With the right tools and some little-known techniques, your Windows backups should never become obsolete.
It’s relatively easy to let Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 freely access and use each other’s backup files.
By following these steps, you can retain and use your backup files indefinitely — across Windows generations. Need a data file stored in a backup made 10 years and four Windows generations ago? No problem!
This should also take some of the worry out of upgrading — even if you take the long jump directly from XP to Windows 8. Although XP’s unique backup format isn’t natively supported by later Windows versions, the tools and techniques described below will give you access to archived data long after you’ve retired your XP systems.
In this article, I start with the official, Microsoft-sanctioned methods for accessing backup files from different Windows versions. The focus is primarily on Windows 7 systems, because that’s what most Windows Secrets readers are currently using. But I’ll also cover XP, Vista, and Win8.
Alas, Microsoft’s solutions don’t cover every possible mix of Windows backups. So the last section of this article discusses free, third-party tools and manual techniques (also free) that can make Windows backup files accessible between any combination of current Windows backup versions.
Sharing backup files the Microsoft way
Give Win7 access to nonnative backup files:
The following steps let Windows 7 users access XP, Vista, and Win8 backup files.
- Windows XP backups:
- Download and install Microsoft’s free Windows NT Backup-Restore Utility for Windows 7 — it’s listed as Windows 7 update KB 974674 on its MS Download Center page.
- When the installation completes, click the Windows Start button; then click All Programs/Accessories/System Tools. (It should also show up in the Start menu’s list of recently used apps, above the search box.)
- Click NTBackup-RestoreUtility and then follow the steps in the wizard.