks, Jaap

  24. Sander,

    A Drobo Pro stuffed full of 2TB Drives would handle your need to back up 11TB from the WHS.

  25. Great article. I was wondering if there was an add-in that backs up the windows home server itself automatically like it does for a client machine. It seems that the home server backup function is only a manual function.

  26. Jason,

    No solution for the backup issue currently. HPs can do a server recovery but you still need to reinstall Add-Ins, settings and usernames.

    Someday someone (hopefully MS) will get a backup for the actual C:/ part of WHS.

    Happy Holidays.

  27. just bumped into your forum again while surfing around. Nice to see that my discussion with you on backingup was valuable to others. Have religously backed up monthly now since our discussion. Thks again.

    bob

  28. Great article for home users, but can we take it a step further and talk about using WHS for a small business off-site imaging solution? My objective is to keep a redundant copy of the WHS backup database off-site using Internet only and not physically transporting an external drive. I once thought this was going to be easy and for all intensive purposes, it can be, however I am stuck figuring out an efficient way of automating this procedure.

    For example, I have evaluted using LogMeIn Backup, Crashplan PRO, and StorageGrid for off-site backup purposes. All of which do support "seeding initial backups". For a 4-computer office with a 100GB WHS backup database folder, I found 8GB of change data daily due to the way WHS stores its computer backup files. I know the actual amount of change data is much smaller, but it doesn't seem to matter because of how the off-site backup software looks at the changes in the files. A friend suggested I look into a brick level backup solution, however I haven't found anything good yet.

    I'm summarizing to try and keep it simple. What are your thoughts? I have had several ideas such as backing up one WHS with another WHS over a VPN, but I am wondering if this concept is realistic.

    It seems our goal is a common one, but my approach differs in that I am trying to do this as a business for my clients and will not be able to drive all over swapping out drives, nor can I rely on clients doing it.

    • Hi Jason

      To be honest I have never found a good way to do this. You are talking about a lot of data over an Internet connection using something that really wasnt designed to do what you want to do.

      I have had this very same conversation with the developers of WHS at Microsoft and I have never got an answer I am happy with.

      Have you thought about using something like KeepVault on the client computers to back up the data to the cloud along with a fairly recent database backup copy? At least that way you could take the database, and restore the computer, and then recover any additional data from the cloud?

      I have KeepVault running on my WHS backing up my important files to the cloud, and I also run it on some of my computers to backup some of those files as well – that way I am completely covered.

      Not ideal, but probably the best option with the current version of WHS.

      Andrew

  29. Many thanks for your detail and entertaining style. I am left with just one question regarding the dropped laptop in the example – if the laptop cannot be repaired and must be replaced can I retrieve it's data from the WHS BDBB? Here I am thinking of things like the outlook pst and the contents of the My Documents folder.

    Thanks for your time

    Michael

    • Once you restore the BDBB (assuming the server was new) you will have access to all of the files in that backup. For example, I could send you a USB drive of with MY backup database and you could put it on your server. Once you did that you could restore to any date and files of MY computers through the WHS.

  30. Hello, Timothy
    Great Article
    I have been searching web for the last week researching info on how to recover from a WHS that would not boot. The long and short is that my system running since 2007 would not boot and I tried the server reinstall option that did not work either since the reinstall will not complete for some reason so it looks like I am for to start from scratch. I have verified that my backup data and shares is sill on my disks. One of may concerns was the Client Backups because I have data stores there that will need to restore back to my PC once the server is up and running. Your Article was a big help and explained how to backup and restore the backup database. When my system is up and running Can I copy the backup database back to the new server? Later I will install the addin you spoke of here. Thanks again.. Charles, PS Seems I could not find this info in other WHS forums.

    • Sorry to hear the Server Recovery did not work. When you start the server “reset” make sure your other data drives are pulled out. You can add them back in after and the system will recognize them. As long as you had folder duplication on your data should be ok but your Client Backup Database is NOT duplicated by default. This means you will probably have lost all/most of the client backups since some of them may have been on the first drive. If you can look at the “bad” drive through an enclosure/dock you might be able to pull off Backup data in the folders but there is no real way of confirming that.

      You said you need to restore a client too? Why?

      Get the BDBB Add-In as soon as it is up and running.

      • Thank you for the reply. To answer your question about the my client backup. I pulled a second drive out of my main pc a few months ago, then returned it but I did not restore the data from WHS, in the meantime WHS failed (would not boot)and would not restart. I was using the client backup on WHS to store the data from my second drive. I didn’t think WHS would fail me in the meantime. I started the WHS server box with an 3d party Live CD or active boot disk and explored each of my 4 disks to verified that all the client backups and shares are still there. All data is there. The main disk has the sys and data partitions including D:\folders\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4 folder mentioned intact along with data on the other three. So if I understand after a fresh install I add each of the disks one at a time to WHS (not adding them to the storage pool)and copy the D:\folders\{00008086-058D-4C89-AB57-A7F909A47AB4 and shares back to retrieve everything. I hope!

        • A server Recovery would leave the first disks data intact. A server Reset will erase the first disk completely. Make sure you are prepared for which ever option you choose!

          Using BDBB is a life saver.

  31. Thanks Timothy, again for your instruction. My server is back now after many days of work. I have installed the WHS BDBB Add-In and a new drive. I plan on better backup strategy for recovering from a system failure like this. My old main WHS WD sys drive with my PC client backup failed when I attached it to my PC. As soon I as I tried to access the files on it, the drive just spins down and shuts off. So I have lost all the data in my client backup that I never restored to my pc d drive that I removed and returned.

    • Sorry to hear about the drive failure. BDBB is such an important Add-In and I am glad to hear you are using it now. I run BDBB every weekend as a habit. I am glad to hear you are up and running.

  32. got a mess. WHS stopped backing up my PC suddenly on 12/28/10. I can still access it by using the network.

    Then I got an update signal on my WHS icon that said update was ready. But could not install it because CONNECTOR WAS BROKEN.

    fiddled with it off and on for a couple of months and discovered 2 other problems which I have been unable to solve:
    Host Process … has stopped working &
    Windows Installer … has stopped

    Spend a couple of wks try to figure that out to no avail.

    Then I got smart (NOT) I thought that I would simply restore my 12/18/10 files using the PC restore disk on my PC. Didn’t work because the CONNECTOR was not working.

    Then went to the WHS console and try restoring for the backup there. No luck.

    Not asking you to fix my dorked up PC. But how can I simply revert to the 12/28/10 files in hopes of getting the server to start backing me up again.

    bob

  33. I am a little further along. Since I am have “program problems”, and I have now identified the program files in the BDBB related to my PC, can I simply copy them to my PC, and then use them to replace the corrupted program file?

  34. a bit more clarification. “Since I am HAVING program …” NOT “have”.

    And, I should have said that I have id’d the program files in my backup. Incidently, I ended up deciding to use the 12/26/2010 date because the last backup on 12/28/2010 may have contain the corrupted files.

    As you can see, I have not changed. When I figure out a tidbit, I hit send, and then low and behold, another tidbit comes to the forefront. “Can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

    bob

  35. I did a full restore but the backup still fails. It say the D:/ is corrupted.

    So, now I am trying to figure out what to do with that.

    Backing up is still occuring on other PC’s and I have been religious about backing up the server and storing backup drive off-site. Haven’t missed a month since I started (thks to your help).

    bob

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