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Restoring NTBACKUP files to Windows Vista

There is a way of restoring NTBACKUP files to Windows Vista, thanks to the Windows NT Backup-Restore Utility, which you can download from the Microsoft Web site. First, you'll have to enable Removable Storage Management.

The NTBACKUP.EXE program that has shipped with various versions of Windows has remained mostly unchanged over the years. Sure, Microsoft added the occasional odd feature or made a change to the interface, but NTBACKUP's basic operation and the files it creates have stayed similar from one version to the next.

Although innovation drives this industry, there's something to be said for consistency. The nice thing about having a backup utility like NTBACKUP that has remained largely unchanged over a decade is that it makes it simple to restore a backup made with one version of Windows onto a machine running another version of Windows. For example, you could create a backup using the Windows Server 2003 version of NTBACKUP, then restore that backup onto a machine running Windows XP, or vice versa.

But the inner version compatibility that we know and love in NTBACKUP goes out the, er, window when you bring Windows Vista into the equation. When Microsoft created Windows Vista (and the forthcoming Windows Server 2008), they completely rewrote the backup utility. NTBACKUP is gone, as is support for the .BKF files used by NTBACKUP.

Restoring an NTBACKUP file directly to Vista

Lately I've been doing a lot of work on my laptop, which still runs Windows XP. I finally got around to copying these various documents off of my laptop and onto another machine running Vista. Forgetting that NTBACKUP had been removed from Vista, I used NTBACKUP to back up the data on my laptop. I'd planned to restore the backup onto my desktop computer. Obviously that plan didn't go so well, but since I'd already gone through the trouble of creating a backup of my data, I decided to see if I could figure out a way to restore an NTBACKUP file directly to Vista.

Yes, there is a way of restoring NTBACKUP files to Vista, thanks to theWindows NT Backup-Restore Utility, which you can download from the Microsoft Web site.

Before you get started, you'll have to enable Removable Storage Management. To do this:

  1. Open the Control Panel and click on the Programs link.
  2. Click on the Turn Windows Features On or Off link.
  3. After a brief delay, you'll see a list of Windows features. Select the check box corresponding to Removable Storage Management, and click OK. Vista will now install the necessary files.

Once you've installed the Removable Storage Management component, you're ready to download and install the Windows NT Backup-Restore Utility. Note: Like many Windows-specific downloads, Microsoft requires that your copy of Windows be validated prior to allowing you to download the Windows NT Backup-Restore Utility. Validation can be performed directly through the download page. The download itself is less than 1MB, and a 64-bit version is also available on the same download page.

Once installed, the Windows NT Backup-Restore Utility looks and operates a lot like a watered-down version of NTBACKUP. I use the phrase "watered down" because there is one key difference between this utility and NTBACKUP: You cannot use this utility to create a backup, only to restore data from an existing backup. Aside from that, the Windows NT Backup-Restore Utility works exactly like the Windows XP version of NTBACKUP, as you can see in the screenshot above.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server, Exchange Server and IIS. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. He writes regularly for and other TechTarget sites.

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