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    Total access to all your Windows backups




    BEST PRACTICES


    Total access to all your Windows backups



    By Fred Langa

    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.


    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/best-practices/total-access-to-all-your-windows-backups/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    Fred,

    I'm using a PC with Win 7 Home Premium and have been doing backups (on an external HD) using the MS backup software since I got it. In the section "The back-door way to access your backups", I got curious and tried to look at mine. I found the backup folder labeled similar to the one you show. However, there are no zip files in it, only a couple of very large .vhd files and some .xml files. Is this maybe because of the "home premium" version???

    I can still peruse the backups using the MS Backup and Restore software.
    Ed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ed Y View Post
    Fred,

    I'm using a PC with Win 7 Home Premium and have been doing backups (on an external HD) using the MS backup software since I got it. In the section "The back-door way to access your backups", I got curious and tried to look at mine. I found the backup folder labeled similar to the one you show. However, there are no zip files in it, only a couple of very large .vhd files and some .xml files. Is this maybe because of the "home premium" version???

    I can still peruse the backups using the MS Backup and Restore software.
    VHD in Windows means Virtual Hard Drive. This is the Windows equivalent of a disk clone. The XML tables index the various vhd images, I believe. And no, these are not in the Zip format.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobprimak View Post
    VHD in Windows means Virtual Hard Drive. This is the Windows equivalent of a disk clone. The XML tables index the various vhd images, I believe. And no, these are not in the Zip format.
    And not therefore a backup as described in the article, but a system image?

    Bruce

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    If they're vhd files, I have to wonder if one has, say, an XP virtual machine that runs under VirtualBox, if one could then mount and access a given vhd from the backup folder?

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    Since standard backup files are zipped, then one should be able to search text-based files with any search tool that offers to search within archives instead of blindly slogging through *1.zip, *2.zip, etc.

    For instance, this could be handy when using a rescue CD/DVD, even one based on Linux, for pulling files off a munged OS or damaged OS drive before attempting repair or doing a complete wipe and re-install.

    Does this seem correct, or am I missing something?

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kermidge View Post
    If they're vhd files, I have to wonder if one has, say, an XP virtual machine that runs under VirtualBox, if one could then mount and access a given vhd from the backup folder?
    Try it. It just might work. But most likely they need WinPE to be mounted and actually become available to Windows.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BruceR View Post
    And not therefore a backup as described in the article, but a system image?

    Bruce
    Yes, and the distinction is not trivial. Thanks for bringing this up. I had suspected as much.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kermidge View Post
    Since standard backup files are zipped, then one should be able to search text-based files with any search tool that offers to search within archives instead of blindly slogging through *1.zip, *2.zip, etc.

    For instance, this could be handy when using a rescue CD/DVD, even one based on Linux, for pulling files off a munged OS or damaged OS drive before attempting repair or doing a complete wipe and re-install.

    Does this seem correct, or am I missing something?
    To the best of my knowledge, any formatted file is not text-based. So the theory is wrong.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    Well, now you got me to wondering. Since I had a little time I did a cursory search and a bit of reading to come up with some possibles.

    My searches: "ubuntu search text insided zipped file"; "grep in windows" gave the following, amongst others that I haven't tried yet - don't have quite enough time just now. (Yeah, not the best terms; I've never bragged about my non-existent search-fu.)


    http://scripthacks.wordpress.com/200...tring-parsing/
    you can use the built-in "FindStr" in Windows from the command line

    http://www.wingrep.com/ which looks to be a nifty graphical utility for Windows; says it can search binary files but does not explicitly state if it can search within compressed archives (zip, arc, zoo, lzh, etc.)

    http://stahlworks.com/dev/index.php?tool=zzfind a free tool, works on Windows, Linux.

    "Search text in one or more .zip, .jar, .ear, .war or .aar files, and even zip files
    nested within other zips, with the free ZZFind tool for Windows and Linux.
    Fully portable, no installation - runs from any USB stick."

    It says it's good up through Vista; I'm guessing it'll run as is or else in compatibility mode.

    The goal was to be able to point a tool at a directory of generic-label zip files to find some text, and one of these or something else from the searches (or better searches) ought to fit the bill. It'd require more time than I can give right now to find the best one.

    The sticking point is to be able to access those zipped files that are in the vhd file. I found this:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2...vhd-files.aspx

    in regard to native Explorer support for ISO and VHD files in Windows 8. I seem to recall tools for accessing iso and vhd are available for 7 (and even earlier) as well.

    Please note that I'm not trying to argue here; I want to have similar search capability on my Linux box also, and I became genuinely interested in what can be done to find stuff.

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    I'd say simplify and unify. Pay no attention to any of the windows conventions for backing up if one is interested in searching through those backups for specific files because those conventions are bound to change as they have.

    Instead pick one good free image program that can mount any image as a drive and be searched conventionally by whatever tool one wants to use, be it XP, Win 7, Win 8, or any other Windows platform that the image program of choice is compatible with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by F.U.N. downtown View Post
    I'd say simplify and unify. Pay no attention to any of the windows conventions for backing up if one is interested in searching through those backups for specific files because those conventions are bound to change as they have.

    Instead pick one good free image program that can mount any image as a drive and be searched conventionally by whatever tool one wants to use, be it XP, Win 7, Win 8, or any other Windows platform that the image program of choice is compatible with.
    Actually, that's exactly my point of view. Why have the issue of poking around inside of Windows Backups when products like Macrium Reflect, EaseUS, amd others can easily mount their backup archives inside Windows or in the WinPE based Rescue Media environment, and you can Explore everything to your heart's content. And selectively restore, file by file if need be. (That latter feature is not necessarily available in a Linux based Rescue Media environment.) For Macrium Reflect, I downloaded WinPE from Microsoft, made the rescue CD from the free Macrium Reflect version, and now I can do all I listed here. More even, if I wanted to do separate backups of data files only.

    But for Office and other formatted files, you still can't read the contents inside of files from any backup archive, to the best of my knowledge. Not with any reasonable amount of effort anyway. Besides, before restoring a file, why would you want to alter it in any way?
    Last edited by bobprimak; 2013-06-23 at 16:07.
    -- Bob Primak --

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    For the record, I agree in the essentials of images as foolproof full OS partition backup - given a trustworthy tool. For years I used DriveImageXML, a free, reasonably fast, clean, easy-to-use utility. It saved my bacon twice. Nicely enough, there were no problems extracting files from it as well.

    I usually kept a set of images - factory install, an up-to-date OS install, then one after I installed applications and configured the OS to my liking. For the rest of it, one full backup with incrementals; anything else was just individual files done manually.

    I never had need to do more than a file search. When this topic came up, and with the question of how to search inside of files in a backup (of whatever kind) it caught my interest.

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    Hello
    I would like to backup a 150g 32bit XP 'c' drive and re open some of the jpg.,bmp., and other various image/video files later on a Linux Mint installation using the same hardware. This is an early P4 with hyperthreading but no virtual support. Any ideas on which backup would allow this? Thanks in advance.

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