Windows 10: Multiple System Images using Backup & Restore - advice? Solved

  1. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 1,773
    10 Home x64 (1607), Pro x86 (1511 & 1607)
       15 Dec 2016 #1

    Multiple System Images using Backup & Restore - advice?


    I have a requirement for a machine that can easily be reimaged to various versions of Windows (all 32 bit). This PC gets lent out, to be reimaged on return. It is also used as a reference machine for support purposes, so the systems should be 'pure' Microsoft (meaning Backup & Restore for the system image rather than the more reliable Macrium Reflect). As I may need to switch images while away from base I want the images to be kept on another partition on the same HDD. For some added protection this partition has no drive letter while out on loan.

    I have made such a system with Windows 7, 10 (1511) and 10 (1607) images. I can reimage from any one to any other in about five minutes, but the process is a bit clunky and requires booting from different media depending on which image is to be restored. I want to make this process self-contained and would like to remove (or at least reduce) the need for multiple external boot media.

    Problems found (and worked around) so far:

    Multiple images can be made in D:\WindowsImageBackup (provided each image is of a machine with a different name). However, under some circumstances not all the images will be recognised as available to be restored. This seems to happen most often if one of those images is for Windows 7. One acceptable solution is to keep a separate WindowsImageBackup for each version, renamed to WindowsImageBackup<version_name> when not in use. These can be renamed (or better still copied - keeps the image safe from being modified/lost) to WindowsImageBackup when needed for a restore.

    In Windows 10 there is a subtle difference between booting to the recovery environment from a USB recovery drive or from Advanced Start-up via Settings. When using Advanced Start-up, before you can start an image restore you have to provide the name and password for an administrator account from the system you want to overwrite. Booting from a recovery drive doesn't ask this.

    There is a problem with Advanced Start-up on my version 1511. Whatever account or password is tried, it always comes back with 'The password is incorrect. Try again'. 1607 has no such problem, it checks the password successfully. 1511 did work once but only had the September cumulative update then. Subsequent updates seemed to break it. Asking for the password to a system you going to wipe seems a little pointless. Especially as the same system can make a recovery drive that will go straight to restoring an image without the account/password step.

    1607 and 1511 seem happy to restore each other's image, but Windows 7 is a law unto itself. The W10 recovery environment can see W7's image, but says it cannot be restored because the OS architecture doesn't match. Restore is only possible by booting from the recovery CD (it doesn't know how to make a USB) made by Windows 7 Backup & Restore itself.

    I already have a workable method, but where I'd like help is in streamlining the process. Ideally I'd like to boot the PC to the recovery environment of my choice without the aid of external boot media. Failing that, I'd like to reduce my collection of CDs and USBs down to a single USB with a choice of recovery versions at boot. As explained above, the images must remain pure MS. Other tools could be used to create a multi-boot USB but the recovery environment(s) it boots to must be pure Microsoft.

    Also, if anyone knows a fix for my 1511's 'bad password' problem in Advanced Start-up that would be a help too.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  2.    15 Dec 2016 #2

    I think your main purpose for that computer would be better served if your full images of your various OSs are on an external HD [or two], and that you usb or dvd boot your choice of backup/restore program, be it Macrium Reflect or anything similar. Windows Backup/Restore works great for many and no so great for many others - a mixed blessing en toto.
    Regarding the password situation - others here much more in the know can help you there.

    [addendum: supplied a missing word]
    Last edited by RolandJS; 16 Dec 2016 at 10:27.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


  3. Posts : 22
    Windows 10 Pro x64
       15 Dec 2016 #3

    Bree said: View Post
    Ideally I'd like to boot the PC to the recovery environment of my choice without the aid of external boot media.
    I use EasyBCD for this. Store ISOs of the different bootable rescue media in a folder and add them to the EasyBCD boot menu.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  4. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 1,773
    10 Home x64 (1607), Pro x86 (1511 & 1607)
       15 Dec 2016 #4

    RolandJS said: View Post
    I think your main purpose for that computer would be better served if your full images of your various OSs are an external HD [or two], and that you usb or dvd boot your choice of backup/restore program, be it Macrium Reflect or anything similar.
    Installing Macrium Reflect adds itself to the Recovery Environment partition, so the images would no longer meet the 'pure MS' requirement I'm afraid.

    The images are remarkably small (just Windows plus Office). The largest is for 1607, at just 14.5GB it fits on two DVDs (which is how I've been reimaging up to now). Part of this small size is achieved by turning off hibernation and the pagefile before taking an image, to be turned back on after restoring. Keeping it 'all-in-one-box' means less to carry (or risk loosing) while 'in the field'.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  5.    16 Dec 2016 #5

    Bree, it's my experience that Macrium Reflect does not backup either hiberfil.sys or pagefile.sys.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  6. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 1,773
    10 Home x64 (1607), Pro x86 (1511 & 1607)
       16 Dec 2016 #6

    RolandJS said: View Post
    Bree, it's my experience that Macrium Reflect does not backup either hiberfil.sys or pagefile.sys.
    Yet another plus point for Macrium Reflect (Backup & Restore does include them in the image). But as stated in the OP, the images are required to be 'pure MS' and Macrium would be included if installed to be able to make the images.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  7. Bree's Avatar
    Posts : 1,773
    10 Home x64 (1607), Pro x86 (1511 & 1607)
       19 Dec 2016 #7

    In the end I made a USB that can boot to the recovery environment of choice by making separate folders for each set of boot files and a batch command file to move the desired one to the root of the USB before using it to boot from. @Fixer's post got me thinking along the lines of having separate folders for each, so thanks for the inspiration (even though I took a different approach). Mine may not be the most elegant solution, but it does the job without 3rd-party tools, meeting my requirements better.

    I've allowed one bit of 3rd-party software onto the PC, albeit only on the Data partition that stores all the system images. It's Alexander Beug's USB Image Tool, a neat little utility for backing up and restoring USBs. Now I can easily recreate my boot USB 'in the field' should the need arise.

    The inability of the 1511's recovery environment to handle passwords I fixed by going back to the beginning and starting over. I restored the original Windows 7 image then upgraded it to Windows 10 (1511) all over again. This time round its recovery environment worked as it should have in the first place. Of course, this in turn cast doubt on my 1607 image as that had been made by upgrading the old 1511 one. To be safe, it too had to be done again.

    I'm marking this solved as I have a solution that suits my needs. I still have no idea how 1511's RE got corrupted and ceased to recognise passwords. I'd still be interested to hear if anyone else has seen this obscure problem, and if so could you fix it?
      My System SpecsSystem Spec


 

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