Windows Image Recoveries – IMPORTANT limitation! (UPDATED)

Hi everyone, There are a lot of people who ask what’s the best way to get multiple copies of their image backup. There has been instances where manually copying the image backup has resulted in restore failures. Some had observed this as a security feature implemented by Windows so that the backup could only be restored with the original destination. There were other instances where people said that they’d had no such bad experience and were able to restore from a backup which was copied across to another device. I hadn’t personally seen this work ever – it was just word of mouth from various sources. I wanted to see this for myself and thought that some people may benefit also.

The Test

The following was produced by following the premise below:

  • The WindowsImageBackup folder (and sub-directories) was copied from one USB hard drive (USB A) to another USB hard drive (USB B) through Windows Explorer.
  • The backup on USB A was successfully restored before this to make sure the backup was restorable.
  • All recoveries performed were Bare Metal Recoveries.
  • Dissimilar hardware tests involved the backup of a machine running an Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU 2.40GHz. The restoration was performed on a machine running an AMD Athlon II 170u CPU 2GHz.
Operating System Similar Hardware Dissimilar Hardware
Server 2008 (SP1 installed) red cross red cross
Server 2008 (SP2 installed) red cross red cross
Server 2008 R2 green tick orange tick

With the Server 2008 (SP1 & SP2) tests, both were able to detect the backup on USB B but when it came to restoring the backup they received Error Details: Element Not Found (0x80070490). It appears that the reason for this is that a unique hardware identifier of USB A is referenced and when restoring from USB B, the identifier doesn’t match causing the failure. Upon doing some further research, it sounds as if a lot of people have had this exact issue in live situations; however I wasn’t able to find any of them giving a resolution or work around. When performing the restore of Server 2008 R2 to dissimilar hardware, initially the restore was successful although the system would not boot; just open Complete PC Restore and once complete; reboot again. I was required to run a registry fix using RecoverAssist; which is a recovery tool which comes packaged with BackupAssist v6.4 onward. More about RecoverAssist can be found here.


If you’re running a Server 2008 R2 generation operating system (Server 2008 R2, SBS 2011, etc.) then it is possible to copy your image backup to different devices and not cause any restoration doubts. When running Server 2008 generation operating systems (Server 2008, SBS 2008, etc.); it’s highly recommended that you create a new backup on each device using BackupAssist instead of making manual copies. This will most likely avoid some heartache in the event that you’re required to perform a Bare Metal Recovery of your data. If you have any feedback/personal experiences/questions regarding this (especially if you’ve found a way to restore using first generation Server 2008 operating systems), please contact us by e-mailing Kind Regards, Stuart BackupAssist Support Team

UPDATED (17/07/2012):

* The shadow copies where previous backups are stored cannot be copied when copying Server 2008R2 backups to a different drive.  As such only the most recent backup can be restored and all backup history is lost.

4 thoughts on “Windows Image Recoveries – IMPORTANT limitation! (UPDATED)”

  1. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Basically I believe that if you’re performing an image of an ‘R2’ generation operating system then you should be able to copy/replicate the backup to another location.

    The SBS 2008 guest will be a Hyper-V .vhd which is completely different to the .vhd files produced by Windows Server Backup (WSB). I believe the only level which is affected by the limitation is the WSB level (so if the host is Server 2008 R2 you should be fine).

    In saying this we haven’t performed that specific test; so I’m basing my answer on the theories I discovered while performing the tests outlined in the article.

    As usual; it’s best to perform some due diligence and make sure that you’re able to restore your backups as you intend instead of finding out in a live DR situation.


  2. Hey,

    I have multiple VM’s backed up, but at this point I am not able to restore any of them.
    I have worked past any errors I get, and am now not getting errors during the process. However, when I go to through the network to retrieve the vhd’s, nothing shows up in the list. I can get a valid IP address by adding a NIC already registered on our network, but the list comes back empty.
    Any thoughts of a possible cause?


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