The System State is Microsoft's name for a bundle of critical components in Windows Server 2003 that must be backed up and restored together.

The System State includes the Registry, the boot file and the COM+ registration database. In a domain controller, the System State also includes the Active Directory and the system volume (sysvol).

It is good practice to back up the System State before performing any major alterations on the system, such as adding a new application, driver or hotfix.

In order to successfully restore the System State, the %SystemRoot% folder and the Active Directory databases pretty much need to go back where they were. If there have been changes, the restore may fail.

Be sure to check the following if you receive a failure:

  • The %SystemRoot% folder must be restored to the same drive letter it was backed up from.
  • The %SystemRoot% folder must be restored to the same folder it was backed up from.
  • If sysvol or other Active Directory databases were located on another volume, that volume must exist and have the same drive letters. However, the size of the volume can be different.
  • In a System State backup, you must back up the Winnt\Sysvol folder as well. Similarly, you must select this option during the restore operation.

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Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80 K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

This was first published in October 2005

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