Bridging NTBACKUP's shortcomings

Circumventing NTBACKUP's inability to span non-tape removable media.

The Windows NTBACKUP utility, provided free with Windows 2000, 2003 and XP (although it must be installed manually in XP) can perform backups of system files as well as the Registry and system state. Most of the program's benefits come from working with tape devices as a backup medium: large backup jobs can be split across multiple tape cartridges.

Unfortunately, NTBACKUP cannot split backups across multiple drives or removable media. This is a problem for people who seek to use NTBACKUP as a way to do backups to removable devices such as CD-Rs or DVD+RWs. It is possible to work around this limitation, but only in certain scenarios.

One way to work around the problem is to do the backup in two stages. First, perform the backup to another drive on the same system, or a networked hard drive. A good deal of the backup can be done in an unattended fashion, and NTBACKUP can use shadow copying to make copies of system or open-locked files.

The second stage is to split the backup file to the target media in chunks. A freeware application like Gsplit can do this for you; the program can split the file directly to removable media without having to make an intermediate copy of the split files, thereby saving a good deal of disk space.

The one limitation of this method is that you must have enough disk space to hold a copy of the backup file generated by NTBACKUP. This is why copying across a network may be useful, since a remote machine with plenty of disk space could be designated as a "backup slave" for jobs like this.


Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter. Check out his Windows 2000 blog for his latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators – please share your thoughts as well!


This was first published in March 2004

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