How to use the wbadmin tool to back up Windows Server 2008 R2

Learn about the most important parts of creating backups, including automated and scheduled backups and the wbadmin tool.

Is it possible to automate a backup of a Windows Server 2008 R2 box with just built-in software? Are scheduled backups better than on-demand or one-time backups?

Backups are an essential element of any data protection scheme, but backups can also be time-consuming and error-prone processes -- especially when backups are executed manually or on demand. There are countless backup tools available for data center servers, but Windows Server offers some reliable backup utilities that Microsoft shops can readily deploy.

It is possible to automate a backup on Windows Server. Windows Server versions include four general means of executing backups and restorations of the server. Administrators can employ the GUI-based backup management console (wbadmin.msc), a backup service (wbengine), PowerShell cmdlets or the command line-based tool (wbadmin.exe).

Many administrators opt to use a command-line tool such as wbadmin because it provides granular control over specific parameters of the backup or recovery without the need to wrestle with a GUI. Perhaps more importantly, command-line operations can be batched and executed as scripts, allowing administrators to exercise backup control along with other important administrative functions.

Command-line backup jobs usually start with the "enable backup" subcommand, which allows administrators to add or remove backup targets, desired volumes and items to exclude, as well as to control other behaviors such as scheduling. For example, suppose an administrator used wbadmin to backup server disk C: and a volume called \\?\Volume{dd453d12-22a0-12a8-9a44-204e4d4a4823}\ to a disk named DiskA on a daily basis at 4 a.m. and 8 p.m. The wbadmin command line might look similar to this, which is entered as a single line:

wbadmin enable backup –addtarget:DiskA –schedule:4:00,20:00 –include:c:,\\?\Volume{dd453d12-22a0-12a8-9a44-204e4d4a4823}\

Other subcommands allow administrators to disable the backup jobs, start one-time backups, delete backups, start recoveries and perform other related tasks. If you prefer using the PowerShell command line, a cmdlet such as New-WBPolicy can create a new backup policy to stipulate what is backed up, where the backups take place and when the backups occur.

Scheduled backups are almost always preferable to one-time backups. There is no content or performance advantage to scheduled backups (wbadmin enable backup) versus one-time backups (wbadmin start backup). Both command sets can capture the same disks and volumes to the same targets. However, regular backup scheduling reduces the possibility of command line mistakes and prevents administrators from forgetting to launch backups (or starting backups at during busy system usage). Once backups are scheduled, they can easily be disabled or changed as operating conditions dictate.

How does the wbadmin tool relate to the ntbackup tool? Are they compatible?

The wbadmin and ntbackup tools are similar, but wbadmin is the current backup tool. It replaces the aging ntbackup tool released with operating systems prior to Windows Server 2008. Backups created with the older ntbackup cannot be restored using the newer wbadmin.

Given today's prevalence of Windows Server 2008 and later operating systems, it is increasingly rare to find instances of compatibility problem with older ntbackup archives. Organizations have typically created more recent backups using wbadmin at this point and do not rely on older backups. Still, organizations that are subject to lengthy compliance, discovery or other data retention requirements may need to recover older ntbackup archives even after upgrading to later Windows Server versions using wbadmin.

Organizations can employ a version of ntbackup from Microsoft that provides read-only capability to access older ntbackup archives under later operating systems -- it cannot create new backups using the older format. The tool can be obtained here.

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