When is a ‘Complete PC Backup’ not a ‘Complete PC Backup’? …

… When it refuses to restore for no good reason. I am of course referring to Vista’s disk image backup solution.

The idea is fairly simple – you tell windows to backup 1 or more of the (Windows-readable) partitions in your computer, then it goes ahead and takes a VSS snapshot and builds the disk images into a .vhd file (Virtual Hard Disk – compatible with Virtual PC). Then if you ever need to restore your computer’s state, like I have tried this weekend, you boot of the Vista DVD and ask it to restore.

Of course that didn’t happen did it. Despite being exactly the same disk (a 500GB RAID 0 volume over 2x 250GB disks) there was apparently not enough space or not enough disks. So I thought, ok, maybe because I’m using a different RAID controller now then the size visible to Windows may have decreased slightly. So I tried adding a 3rd 250GB disk and striping across that, so that’s one big 750GB disk. That should be enough space shouldn’t it? Clearly not.

Anyway, I’m typing this after about 10 attempts at different ways to restore. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any reasonable solution, so I’m witing this post from a clean install of Vista. The one concession is that WinImage can read the .vhd files, allowing me to extract all the files and even restore the partition back to a physical disk (erasing what’s on that disk). It’s a useful bit of software for this sort of thing, if a little unreliable at times.

I was hoping for this post to be more positive, with a solution to the problem. I guess I can list some lessons learnt though:

  • Avoid using motherboard-controller RAID arrays if you’re expecting to upgrade said motherboard
  • Test backups where possible (inside Virtual PC would be a good place, if you have the disk space)
  • Don’t rely upon Vista’s Complete PC Backup – go for something a little more tried and tested

There should be some more helpful stuff on the way soon, including reviews of various bits of hardware I’ve bought recently, and an update on the DIY rack and house wiring projects.

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